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Using Collections for Organization

Chapter Description

In this sample chapter from Taming your Photo Library with Adobe Lightroom, author Rob Sylvan explores the advantages of using a second level of organization when storing your photos, moving from simple folders to catalogs.

Collecting Your Photos

Keeping in mind that the Collections panel is available in all modules (and to a certain extent Lightroom Mobile) can help you determine your approach to how you might use collections. There really is no one right way to use them, and I’ve worked with a lot of photographers and seen all kinds of approaches. All that matters is that, like your folder structure, it has to make sense to you. Let’s go through the mechanics of using each type of collection.

Creating Structure with Collection Sets

Collection sets are the tools you can use to collect your collections. They can hold both regular collections and smart collections, and they can also hold other collection sets. For example, in (Figure 4.6) you can see I have a collection set named Peachpit, and inside of that are collection sets for each book I have written for Peachpit Press as part of the Snapshots to Great Shots series on different camera models (Nikon D600, D750, D3200, and so on). Inside the D600 collection set you can see a regular collection holding the photos used in each chapter of the book, potential cover photos, and so on. Pretty straightforward, yes? .

Figure 4.6

Figure 4.6 Collection sets can hold other collections and other collection sets.

When starting a new project, I like to create a parent collection set by clicking the plus sign at the top of the panel and choosing Create Collection Set from the menu. This opens the Create Collection Set dialog (Figure 4.7), where I can give the collection set a name and even choose to include it within an existing collection set (or not, if it is a top-level collection set). Once I enter a name, I click the Create button to add the set to the panel.

Figure 4.7

Figure 4.7 The Create Collection Set dialog is where you can create collection sets and assign them to existing collection sets.

Collection sets can also be dragged and dropped into other collection sets if you need to reorganize things or if you just forget to check the box to include a collection set within another.

Grouping Photos with Regular Collections

Once you’ve created a collection set, you may find it easiest to start by creating a regular collection to gather up the photos for that set. I think of regular collections like baskets—you can just drag and drop photos from any folder into them. You can create a regular collection from the same plus sign button at the top of the Collections panel that you used to create the collection set, or you can choose Library > New Collection. The bonus of using the menu bar at the top is that you can also see the keyboard shortcuts associated with various collection-related tasks (Figure 4.8).

Figure 4.8

Figure 4.8 The Library menu also contains commands for creating new collections, smart collections, and collection sets (among other things).

Whichever route you take to it, in the Create Collection dialog you can name the collection, add it to a collection set, and configure additional options (Figure 4.9). For example, I created a collection for all the photos from my 2015 trip to Yosemite and added it to my existing Yosemite collection set that contains photos from a previous trip.

Figure 4.9

Figure 4.9 The Create Collection dialog contains all the options for creating a new collection.

In the Options section of the dialog you can:

  • Include selected photos in the collection you’re creating

  • Make new virtual copies (see the sidebar “Virtual Copies”)

  • Set the collection you’re creating as a target collection (more on this in a bit)

  • Sync the collection you’re creating with Lightroom Mobile (more on this in Chapter 10)

If you have the foresight to select all the photos you want to add to the new collection first, then selecting the “Include selected photos” checkbox is a real help.

After you create a new, empty collection, such as mine inside my Yosemite Trip collection set, you can easily add the photos to it. Select them in Grid view, and then drag them into your collection (Figure 4.10).

Figure 4.10

Figure 4.10 Adding photos to a regular collection is as simple as drag and drop.

Regular collections are helpful, but you can, however, make your collections a little smarter. Take a look.

Automating with Smart Collections

Smart collections (think saved searches) enable you to automate the process of finding, grouping, and organizing your photos in meaningful ways by leveraging the information contained in your photo’s metadata, plus any additional data you may have added to the catalog. To help illustrate this saved search functionality further, Lightroom comes preinstalled with a collection set named Smart Collections, which contains six starter smart collections:

  • Colored Red: Contains all photos in your catalog with the red color label applied.

  • Five Stars: Contains all photos in your catalog with a five-star rating

  • Past Month: Contains all photos in your catalog whose capture date is within the last month

  • Recently Modified: Contains all photos in your catalog whose edit date is within the last two days

  • Video Files: Contains all video files that have been imported into your catalog

  • Without Keywords: Contains all photos within your catalog whose keyword field is empty

The very simple smart collections in this “starter kit” are intended to give you a sense of how you can use different types of criteria and image metadata to smartly gather up matching photos. You can also remove any or all of them, if you like. Even better, by looking at how these collections are constructed, you can learn a lot about how to create your own. For example, let’s take a look inside the Colored Red collection. Double-click the collection name or its smart collection icon to open the Edit Smart Collection dialog (Figure 4.11).

Figure 4.11

Figure 4.11 You can edit smart collections at any time to change up the rules that govern them.

