Using Lightroom to Organize Photos
If you're like most photographers, you have a lot of photos. And if you're like most photographers, you struggle to keep them organized. This can lead to frustration and lost time when it comes time to find that one photo you need. In this Lightroom tutorial, you'll learn 5 ways to organize your photos in Lightroom!
Note: This guide covers organizational options in Lightroom CC, not Lightroom Classic CC.
1. Delete Unwanted Images in Your Lightroom Catalog
Deleting photos is like getting rid of unnecessary belongings in your home. This will make it easier to find the photos you need and keep your library organized.
Photos you should delete:
- Blurry or unusable photos - these are photos that you're never going to use, so delete them and free up some space!
- Duplicate images - if you have copies of the same photo, delete all but one.
- Photos you took with the lens cap on - this happens more often than you might think, so keep an eye out for these 😉.
To delete photos in Lightroom, select the photos you want to remove and press the "Delete" key. You can also right-click on a photo and choose "Delete".
If you're worried that you might change your mind, don't worry! Your photos will remain for 60 days, so you can always go back.
Note: Deleted photos are only removed from Lightroom and your cloud storage. You should always keep a backup of your photos on an external drive and an offsite backup.
2. Use Albums to Organize Photos in Lightroom
Albums are a great way to group related photos within Lightroom. For example, you could create an album for each of your trips or weddings.
Creating albums is easy in Lightroom! Click on the + button in the Albums panel and select "Create Album".
If you have a lot of albums, how do you keep them organized? Folders can help. You can create a folder structure to group related albums together. For example, you might have a folder for "Weddings" and another for "Landscapes".
To create a new folder, click on the + button in the Albums panel and select "Create Folder". You can then drag your albums into this folder. You can also create a folder structure by putting folders inside folders. If you're coming from Lightroom Classic, this is like creating a collection set.
Coming from Lightroom Classic? Unlike Lightroom Classic, Lightroom does not have:
- collections and smart collections
- Lightroom catalog, multiple catalogs, and other Lightroom organization features.
Instead, the entire app uses a single Lightroom catalog. You can use folders to mimic a Lightroom catalog or collection set. To save cloud storage, you can store your photos on a hard drive. Right-click on the album and select "Store Album Locally". Remember to keep a backup on an external drive and another cloud storage!
3. Create a System for Using Flags and Ratings
One way to organize photos is by using flags, stars, and color labels. This system can be used in conjunction with folders or albums to help you find the photo you need quickly and easily.
- Flags can be used to flag whether a photo is "picked" or "rejected".
- Ratings can be used to rate your photos from one-star to five stars.
Start by using flags to reject the photos that you don't like and pick the ones that look great. If it's a photo that is unusable, you should just delete it.
Next, you can give it a star rating. Usually, I start of giving the best photos a rating of 5. Then I move down to next batch of the best photos and give them a rating of 4. I skip the ones that are 3-stars and below to avoid extra work.
Just as reviewers use online ratings to rate restaurants, photographers like you can use star ratings to rate the quality of your images. A 5-star rating is equivalent to a "rave review" while a 1-star rating is equivalent to a "poor review". Anything in the 3-star range is not worth rating.
You do not always need to flag and rate your photos, but it can help cover the "quality" part of organizing your Lightroom catalog.
3. Group Similar Photos into a Stack for Better Lightroom Organization
When you're working on a project and have a lot of photos to go through, it can be helpful to group similar photos into a stack, such as photos shot in burst mode. This will help you keep your workspace organized and make it easier to find the photo you need.
It's like putting similar photos inside the same slot in a photo album (a real-life photo album you can hold in your hands).
To create a stack, select two or more photos (hold the "Ctrl" (Windows) or "Command" (Mac) key to select multiple photos), right-click on the photo, and select "Group Into Stack".
To view the photos in the stack, click on the stack number on the top-right of the thumbnail.
4. Enable People Detection
Say goodbye to tagging people by name. One of the new features in Lightroom CC is people detection. This AI feature can be used to automatically identify and tag photos of people. This is a great way to quickly find all of the photos of your family and friends.
To enable people detection, go to the "People" tab and enable this feature. Your photos will be analyzed in the cloud and when it's done, you can find people easily.
You can then add a name for the person.
If you don't want Lightroom to automatically tag people in your photos, you can disable this feature in the Lightroom preferences (Edit > Preferences > General > Privacy > Enable People View).
5. Don't Keyword - Lightroom Organize Photos Automatically
One of the great things about using Lightroom is that it can organize your photos automatically. Lightroom won't put it into albums or rate it for you, but it will use AI to keyword your photos. This means that you don't have to keyword your photos to find them later. It's automatic!
For example, you don't have to spend time tagging your pictures manually with keywords like "wedding" or "church". Just search "wedding church" and Lightroom will magically show you those photos.
You can also search by:
- Date the photos were taken
- Location if your image have GPS location data
- Camera model your photo was taken with
- Focal length of the lens used
- Shutter speed and other photography settings
- Edited photos (within Lightroom or Photoshop)
- and more
Lightroom's search works great for hard facts like the date, but it isn't perfect with it's artificial intelligence search. If you're searching for small objects in a photo, such as "flowers", it might not find it. This is when you can manually add the keywords. Still, I would question whether it is worth the effort. As artificial intelligence gets better, it should be able to keyword your photos more accurately.
Organizing photos in Lightroom is like putting away your clothes in your closet. You have a system for doing this and it makes it easier to find what you're looking for. The same is true for organizing your photos within Lightroom. After you import your photos into Lightroom, you can create folders and albums, use flags and ratings, and group similar photos into a stack. And if that's not enough, you can also use people detection to automatically tag your photos.
You can also use these tips outside of Lightroom. For example, in Google Photos, you can use folders and albums to organize your photos. You can also let AI handle keyword searches to find photos, rather than wasting time keywording photos by hand. If that's not enough, it will even identify people in your photos!
There you have it. Five ways to organize your photos in Lightroom for greater efficiency. Implementing one or more of these Lightroom organization tips will help you keep your photo library simple and organized.