Most Lightroom users aren't taking advantage of this simple feature that literally organizes your photos for you, and it only takes around 30 seconds to set up in Lightroom Classic. Save time, and keep your library organized by following this tutorial.For each photographer I meet, I find out new ways they organize their photos. Some like to drag and drop straight into folders created on their computer, whereas others create multiple catalogs in their favorite editing software. But surely there's nothing easier than letting the software do it for you? That's what Lightroom Classic does using Smart Collections.
If you haven't used Collections before you'll quickly see that they're a way of categorizing your photos within the software itself, with no actual effect on where they're stored on your hard drive. Smart Collections work in the same way, except you can add your own rules. Let's use some bird photographs as an example.
Create a Smart Collection
The first step is to create a Smart Collection. Make sure you're in the Library module, then click the drop-down arrow on the Collections tab on the left of the screen. Next to it click the + icon, and go to Create Smart Collection. From here we can add a rule that tells Lightroom to collect images from our pre-existing library and place them in this Collection. Don't worry, any images that are already in folders within Lightroom won't be taken out, they'll simply appear in both without taking up any extra space on your hard drive.
Add Some Rules
Next let's create a rule. In my example I want to organize all my bird photos into one place. So I've added a rule that states any file with the metadata tag "bird" in should be collected into this new Smart Collection. Then I'll type "Birds" into the name box at the top of the window, and click Create. The new Smart Collection now appears in the Collections tab on the left and has already imported all photos with "Bird" in the metadata tags.
Add Another Rule for Easy Viewing
That's great, now I have every bird photo in my library in its own Smart Collection. But, I only want to view the very best images, the one's I've 5-starred. So I want to add another rule. I'll right-click on the new Smart Collection and go to Edit Smart Collection.
Take a Look at Your New Collection
Now all I have to do is click on my Smart Collection to view my favorite bird photographs. I can do this with all of my photos in my library, and even have newly imported photos automatically jump into these Smart Collections. There is one thing you need to make sure you do though.
Remember to Tag Your Photos
It's best to tag your photos when importing them if you want to make a Smart Collection using the keywords filter rule. I think it's best to do this anyway, regardless of whether you're making Smart Collections as it'll be easier to find specific images weeks, months, and years down the line when you've forgotten what you've photographed. To do this I'll import some photos using the Import dialog box.
In the Library module I'll click on the Import button in the bottom-left of the screen. In the window that appears I'll check all the images I want to import then head over to the right side of the window and head to the tab Apply During Import. Here I'll enter the word "bird" into the keyword box and then click Import.
My bird photos aren't yet showing up in the Smart Collection I made because I also added the five star rule. So I'll go through the images now, rate my favorite five stars, and they'll show up in the Smart Collection. I could add this rating on the import dialogue, but I prefer doing this after because I may want to import some images that aren't worthy of five stars just for reference.
Now you can see that my favorite five star bird photographs are appearing in the newly created "Birds" Smart Collection over on the left side of the screen. If you're worrying that none of the images you have in your library currently have keyword tags, that's okay because you can add them any time. Simply go into your catalog, select the photos, and add them under the Metadata tab when the Library module is selected.
There you have it, a quick way to organize your photos using Smart Collections that, once you've added your image tags, will take less than 30 seconds to set up. This is a powerful little feature that's easily overlooked when importing and organizing photos in Lightroom as it's hidden with a bunch of other confusing looking drop-down windows, tabs, and complicated jargon.
What's more is that it's all gray and bleak, so it doesn't exactly jump out at you. But trust me, this little change in your Lightroom workflow behavior will save you hours of time when it comes to searching for photos at a later date. It's great because you make up the rules, if you want to organize portraits you can do that, landscapes or locations can also be categorized by name, GPS tag, and more.