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Organizing Photos in Lightroom

Workflow stage 2

By David Fleet

organizing photos in lightroom

Ok, now on to stage 2 of my worflow: organizing photos in lightroom. I've imported all the images from my last shoot, but at the moment they're an unwieldy mess. So time to bring some order to the chaos!

If you find the organizational bit of post-production painfully tedious, you've done the right thing by getting hold of Lightroom! It has some cool features for automating all this 'housekeeping', which are certainly a godsend for me.

Lightroom Collections

Let's quickly introduce you to the basics.When organizing photos in Lightroom, Collections allow you to group all images with certain criteria together. That's handy, but with Smart Collections you can set criteria for grouping images to be applied to all future imports. In other words, all the organizing gets done for you!

To begin exploring Lightroom Collections, simply check all the images that you want to add to a new Collection, then click the 'plus' button in the Collections drop down menu in the Library module, and select 'Create Collection'.

organizing photos in lightroom

Finally, just name your new Collection and check 'include selected photos'.

organizing photos in lightroom

Done, but now let's take a look at the more powerful 'Smart Collections' feature

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Smart Collections

Smart Collections are my favourite way of organizing photos in Lightroom. It's where the real power of Lightroom 3 can be seen.You simply set criteria for Lightroom to use to keep Smart collections updated, and new photos in their right place.

I use smart collections to keep all my images in order. For example I have a Smart Collections for my landscape images, another for black and white shots, one for stock photos, people and so on.

What makes it such a great tool is that once you have defined the criteria for a Smart Collection, it manages itself! and you can just forget about it until you want to find say, all your landscape images, all nicely arranged in the Smart Collection you set up.


To create a Smart Collection:

  1. Click the '+' button on the Collections menu in the Library module, and then select 'Create Smart Collection'.

  2. You will then be prompted to name your Smart Collection, so make sure it is something obvious so that you don't end up forgetting which images are supposed to be in it!

  3. Now you choose whether to incorporte the Collection as part of a set of Smart Collections or not.

  4. The next step in organizing your photos in Lightroom Smart Collections is to define the criteria for which images will be placed in your smart collection. You can choose to use all sorts of criteria for identifying images that will be automatically placed in the Collection. For example: keywords, title, capture date, camera name, which lens you used, what aperture, shutter speed or ISO the images were taken at. There are hundreds of possible combinations.
organizing photos in lightroom

I try to keep things simple and use keyword combinations to define my Smart Collections. So all I do is attach the correct keywords to my photos when I'm importing them, and they slot right into place in the appropriate Collection!

There's another handy criteria I use for organizing images that I've finished working on. So, I begin organizing my landscape pictures by attaching the keyword "landscape to them". But I have a Smart Collection for completed landscapes, for which the criteria includes both the keyword 'landscape' and a ticked checkbox for 'has adjustments'. Selecting the 'has adjustments' checkbox when creating a Smart Collection ensures only images that have been edited are included.

So, before organizing your photos in Lightroom with Smart Collections, have a sit down and think about the most convenient ways to arrrange your photos.

Quick Collections

Ok, so your most important collections are probably going to be Smart Collections, but another feature that can be really helpful, and certainly is for me, is the 'Quick Collection'. This simply allows you to throw together a bunch of images at the click of a button.

I use it when importing photos from a recent shoot, and choosing/organizing the ones that are 'keepers'. I simply add the best images to a Quick Collection to separate them from the others. From there I can browse my best shots, before editing them, without having to trawl through loads that I don't want.

Big deal? Why not just delete the non-keepers and be left with only the good'uns? Well, if you've been into photography for a while, you'll be familiar with the feeling of browsing half-forgotton shots from a few weeks ago spotting an absolute winner that you'd completely missed!

That's why I use Quick Collections alongside Smart Collections. I can quickly organize my keepers whilst, at least temporarily, hanging on to the whole shoot.

Organizing photos in Lightroom with Quick Collections is super easy. Here how to do it:

  1. Click the little circle on the top right hand corner of a thumbnail (if you hover the mouse over it, it says 'add photo to Quick Collection'), or simply select a thumbbail and press the 'B' button.

  2. When you are ready to view your Quick Collection just click the Catalogue drop down and click on Quick Collection. The images you have just selected will be shown all in one handy place.
organizing photos in lightroom

So that's the second stage of my worflow explained. Importing and organizing photos in Lightroom is a real snap, allowing me to spend more time out taking photos and less in front of my computer.

Now it's time to take you through the third step in Lightroom post-processing: the Lightroom Develop module.

The Lightroom Series:

1. Lightroom Tutorials Home
2. Lightroom Review

1. Importing Photos to Lightroom
2. Organizing Photos in Lightroom
3. The Lightroom Develop Module
4. Editing Photos in Lightroom 1
5. Editing Photos in Lightroom 2


Have Your Say and Share Your Photos

Photoshop v Lightroom: Your opinion. So which of Adobe's post-processing options takes the prize for you, and why?

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