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Lightroom > Introduction >

3 - Catalog Confusion

Once again, this section is important.

You'll stumble with Lightroom if you don't understand:

• What's in the Lightroom catalog.

• What's not in the Lightroom catalog.

First, let's look at what's not in the catalog.

What's Not In the Catalog

Your photograph files are never in the Lightroom catalog.


You import your photographs into Lightroom.

You see your photographs in Lightroom.

But, you didn't import the actual files of your photographs.

What's In the Catalog

Creates Shortcuts

The Lightroom catalog creates shortcuts to your photograph files in My Pictures or Pictures.

Imports the Metadata

The Lightroom catalog imports the metadata from your photograph files.

This metadata file contains information from your camera, such as the exposure settings.

Creates More Metadata

The Lightroom catalog adds more information to the metadata file:

• Flagging, star rating, color labels, captions (IPTC metadata).

• Previews for the Grid and Loupe views, and for 1:1 magnifications.

• Editing instructions.

• Virtual copies.

Imports JPEG Previews

The Lightroom catalog imports the JPEGs created by your camera.

Creates More Previews

The Lightroom catalog creates more JPEG previews from the JPEG previews.

For 1:1 previews, the Lightroom catalog uses the actual photograph files.


The only pixels in Lightroom are the previews—not the actual pixels of your photograph files.


For a visualization of the discussion, go to Importing Depiction.

We've been talking about the Lightroom catalog.

Where's the Catalog?

By default, the Lightroom catalog, xyz.lrcat, is located in My Pictures or Pictures in the Lightroom folder.