Tips for Organizing Photos in Lightroom

How to Organize Photos in Lightroom

How to Organize Your Photos in Lightroom

In this 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 really great features that make organizing and sorting photos easy!

Lightroom & Photoshop Facebook Group

Lets dive right in:

Using Stars and Flags to Organize Your Photos in Lightroom

Organizing Photos in Lightroom

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

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

Another way to choose a photo as a favorite 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 rate a photo as a possible keeper, I press the “3” key on my keyboard.  And the photos I like better, I rate 1 or 2.  If you prefer 5's as your favorites and 1's as least favorite, that's perfectly fine too.  Just choose whichever method makes the most sense to you and stick with it..

Using Collections and Smart Collections to Organize Your Photos in Lightroom

Lightroom Collections and Smart Collections are great tools to use for grouping 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.

Lightroom Photo Organization Strategies

How to Use Lightroom Collections

I use Collections when I need to manually sort some photos or keep photos together.  For example, I'll use a Collection to group my favorites photos from a particular session that I photographed.  Or, I'll use a Collection to keep a category or my favorite photos together and easily accessible - for example, my nature and macro photos.

Let’s say I take 4 macro photos on our Disney vacation this summer.  All the photos from the family vacation are going to stay together in a folder on my hard drive.  But I can also drag and drop those 4 photos into my "Nature Images" collection in my Collections Folder in Lightroom, so I have easy access to just the nature and macro photos whenever I want.

Sorting Photos in Lightroom

How to Use Lightroom Smart Collections

Lightroom Smart Collections are very different that the normal Collections.  You can't drag and drop photos or delete photos from a Smart Collection.  Instead, Smart Collections can be used to find and include (or exclude) photos based on parameters (or filters) that you set within that particular Smart Collection.

Of course you can add, delete, or modify those parameters to obtain your desired results.

For example, I created a Smart Collection (using several parameters) for all my favorite family photos and snapshots from 2014.  I set my parameters to find any photos taken between January 1, 2014 and December 31, 2014 that I gave a 3 star or higher rating and were also located in the folder I normally use to store all my family images.

I set Lightroom to work and in just a few moments it automatically found all of those particular photos and pulled them together into a really handy Smart Collection.

Some other great parameters you can use to locate photos to build a Lightroom Smart Collection include:

  • Specific file type(s).
  • Specific Lightroom star rating or star rating range..
  • Specific color label(s).
  • Specific aspect ratio(s).
  • Lightroom "picked" or "rejected" photos

Keep in mind you can have as many or as few of these and more parameters to build the exact Smart Collection you desire.

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

The really cool thing about Lightroom Collections is that when photos get placed in a Collection or Smart Collection, they are NEVER ACTUALLY MOVED from their original location on the hard drive, but Lightroom now knows those images should be grouped together.

How to Organize Photos in Lightroom

How to Create a Lightroom Collection or Smart Collection

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.

Then for a regular Collection just name it and tell Lightroom where to put it. 

For a Smart Collection: name it and set the parameters for the types of images you want it to collect as I previously discussed.

Hope this helps you keep your photos well sorted and organized!

Happy Organizing!

Do you have any questions or comments about Organizing your Photos in Lightroom?  Leave us a comment below - we would love to hear from you! And PLEASE SHARE this post using the social sharing buttons (we really appreciate it)!

Lightroom Presets