Lightroom's Organizing Features -- Part I

by Jan Kabili

Do you feel great when your papers are stacked into neat piles, your transparencies tucked into slide pages, and your books arranged on the shelf? If so, you'll appreciate the variety of photo-organizing features in Lightroom. The Library module offers everything from folder tracking to keywords, collections, Quick Collections, and stacks. The trick to taking advantage of these organizing tools is knowing which to use when. This two-part quick guide will help you choose the best tool for your job.

Folders
The Folders panel in the Library module lists the folders that contain photos you've imported into Lightroom. Selecting a folder in this panel displays the contents of that folder and its subfolders in the thumbnail area. Dragging photos between folders in this panel moves the original photos on your drive. If you put a new photo into a listed folder on your drive, it won't show up in Lightroom unless you also import that photo into Lightroom.

I don't recommend relying primarily on a folder-based system to organize photos. As your subject matter grows, a folder-based management system becomes unwieldy, causing you to make arbitrary choices about where to store each photo. You're constantly facing conundrums like whether that photo of Mom and Pop belongs in the Mom folder, the Pop folder, or the parents folder. Rather than struggling with subject matter folders, try filing your photos into umbrella folders labeled by date and client. When you import photos into Lightroom, leave them in those umbrella folders. Then use Lightroom's keywords, stacks, and collections features to organize and find your photos. Once you let go of the folder mentality, you'll find Lightroom's database architecture more flexible and expandable than a folder-based system.

Keywords
Keywords are tags you attach to a photo to identify it by category. Keywords can reflect subject matter (Mom, Pop), location (Jamaica, home), type of photo (color, black and white), flaws to correct (underexposed, flat), or any theme you find meaningful.

The beauty of keywords is that you can apply multiple keywords to a single photo and find that photo by searching on any of its keywords. If you have an underexposed, black and white photo of Mom in Jamaica, you can tag it Jamaica, Mom, black and white, and underexposed. You'll be able to find it by searching on any of those keywords. That beats puzzling over whether to put the photo in a Jamaica folder, a Mom folder, a black and white folder, or a corrections folder.

In Part Deux of this guide, I'll take a look at other organizational features in the Library module: collections, Quick Collections, and stacks.

2 Comments

Mike
2007-02-20 23:48:59
Is lightroom scriptable, and are keywords then accessible through applescript?
Mike
2007-02-22 05:44:13
Is Lightroom scriptable, and can these keywords be exploited by Applescript?