Album workflow using an external drive

This days everybody and his grandma goes to cloud. I must admit I'm scared off this move considering my photo taking habits – you know, I usually take some 20 thousand photos every year in RAW format. It's not only about the price, but I feel my photos safer in my own hands.

So I chose to save my photos to an 1 TB external drive and back up regularly to my desktop's internal drive. This way I can easily move between my work and home PC and pick up the photo work where I left off. (I use Lightroom to develop my RAW photos, which costs around €100, but it definitely worth this price if you are serious about photography.)

First I have created a folder called “Pictures” in the root folder of the external drive.

Using right-click » Properties » Optimize in windows explorer you can designate the folder to be optimized for “Pictures”, so Windows 7 will display that neat “pictures” icon on it.

You can also include this folder in your Libraries. Just select the folder and roll down the “Include in library” box to select “Pictures”. This will make it easier to find your photos from any Windows app.

Then I created a new folder on the external drive called “Albums” for jAlbum to store its files, and output albums.

Now in jAlbum on the Tools » Preferences » Albums tab I relocated the “My albums” location to point to my external drive. I’m using the “When adding files” = Link option to spare with space and facilitate the Lightroom workflow. I don’t mind if the album is not self contained, because using both “Albums” and “Pictures” on the same external drive makes it possible to carry over the albums between PC’s with no fuss.


With this setup I am able to work on both my PC's and pick up the work where I left off on the other. This is my “cloud in my pocket” solution.

Please note, jAlbum will fall back to its default “My albums” folder if it can't find the external drive, so don't forget to hook up the device before you launch jAlbum. About setting up Lightroom to work on an external drive please research the internet. Basically it's just creating a new “Catalog” on the external drive and “Import”-ing the previous database if you've had one before. (The same steps could work using a NAS, but I haven't tried. I was put off by the slow performance when I tried one.)



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Laca Molnar

Laca Molnar 4 years ago

@Ferdinand: good point - I forgot to mention that you have to maintain the same drive letter throughout all PC's. I use Computer Management on Windows 7 to assign fix drive letters. Start menu -> type: "compu..." in the box -> click: Computer Management -> Disk Management -> right-click on the drive -> Change Drive Letter and Paths... -> Change -> OK


Ferdinand 4 years ago

For really flexible use of external drives including encryption (e.g. free Truecrypt) it might be necessary to manage constant drive letters in Windows. The free tool USBDLM can help with this. In addition the DOS command SUBST can be used to allocate fix drive letters to subdirectories. Lightroom does not support NAS or SUBST drives for catalogues, but with symbolic links MKLINK at least local SUBST drives even this works perfect. I am using now fix drive letters (e.g. m:\, p:\, v:\) for music, photos, videos and database files on multiple PCs and with the real physical location and distribution of my files (internal HDD, USB, Firewire, eSATA, NAS, ...) I am totally flexible,


cedricgreen 4 years ago

I agree with everything you say about the Cloud. I work on 2 networked computers and after work on either I use SyncBack to synchronise all the jAlbum files. I also back up everything regularly on an external hard disk.


CLOSED_USER 4 years ago

(user closed)


AtelierHL 4 years ago

All this and more works even better using Total Commander instead of Windows Explorer. Mind you, I am just a regular user of that file-managing program.. I have no shares in the company ;-)

Stephen Butterworth

Stephen Butterworth 4 years ago

Yes I too, have removed all my Aperture Libraries from the main computer. They are now in three different places. Hopefully all 3 f^drives don't all decide to go West on the same day......


simonbrouillard1 4 years ago

I did a thing like that to store millions of picture... and copy
from usb drive to another usb drive letting my desktop free for pictures that
i don't need on a daily basis

Laca Molnar

Laca Molnar 4 years ago

Sure, that's a good idea. I use an SSD as my system drive only. My 1 TB disk has USB3 interface with a sequential read speed of 95 MB/s - which is good enough for this purpose. The bottleneck is the CPU speed on my laptop, which seems to be insufficient for Lightroom.

Stephen Butterworth

Stephen Butterworth 4 years ago

Fortunately for me my car galleries are not even 100GB yet. So my external is a 256GB SSD. That is indeed a very quick solution.