Imagen AI is one of the most useful tools for wedding photographers (like me!) to emerge from the recent rise of AI in photography. But as someone who currently uses just one Lightroom catalog with everything I’ve ever shot in the last 15 years, the lag waiting for Imagen AI to read that catalog is absolutely unbearable. My one-catalog system works for me, so I found a way to keep using it and massively speed up my Imagen AI workflow.

First things first, I know some wedding photographers use one Lightroom catalog per year, or even one per job. And then they might have an ‘master catalog’ that they import only the finished work into after delivery. I just can’t be bothered with all that faff, and having tried a single catalog per job or per year I couldn’t detect any noticeable performance boost in LR compared to my 500,000-image catalog going back to 2007.

But, Imagen “works differently” with LR catalogs, according to their support team. With my one ‘all-time’ catalog, whenever I try to select a project in Imagen, either to upload from or download into, there’s an unbearable wait of several minutes for it to read that catalog.

So, here’s my workflow to get around that and save about five minutes per project I put through Imagen:

  1. I cull manually in LR (AI culling is absolutely unusable for wedding photography, in my personal opinion! And my LR setup for culling is as responsive as Photo Mechanic so I’ve not used PM in years now.)
  2. Move the selected images into a new folder via LR
  3. Select that folder in LR and then File menu -> Export as Catalog…
  4. I leave ALL the checkboxes blank. Don’t need to copy the negative files or any of the previews, and if you check ‘Only export selected photos’ you’ll need to remember to select all in that folder. Just select the folder and export that.
  5. I save the exported catalog in a folder called ‘Pre-Edit’, and named for the job.
  6. Open Imagen AI (no need to quit LR first) and select the catalog I just exported, and upload it for processing.
  7. Wait for the processing to complete and download to the same catalog I uploaded from.
  8. In LR go to File menu -> Import from Another Catalog…
  9. Select the catalog I downloaded to, check that it’s found the correct number of images and select to overwrite metadata and develop settings.
  10. Once the develop settings are applied to the raws in my working ‘all-time’ catalog I apply the correct profile (Imagen AI doesn’t seem to work well with any profiles that aren’t Adobe Colour, such as the built-in Fujifilm film simulation profiles I use) and then I start my final tweaks.

And that’s it! Exporting everything to that per-project export just for Imagen means I can keep using my singular ‘all-time’ catalog, never needing to switch each time I open LR, and saves me a frustrating amount of time waiting for Imagen to read that catalog.

Hope that helps someone out there who’s also using a single catalog and frustrated with how long Imagen AI takes to read it!