Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Using Collections in Lightroom

Over the last couple of weeks we've reviewed how to import images into Lightroom and how to use various tools to determine what to keep versus what to toss.  This week we'll discuss how to use Lightroom Collections to organize your "keeper" images into categories that make sense to you.  Lightroom 3 offers three different types of collections to help you manage the images in your catalog:
  1. Collection - A Collection is simply a folder which you can name and drag the appropriate images into to help you organize your catalog.  To create a collection, simply click the "+" symbol at the top of the collections panel and choose "Create Collection...".  In the screen shot to the right, the folders "Cranes", "Ducks", "Eagles", etc. are all collections.
  2. Collection Sets - A Collection Set is a special collection that can contain additional collections or other collection sets within it.  In the screen shot above, "Birds" is a Collection Set.  To create a Collection Set, again, click the "+" symbol at the top of the collections panel and choose "Create Collection Set...".
  3. Smart Collections - With Collections and Collection Sets, you simply drag your images into the folders.  Smart Collections, however, look for images that match the criteria you defined and automatically add images based on keywords, ratings, etc.  You create Smart Collections by clicking the "+" symbol at the top of the Collections panel and choosing "Create Smart Collection...".  This time you'll be presented with another setup screen to define the criteria to use for the Smart Collection.  In the screen shot above, "Herons", "Osprey", "Parrots", and "Song Birds" are all Smart Collections that are adding images based on keywords I've specified.
Here are a few additional important points:
  • Any single image can belong in one or more Collections.
  • Collections are "virtual" folders meaning that the information is stored within the underlying database and the images themselves are NOT physically moved into those folders.  This means you can delete a Collection without the fear of also deleting your images.
  • Collections reduce the need to have "logic" built into your physical folder structure on the operating system.
  • Lightroom has a special collection called "Quick Collection" which you'll find in the Catalog Panel.  From the filmstrip of thumbnails you'll see a small dot appear when you mouse over the image. Clicking on the dot, adds the image to the "Quick Collection".  I use the Quick Collection to temporarily store images that I need to take further action on in the future - like publishing online or making further edits.  Consider how you might use it within your workflow.
That's all for this week.  Next Tuesday we'll begin to discuss how to leverage the power of keywording to always be able to locate your images using just a few mouse clicks.

Until next time, keep click'n.


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