An Introduction to Lightroom Smart Collections - Digital Photography School

An Introduction to Lightroom Smart Collections

Lightroom smart collections opener

Lightroom has two types of collections: regular Collections and Smart Collections. Smart Collections are live and they are created as a result of filtering your photos according to rules that you write. You cannot add an image to a Smart Collection by dragging and dropping it into the collection. You can’t remove an image from a Smart Collection just because you don’t want it in there – it can only be removed if it fails to meet the criteria you set up for the collection.

Smart collections are a handy way to create collections and to manage your photos and here I’ll show you how to make use of them.

Shipped Smart Collections

There are a few Smart Collections which ship with Lightroom. To find these, click the Collections panel in Lightroom and click on the Smart Collection Set. Click the Smart collection called Without Keywords. As its name suggests, this collection shows you all the images in your Lightroom catalog that do not have keywords associated with them.

If you’re like me you’ll want to close this one pretty quickly – it can be scary to see just how many images aren’t keyworded!

You can learn more about this collection by right clicking its name and choose Edit Smart Collection. You’ll see that the Smart Collection is configured to contain all those images for which the Keywords property is empty.

Lightroom smart collections 1

There are other collections which are shipped with Lightroom including Recently Modified which is a collection of images that have been edited recently.

You can, if desired, change the Recently Modified Smart Collection to span a different number of days. Click this collection , right click and choose Edit Smart Collection. You can see that the collection criteria is set to be Edit Date > Is in the last

When you do so, Lightroom checks the images in your catalog to determine which images meet this criteria and it displays these in this Smart Collection.

Lightroom smart collections 2

Make your own Smart Collections

In addition to those shipped with Lightroom you can create your own Smart Collections. For example, if you color your images red meaning a certain thing you can create a Smart Collection that contains all the images which are colored red.

To do this, click to open the Collections panel, click the plus symbol and choose Create Smart Collection. Type a name for it such as Red Images, click Inside a Collection Set and choose to add it to the Smart Collections set. From the options below select Label color is red.

Click Create to create the collection – it will contain all images in your collection which have the red label color associated with them.

Lightroom smart collections 3

Remove an Image from a Smart Collection

The only way you can remove an image from a Smart Collection is to configure it so it no longer meets the criteria for the Smart Collection. For example an image will no longer appear in the Without Keywords collection if you add a keyword to it.

You can remove an image from the Red Images collection if you remove or change its color label. When it no longer has the red color label associated with it, it will no longer appear in the collection.

Similarly, if you apply the red color label to an image in Lightroom it will be automatically added to the Red Images Smart Collection.

One of the benefits of Smart Collections is that they’re continually updated by Lightroom. So Lightroom ensures that all the images which match the criteria you use to define the Smart Collection are in that collection.

How Smart Collections Differ from Regular Collections

Smart Collections behave differently to Regular Collections in a few key ways. One difference is that you cannot arrange images in a Smart Collection into your own custom order.

The collection order can only be set to one of the Lightroom default Sort Order options; Capture Time, Edit Order, Edit Time, Edit Count, Rating, Pick, Label Text, Label Color, File Name, File Extension, File Type and Aspect Ratio. Regular collections, on the other hand, can be sorted into User Order which is useful for slideshows and web pages for example.

You also cannot set a Smart Collection as the Target Collection because you cannot add images to a Smart Collection manually. It can only be added if it matches the criteria which describes that collection.

Over to you… Do you use Smart Collections in Lightroom and, if so, how do you use them? Do you use the shipped collections or make your own?

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Helen Bradley is a Lifestyle journalist who divides her time between the real and digital worlds, picking the best from both. She writes and produces video instruction for Photoshop and digital photography for magazines and online providers world wide. She has also written four books on photo crafts and blogs at Projectwoman.com.

  • http://www.spinnerwebs.co.uk Liam

    I like being able to use Smart Collections to view all my recent photos, but the main irritation I have with them is that I can’t delete photos directly from Smart Collections.

    If there’s something I’ve missed, please let me know.

  • http://craigpiferphotography.com Craig

    Thank you. I’m new to Lightroom, so I am pretty unfamiliar with collections period, but this really helped me to understand what the smart collections are. Don’t know if I’ll be using them or not, but at least I know what they are and how they work.

  • http://www.blueskyphotography.net.au Benn

    I have been using lr professionally for some time and never looked at smart collections!! I will be doing it now to collect images for marketing etc. thanks for the article:)

  • http://annebrownphotography.zenfolio.com/ Anne brown

    Thanx for the LR explanation. My fav program.

  • http://www.projectwoman.com Helen Bradley

    @Liam You are right. You can only remove an image from a smart collection by removing the ‘thing’ that makes it included in that collection. So, in the without keywords smart collection you can remove an image by giving it a keyword.

    Smart collections are filters – so, when the image no longer matches the filter – it won’t appear.

    Smart Collections aren’t for everyone. You may prefer to use regular collections where you get more control of the images in them.

    Helen

  • http://www.photoshah.com cortlander

    I use smart collections in my file organization.

    Upon import, the files are automatically organized into year, month folders and are given keywords. They are never moved after that, and a backup system keeps backing them up. After that I set up Smart Collections which I will illustrate with an example:

    Say I import photographs I took in Costa Rica and I tag all of them with keyword “Costa Rica”.
    I first create a smart collection with the keyword Costa Rica, name it Costa Rica Library and now all of my photographs with that keyword appear in this collection.

