Mosaic Breaks Down the Average Size of a Lightroom Catalog


Here at PetaPixel we enjoy the crunching of numbers. So, naturally, when Mosaic told us about a blog post they had done recently that broke down some Lightroom catalog statistics, we were intrigued.

With “tens of thousands” of Lightroom catalogs synched to their service, they sampled a random 3,000 of those to come up with the average size of a Lightroom catalog. And in the end, they were actually quite surprised by the results.

The first surprise is that the Lightroom catalogs weren’t as large as they had assumed:

While the average Lightroom catalog size is 15,888 photos, the median number of photos in a Lightroom catalog is 5,095. (A smaller number of very large catalog moves the average up.)

It seems that users seem to prefer a number of smaller catalogs over one massive database, and so some 21% of the catalogs synchronized to the service actually contain less than 500 photos a piece. Only 2% of synchronized catalogs contain over 75,000.


They go on to speculate the reasoning behind these numbers, specifically noting a survey from The Digital Photography School showing a 10% increase in Lightroom users over the past year (bringing the total up to 42% use in post-processing tools).

With a great deal of photographers switching in just the last year, one possible cause for the lower-than-expected median and average numbers is that new users simply started out with a fresh catalog (or catalogs), rather than importing their previous archive of photographs, keeping the numbers smaller.

Of course, Mosaic makes sure to give some disclaimers, noting this data may be slightly skewed. For one, their service is aimed at a more “‘professional’ photography audience,” making this “average” less accurate among the consumers. For another, these stats were calculated on a “per Lightroom catalog” basis, so they don’t necessarily represent the total number of shots photographers have in their archive, which is likely much larger.

Overall, the data is interesting to look through and even more interesting to compare to your own. What do your numbers look like compared to this? Do you prefer smaller or large catalogs? Why? Let us know in the comments down below.

(via Mosaic)

Image credits: Charts provided by Mosaic

  • Erik Stensland

    Hmm? Might this have anything to do with the higher fees paid to host larger files on their site? I think that would help to reduce the overall file sizes. My catalog contains about 100k images and I would assume most others like me would not consider paying an additional $44-$99 per month to access their own files at slow speeds over the Internet.

  • MosaicArchive

    Hi Erik, Thank you for the feedback.

    Part of our service is to selectively backup photos based on the metadata contained in a Lightroom catalog, so that a photographer with 100k photos could backup just their best photos (a subset of the 100K) to our service based on some criteria like their pic flags (for example). Also just to clear, this is not the number of photos they send to us (which would be smaller) but the total number in their overall catalog.

    We have a free service that synchronizes a photographers most recent 2,000 images but from this we can also tell the overall size of their Lightroom catalog (since we have to scan the catalog to see which are in fact the “most recent 2000″.) These numbers include a lot of our free users.

    I think if anything this would make our “average” catalog size larger than is typical which makes the smaller average number more surprising.

  • wayne.carroll

    I’m in the 21%. Process. Out put. Delete. That’s my mantra . . .

  • Doc Pixel

    I use one catalogue per customer/project; then copy “keepers” to my personal catalogue database (the meta copy, not the actual photo) for later review, portfolio work, reference pics and other assorted collections.

    No sense freaking out a religious wedding/product shoot customer with my boudoir/glamour work mixed in. Yes I let most customers view their shoots at some time or other, but mostly after culling and a quick post processing.

  • Eugene Chok

    really? i guess you will never be a Vivian Maier !

  • Me

    SQL Lite 3, what LR uses, has about a million addressable spaces, but, given all of the history states, and that the various modifications cross reference a lot of things, you probably want smaller catalogues than the maximum. Why? Uncommitted database inputs leave a lot of things hanging and add to overhead.

    Put another way, things don’t scale evenly. If you have 25,000 photos in your catalogue (as an example), image 25,001 is actually more expensive to maintain than 24,999. Moreover, a D800e image may be easier for Lightroom to maintain than a D200 image that has a lot of spot corrections.

    The fastest way to improve LR’s performance on older computers is to cut the catalogue size.

    There will be people who howl and scream that you can have LR catalogues as large as you like and Adobe no-where says there are any limits. Yes, technically they’re right. However, if you ever talk to Adobe technicians, the answer is always “we’re bounded by SQL Lite 3.”

    The final issue is corruption, if a library dies on you, having that library die is less bad than having a library with everything going back to 1999 die on you. Oh, LR libraries never get corrupt you say? Really? You first, pal.

    Given that you can merge libraries on the fly, this is really a non issue if you absolutely need to have a 50,000 foot view of every single image in your library.

  • trickthelight

    I have 57,000 in my catalog. I have a plan in mind to break that down, but haven’t gotten round to executing on it.

  • ninpou_kobanashi

    I create new catalogs by year.

  • Bill

    Over thirty k, I love photography. Aperture user. CS5 and Pixelmator for editors. Photomatix for HDR.

  • JordanCS13

    As do I. I used to have it all in one catalog, but when I started approaching 100,000, the catalog really started slowing down. I split that catalog into two smaller catalogs and since them I create a new catalog each year with the same structure. (Category, then sub category if needed, then a folder for the date that is created automatically by LR upon import, so my structure might look like: USA->Chicago->2014-02-26.

    Now my catalogs top out around 23,000 images.

  • SiriusPhotog

    Am I the only one that makes a new catalog for each year? I’m not a heavy shooter and do delete the garbage after each shoot so each year contains less the 15-20K images.

  • Mark Dub

    I do this as well. A single catalog for every client. I also have a catalog for my personal/family pics (which I swap out yearly) and I have a “main” portfolio with every single edited shot of clients that I have taken. Much easier to maintain this way, IMO.

  • imajez

    So what is the point of doing that? It’s making more work for oneself without gaining anything. Unless output is compressed and yo save a bit of HD space, which is hardly a bit deal anymore.

  • imajez

    Well you can easily back up your catalogue every time you close it and then if there is a corruption issue, you simply revert to last OK backup. Easy peasy. :)
    Besides if all your images are not in one catalogue, you are basically crippling LR’s organisational abilities and hence your own when it comes to finding/organising photos. So negating one of the main benefits of using LR.

  • imajez

    Multiple catalogues as many people posting here seem to use, cripple one of LR’s strongest features – the ability to sort/find/organise all your work in one easy place.

  • MosaicArchive

    Very much with you on this. This is why we were surprised by the numbers. A lot of folks out there have not bought into the single “master catalog” concept. Seems Adobe has some work to do to convince people that it is safe (which I believe it is.)

  • imajez

    Well seeing as many people simply do not get how LR works in first place, that may be more of the issue than worry over catalogue size.

  • MosaicArchive

    That is true. Lightroom is getting more popular but the catalog concept is difficult for many to grasp.