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Arrange Files Your Way in Lightroom

Often when you’re working in Lightroom you will want the images to be sorted in the order that you want to see them, not in as order such as capture date which is one of the Lightroom sort options.

Arrange-Files-Lightroom-final.jpg

You may want to do this when assembling images for a slide show or for printing, for example as the order of the images in the filmstrip will affect how the images appear in a print template and in the slideshow.

Arrange-Files-Lightroom-step1.jpg

You can control the order of images in a Lightroom folder by dragging and dropping an image from one place to the other in the filmstrip view. To do this, grab the image in the middle and drag on it until you see a black bar appear between two images. If you let go the image it will drop into the indicated position.

This drag and drop process works in most instances but there are some exceptions to be aware of.

Arrange-Files-Lightroom-step2.jpg

The first is that this will not work if you are in a folder where there are images in a subfolder below it which are also visible. You can see if this is likely if you open the fly-out for the folder in the Folders panel in the library. If there is another folder the one you are working on, chances are that the images in the subfolder are included in the filmstrip and so you cannot arrange the images by dragging them into position if this is the case.

Arrange-Files-Lightroom-step3.jpg

To workaround this limitation you can remove the photos in the subfolder from view – this just removes them from the grid and filmstrip and not from Lightroom or your disk. To do this, click Library in the menu and disable the Include Photos from Subfolders option.

With this disabled, you can now move images by dragging and dropping them into position.

Arrange-Files-Lightroom-step4.jpg

Another exception is when you are working with a Smart Collection. While images can be located in a regular collection and rearranged in order to suit, they cannot be rearranged if they are in a Smart Collection. If you have images in a Smart Collection that you want to be in a specific order, you will need to create a regular collection for them and add them to it to do so.

Arrange-Files-Lightroom-step5.jpg

Another situation where you cannot reorder images to your own preference is when you are working on the images in the Catalog such as Previous Import. You must, instead, locate the folder or collection in which the images are stored and rearrange them there.

Arrange-Files-Lightroom-step6.jpg

Once you have arranged the images as you want them to appear, Lightroom stores your ordering so it is as accessible as, for example, any other sort order options for that folder or collection. So, you can return to your preferred sort order at any time by selecting User Order from the Sort dropdown list.

Read more from our Post Production category.

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.grtaylor2.com Greg Taylor

    Thanks for the insight. It’s always great to hear about other photographers workflow.

  • http://shotslot.blogspot.com/ Shotslot

    This is really useful, especially when you get towards the several thousand photos mark and when you start making use of smart collections. Lightroom is a suprisingly complex and capable programme which initially can seem deceptively straightforward (a big bonus in my view), I don’t work for them, but credit where it’s due – it is improving my workflow on a daily basis.

  • http://www.chrishophotography.com namr

    Excellent post!

    Q1: I noticed that in your last image, all your pictures in your grid had watermarks/a title below the image. how did you do that?

    Q2: How do you move a bunch of subfolders within the same parent folder to another parent folder? I’ve had problems in the past with this and had to move each subfolder individually.

  • http://www.chrisridley.co.uk Chris Ridley

    The only time I decided I wanted to re arrange was using a smart collection, and it took me a while to work out why it wouldn’t work! Grr. Maybe next version….

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/lightshootedit/ scott

    One of the methods I use in lightroom for workflow is the colors. You can set your 5 colors to new titles like “needs retouching”, “published”, and so on. Then create a smart collection that uses the color as a base filter and create smart collections of things like “photos that need retouching”. keeps me from missing images from previous shoots that I want to eventually work with.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/lightshootedit/4390009476/

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/jastereo/ jastereo

    Great info & post. When thinking about why it won’t let you choose a user order, it helps for me to think about the fact that Lightroom is a database and to use this “user order” functionality it wants to tie that new “user order” to a specific & stable file folder or a collection. If the pics you want to re-order are not in one of those it doesn’t have a stable grouping to tie the new “user order” order to.

  • http://jimmartinphotoblog.blogspot.com Jim

    Thank you for the very useful tip. I had indeed run into difficulties with the order of pictures when printing a contact sheet. I’ll try this out now!

