How To Organize Lightroom Photos

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Lightroom has go a very essential part of the workflow procedure for many photographers, including myself. I cannot imagine managing my photo itemize without Lightroom and I use it every twenty-four hours for my photography needs. In fact, 95-98% of my post-processing work is done in Lightroom and I only occasionally use Photoshop for advanced photo editing / retouching, which not only simplifies my workflow, simply too decreases the amount of time I spend on post-processing. Over the past few years of using Lightroom extensively, I accept come upward with efficient ways to store, organize and access photos on my computer, so I wanted to share a few tips with our readers on how I do it for both personal and professional work. Although there are many ways to organize images, this particular method has been working keen for me (and many others that have been reading our site for the by few years). If you are looking for a generic guide on doing this without any third political party photo software like Lightroom, and then delight read my older article on “how to properly organize pictures“.

Tabular array of Contents

1) Where do you store your pictures and how?

The first question is, where and how exercise y’all currently store your pictures? I used to store all of my photographs in various subfolders of my hard drive (commonly in “My Pictures” or “My Documents”), but afterward I got into photography, I decided that it was best to keep all of my photographs in the root binder of my PC’s hard drive that I use solely for storing photos and small family videos. Hard drives are really cheap nowadays, and then creating a properly organized and redundant storage for your photography needs does non have to cost an arm and a leg.

For those on a budget, I highly recommend getting a fault-redundant external RAID array (two hard drives that tin can be configured in RAID 1 / Mirror configuration). If you lot shoot RAW like me and have a lot of photographs, my favorite solution on the market today is Synology (5 bay) and if you have lots of photographs, I would become the 8 bay version. With larger capacity hard drives, yous could become a boatload of storage on even the 5 bay version. These are rock-solid solutions for photographers and they easily outperform the proprietary Drobo system. The nice matter about a storage array unit like this, is that it is configured for speed and redundancy. If a single drive fails, the arrangement continues to run, but prompts you to replace the faulted drive equally soon as possible. Once you replace the drive and everything re-syncs, the arrangement goes back to regular operational mode.

2) Folder construction and system

Now that you have figured out where yous will be storing your pictures, it is time to figure out what your folder structure volition be. There are many ways to do this and everyone does it differently. I will prove yous what works for me and will exit it upwardly to you to decide whether you want to adopt it or create your own. Here is my current structure:

Folders by Year

Folder per Event
Pictures in Folders

In the root of my difficult drive, I accept one binder called “Photos”, where I shop all of my pictures. Inside “Photos”, I create one folder per year. Then inside each year, I store photographs past events. For example, a family trip to Denver Zoo in 2007 is stored in “Photos\2007\Denver Zoo”. If you shoot professionally, you might want to take two separate folders under “Photos” – one for your personal pictures and one for your professional work. In that case, but add some other level of folders underneath “Photos” and your structure would look like “Photos\Personal\2014\My Result” or “Photos\Professional person\2014\My Event”.

Go ahead and create the commencement top level folder “Photos” and if you want to separate your personal and professional person piece of work, also create the 2 folders underneath. Do Non create any more folders underneath and do NOT motion or add any photos all the same.

3) Create a new Lightroom catalog

In one case yous ascertain and create your initial structure, it is at present fourth dimension to create a Lightroom itemize. Get-go off with a new Lightroom catalog by going to File -> New Itemize. For performance reasons, I prefer to shop my catalog along with prototype previews on a fast SSD drive, while storing the pictures on a fast external storage array, but yous might want to proceed information technology all in the aforementioned drive for simplicity purposes. If you have nether 10,000 pictures, yous tin store them all in a unmarried catalog without much bear on on Lightroom performance. If you have over 10,000 pictures, then I recommend creating i Lightroom catalog per year. Just create one folder in the root folder called “Lightroom” and store all of your catalogs there.

iv) Change Lightroom Preferences

For every new catalog I create, I slightly modify the default settings to fit my needs. Although you can do this after, it is probably best to practice it in the beginning, as you might forget to take intendance of it later. The kickoff affair I make sure is fix right (you only need to practise it once) is Lightroom Preferences. Get to Edit -> Preferences and under the “General” tab, set up like settings every bit shown below:

Lightroom Preferences - General Tab

There are 2 settings that I changed here. I modified the “Default Catalog” pick, where I set up it to “Prompt me when starting Lightroom” – this basically makes Lightroom prompt which catalog I want to load when I outset up Lightroom, which is user-friendly if yous use multiple catalogs. If y’all only accept a single itemize, in that location is no need to change the default setting. The second selection is “Bear witness import dialog when a memory carte is detected”, which only tells Lightroom to automatically fire upwards the import screen when y’all insert your retentivity card.

