Two Simple Ways to Edit Your Lightroom Photos on Multiple Computers


Easy Lightroom Catalog Management Across Two Computers

If you work from home and on the go, chances are you've wished for the ability to edit your photos on the go and have the edits sync to your desktop copy of Lightroom when you get home. I like to preview and do light edits when travelling, then have my more powerful desktop handle all of the heavy exporting later on, which lets me have fast turn around previews but also a more efficient workflow. There are a variety of ways to accomplish this, but today I'll detail the two easiest and best methods to editing and syncing your Lightroom catalog across multiple computers. 

Dropbox + Smart Previews

The cloud has become ubiquitous in our daily lives, and we can take advantage of that for our Lightroom management as well. By storing your catalog in a service like Dropbox, you can have each computer open a singular catalog file that will be synced after each editing session. 

For the photo files themselves, syncing them to the cloud would take a lot of time and bandwidth, which is why we'll generate smart previews and sync them instead. They take up much less space than full raw files, but the allow you to fully edit the files remotely and sync all changes across multiple computers. Another perk of smart previews is that most computers can handle them easier, making the develop module a lot smoother and more responsive.


  1. In Lightroom select Lightroom -> Catalog Settings
  2. General -> Location -> Show
  3. Create a backup
  4. Copy the catalog folder to your Dropbox folder
  5. Close Lightroom
  6. Open Lightroom while holding the Option key (Ctrl on Windows)
  7. Select the catalog in the new Dropbox folder location
  8. On the second computer, do the same, pointing your other copy of Lightroom to the new Dropbox catalog
  9. Select all photos you want to sync in the Library module
  10. Go to Library -> Previews -> Build Smart Previews
  11. Smart preview files are stored with your catalog, which is now synced with Dropbox


Using this autosync method for your library and files does require an internet connection and time to upload. This might be a bad solution if you are working remotely a lot or with a bad internet connection. Also, you must make sure the previous changes are fully uploaded (and downloaded) on both computers before working on your catalog, or else you risk corrupting the data. This is why the local backups on each computer (I do one weekly) are vital.


External Hard Drive

External hard drives are amazingly handy devices these days. You can get 2-3 terabyte drives the size of a smart phone for under $75, which is plenty of storage in a small package that easily fits in your laptop or camera bag. This is the method I use, and the fastest way to sync catalogs across multiple computers.


  1. As before, go to your Lightroom catalog folder
  2. Make a copy
  3. Move the original folder to your external hard drive
  4. Open Lightroom while holding the Option key (Ctrl on Windows)
  5. Select the catalog on the external hard drive
  6. In future imports, make sure you import the raw files to the external hard drive as well
  7. On the second computer, repeat the Option key opening and select the external hard drive catalog
  8. Edit and export your Lightroom photos anywhere you have Lightroom installed!


This method is the easiest and fastest to sync, as you don't have to upload and download anything or wait for cloud services to sync your data, but there are risks and downsides to this method as well. Importing photos to an external hard drive can be a lot slower than importing them directly to your computer. Also, since everything is stored on a smaller external drive, you are at risk of losing everything stored there if you lose or damage the drive. That is why frequent backups are incredibly important. I recommend doing a full backup of your drive every Monday morning. You can setup a local backup system on your main computer or a secondary external drive to automate backups weekly. 

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