  • Bill

    Very useful, thanks!

  • Michael Padnos

    Can someone here tell me why I need Lightroom when I already have, and am reasonably competent at, Photoshop CS4. I’ve looked at Adobe’s site and don’t learn anything compelling: am i missing something, or are these two programs pretty much two different ways of doing the same thing?

    In other words, what can I do in Lightreoom that I’m not already doing in CS4?

    Thanks!

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

    Hello Michael

    I wrote a post here:

    http://digital-photography-school.com/lightroom-what-is-it-and-when-should-you-consider-it

    that goes through some of the advantages of Lightroom. You can do most of what you can do in Lightroom in CS4 it’s just when you’re handling lots of images, Lightroom really makes life a lot easier.

    Most people who use Lightroom also use CS4 and they report that they spend 75-85% of their time in Lightroom and only go to Photoshop when they can’t do something in Lightroom. The reason is that Lightroom is just so much easier to use and all your images are there – you never have to open and close them which is a huge time saver.

    I would also bet that many of them (myself included) started out thinking that they didn’t need Lightroom when they already had Photoshop but, when they checked out Lightroom found that it really sits well alongside Photoshop and becomes the tool of choice for most day to day fixes.

    You can download a free fully featured trial version of Lightroom at adobe.com and check it out. It might not be for you.. but it just might… It might be worth doing this.

  • Marie Glynn

    Thank you once again for your most informative posts.

  • Joe Jackson

    I believe I have a god grasp of how it’s suposed to work, but I’ve created a new collection (also checked the “make a virtual copy” box” and although the User Order is available for selection — as soon as I let go of the dragged image to drop onto the “dark line” that should be it’s new home — the tumbnail just dissapears instead of moving the grid. I;e tried it from the grid & teh film strip. Quit maddening as I’m trying to get all my files in order that I need to print an album. Anyoen have a clue as to why this is not working? Again, all the files in the collection are virtual copies. I’ve even moved teh colection to the top level of the Colections folder (and have view subfolders turned off.)

  • http://www.stephendux.com stephen

    I still can not change the order of my catalog. I have tried all the things you mentioned. When I go to the sort menu on the tool bar sort by user is not an option. I can email you a screen shot. I am sure this is a simple fix. I use bridge and capture one but want to move over to lr fulltime.

    Thanks,
    Stephen

  • http://www.haringphotography.com Miami Wedding Photographer

    It is much easier than Bridge! I love it!

  • http://www.simpleslr.info Andy Lim

    Does anyone use a workflow where you (the photographer) decide which images to keep, working in the Library module, and then hand the files over to your colleague (different computer) who does the adjustments in the Develop module? Is there a way to preserve the order in which you have arranged the images (User Order) for the colleague who does the adjustments?

  • http://www.whitepetal.co.uk Paul

    Thanks for the tips, very helpful…. although I’m trying to find how to organise a film strip linked to the time/date the photo was taken?

  • http://katmichelle.tumblr.com Kat

    thank you! very helpful! found what I was looking for here.

Some older comments

  • Kat

    November 30, 2012 05:39 pm

    thank you! very helpful! found what I was looking for here.

  • Paul

    March 17, 2012 11:42 pm

    Thanks for the tips, very helpful.... although I'm trying to find how to organise a film strip linked to the time/date the photo was taken?

  • Andy Lim

    December 17, 2011 03:28 am

    Does anyone use a workflow where you (the photographer) decide which images to keep, working in the Library module, and then hand the files over to your colleague (different computer) who does the adjustments in the Develop module? Is there a way to preserve the order in which you have arranged the images (User Order) for the colleague who does the adjustments?

  • Miami Wedding Photographer

    November 25, 2011 03:21 am

    It is much easier than Bridge! I love it!

  • stephen

    June 6, 2011 06:37 pm

    I still can not change the order of my catalog. I have tried all the things you mentioned. When I go to the sort menu on the tool bar sort by user is not an option. I can email you a screen shot. I am sure this is a simple fix. I use bridge and capture one but want to move over to lr fulltime.

