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Lightroom Smart Collections

Adobe Lightroom ("Lr") has two types of collections: regular Collections and Smart Collections. You can drag and drop photos to regular collections. What ever you put in those you get. On the contrary, Smart Collections are live as if they are queries to the Lightroom database (the Catalog) and they are created as a result of query or filtering criteria that you apply to your photos once and they are there and then available for any update to your catalog. You cannot add photos to a Smart Collection by dragging and dropping. You can’t remove an image from a Smart Collection. If you don't want it in that smart collection, you have to change something in it's criteria (example: keywords) so that it it fails to meet the query condition(s).

Recently I took the decision to merge all my catalogs into one master catalog. I also had the chance to re-work all my keywords and this where you will really benefit from smart collections.

Lr comes with default smart collections that you can use out of the box. However, in this post, I will show you how to group, create and edit smart collections for both classifying and managing your catalog.

Creating a Collection Set

Think of a collection set as a shoe box containing all your kids birthday photos. You want to label that shoe box and put in it all your kids birthday parties photos along the years.  To create a collection set, make sure you are in the Library Module. On the the left pane, under Collections panel click the arrow on the right side of the panel and select Create Collection Set. Name it "Genre" for example. 

Under Collections panel click the arrow on the right side of the panel and select Create Collection Set

Name your collection set and make sure you select the right location in "Inside a Collection Set"

Now let's create a new Smart Collection under the collection set we have created earlier. To do that, select the "Genre" collection set, right click on it and choose to Create a New Smart Collection. Name your new Smart Collection "Birthdays". Put it inside "Genre" collection set and select criteria to be Keywords / Contains / "Birthday" without the quotes.

Right click and select "Create Smart Collection"

Criteria = Keywords / Contains / Birthday

Now whenever you add the keyword "Birthday" to your old or newly imported photos, those will be added automatically to that smart collection. The only way you can remove an image from a Smart Collection is to change something in its criteria for that Smart Collection. For example a photo will no longer appear in the Without Keywords collection if you add a keyword to it. Similarly, to remove a photo from the Red Label collection, you have to remove the red color label from that photo. Only then it will no longer appear in that collection. And, if you apply the Yellow color label to a photo it will be automatically added to the Yellow Label Smart Collection.

For me, Smart Collections are the best way to classify things. I don't have to look at my Folder panel anymore. Every week I find a new criteria to add to my Smart Collections to find and filter my catalog faster. Mind you that you are not only limited to simple filtering criteria. You can create complex queries like all wedding photos with star rating greater than 4 and shot with my 70-200 mm lens.

You can create complex queries like all wedding photos with star rating greater than 4 and shot with my 70-200 mm lens.

Have a look at my Smart Collections and over to you. Share your thoughts on smart collections in Lightroom. Have you created a complex one that suite your needs. Please share the criteria below. Enjoy!