How I Store My Photos

08 Jun 2015 - 3 mins

I’m going to start by saying that I’m not a professional photographer and so having redundant backups and other crazy external hard drives doesn’t make any sense to me at this stage. What I will describe here is my personal workflow.

If you’re starting to shoot now and have only a few folders with photos it shouldn’t take a lot of time to organize your photos. If you shoot for more than a year, I’d recommend taking a Saturday or Sunday and calmly going through it.

You’ll need Dropbox and Adobe Lightroom. The reason Dropbox and Lightroom work is because Lightroom generates previews of your photos, so you don’t need to have your entire catalog synced with your computer to preview your pictures. I’ll talk more about at the end of this article.

Let’s Do It

Assuming you already have Dropbox and Lightroom installed and a basic knowledge of how they work, the first thing you need to do is to store/move you Lightroom Catalog inside Dropbox. This is fundamental because the Catalog is where Lightroom stores all the information about where your files are and adjustments you’ve done so you would want to have it on Dropbox so you don’t need to worry about backups.

To move your Catalog to Dropbox first know where’s located by accessing Catalog Settings window. Then close Lightroom, move your catalog and re-open Lightroom. It will report that the catalog is missing so you’ll need to point the new location. That’s it. The concept also works for moving photos around.

Discover where your Lightroom Catalog is stored

Inside Dropbox I have a main folder called “Photos” and inside of it a sub folder called “Lightroom” (where I store my Catalog) and a sub folder called “Sets” I store all my photos. I keep my Sets strict to one subject for instance: I went on a hike today with a few friends, and when I got back I have some photos. This will become a set whenever I put my SD Card into my computer.

How my folder looks like

First thing I do after returning from a shooting uploading all photos to Dropbox inside my “Sets” folder. I use “YYYY-MM-DD — set name” as a folder name so it is primarily sorted by year and then month. Once it’s uploaded, I feel like I’m safe.

Then I import all the pictures into Lightroom. At this stage make sure you have “Build Smart Previews” option checked on the right side. Inside Lightroom, I have created the same “YYYY-MM-DD — set name” structure but instead of folders Lightroom calls its collections. You can optionally create “Collections Set” by Year to keep it easier to browse.

Import dialog. Make sure you checked “Build Smart Previews”

Collections inside Lightroom

The Final Trick

Since Dropbox Pro has 1TB of space and your current hard drive probably doesn’t, you’re probably asking what’s the point of having all those files in my hard drive since it is small?

Dropbox has a featured called Selective Sync. It’s under preferences, account. It allows you to select which folders you want to sync with your computer. Remember that I told you to “Build Smart Previews” while importing the photos on Lightroom? So that’s why.

Selective Sync option under Dropbox Account preferences

With Smart Previews, Lightroom allows you to browse all your pictures in Lightroom even if the original pictures are not synced to your hard drive. You can save a lot of space by just “archiving” Sets you’re not editing anymore or exporting anymore.


  1. Move/Store your Catalog on Dropbox
  2. Upload and organize all your photos in Set’s
  3. Import, Edit and Export on Lightroom
  4. Use Dropbox selective syncing to keep only what you need
  5. Go shoot and repeat