    Thanks,
    Stephen

  • Joe Jackson

    October 11, 2010 07:42 pm

    I believe I have a god grasp of how it's suposed to work, but I've created a new collection (also checked the "make a virtual copy" box" and although the User Order is available for selection -- as soon as I let go of the dragged image to drop onto the "dark line" that should be it's new home -- the tumbnail just dissapears instead of moving the grid. I;e tried it from the grid & teh film strip. Quit maddening as I'm trying to get all my files in order that I need to print an album. Anyoen have a clue as to why this is not working? Again, all the files in the collection are virtual copies. I've even moved teh colection to the top level of the Colections folder (and have view subfolders turned off.)

  • Marie Glynn

    April 19, 2010 12:22 am

    Thank you once again for your most informative posts.

  • Helen Bradley

    March 20, 2010 03:20 am

    Hello Michael

    I wrote a post here:

    http://digital-photography-school.com/lightroom-what-is-it-and-when-should-you-consider-it

    that goes through some of the advantages of Lightroom. You can do most of what you can do in Lightroom in CS4 it's just when you're handling lots of images, Lightroom really makes life a lot easier.

    Most people who use Lightroom also use CS4 and they report that they spend 75-85% of their time in Lightroom and only go to Photoshop when they can't do something in Lightroom. The reason is that Lightroom is just so much easier to use and all your images are there - you never have to open and close them which is a huge time saver.

    I would also bet that many of them (myself included) started out thinking that they didn't need Lightroom when they already had Photoshop but, when they checked out Lightroom found that it really sits well alongside Photoshop and becomes the tool of choice for most day to day fixes.

    You can download a free fully featured trial version of Lightroom at adobe.com and check it out. It might not be for you.. but it just might... It might be worth doing this.

  • Michael Padnos

    March 20, 2010 02:53 am

    Can someone here tell me why I need Lightroom when I already have, and am reasonably competent at, Photoshop CS4. I've looked at Adobe's site and don't learn anything compelling: am i missing something, or are these two programs pretty much two different ways of doing the same thing?

    In other words, what can I do in Lightreoom that I'm not already doing in CS4?

    Thanks!

  • Bill

    March 6, 2010 04:38 am

    Very useful, thanks!

  • Jim

    March 5, 2010 05:21 am

    Thank you for the very useful tip. I had indeed run into difficulties with the order of pictures when printing a contact sheet. I'll try this out now!

  • jastereo

    March 5, 2010 02:29 am

    Great info & post. When thinking about why it won't let you choose a user order, it helps for me to think about the fact that Lightroom is a database and to use this "user order" functionality it wants to tie that new "user order" to a specific & stable file folder or a collection. If the pics you want to re-order are not in one of those it doesn't have a stable grouping to tie the new "user order" order to.

  • scott

    March 3, 2010 03:16 am

    One of the methods I use in lightroom for workflow is the colors. You can set your 5 colors to new titles like "needs retouching", "published", and so on. Then create a smart collection that uses the color as a base filter and create smart collections of things like "photos that need retouching". keeps me from missing images from previous shoots that I want to eventually work with.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/lightshootedit/4390009476/

  • Chris Ridley

    March 3, 2010 02:34 am

    The only time I decided I wanted to re arrange was using a smart collection, and it took me a while to work out why it wouldn't work! Grr. Maybe next version....

  • namr

    March 3, 2010 01:45 am

    Excellent post!

    Q1: I noticed that in your last image, all your pictures in your grid had watermarks/a title below the image. how did you do that?

    Q2: How do you move a bunch of subfolders within the same parent folder to another parent folder? I've had problems in the past with this and had to move each subfolder individually.

  • Shotslot

    March 3, 2010 01:14 am

    This is really useful, especially when you get towards the several thousand photos mark and when you start making use of smart collections. Lightroom is a suprisingly complex and capable programme which initially can seem deceptively straightforward (a big bonus in my view), I don't work for them, but credit where it's due - it is improving my workflow on a daily basis.

  • Greg Taylor

    March 3, 2010 01:00 am

    Thanks for the insight. It's always great to hear about other photographers workflow.

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