February 27, 2019

Collections in Lightroom

Bring your best images together without using valuable disk space

As you start to build a library of photographs in Lightroom you might want to show off your hard work to friends. You could save all your favourite photos from a trip or a certain genre to JPEG images in a separate folder. The problem with this is that it takes up disk space. There is a really useful feature called Collections in Lightroom that allows you to create virtual folders. This means that you can display images taken over many different days with hardly any impact on your storage space.

Before we look at how to create a Collections lets first think about how you may want to use them. Let’s say you enjoy taking landscape photographs. You travel throughout the UK indulging in your fun. It would be really good if you could show either all your landscape photos. You may also want to display your images taken in Scotland. You may even want to show only those taken in Glencoe.

With Collections, you can do all of this. You can either manually select the collections or you can let Lightroom do the smart work!

Collection Sets

As its name implies, a collection set is a group of Collections. In the example above we could create a Collection Set for the United Kingdom. We could then create inside that Collection Set another for Scotland, England, Wales and Ireland.

To create Collection Sets, you can wither go to the Library or Develop modules in Lightroom. The Collections panel is on the left-hand side of the screen at the bottom. Next to the word Collections is a + sign, click on that and take the third option Create Collection Set. The pop-up allows you to type in the name of a Collection Set, let’s say United Kingdom. You could then create more Collection Sets in the same way but this time you could create a Collection Set for Scotland then tick the box ‘Inside a Collection Set’ and select the United Kingdom set. This now nests all of your Scotland sets inside the UK one.


Now we have created the Collection Sets, we can now create our collections of images. We’ll do the simplest form of Collection first. Let’s say we want to have a collection of all our Glencoe landscape images in one collection. First, we’ll create the Collection for the images to go into.

Again, click on the + sign but this time we’ll take the option ‘Create Collection’ The pop-up has a few more options this time. Type in the name of the Collection (Glencoe). Tick the box ‘Inside a Collection Set’ and then select Scotland. There are now four options that you can decide to use.

Include Selected Photos – like it says on the tin, any photographs you have selected will be part of the Collection during the set-up process. You can add more images later.

Make new virtual copies – sometimes people may create a Collection so that they can edit them in a particular way. For instance, you could have a colour version and black and white. By creating a virtual copy, you can apply different edits to the actual and virtual copies.

Set as Target Collection – You can make one of the Collections a Target Collection. This makes it very easy for you to add images to it by simply pressing the B key when you have an image selected. That image will then be added into the collection.

Sync with Lightroom CC – By ticking this box any of your images will be available in Lightroom’s Cloud service. This means that you will be able to edit and view them on your mobile phone or tablet and any changes are reflected on your computer’s Lightroom catalogue.

Once you have pressed the Create button, you can now start trawling through your images to drag from the filmstrip at the bottom of the screen to the Collections folder. That’s a really good way to organise your images but wouldn’t you like to get even smarter?

Smart Collections

There is a special kind of collection that can do the hard work of finding your images for you. Even better it will keep working after you have created your collections. It’s called a Smart Collection.

Once again, click on that + sign but this time select ‘Create Smart Collection’. A different pop-up box is visible. This time we are going to create the Glencoe collection automatically. Let’s call it Glencoe and put it inside the Collection Set for Scotland. We are now going to use the metadata we add to every image to automatically source any images that fit the criteria in the library.

Where it currently says Rating in the large box at the bottom, click on it. Hover over Other Metadata and a further set of options pops out then click on Keywords. We are going to add any photo which has Glencoe in the keywords. Leave the next box at Contains and then in the blank box simply type Glencoe.

When I’m in Glencoe, as well as amazing landscapes, there is also wonderful wildlife, particularly deer. In this collection, I only want my landscape images, so I am going to add other criteria in the same way where the keywords include the word landscape. You can add a new line of criteria by clicking on the + sign next to where we typed Glencoe.

I know I have images in my Lightroom Collection going back before I turned professional. I am going to exclude these by adding some criteria to only show images taken since 2014. Add a new line to the rules and this time take the options Date and then Capture Date. Click on the first drop-down box and we can take the option ‘Is After’. We now type the date in the format YYYY-MM-DD so I am going to add 2014-01-01 for any images after the 1st January 2014.

Finally, in the past, I have added some JPEG edits into my Lightroom library. I can remove these by adding more criteria. This time make the search type File Name / Type – File Type and select the Raw option.

When I click create, I can then see every image that has met these criteria in my library. Even better, the next time I go to Glencoe on the West Highland Landscape workshop as long as I add the keywords Glencoe and Landscape they will be added to the Smart Collection!

Viewing Collections

Now we have our Collections automatically being generated, you can view all your images by clicking on the Collection Set or Collection. If you click on the United Kingdom collection set, then you will see every landscape image in the UK. Clicking on the Scotland Collection Set will show all the Scottish landscapes. Finally clicking on the Glencoe Smart Collection will show you all the Glencoe landscape images.

I’m sure you can see the benefit of creating collections and the options to creating them are limited only by the data you add to your images.

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