The Edit Smart Collection dialog features a name field at the top and a list of rules Lightroom uses to create the collection underneath. This collection is based on a single rule being applied to the entire catalog: Label Color is red. Lightroom essentially scans the entire catalog for photos matching that criterion and automatically adds them to the collection. Click Cancel to close the dialog without making any changes. Take a moment to double-click the preinstalled smart collections to view the rules they contain. As you can see, a smart collection is nothing more than a saved search that can be as simple or complex as your needs demand.

To create a new smart collection, you can use the Create Smart Collection menu in the panel header, choose Library > New Smart Collection, or simply right-click anywhere inside the Collections panel to access the same Create Smart Collection menu (yet another way to access all those Create Collection options). The Create Smart Collection dialog is similar to the Edit Smart Collection dialog, but it has the addition of the Location section, which allows you to add this new smart collection to an existing collection set or leave it at the top level of the Collections panel (Figure 4.12). Remember, you can always drag and drop collections into collection sets later.

Figure 4.12

Figure 4.12 The Create Smart Collection dialog box is where you configure the rules.

When it comes to creating the rules for the smart collection, you first need to decide if you want the photos added to this collection to match all, any, or none of your rules. Simply choose the option you prefer from the Match drop-down menu. Leaving match set to “all” is the most straightforward (and default) way to get started (which I’ll use in the example that follows). Choosing the “all” option means that only photos matching every single criterion are added to the collection. Setting Match to “any” means that any photo matching any rule will show. Setting to “none” means only photos that don’t match any of the rules will show. Experimenting with each setting is the best way to get a handle on how they affect the results.

To see all of the possible rules at your disposal, click the rule drop-down menu and scroll through the list. For example, when I am writing books on a specific camera model, I create smart collections that pull together all the photos I’ve taken with that specific camera as the first rule, and then I might add additional rules for specific camera settings, capture dates, ratings, focal length, and so on (Figure 4.13). This automates the process of pulling those photos together in groups that fit my needs for that project.

Figure 4.13

Figure 4.13 This is a smart collection I use when looking for photos from a specific camera and camera settings.

Create an Example Smart Collection

To help you better understand the power of smart collections, let’s build one that you can use to pull together your best unedited photos from a trip. Imagine you know you will be on a shooting assignment from February 21 to February 24, 2017 (or send yourself on vacation for those dates, if you’d rather). You also know that you will want to pull together all the photos to which you assign a star rating of 4 or higher and that you have not yet worked on in Develop. By collecting them in one place, you can easily find all of your 4-star or higher photos from this trip that still need processing in the Develop module before you export them. To create your collection set and smart collection, follow these steps:

  1. Create a new collection set by clicking the plus sign in the Collections panel header and choosing Create Collection Set. Give your set a name, and unless you are putting the set inside another set, leave “Inside a Collection Set” unselected. Click Create.
  2. Select the collection set you just created; then click the plus sign again and choose Create Smart Collection to open the Create Smart Collection dialog. Give the smart collection a name.
  3. Starting with the collection set selected expedites the process of adding the new collection to the selected collection set, so that when you select “Inside a Collection Set,” your collection set should be used automatically.
  4. Click the drop-down arrow for the first rule, and choose Date > Capture Date. Set the condition to “is in the range,” and enter the start and end dates of the range you want to target. I used 2017–02–21 to 2017–02–24 for this example (Figure 4.14).
    Figure 4.14

    Figure 4.14 I’ve given my smart collection a name and added the first rule.

  5. Click the plus sign at the end of the first rule to add a second rule. Rating, the next rule you need, appears by default because it is at the top of the list. Leave Rating and “is greater than or equal to” set, and click the number of stars you want defined for your rule.
  6. Now that you have more than one rule, a minus sign also appears at the end of each rule, which allows you to delete a rule.
  7. Click the plus sign at the end of the second rule to add the third. Click the rule drop-down menu, and choose Develop > Has Adjustments. Change the condition to “is false” so that only photos without any Develop settings will be added (Figure 4.15).
    Figure 4.15

    Figure 4.15 The completed smart collection has all the rules I need.

  8. Click Create. As soon as you click Create, the dialog closes, Lightroom adds the smart collection to the set, and photos matching the criteria automatically appear in the collection. Because the example trip is in the future, however, don’t be surprised when no photos appear.

Removing Photos from Smart Collections

The only way photos can be removed from a smart collection is when a particular photo no longer matches the defined criteria. So in the example, as soon as any photo gets adjusted in any way, it will no longer match the rules; Lightroom automatically removes it from that smart collection. Similarly, if I change my mind on a photo’s rating and reduce it to three stars, it too would be automatically removed. This is just one of the many ways smart collections can leverage the power of the Lightroom catalog and make your life simpler.

3. Maintaining Collections Over Time | Next Section Previous Section

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