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?


With the embargo lifted, and US flights beginning to head there (United starts flying there from Newark next year), I’ve been heavily considering going to Cuba for my birthday next year while it still looks like it’s stuck in the 50s.
My only concern is lodging. Only one major US hotel chain has opened up down there and they want $300+ per night (obviously taking advantage of the boom). I could do AirBnB for 1/10th that amount but I’ve never done AirBnB before.

Really Right Stuff Tripod

RRS TVC-34L with BH-55
Last month, I was debating between purchasing a new carbon fiber tripod (Really Right Stuff TVC-33) or replacing the QR plate head on my Manfrotto aluminum tripod with something that could accept Arca Swiss.

I went a slightly different path. Instead of getting the TVC-33 tripod, I went with the TVC-34L. I decided on the new tripod because I didn’t like the center column on my Manfrotto. I tried not to extend the center column to make the tripod more stable but that resulted in me having to lean over to look through the viewfinder. I went with the 34L over the 33 because I can always shorten a tripod but I can’t extend one further.

I also picked up three of their spiked feet in preparation for a trip to Virginia Beach.

Move to Arca Swiss

Lately, I’ve been wanting to move to Arca Swiss plates for my camera/tripod. Currently I have Manfrotto RC2 plates for my Manfrotto tripod and monopod. If I want to take a portrait orientation image right after taking a landscape orientation photo, I have to loosen the ballhead, move the camera, make sure it’s level, then tighten the ballhead. With Arca Swiss, I can use an L bracket to go from portrait to landscape and back without moving the ballhead.
I’m debating between spending $1,700 on a new Really Right Stuff tripod and ballhead and L Bracket, or swap out the mounting plate on the top of my current tripod. The benefit to going with the RRS tripod is I’ll have higher reach.  Right now, I have to lean over slightly to look through the viewfinder (I don’t like raising the center column on my tripod as it makes it less stable).

New Camera

Canon 7D Mark II
I picked up a refurbished Canon 7D Mark II today from the Canon store to replace my Rebel T3.  I wanted something that could handle a higher burst rate while taking photos at drag races.  The T3 was only capable of 3fps whereas the 7DII can do 10.  Earlier this year, I was thinking about buying a Canon 6D because I thought I needed to eventually move to a full frame sensor camera.  The 6D tops out at 4.5fps which isn’t much faster than the T3.  While both cameras have built-in GPS, I didn’t need the WiFi that the 6D comes with.  I also liked that the 7DII has a built-in flash, even though pop-up flash tends to make images look bad.  I liked that if I needed a flash and didn’t have a speedlight with me, I had the built-in flash as a backup.  Another plus for the 7DII is that it has 63 AF points where the 6D only has 11.  My T3 had 9 so 11 didn’t seem like much of an improvement.

Giving Lightroom Another Try

A little over a month ago, I compared Lightroom and Aperture and decided to use Aperture.  Since then, I’ve been watching several videos on YouTube, which has helped me understand Lightroom a bit more, so I decided to try Lightroom one more time.
To start out, I exported the images out of Aperture to a new folder. While importing them into Lightroom, it was then that I noticed that most photos were missing the keywords I had tagged them with in Aperture. After do some research online, I learned that JPEGs and TIFFs need to have the metadata embedded in the files while RAW files would have the metadata in XMP sidecar files. After re-exporting the JPEGs and TIFFs with the metadata embedded, I re-imported those files and the keywords were there but I still lost the hierarchy I had established in Aperture. I did have to re-tag the TIFF files as there was an error when exporting them from Aperture with the metadata embedded. Luckily, the TIFF files are only family photos I scanned to preserve so that task wasn’t so bad.
I’ll continue to use them both side-by-side since I prefer Aperture’s integration into the OS and also like that there is more training, plug-ins, and presets available to Lr. Even though I’m still testing out Lightroom, I decided to sign up for the photography package from Adobe for $10/month which gets me access to Lightroom and Photoshop, as well as the new Lightroom mobile for iPad.