The next tab is “Presets”, where I typically exit everything by default. The only thing that is worth mentioning on this page is the “Location” where yous can check or uncheck “Store Presets with Catalog”. Lightroom allows storing your user presets (such as default import settings, file naming convention, copyright information, etc.) either in a full general folder that is used for all of your catalogs, or in each of your Lightroom catalogs where you tin can set different presets depending on the catalog. I personally utilise one preset for all of my Lightroom catalogs and recommend leaving this choice unchecked as seen below:

Lightroom Preferences - Presets Tab

The adjacent tab called “External Editing” allows you to specify the default File Format and Color Infinite for use in external applications such equally Adobe Photoshop. If yous use RAW format for your images, you lot should always edit images in Photoshop with the best format that preserves all image details and the widest colour space. I use TIFF format (default) for files and ProPhoto RGB (default) for colour infinite for this reason. Chip Depth should obviously be xvi bits and I exit the resolution at 240 (default), with ZIP as the compression method:

Lightroom Preferences - External Editing Tab

I also leave “Stack With Original” checked, so that an image that is edited externally stays attached to the original RAW file.

Let’southward now motility to the “File Handling” tab. This particular tab is very important, because it controls the way your pictures are imported into the catalog. Here is how I accept my File Handling tab set:

Lightroom Preferences - File Handling Tab

Pay attending to the “Import DNG Creation” settings on this page. I set “File Extension” to “DNG”, “Compatibility” to the latest Camera Raw version available, “JPEG Preview” to “Medium Size” and left “Embed Original Raw File” unchecked. The important settings here are “JPEG Preview” and “Embed Original Raw File” that command the full size of your DNG files (read more nearly the DNG format here). By default, every RAW image contains a full-size JPEG prototype (see RAW vs JPEG) within that is stored as a “Preview” (the “Preview” prototype is what you lot see on the dorsum of your camera when you accept a picture). By setting the “JPEG Preview” option to “Medium Size”, you are telling Lightroom to generate a smaller version of a preview inside DNG files, which will save y’all
up to xv-twenty% of space per file
(depending on the size of the RAW file). While you might think that it is not such a big deal, it does a make a huge divergence when you lot have tens of thousands of pictures. The only penalty is the fact that the image opens slightly slower when you endeavour to open up a full version of it in Lightroom later, simply considering it has to generate a full size version from the RAW image. If the speed is important, you lot could always generate full size previews in Lightroom later. The checkbox “Embed Original Raw File” is something I would recommend to leave unchecked, because if you bank check it, your DNG files will actually be much larger than the original RAW file (DNG + RAW will be combined in a unmarried file).

I exit the last “Interface” tab at its default settings.

5) Change Lightroom Catalog Settings

The adjacent thing nosotros need to modify, is your Lightroom Catalog Settings. You will have to do this in one case for each of the catalogs that yous create. Go to Edit -> Catalog Settings to bring upwards the “Itemize Settings” window. I unremarkably leave everything to default values in “Full general” and “File Handling” tabs. However, if you want Lightroom to render bigger previews to friction match your monitor resolution, choice a different value nether “Standard Preview Size”. Note that the larger the preview size, the more infinite Lightroom’southward cache volition take on your hard drive.

The most important tab for me here is the “Metadata” tab, where I can specify what data is written into my images by Lightroom:

Catalog Settings

The beginning two options “Offering suggestions from recently entered values” and “Include Develop settings in metadata inside JPEG, TIFF, and PSD files” are checked by default and I do non bear upon them. The final option “Automatically write changes into XMP” is unchecked by default. This is the one I usually recommend to turn on, considering it makes Lightroom write your changes correct into the DNG files (or XMP sidecar files that go with your RAW files) as y’all work on them. Why is it important? Considering if your Lightroom itemize was to fail and you lost all of your catalog data, the image file would still keep all changes that you’ve made in Lightroom! It is also very useful if y’all happen to open that same file in Photoshop or other Adobe applications, considering all changes will exist immediately visible as you work on the file. And if you lot were to lose your Lightroom catalog completely, you could just import all the images from your hard drive and all changes would drift through (except for the history). The penalty of keeping this selection checked is slower performance, since every change is immediately written to the DNG / Sidecar file. If performance becomes a problem, you can plow off this setting and occasionally force Lightroom to save changes to files by selecting all files (CTRL+A in the root folder) and saving changes (CTRL+S).