    Now as I start to work with photographs in the Costa Rica Library that appeal to me, I label these “Green”. I also create another smart collection with the keyword “Costa Rica” plus the label “Green” and call it Costa Rica Gallery. Every time I work on a new photograph I like in my Costa Rica Library, I label it Green, and viola.. it shows in the Gallery collection in addition to the Library collection.

    When I have enough photographs in my Costa Rica Gallery, I will use the “Publish Services” feature in LR library module to publish what I desire to a gallery in my SmugMug account with a drag and drop. The raw files will automatically be exported as jpegs.

  • http://v-mike.com Michael

    I like to use smart collections to filter out my rejected photos, which I then can delete from disk all at once using Ctrl+Backspace. Very helpful in slimming down the library.

  • Carlos

    I use Smart Collections in a number of ways – one of the most useful tools in LR. I use these two the most:
    – Look at photos for a particular lens and specific focal length (for a zoom), f stop & exposure. For example, if I suspect there is a particular sweet aperture/focal length combination for lens X, I will look at all images taken with that lens, at that aperture (or a short range near that aperture). and that focal length (or more likely, a short range). I usually filter out short exposure images to eliminate motion blur.
    This is also a way to look for particular problems. Edge softness, vignetting, etc.
    – Filter based on tags. This is to find photos that contain a particular person or from a particular setting. Of course, this is only as good as the tags you set.

  • Samuel

    Is it possible to create a smart collections that indicates photos you’ve exported. The reason I’m asking this is, I normally export files randomly. I export a file after I’ve finished editing it. After a few days, you continue working on your photos and you now you don’t know which ones you exported and you definitely don’t want to export a photo twice or more.

Some older comments

  • Samuel

    June 28, 2013 06:14 pm

    Is it possible to create a smart collections that indicates photos you've exported. The reason I'm asking this is, I normally export files randomly. I export a file after I've finished editing it. After a few days, you continue working on your photos and you now you don't know which ones you exported and you definitely don't want to export a photo twice or more.

  • Carlos

    June 28, 2013 01:31 am

    I use Smart Collections in a number of ways - one of the most useful tools in LR. I use these two the most:
    - Look at photos for a particular lens and specific focal length (for a zoom), f stop & exposure. For example, if I suspect there is a particular sweet aperture/focal length combination for lens X, I will look at all images taken with that lens, at that aperture (or a short range near that aperture). and that focal length (or more likely, a short range). I usually filter out short exposure images to eliminate motion blur.
    This is also a way to look for particular problems. Edge softness, vignetting, etc.
    - Filter based on tags. This is to find photos that contain a particular person or from a particular setting. Of course, this is only as good as the tags you set.

  • Michael

    December 11, 2012 01:37 pm

    I like to use smart collections to filter out my rejected photos, which I then can delete from disk all at once using Ctrl+Backspace. Very helpful in slimming down the library.

  • cortlander

    December 7, 2012 05:35 am

    I use smart collections in my file organization.

    Upon import, the files are automatically organized into year, month folders and are given keywords. They are never moved after that, and a backup system keeps backing them up. After that I set up Smart Collections which I will illustrate with an example:

    Say I import photographs I took in Costa Rica and I tag all of them with keyword "Costa Rica".
    I first create a smart collection with the keyword Costa Rica, name it Costa Rica Library and now all of my photographs with that keyword appear in this collection.

    Now as I start to work with photographs in the Costa Rica Library that appeal to me, I label these "Green". I also create another smart collection with the keyword "Costa Rica" plus the label "Green" and call it Costa Rica Gallery. Every time I work on a new photograph I like in my Costa Rica Library, I label it Green, and viola.. it shows in the Gallery collection in addition to the Library collection.

    When I have enough photographs in my Costa Rica Gallery, I will use the "Publish Services" feature in LR library module to publish what I desire to a gallery in my SmugMug account with a drag and drop. The raw files will automatically be exported as jpegs.

  • Helen Bradley

    December 6, 2012 02:33 am

    @Liam You are right. You can only remove an image from a smart collection by removing the 'thing' that makes it included in that collection. So, in the without keywords smart collection you can remove an image by giving it a keyword.

    Smart collections are filters - so, when the image no longer matches the filter - it won't appear.

    Smart Collections aren't for everyone. You may prefer to use regular collections where you get more control of the images in them.

    Helen

  • Anne brown

    December 4, 2012 11:42 pm

    Thanx for the LR explanation. My fav program.

  • Benn

    December 4, 2012 07:20 pm

    I have been using lr professionally for some time and never looked at smart collections!! I will be doing it now to collect images for marketing etc. thanks for the article:)

  • Craig

    December 4, 2012 12:53 pm

    Thank you. I'm new to Lightroom, so I am pretty unfamiliar with collections period, but this really helped me to understand what the smart collections are. Don't know if I'll be using them or not, but at least I know what they are and how they work.

  • Liam

    December 4, 2012 06:17 am

    I like being able to use Smart Collections to view all my recent photos, but the main irritation I have with them is that I can't delete photos directly from Smart Collections.

    If there's something I've missed, please let me know.

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