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Photography

All About Adobe Lightroom Stacks

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This post is part of a series called Adobe Lightroom Workflow: Import, Edit and Beyond.
Plug-ins Add New Features to Lightroom

Why Stack?

Stacks are all about tidying up your view in Adobe Lightroom. When you have a series of images that are really similar, it often makes sense to combine them into a single stack.

Think of stacking images as taking all of the playing cards on a table, and neatly stacking them into a deck. Stacking images doesn't alter the original files—it only changes the way that they display in Lightroom. We can stack lots of images onto a single tile so that our Lightroom catalog is much neater.

Stacking Images
Here, I've stacked three images that are very visually similar. To keep my Lightroom catalog nice and clean, I'll frequently use stacks to group images.

How to Stack Images

To stack images, we'll be working in the Library module of Adobe Lightroom. Let's create our first stack by selecting the images to stack.

One great way to do this is to hold Command (⌘) on Mac (Control on Windows) and click on several different images that we want to stack. You can do this either in the center panel of Lightroom, or on the filmstrip at the bottom of the application.

Three images selected
In the center of Adobe Lightroom, I've selected three images that are great candidates for stacking. The images are similar but differ slightly. I might not want them to each be visible, so I'll combine them in a stack. I did this by holding Command on my keyboard (Control on Windows) and clicking on the images to stack.

After we've selected the images to stack, we just need to go to the Photo > Stacking > Group into Stack menu option to combine our images. Once we do that, our images will be stacked.

Stacking Images Option
The Photo > Stacking > Group into Stack menu option is used to combine a series of images into a single stack. After you've selected the images to stack, select this option to combine them.
Stacking
As I stack these images, you'll see three individual images combined into a single stack in my Lightroom catalog.

Expanding and Collapsing Stacks

Once your images are in stacks, you might want to view the individual images that comprise it. To do that, we need to expand the stack. Expanding a stack doesn't remove the grouping —it just makes each of the images visible.

When images are in a stack, select the stack and press the letter on your keyboard to expand that stack. Once you do this, all of the images in a stack are individually visible. We can collapse the stack by pressing again.

Expanded stack
When a stack is expanded, we can see all of the individual images inside it. On the thumbnail, you'll see an indicator that it's part of a larger stack.

We can also expand stacks by going to the Photo > Stacking Expand / Collapse options (depending upon the current status of the stack).

S to expand and collapse
The easiest way to expand and collapse stacks is to press the letter on your keyboard. As you can see, the single image is split into the three individual images that comprise it.

If you're a major user of image stacks, you might want to expand and collapse all of them at the same time. To do that, check out the Photo > Stacking > Collapse all Stacks and Expand All Stacks option to expand and collapse your entire library.

Unstacking Images

Expanding and collapsing stacks of images doesn't remove the grouping; it just changes the way that images are displayed. If we want to permanently ungroup images, we'll need to use the unstacking option.

To unstack images, select an image stack and go to the Photo > Stacking > Unstack menu option. The images will be split back into individual images.

Unstack Images
If we want to ungroup images, just select a stack of images and choose Photo > Stacking > Unstack. This will remove the grouping.

Auto-Stack Photos in Lightroom

So far, we've been manually selecting images and combining them into stacks. What if we could speed up this process? We can use Lightroom's auto-stack feature to do that.

First, let's select the part of our library that we want to stack. This might be your entire Lightroom catalog, or just the images in a single folder. Now, let's go to the Photo > Stack > Auto-Stack by Capture Time menu option.

Auto-stack by Capture Time
The Auto-Stack by Capture Time menu option lets us set an interval for stacking. By default, the 1 second stacking interval will group images together that have capture times within 1 second. We can increase or decrease this time by moving the slider to tweak the auto-stack behavior.

The auto-stack by capture time window allows for us to stack images based the time that they were captured. We can auto-stack images that were shot at very similar times. The default setting is to group images with a 1-second capture variance, but you can tweak that using the window. 

Once you've set that interval, just press stack and images will automatically be grouped into stacks using the capture time attached to the image!

Recap & Keep Learning

Stacking is a simple feature that's crucial for keeping your Lightroom catalog organized. When you've got a huge group of similar images, it just makes sense to put them in a stack. These tips are especially useful for sports and other burst shooters.

To keep learning more about Lightroom organization, check out these great tutorials:


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