Last year I started using Lightroom on my mobile phone. As a longtime Lightroom Classic enthusiast, I started using Lightroom for the portability: I love being able to edit photos on my phone or tablet, without needing to be at my desktop computer.

However, as I’ve written about before, there are some features missing from Lightroom that mean I’ll never be ditching Lightroom Classic altogether, and this article is about one of them: the limited Adobe cloud storage that the Lightroom catalog depends on.

How Lightroom uses cloud storage

When you subscribe to an Adobe Creative Cloud plan, you get a quota of cloud storage. Lightroom uses this storage to store full versions of the image files you import into your catalog. Depending on your Creative Cloud plan, you might have 20GB, 100GB or 1TB of cloud storage.

What happens, though, when you run out of cloud storage? I filled my 100GB in under a year of shooting RAW (and that was conservative, because I was on maternity leave at the time). Unfortunately, while there is an option in Lightroom to store files locally (as well as in the cloud), there is no option to ONLY store files locally, and clear them from cloud storage. If they’re in Lightroom, they’re in the cloud.

So what to do? Option one: You could upgrade your storage and delay the problem. Or, option two: You can migrate your edits out of Lightroom and into Lightroom Classic, thus freeing up your cloud storage for future work.

That cloud icon is your key to migrating your Lightroom catalog into Lightroom Classic.

How to migrate your photos out of Lightroom and into Lightroom Classic

This process takes a few steps (and some hard drive space). For me, there was a big upfront time suck involved, but maintaining things over the long term will be more efficient.

In this article I’m going to run through an overview of the steps involved, and then I’ll delve into each step in more detail in my next article. For this walk-through, LrC refers to Lightroom Classic, and Lr refers to Lightroom.

Here are the steps:

  1. Create a LrC catalog to sync with your Lr catalog.
  2. Wait until everything downloads from your Lr cloud storage to your local machine. (Yes, this creates duplicates, unless you don’t have your photos stored on your hard drive already, but we are going to fix this later).
  3. Pause syncing in the new LrC catalog once everything is downloaded.
  4. Select individual Collections (tip: Albums in Lr become Collections in LrC) and uncheck Sync with Lightroom.
  5. In Lr, go to the Album that you have just un-synced in LrC. Select all the photos, and delete them. Then delete the Album. (If you didn’t pause syncing in Step 3, the Lr Album will already be gone, BUT the photos themselves will still be in cloud storage, so you would have to find them manually and remove them.)
  6. Fix the fact that you now have duplicate originals on your hard drive: Right click a photo from the Collection you have just un-synced, and click Show in Explorer (or Show in Finder for Macs).
  7. Rename the folder. LrC will now put an [!] on each photo in that folder, showing that it has lost the link to the original file.
  8. Click the [!] and browse to your original, wherever it’s stored. Make sure the option to find nearby missing files is selected.
  9. Once the photos are linked back to the proper originals, you can then delete the new originals that Lr has downloaded.
  10. Repeat for all the Collections / Albums you want to remove from Lr.
  11. When you are done, tell LrC to resume syncing with Lr.
  12. Any time you want to clear out your cloud storage from Lr, repeat Step 3 to 11.

How easy was that?! (Or not, am I right?!) Remember, I’ll go into the specifics of each step above in my next article, so check back for that.

If only Lightroom would give us more control over how and what was stored in the cloud. Also, side note: Even a Lightroom catalog that is not synced to a Lightroom Classic catalog might be eating up your hard drive space without you knowing. I’d love to see more user options in the Lightroom ecosystem on file storage.

Workflow using Lightroom on-the-go and Lightroom Classic as an archive

How I see this workflow going for me in future is this: first, I upload photos into Lightroom and edit them on-the-go, using my mobile or tablet, taking advantage of the portability. Then, when my catalog gets full, I follow the above process to remove completed albums out of Lightroom and into Lightroom Classic. If I ever need to go back and tweak edits, I have the files and their edits stored in Lightroom Classic, but they are no longer taking up space in my Lightroom cloud storage.

Lightroom is useful but needs to manage storage better

It would be great if Lightroom would add in the option to control where our files were stored: being able to select albums to only have online, only store locally, or both, would be brilliant. But in the meantime, I hope this article gives you some insight into how you can take charge of your Lightroom catalog and its use of storage online and on your device.

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