vi) Import your photos into the Lightroom catalog

Your preferences and catalogs settings accept at present been modified. Let’s first importing your pictures! Fire up the photo import catalog past going to File -> Import Photos… or press CTRL+SHIFT+I on your keyboard. Once the import screen comes up, it volition look like the following:

Lightroom Import Screen

The entire import screen is organized very similarly as Lightroom itself, the left side beingness the location where you will exist grabbing the files from, while the right side serves as the destination side, along with import settings. The eye section shows all images to be imported. The “From” department has been designed in such a way that Lightroom is able to differentiate between permanent storage and your device or card reader. The dainty thing is, the import screen is dynamic, pregnant whatever changes happen in the system, the screen gets updated in real time. For example, if you open up the import screen and then disconnect your camera from the PC, the device will simply disappear from the screen. Reconnecting the photographic camera will add the device back into the screen.

Since I standardize on the DNG format, I typically leave “Re-create as DNG” selected in the meridian middle department. If you choose to go on the original RAW files, so choice “Re-create” instead.

The correct import menu consists of several sections: File Handling, File Renaming, Employ During Import and Destination. Let’southward take a look at the first two sections – File Handling and File Renaming:

Lightroom Import Screen Handling and Renaming

half dozen.1) File Treatment Section

The File Handling section consists of iv choices – “Build Previews”, “Build Smart Previews”, “Don’t Import Suspected Duplicates” and “Brand a Second Re-create To”. I leave the Build Previews option on “Minimal” to save time during file import. However, if you have plenty of storage and you want to speed up the time it takes for your files to render when you zoom into them, you lot can set up this pick to “ane:1”, which volition generate full previews. Usually, I don’t recommend this, unless you desire to speed up the procedure of editing high resolution files (see my article on efficient Lightroom workflow for high resolution images).

The “Build Smart Previews” pick can exist very useful for situations where you have a laptop that stores just the catalog and your bodily images are stored on external storage. If you happen to travel and need to disconnect from your storage, keeping this option turned on will create image previews that you volition be able to work on, as if you were still connected to your storage. Once you lot come back and reconnect to your external storage, all the changes will be retained. If you are using a desktop PC and the storage is attached permanently, I would plow this selection off.

I always keep “Don’t Import Suspected Duplicates” turned on and I practise not employ Lightroom’s style to back up imported images, so I go along the concluding option “Make a Second Re-create To” turned off.

6.two) File Renaming Department

The File Renaming section consists of variables that are used for renaming your files. I e’er rename my files to the following format: “YYYYMMDD-Custom Text-Sequence Number.DNG”. The showtime part is the file appointment, for example “20140217”, which stands for February 17, 2014. Then a dash is followed with a custom text that I type during each import, which is so followed past an incremented sequence number. I similar renaming my photos, because I practice not like to keep photo names similar “DSC_1000.DNG” that mean nothing and get duplicated over time. By renaming the photos, I know that I could but take all images from all folders and put them all into a single folder without running into duplicate file names. I highly recommend taking the same or a like arroyo and uniquely identify every image you lot import.

If you have not already created a rename template, take a await at the following:

Lightroom Filename Template Editor

Create a like template, so save it as a Preset and click “Washed”. Then only select your preset nether the “Template” drib-downwards.

The next field under “File Renaming” is Custom Text – the text y’all can type to identify images. For this example, I used “Garden of the Gods” as custom text, which ways that my first file will exist named like “20140217-Garden of the Gods-001.DNG”. The “Start Number” field lets you type the first number that the arrangement will use, so if yous type “500”, your first file name volition have a sequence number of 500 and all consecutive numbers will be incremented by one. This is very useful during multiple imports into the same folder structure – I simply look at the full number of photographs in my memory card and put the number in that field. I always leave the extension in uppercase for consistency.

half dozen.three) Apply During Import Section

This section is another important one, since it lets you choose an import preset with your Lightroom settings, write Metadata and Keywords into each image as it gets imported. I accept already made some changes to the fashion I import files and existence able to choose what y’all want earlier the import process starts is a slap-up idea, because information technology saves tons of time for me during the prototype editing process. Once you lot make changes to an paradigm and salvage the preset, it volition immediately show upward on this screen.

The side by side field is chosen “Metadata” and it is used for writing additional data into each imported file. For example, if I wanted to include my copyright text in every image (do non confuse this with a watermark), I would need to create a new Metadata preset and make some changes:

Lightroom New Metadata Preset

I wouldn’t waste material time by filling out every single field and only pay closer attention to IPTC Copyright and IPTC Creator fields, where yous tin can provide your proper name and contact information.

