by guest author Robert Ash
Our first installment discussed an on-disk organization method that allows you to organize your photos in a way you can use any program you choose to find and view them easily. Our second installment discussed importing your photos into Adobe ® Lightroom®.
In this article we will discuss using Lightroom to manage your on-disk organization, plus show you a folder naming practice that makes it possible to use in a clever way a powerful Lightroom 2 feature – Smart Collections.
Key principles for organizing photos in Lightroom are:
- First organize on-disk (Installment 1). Again, this will make your file organization largely if not completely independent of what file browsing or organization software you use – Lightroom, Bridge, your camera manufacturer’s or another program like Aperture or CaptureOne. It will also drastically reduce the number of keywords you need, and may even eliminate your need for keywords.
- Import into Lightroom (Installment 2). Use Lightroom to transfer your photos from card to temporary folders on disk, where they’re faster to work with. Import those temporary folders into Lightroom (Installment 2).
- Organize your folders in Lightroom (this Installment). Use Lightroom to move photos from your temporary folders to their final destinations.
- Then create Collections. Lightroom Collections enable you to store a single photo or group of photos in multiple classification categories simultaneously, using on-disk organization alone cannot do this efficiently.
- Finally, do keywording if needed.
To organize your folders and imported photos using Lightroom:
Go into Lightroom’s Folders Panel
Import photos from memory card into temporary folder 0-ImportThesePhotos
If all your imported photos in folder 0-ImportThesePhotos will go in the same destination folder, select them all. If not, then select one subset of them at a time and repeat the following steps until finished:
- Select a subset of photos
- Move your selected photos to a folder
- Go to Folders panel
- If the folder you want exists, right-click on it and choose Move Selected Photos to this Folder
- If the folder you want does not exist, create it then move the select photos to it
- Optional: Create a Collection or Smart Collection with the same name as the folder (see clever shortcut in Details section below)
Import photos to a temporary folder 0-ImportThesePhotos per Installment 2 of this series. Next, use the Folders panel (left side of Lightroom’s Library module) to manage your on-disk folders. This is more efficient than using a folder browser (e.g. Windows Explorer or Mac’s file browser) to organize your folders.
Selecting a Subset of your imported Photos
In the folders panel click on your temporary folder, e.g. 0-ImportThesePhotos. You’ll see all the photos you just imported. Select some photos to put into a folder (or select them all if they’re all going into the same folder). To select all the photos from a first photo (e.g., photo_01) to a final photo (e.g., photo_50) and all the photos in between:
- Click on the first photo (photo_01)
- Scroll to the last photo (photo_50)
- Shift-Click on the last photo. All photos from 01-50 will be selected
- To skip over photos or choose photos here and there, or to un-select one, use Ctrl-click (Cmd-click on Mac) on each photo
- Your Lightroom panel should like similar to this. All the highlighted photos will be moved into the same long-term destination folder (the gray one was un-selected with Ctrl-click (Cmd-click on Mac) as described:
Moving your selected Photos to a Folder
My selected photos are from the Columbia River Highway in Oregon. I don’t yet have an Oregon folder on disk. As I shared in Part 1 On-Disk Organization, my top-level folders are Locations, Nature, People, Events, Other Subjects, Personal Projects, 0-Personal&Family. So to organize my Columbia River, Oregon photos I do the following:
- Click on Folders to reveal the Folders panel
- Click on Locations to show the Locations sub-folders
- Right-click on Locations > America-USA
- Choose Create Folder Inside ”America-USA”
- Name the folder Oregon
- Right-click on Locations > America-USA > Oregon
- Choose Create Folder Inside “Oregon”
- Name the folder ColumbiaRiverHighway
Note that we do not include spaces in the file name. That is because of a Lightroom limitation in Smart Collections (more details in next installment). I could stop here but because this is a location I’ll almost certainly visit again I’ll go down another level:
- Right-click on the folder ColumbiaRiverHighway and choose Create Folder Inside ‘ColumbiaRiverHighway’
- Name the folder 2009ColumbiaRiverHighway
- Check the box Include Selected Photos to move the selected photos to this folder
- Click on the Create button and watch it go!
- Creating a Smart Collection with the Same Name as your new Folder
- Optional but recommended. Here’s a trick to make doing that easier:
- Copy the folder name:
- Right-click on the folder 2009ColumbiaRiverHighway and choose Rename
- Right-click on the highlighted folder name 2009ColumbiaRiverHighway then choose Copy,
- Now hit Esc to cancel – the folder name 2009ColumbiaRiverHighway is now stored in memory
Here is what your dialogue box should look like when creating a Smart Collection that will automatically pull into itself all the photos in the folder you will name the Smart Collection after:
Create a Smart Collection (you can click on the ‘+’ sign by the Collections panel name and choose Create Smart Collection)
Name the Smart Collection with the folder name 2009ColumbiaRiverHighway by doing Paste into the Smart Collection dialogue box’s Name field.
- In the Set droplist, choose a Collection Set where the Smart Collection will reside or just leave it at the default value – None.
- Leave the Match droplist at its default – All. In the box below the Match droplist you’ll see a droplist that says Rating:
- Change that first droplist value from Rating to Filename
- Select Starts With in the 2nd droplist then you’ll see a 3rd droplist
- Paste the folder name 2009ColumbiaRiverHighway into the 3rd droplist and click the Create button.
Your photos from 2009ColumbiaRiverHighway should all show up automatically in your Smart Collection. If they don’t, then change the 2nd droplist to read Ends With (Smart Collections can be temperamental). Make sure you have no leading or trailing or embedded spaces or other characters in the Smart Collection name.
Moving the next set of your imported Photos – and the next….
The next subset of photos in my temporary folder 0-ImportThesePhotos is still in Oregon, but consists of photos captured while travelling south along the coast on Highway 101. To move these to the correct folder I did the following:
- Return to the Folders panel
- Right-click on the folder Locations > America-USA > Oregon
- Choose Create Folder Inside “Oregon”
- Name it Highway101Oregon (I specify Oregon because Highway 101 also goes through California and Washington – I take pictures on that highway in all these states)
- Right-click on Highway101Oregon and choose Create Folder Inside “Highway101Oregon”
- Name the new folder 2009Highway101Oregon
- Optional but recommended: Create a corresponding Smart Collection as described above. Again, more details about Collections in the next installment.
Robert Ash heads a global team at a leading technology company. He has 15 years of experience with large-scale data environments and has worked with some of the largest data warehouses in the world. All statements and opinions are the author’s own, not those of any company or other party. This approach is the author’s personal approach to photo organization. The material in his articles is not guaranteed or warranted to work for any purpose or in any environment besides the author’s. The author is not an Adobe employee.