How to Organize your Photos in Lightroom

Lightroom is one of the easiest and quickest tools to fine-tune your images before you decide to share them, have them printed or send them to your clients.

With more and more people buying DSLR cameras and realizing the tremendous benefits of RAW shooting it is imperative that you have a decent idea of how to work your way around in Lightroom.

The most basics stuff that you ought to know is how to import your images into Adobe Lightroom:

  • how to make a folder
  • arrange your images in a catalog
  • tag your photos
  • create quick collections
  • take backups
  • use cloud storage and publish photos as and when required.

Catalog, Folders, and Collections

The library is where all the fun begins in Adobe Lightroom.

Under the library you have catalogs. The catalog is where you view and work with your images in Lightroom.

You can create a new catalog right at the start of a new import process flow or leave all your images in the default catalog. For some, the later might be like leaving all your chicken in the same room and then trying to find a specific chicken.

For most don’t really just have one catalog as this is perfectly is fine. Having two catalogs makes sense if you want to keep two sets of photos completely separate (e.g. personal vs. work). Switching between catalogs means you will have to relaunch the Lightroom application.

Think of the Lightroom folders as virtual folders where your images are stored on your computer (e.g. under the Pictures folder in your Mac Finder or Windows images folder).

It is not an actual folder per se, because your images don’t live inside Lightroom, but think of them more like pointers to the locations where these individual images are located. When you import your photos from your camera, you can name the folder or just assign a date or a name of the event or locations.

Collections are a way to organize your photos in Lightroom in different ways. E.g. you can create collections like “family portraits”, “landscape photography”, “Summer Vacations”, etc.

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You can also create collections sets to organize your photos into subsections, e.g. Catalog Holiday can have various catalogs like “Paris”, “Beach”, “Vacation in Miami” etc.

And if you want to organize your photos in Lightroom in a quick and easy way you can choose to create a smart collection. A smart collection will automatically organize your photos according to the parameters you choose, e.g. particular date range, location, five-star ratings etc.

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Tags / Keywords

The tags or keywords feature is a great way to organize your images in Lightroom and identify and locate your images at the snap of a finger.

Let’s say you travel a lot and you want to import images from the past three trips to Lightroom in one go. But you also want to be able to identify and separately call up the images that were taken in Paris at a later time and don’t want to also accidentally call up the images that were taken in Bali at the same time. Tags allow you to do that. Think of them as keywords which you enter separately for your images.

You can search for the tags and the relevant images come up. This was just an example and there could be millions of other keywords that you can use. E.g. you can use sunset at Paris, or the magical sunset at Bali to segregate a set of images relating to the same topic (sunset) but shot at two distinct locations.

Remember, whatever you write as keywords and every other piece of information you seemingly ‘put’ on your images are actually written to an external database. Think of this information as metadata, something that Lightroom stores in the database and then use to display your images to you.

Quick collection

A quick collection is a temporary collection which you create to basically do a quick collection of images for some project that you may have in mind.

You could have an urgent need to send images to your colleague, or may want to share them on an online photo sharing application, or even want to print them for a school project.

Whatever may your requirements be, a quick collection is the way to go. To use quick collection simply select an image and then click ‘Photo> Add to Quick Collection’. You could alternatively click ‘B’ on the keyboard. There is yet another option. When you mouse over an image in Lightroom you will notice a circle at the top right corner. Simply click on that and it will be turned on indicating that the image is added to the quick collection.

Remember, Quick Collection is not a permanent collection, thus it is recommended that when you are done you should clear the Quick Collection. To do that go to the Library module, click on ‘Catalog’ and right click on ‘Quick Collection’. Then choose ‘Clear Quick Collection’ to clear all the images.

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Backup

Backing up Lightroom is a slightly drawn out procedure because it involves more than just backing up your hard drive to an external hard drive, a different computer or any other forms of a storage medium. You need to back up the catalogs, the actual images, presets, templates and the whole shebang.

When you start working on Lightroom it creates what we already discussed as a folder. These folders are like pointers to the location of the individual images. Lightroom can create incremental backups of these at regular intervals, something that you can specify as to the location and the interval.

It is strongly advised that you at least have these backed up once every week. You can attach an external hard drive and straight away do that on that hard drive or have them backed to a different location on your computer and then back that up.

You should also want to back up the actual images and this is where you can really be paranoid and get away with it. It is not rare to come across photographers who use two sets of external hard drives for backing up their images and then have two more which are located at a remote island (ok, I am just joking about the remote island bit).

This is backing up is usually done manually, unless you have the external hard drive attached and then have Lightroom specified to back up everything to that external hard drive at regular intervals.

Cloud Storage

With creative cloud subscription plans now you have about 20 gigs of storage space, that is if you have the Creative Cloud (Single App and complete) package. Check specs for storage on other plans. You can use this to store your images and access them anywhere in the world with an internet connection.

You can preview the images using any computing, portable or smart devices which use a web browser, upload images, sort them, edit, replace and delete them. It is a world of convenience for a photographer who is always on the move and still wants to access his images.

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Publishing

With Lightroom Creative Cloud you can now publish images directly on to your website. However to do that you need to have to establish a website first and connect that to your Creative Cloud account. For the actual purpose of creating a website, you use Adobe Muse for designing the website.

You could, alternatively, publish your images to Photoshop or Flickr other social media websites directly.

To do that you need to enter the credentials of your account on to Lightroom, ensure that Lightroom connects with the particular site and then start publishing by just dragging the photos into the connected social media folder a by clicking the publish button.

On specific sites such as Flickr, you can manage the images that will reside in your photostream. Based on smart collections that we discussed above you can create a photostream that matches certain criterion or create a dedicated collection that comprises images that you wish to share.

Not happy with this Lightroom solution? Then have a look at a Lightroom alternative.