The final field is “Keywords” and that’s where I type keywords related to what I am importing. Keywords tin be nifty to be able to locate photos by outcome, location, theme, etc. For the above example, I used “Garden of the Gods” keyword, which saves this keyword to each file and the Lightroom database. If I go back to the Garden of the Gods again afterward this year, I would employ the same Keyword to group the two events together. That manner, fifty-fifty if I end up putting photos into different folders, I volition still exist able to locate them by this keyword.

6.iv) Destination Section

The terminal section identifies the location of where the import process will store files. The outset field is called “Into Subfolder”, which I always leave checked, since I do want Lightroom to create subfolders for me. The side by side field is a drop-downward with two options: Organize “By Date” and Organize “Into one folder”. If you lot select Organize “Past Date”, you lot will go an boosted field called “Date Format”, where you can specify the format of the subfolders that volition be created by Lightroom. Since I already have a folder for each year and my file names already comprise the full date, I do non feel the need to create subfolders for year, month and 24-hour interval. Instead, I like to keep everything simple and organized, instead of having many different subfolders in the arrangement. Therefore, I always choose “Organize Into i Binder” and then type the name of the subfolder:

Lightroom Subfolders

Since I shop all of my images in a master binder called “Photos” and then subfolders past year, I simply select the twelvemonth nether “Photos”, equally shown to a higher place.

As you can meet, the system is gear up to create a folder nether “Eastward:\Photos\2010” chosen “Gardens of the Gods”, where all the photos will be imported. If I pay another visit to the Garden of the Gods, I will choose the aforementioned binder and the system will create files with a unlike date, and then I won’t e’er see any problems with indistinguishable file names.

I ever sort my import images past “Capture Fourth dimension” under “Sort” drop-downwardly. One time you lot choose the destination folder, but click the “Import” button to showtime importing your images. The import window will go away and yous will get-go seeing the images popping up in your Lightroom catalog.

7) Postal service-import check

At present that you know how to import your images with custom templates, become alee and import all of your pictures into Lightroom and make sure that everything gets transitioned correctly. Do non forget to change the folder names along with “Custom Text” and “Keywords” fields upon each new import in the “Import Photos” screen going forrard. Otherwise, yous will end upwardly with a bunch of unwanted folders and incorrect file names and keywords. If you lot accidentally imported your pictures with wrong settings, it is non a problem. Just select the imported pictures, then modify the keywords under “Keywording” department in the “Library” module, then rename the folder to the right upshot name and printing “F2” or go to Library -> Rename Photos to mass rename your pictures. If your pictures get out of sequence for whatever reason (for instance your sequence numbers are repeated, but with a different proper noun), then only select all pictures and batch-rename them all past pressing “F2” on your keyboard. Give information technology a new sequence number and it volition offset renaming them based on the age of the image or your choice criteria.

8) Perform full backup

By at present, you have washed a lot of work to re-organize your photographs and you have completed importing all of your pictures into Lightroom. It is definitely a adept fourth dimension to perform a full fill-in of both your Lightroom itemize and your pictures. Many people presume that the backup functionality in Lightroom backs up their photographs too. That’southward a very wrong assumption! Lightroom does NOT backup your photos – it only backs up your Lightroom catalog, which is useless without your images. You tin can beget losing a Lightroom database, just you cannot afford losing your pictures. Therefore, you should always backup your photographs get-go, then worry near Lightroom.

Here is how to perform a full backup:

  1. Close out of Lightroom.
  2. Get your external backup drive gear up, plug information technology into your computer and turn it on.
  3. Go to the root folder where you are keeping your photos. In my computer information technology is “E:\Photos”. Select this folder and drag and drop it into the backup bulldoze’s “Photos Backup” folder or something like, which should starting time the copy process.
  4. Await until all pictures are copied / backed up. Make sure that y’all do not have any errors and the copy process is completed 100% successfully.
  5. Now backup your Lightroom catalog. Locate the Lightroom catalog file in your difficult drive (which should have an extension “lrcat”) and also re-create it to the external drive. I ordinarily store my Lightroom catalogs in a folder called “Lightroom Catalog Backup” on my backup media.

The above procedure could be easily automatic by third party backup programs or with some built-in backup tools within your operating system. I highly recommend to set upwards an automated job that backs upwards your computer every bit oftentimes as possible. I also recommend backing upwardly your information to at to the lowest degree two different locations every time.

9) Image Direction in Lightroom

If you lot have 20 minutes to come across how yous could take your existing photos and completely reorganize them in Lightroom efficiently, please check out the video below:

I hope this guide will help you to keep your pictures organized in Lightroom. Delight let us know if you have any questions in the comments section below!