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Tips to Organizing and Sorting Photos in Lightroom

In the digital age where images rule, keeping our images organized is no small feat.  No matter what “category” of photographer you fit, it’s likely you have lots of photos that you are trying to keep organized in Lightroom.

The good news is that Lightroom has some super features that make organizing and sorting our photos easy!

Stars and Flags


Lets start with Stars and Flags.  These are found on Lightroom’s Filter bar. (I circled it above.) Here is where you can rate your photos.

One way to choose a photo as a favorite/keeper is to flag it.  You can give it a flag by pressing the “P” key (for Pick).  If you want to see just the photos you have flagged, click the flag with a little check in the corner.

Another way to choose a photo as favorite/keeper is to give it a star rating.  You can give it a star rating by pressing the number keys 1-5.  Pressing “1” will give it one star.  Pressing “2” will give it two stars, etc.  

When I want to rate a photo as a keeper, I press the “3” key on my keyboard.  Do not ask me to explain my method.  Each time I tell people how I rate my images, I can clearly see that it makes no sense.  I guess when I started using the rating system, I wasn’t sure exactly how I was going to do it and I randomly chose 3 stars as a keeper and it stuck. It works for me and I have used that method for years.  Choose whichever method makes the most sense to you and stick with it.


Collections and Smart Collections

Collections and Smart Collections are what we use in Lightroom to group together photos that have a similar theme or just plain belong together. They have their own special spot in the left panel in Lightroom and they are available in all the Modules (Library, Develop, etc.) in Lightroom.

I use collections when I need to manually sort some photos or keep photos together.  For example, I use collections for all my favorites photos from a session I photograph.  I also use collections to keep my favorite nature and macro photos together and easily accessible.

Let’s say I took 4 macro photos on our family vacation this summer. All the photos from the family vacation are going to stay together in a folder on my hard drive.  But I would drag and drop those 4 photos into the 2014 Nature Images collection in my Collections Folder in Lightroom.

I use Smart Collections any time I can take advantage of Lightroom’s “smarts” to automatically collect images from all over my hard drive.

For instance, I created a Smart Collection for all my favorite family photos and snapshots from 2014.  I told Lightroom to find any photos shot between January 1, 2014 and December 31, 2014 that I gave a 3 star or higher rating and were located in the folder I use to store all my family images.  Lightroom automatically found all those photos and pulled them together into a Smart Collection.  

When photos get placed in a Collection or Smart Collection, they are never MOVED from their original location on my hard drive.  Lightroom now knows that I want those images grouped together.

Creating a Collection or Smart Collection is simple.  Right-click anywhere inside the collections panel and choose which kind of collection you want to create.  Creating a Collection just requires you to name it and tell Lightroom where to put it.  Creating a Smart Collection just requires that you name it and tell Lightroom the types of images you want it to collect.  There are lots of parameters to choose from.

Hope this helps you keep your photos sorted and organized!

Happy Organizing!

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