I started out with 50 gig buckets for catalogs. Have three. But that sucks because the image I want is usually on another catalog. Seth Resnick carries around one HUGE FireWire drive, beat to crap thanks to TSA with one giant library (catalog). That as we know has limitations. Or does it? I guess it depends on how much you shoot but how many photographers can we address that can live (today) with a 1TB catalog and images. I'd personally prefer to travel with one or more FireWire drives that can get their own power from the bus. That means something like 200 gig's at this time (I have a few 120's and 160's).
So I tried something interesting yesterday. Not sure how well it will work out.
I imported JUST the catalog info from all three Catalogs into a new catalog, leaving all the images in the same folder structure. This first presented a problem that was easy to fix. I have two Santa Fe folders in two different libraries. The first of 50gigs has a folder with this name, as does the 2nd on the other catalog, obviously in a different folder structure but one that makes sense to me. So I just made a collection of both. Now I can see all Santa Fe images (I also have keywords to use). I donít really care now that half the picís are in different folders although both folders have the same name (which in a way might make searching in the finder no more difficult than having one folder). The two original folders still remain in the original location, the OLD catalogs are fine seeing this. Did the same with my two Dog related folders. Now should I combine them into one folder and update the catalog? Iím thinking not. If I leave the structures the same, I can launch Catalog 1 or 2 or 3, they still see the data in this bucket (which arguably could and should be larger. Iím thinking a bucket that one can easily fit on 120-160 gig FireWire drive with some left over space for new images). To update the smaller buckets I think I can use Import Catalog without pictures (havenít tried going the opposite direction) or just Sync Folders if not. Then if I travel, I can copy Catalog 1 to a Firewire drive and work on it/show stuff. Or build a new catalog on location and import into Catalog 4 and start a new bucket. Each individual bucket is imported into the master catalog of all images.
The key here seems to be thinking of one group of catalogs in one location as the Master. For me, its a 5 drive Raid I have which hooks up to my Macbook (go on location, drive remains of course). If I update this group of catalogs, I then sync that to other drivers (fire proof safe, drive for location, plus one non buss powered, big ass Fire Wire drive that can be a complete clone of the Raid.
There isnít a big overhead for this master, all containing catalog. The question becomes, does it make any sense to build buckets reflected in a catalog that is also contained in the big, master catalog. If you want everything, thatís what you get. If you want a subset, or you want to use buckets of catalogs, does this bring anything useful to the party? Maybe in the end, one big single catalog is all thatís needed. One could export needed images to other drives. But keeping that in sync could be an issue.
One MAJOR advantage of this new, one big catalog is working with keywords! Its so much easier to find any image I want, no matter the location.