Every photographer over time will build up a huge collection of photos. These can mount up into thousands of images on your hard drive. Without an adequate and efficient filing process, you may find that you cannot find images that you need to. Why is this important? The obvious reason is if you receive a client request that you need to fulfil quickly. If you have to spend days looking for an image, the client may look elsewhere. But even if you are not a professional photographer, a good filing setup will allow you to be able to actually find and see your images. Whether that is to share on social media or to print out for your house. Thankfully Adobe Lightroom has a whole host of different features that makes filing your photos easy and efficient. So here are 4 tips to help your sort your photos better.
One of the best features of Lightroom is that you can access your folders from your hard drive directly in the interface. On the left-hand side of the library module, you can see all of your folders that have been imported into Lightroom. These work in the same way as traditional files on any computer in that you can create files within files. This is a great way to break your images down into segments depending on what you specialise in.
For example, if you are a travel photographer like me, you may want to break your images down into folders for different countries and then specific cities. Or if you are a wedding photographer you may choose to have a separate folder for each client. Or you can just have different folders for different types of photos like landscapes, portraits, wildlife and so on. But keep in mind that when you move an image into a folder in Lightroom, it physically moves it into another folder.
Whilst folders (as described above) are great for your actual filing, their limitation is that you can only have an image in one folder (unless you duplicate an image. But that means more memory space being used up). This is where “collections” becomes such a valuable option for photographers. Collections can be seen in the “Library” and “Develop” modules and works in the same way as folders in that you can have folders within folders. But the big difference between “collections” and “folders” is that when you place an image into a collection it doesn’t physically move the image. As a result, you can add the same image to as many collections as you want.
This means you can have lots of different collections based on your needs with the same images appearing in all of them. For example, I have collections based on clients that have licenced images. So that I can always see where an image was used. This is important if, for example, a client wants exclusivity.
But I also have collections based on genres like landscape, portrait, food, black and white and so on. And I also have collections called “front cover” and “DPS” where I place images that I feel would work well on front covers or double-page spreads. All of these collections make it much easier to find images quickly but also know where and how they have been used.
This is another superb feature of Lightroom that can take adding images to collections to new levels of ease. It’s an automated way to create collections based on a whole host of different filters and settings that are available. You simply create a “smart collection” and then add in the settings and filters that you would like to include. Then any images which fit within these criteria will be instantly added to the collection. And the great thing about smart collections is that anytime a new image is added which falls within these parameters, it is also added to the smart collection automatically.
For example one of my commonly used smart collections is for photos with no people in it. So as I’m editing my photos I add a keyword of “no one” for images without people in. My smart collection is set up to filter based on this keyword and also based on any that I have rated 5 stars. So in other words I always have an up-to-date collection of images with no people in them ready for a client request. You can have as many smart collections as you want to speed up your workflow.
Flags, Stars & Colours
Different photographers use these indicators for different uses. For example, you may choose to use the colours like a traffic light system with your best images being green and the worst being red. I use stars to rate my photos with 5-star shots being the ones that I would send to clients or stock sites. But then there might be times when a client requires a slightly different crop of a shot which might not be one of my favourites. So I can then find my 5-star image and look for a 4-star version of it.
I use the colours to differentiate between the different stock sites that I contribute to. That way I can look at a selection of images and from the colours, I can work out which stock sites they are with. I only really use the rejected flags (not the pick flag) to flag the images that are to be deleted (i.e. these might blurred photos or photos of place names etc). But as I mentioned above different photographers use these elements in different ways so it’s important to use them in a way that works for you.
Lightroom really is a piece of editing software that I couldn’t live without. But beyond its editing capabilities, if you can sort out an efficient and easy to use filing system, it will help you immensely in keeping on top of your images. Use the tips above to help you sort your photos more efficiently.
Photo credits: Kav Dadfar – All rights reserved. No usage without permission. Dreamstime.