8 Important Things to know about Lightroom Collections

8 Important Things to know about Lightroom Collections


Collections in Lightroom are a key tool for organizing images. There are some benefits to working with collections and some things that it helps to know about working with them.


1. Collections: Smart or regular?


There are two types of collections in Lightroom, Smart Collections which are populated according to a filter which you define to identify images that you want included in that collection. For example, a Smart Collection might be defined as 5 star images which have a keywords that include the word Rome.

Smart Collections are dynamic so if an image no longer matches the filter you have defined for that Smart Collection it will be removed automatically from it. Likewise, newly imported or edited images which fulfill the criteria will be added automatically to that Smart Collection.

Regular Collections are collections that you populate with images that you choose to put in them. Images remain in these collections until you chose to remove them.

2. Sorting images in collections


You can sort images in order in a regular collection but you cannot reorder images in a Smart Collection.

3. Target Collection


You can set a regular collection – but not a Smart Collection – to be the Target Collection. There can be only one Target collection and to make a collection a target collection, right click on its name and choose Set as Target Collection.

In future, you can add images to the Target Collection by pressing the letter B. Press the letter B again to remove the image from the Target collection.

You can identify which collection is the target collection by the plus (+) symbol which appears after its name.

If you deselect the current Target Collection by right clicking its name and disabling Set as Target Collection then the Quick Collection, by default, becomes the Target Collection.

4. Gather images without duplication

One of the benefits of using collections to organize images is that the images in a collection can come from any location of your choice. You can create a collection of images from a number of different folders or even drives on your computer. Collections are simply a pointer to the original image, not the original image itself, so they require little additional space on your computer to store them. An image can belong to multiple collections and it will still only exist in one physical location on your computer.

5. Where is that image?


To find where an image in a collection is stored, right click on the image and choose Show Folder in Library to go to the folder in the Lightroom catalog. Alternately, choose Show in Explorer to see it in Windows Explorer (Show in Finder on the Mac).

6. Collections not in the Collections Panel

While most collections are listed in the Collections Panel, there are some collections that are not. In the Catalog panel you will find the All Photographs collection which is a collection of all the images that you have in your Lightroom catalog.

Quick Collection is a temporary collection that you can create as needed.

Previous Import is a collection containing the images in the most recent import – it changes every time you import new images into Lightroom.


Added by Previous Export is a collection of those images that were most recently added to the Lightroom catalog as they were exported from Lightroom. There is an option in the Export dialog that lets you automatically import exported images back into the catalog.

7. Three Handy Collections


There are three handy collections that are automatically created by Lightroom and which appear in your Smart Collections set. The Without Keywords smart collection contains every image in your collection that does not have keywords associated with it. It’s a handy reminder of the keywording work you still have to do.

Recently Modified is a collection containing images that have been modified within the last two days. You can alter the date range by right clicking the collection, choose Edit Smart Collection and change the number of days listed. You’ll see that by default it reads Edit Date… is in the last…. 2….days. You can change Days to Hours, Weeks, Months or Years and change the physical number from 2 to any number of your choice.

The Past Month collection is all the images that you have shot in the last month.

8. Managing temporary collections

If you often make collections that you only want to keep for a day or two to complete a particular job, either create a Collection Set to contain them or add the word “temp” to the collection name. This makes it easy to see collections you can easily delete to remove clutter from your Collections panel.

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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.

Some Older Comments

  • Lalo March 23, 2013 05:45 pm

    Thanks! A lot of information that you won't find in Lightroom's help!

  • Edward Allen October 20, 2011 10:25 am

    Do you know where Lightroom stores any collections I develop please?
    (reason I ask is I have managed to sync all the Lightroom presets etc between my main PC, and my laptop (for occasional work on the road etc) nad the only thing that hasn't synced is my custom collections!)
    Thanks in advance

  • Michael Maersch August 12, 2011 07:07 am

    You know Helen, I must say, 9 out of 10 times I search for some 'wild hare' I need better explained I end up being pointed towards the content you generate *here*. What's more, your explanations are clear and well illustrated as well!

