Why didn’t I do this sooner?

So after 12 years of using Lightroom for cataloging and photo management I’ve finally recognized its power.


Folders got to be unwieldy. Check this out –

Aside from the stupid amount of files in there (down by about 5000 since I started weeding), look how long and unwieldy that is. Finding anything narrowed down by anything other than a single month or year is tough. Mostly I wanted to separate my NH work from what I’ve done since moving to Wisconsin. I started thinking I’d have to restructure the folders, but then thought about Collections and maybe doing it there.

Over the years I’d used Collections of course, but not in a major way. I had one for prints and a few for photo books and some for trips, but nothing was cohesive. There were some Smart Collections based on key words and some other things, but again, there wasn’t any system in place.

So I thought why not start?

By now many of you are laughing. Why didn’t I do this before?

Because folders worked at the time. Isn’t that like anything? Things work until they don’t. And now they don’t. And yes, I learned how to spell moccasin, lol.

So I replicated my folder structure in Collections. Mostly because I’ve been doing it by years for so long that’s how my mind works when I think about a photo and where it might be located. But now I can slice, dice, divide, label and organize in ways folders can’t manage as easily.

Because Collections functions as an overlay of pointers and labels, a picture can be in more than one Collection without having to be copied. If you try the same thing with folders, Lightroom has to copy that file each time you want it in another folder. Why make extra data if it isn’t necessary?

I just right clicked on a folder and hit Create Collection. When each year was done, I created Collection Sets to group them.

As I explored Collections and how they work with some excellent articles and videos (links at the end) it was pointed out to me that the Collections panel is pervasive in all module views, but folders is not. So I assume using Collections to move around the Catalog is what the developers intended and might prove to be faster and easier. Why didn’t I notice that?

If you look at February you’ll see two Collections not present in folders – Picks and Stacks. Picks is actually a Collection Set while Stacks is a Collection.

I created those to separate the shots I want to edit into one Collection – for the entire month. Same with shots that will go into Zerene or Photoshop to be stacked or blended. Having them in their own Collections means I can concentrate on them when I’m ready, separate from the other images that only need basic processing. I don’t have to sort through the whole folder at once and I know this is just the beginning. Beyond keywords and folders.

Yes, I could have done it in Grid view with Attributes sorting, but it can be cumbersome. Now I just set the Quick Collection as the Target and either hit B to add to the Target Collection or use the Paint Can set to Target Collection and add them that way. The Painter function is part of the Toolbar on the bottom and it works in Grid view. The name of the Target Collection shows next to it so you’ll know where pictures will land.

When you’re done adding you can save the Quick Collection as a regular one. Quick Collection is good for working through shots you’ve just imported, but you can make any Collection a Target and use it that way, too.

Collections is hierarchical like folders on a hard drive. The base or the lowest is the Collection itself which has a tiny icon that looks like a stack of pictures. Each container above is called a Collection Set. Theoretically you can have an infinite amount of these, like Russian nesting dolls. Theoretically.

One thing I have noticed is that sometimes Photoshop doesn’t return the image back to the Collection I sent it out of for editing. As of this writing, I’ve tested and tried it under a few different scenarios and the only thing that seems to be consistent is that if a picture is in more than three Collection Sets, Photoshop ignores them all and only returns the file to the folder.

In this list you can see that the February Picks collection is 4 Sets deep, the Picks Copy is 3 Sets deep. An image made the round trip out of Copy, but failed with the original Collection. So it seems it is a bit limited after all, but I’ll keep tinkering and experimenting.

Oh by the way, I created the Picks Copy group by duplicating the original Picks Collection and placing it in the 2 Feb Collection Set, not in the Picks Collection Set.

And it’s easy to import shots from the SD Card right into collections. You create a new one by hitting the + sign and when the dialog box opens can either add it on its own or put it into a Collection Set.

Honestly, that’s a major PITA since the list of all Collections is unnested and can’t be collapsed. You have to painfully scroll your head off until you find the one you want. MUCH easier to just create it independently and then drag it to a Collection Set later. Really, Adobe.

Another thing to explore is Smart Collections. Those are automated Collections that you set by specific parameters similar to if this then that sort of logic chains. One that is very useful is the Recently Modified SC. It’s one of the standard sets along with Colored Red, Five Stars, Past Month, and Without Keywords. My next project is to work with SCs to make workflow easier – finding shots that I need to send to an external editor like Topaz, finding shots I’ve finished editing, but still haven’t exported to my hard drive so they can be put up on hosting sites, things like that. Oh, and keeping track of my Wordless Wednesday shots so you don’t have to see the same ones over and over. Now why didn’t I think of that?

It should be interesting. I’m sure I’ll find more ways to make editing and organizing easier as time goes on. In the meantime, here are links to resources I found useful when setting things up –

Julianne Kost’s Blog

Mastering Lightroom with Andrew S. Gibson

Mastering Lightroom Classic with Anthony Morganti

2 thoughts on “Why didn’t I do this sooner?

Add yours

  1. I will have to read this over later becuz my long list of folders has become unwieldy too! Thanks for taking time to explain what you’ve done.

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