How I Use Lightroom – Collections

Last time, I talked about how I import images. This week, I’ll cover how I use collections, both regular and smart.

When I first started using Lightroom, I rarely used collections.  As I began shooting more often and having to post-process my images, I forced myself to take advantage of collections, especially since the folders panel is only available in the Library module.

I’ve also discovered the Workflow Smart Collection.  During import, I add all images to the 0.00 Current Work collection.


I use collections for grouping images together which may have been taken at different times.  Also, collections allow an image to be in multiple collections without taking up any more space on your hard drive.  Some of my collections include:

  • Family photos
  • Photos of our cat
  • Photos taken at a specific location

I also use collections for syncing with Lightroom Mobile.  As of this writing, Lightroom Mobile only allows synchronization of static collections.  I duplicate some of my static collections as smart collections.  I use the smart collection to identify the images which should be in the static collection and then copy those images to the static collection.


As for smart collections, I use them for a few reasons.  I use smart collections to group images together with similar metadata.  I also use them to identify images which are missing keywords, have not been processed, have the same color label, have the same rating, etc.  The image to the left shows some of my smart collections.

While it’s probably overkill, I keyword my images with the camera and lens used to take a particular image so that if that portion of the metadata disappears, I’ll still know what I used (so long as the keywords don’t disappear too).

For more information on how to create collections, check out the Lightroom Queen’s How do I create and manage collections?


How I Use Lightroom – Importing Images

I’ve now been using Lightroom for a few years now and thought I’d share how I use it, from importing images to grouping into collections to exporting and using publishing services.  I’ll split the information into separate posts, to keep them brief but provide enough detail.

In this post, I’ll cover importing.  Currently, I shoot with a Canon 7D Mark II, which takes SD and CF cards.  I shoot raw (.CR2) to both cards.  Since I’m concerned about bending pins on the CF slot, I pull the SD card out and import the images using a Lexar Dual Slot Card Reader which attaches using USB 3.0.


After clicking on the Import button on the lower left corner of Library module, I choose to build Standard Previews and Smart Previews.  If I’m importing on my iMac, I also choose to make a second copy to another drive.  I’f I’m importing on my MacBook Air and don’t have an external drive with me, I leave the images on the cards until I can guarantee that I have at least two copies.  Lastly, I add the images to a collection.



I rename my files from the default IMG#### to YYYY-MM-DD_HH-MM-SS_Suffix.  I only recently started adding the original filename number suffix to keep the as-shot order.  Before adding this, I was finding burst images being named out of order.  To ensure I don’t have to worry about the counter rolling over in the middle of a burst (9999 to 0000), I reset the counter on my camera on January 1.



I have two presets I apply during import.  The first is a group of common develop settings.  These include applying lens corrections and changing the camera profile from Adobe Standard to Camera Standard.  The second is a metadata preset for applying my copyright information to each image.  If there are any keywords I can apply to all of the images, I enter them into the Keywords box.


Lastly, I choose to organize my images by date.  Before using Lightroom, I used to store my images in folders named by topic (2010 family vacation, Yankee game, etc). All that information would be better used as Keywords. I choose YYYY/MM/DD format based on the date the image was shot, instead of the date the image was imported. I did go back and reorganize my old images to match the folder hierarchy. The only images I have which aren’t in this format are old scanned images where there wasn’t any indication as to when the photo was taken.

For some more detail into organization and destination folders, check out the Lightroom Queen’s How do I use the Import dialog’s Destination panel to put the photos into dated folders? and How do I organize into folders?