    You are *most uncommon* in all this and a 'welcome port in a storm'. Congratulations. m

  • Bill Powers April 29, 2011 07:37 am

    The 3rd part of this is an extensive summary of the TARGET COLLECTION (4 paragraphs/sentences), but you never explain what specifically a Target Collection is, or how and why it is used. This essay, IMHO, should have been edited.

  • jim March 28, 2011 01:51 am

    As usual, Helen, an excellent summary. And I thought I knew everything about collections!

    One annoying trait (perhaps there's a workaround) is that when you are in "Develop" and have a photo selected, if you create a new collection and set it as the "target," Lightroom automatically takes you to that collection instead of leaving you in the folder where you are working.

    I guess the workaround is not to have a photo selected!


  • Virginia Beach Wedding Photographer March 25, 2011 05:10 am

    Thank you for your great review of lightroom.

  • cortlander March 20, 2011 11:38 am

    Cheryl, perhaps these may help. They are really excellent tutorials by julieanne kost at adobe.


  • cheryl a March 20, 2011 02:04 am

    I just dont understand lightroom

  • Eric March 3, 2011 10:58 am

    Cheryl- I don't understand your question, can you clarify?

  • Mohamed Ghuloom March 1, 2011 06:57 am

    Some great tips for lightroom here. I myself use the 'create a virtual copy' feature a lot. That is because I always make more than one post-processed photo of my final image then I compare them together and see which one is better.

  • cortlander February 28, 2011 05:26 am

    Perry, did you try creating a collection set? You could then create sub collections under a collection set.

  • Michelle February 27, 2011 08:25 pm

    Very helpful, I used the information today so thank you very much!

  • Williams,Cheryl A February 27, 2011 07:34 am

    I'm a student a The Art Institute of Pittsburgh, and I seem to have a problem putting RAW images
    that we are assign to do on a contact sheet. I really have them set, but can't send them to the assignment
    thread to be graded. I already go a 0 on the first assignment. Now today I will be doing Depth of fiels
    and we have to shoot raw again. Help

  • cheryl a February 26, 2011 01:58 am

    I'm new to LR but I can't seem to do my contact sheets and I can't send them to my professor. Is it true that all photo schools you have to take color theroy

  • cortlander February 25, 2011 10:13 am

    Sorry, missed a step. After step 3, I apply keywords and make smart collections.

  • cortlander February 25, 2011 09:54 am

    Great article. Collections really helped speed my workflow.

    When I import new photographs:

    1. I let Lightroom arrange them by folders it creates (year, month, day) and apply a filename which has date plus original sequence (e.g. 110224-6896.CR2) and perhaps apply a sharpening preset.
    2. Take a first pass to sort rejects, maybe's (1 star) and keepers (2 star)
    3. Delete rejects, and select 3 stars.
    4. Apply a label those 3 stars which I want to be in the final collection, and viola, they appear in that specific collection without having to move them anywhere on the disk.
    5 Do further processing/presets on the collection in Lightroom, maybe an occasional one in Photoshop.

    But I do not move the files from its original location, and my Macbook Pro's time machine keeps backing up my work.

  • darren_c February 25, 2011 06:08 am

    I use Collections a lot and they are a very useful tool. My biggest gripe is that you cannot "Stack" photos in Collections like you can with Folders. Something that Adobe needs still needs to address.

  • kgphoto February 25, 2011 02:52 am

    thanks ! This was great information.

  • perry February 25, 2011 02:51 am

    I used to be able to create sub-collections under a main collection very similar to the way folders and subfolders are handled in file explorer. I don't seem to be able to do that any longer. Any ideas how this could be done in ver 3.3?

  • Colo43 February 25, 2011 02:20 am

    Thank you - that was indeed interesting.

  • Lon February 23, 2011 01:29 am

    One thing that has always confused me about LR is the purpose of the "catalog" tab... Would be great if someone could clarify how it is meant to be used (ie why are items in catalog and collections not just all under one tab?) Maybe I need to spend some more time researching it, but everytime I've tried I only end up confused!

  • Elvira February 21, 2011 11:12 am

    Thanks! I had no idea.
    It's better to have several catalogs or just one catalog with many collections?

  • Mike Nelson Pedde February 21, 2011 09:41 am

    Well written!