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Learn Lightroom in a Week - Day 3: Organizing and Filtering

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Read Time: 24 min

In today's tutorial we'll continue our in-depth introduction to Lightroom by looking at the various options for organizing and filtering your images. We'll be discussing collections, stacks, metadata, attributes, keywords, and everything else you need to select and organize images in Lightroom!

Step 1: Working with Photos

After importing your photos it's time to explore and organize them in order to choose the best shots to work with later in the Develop phase of the photographic workflow. The first thing you need to know now is how to perform some basic photo manipulations.

If you skipped renaming of your photos during the import process, you can do it now. To rename images select one or more photos in the Grid view or the Filmstrip and choose Library > Rename Photo(s).

Then in the Rename Photos dialog box choose an option from the File Naming menu. This box works in the same way as the File Renaming panel in the Import Screen from the previous tutorial.

If the Exchangeable Image Format (EXIF) data includes orientation metadata then imported photos are rotated automatically. To rotate the images manually choose one or more photos, move the cursor over the thumbnail and click one of the rotate icons in the lower corner of any cell.

To flip photos, select one or more photos and choose either Flip Horizontal or Flip Vertical from the photo menu. If you want to flip all photos in the catalog horizontally then choose View > Enable Mirror Mode.

You can also rotate or flip images using the Painter tool. First click on the Painter icon in the toolbar and then choose Rotation from the Paint menu.

Now select one of the Rotate or Flip options in the second menu and then click on the thumbnail or drag across photos to apply the settings. After that, click the empty circle to the left of the Paint menu to deactivate the Painter.

To remove photos from catalogs, select an image and press the Delete key or choose Photo > Delete Photo(s). In the Confirm dialog box choose Remove or Delete From Disk. The first option only removes the photos from the catalog while the second sends them to the Recycle Bin/Trash.

When photos are moved in the operating system, the link between the catalog and the photos breaks. This can also happen because the photos are stored on an external drive that is offline. In both cases Lightroom displays a Photo Is Missing icon in image cells in the Grid view and the Filmstrip.

To fix that Choose Library > Find Missing Photos or click the icon in a thumbnail cell. In the dialog box that appears is displayed the original file path of any missing photos.

Click Locate and navigate to location of the moved photo, then click Select. To perform a search for other missing photos in the folder and also reconnect them select Find Nearby Missing Photos. If the reason for link break is that the drive is offline then just turn it on and the icons indicating missing photos will disappear.

Sometimes you may perform some changes on your photos in another application. In this case Lightroom displays alerts in image cells and lets you resolve conflicting photo metadata.

To do that in the Grid view, click the alert icon in a cell and select one of the following options: Import Settings From Disk will overwrites the photo data in the catalog with this from the photo or its sidecar XMP file.

If you want to do the opposite action then choose Overwrite Settings. If you select Do Nothing make sure that the photo's metadata in the catalog doesn't conflict with data in the photo or its sidecar XMP file.

To move photos between folders in Lightroom just select a folder in the Folders panel and select the photos you want to move in the Grid view. Then drag the photos to a destination folder in the Folders panel. Note that you can't copy photos in Lightroom.

After import you can convert Camera RAW files to DNG at any time. Select one or more photos in the Grid view and choose Library > Convert Photo(s) To DNG. Then in the dialog box that appear select Only Convert RAW Files to ignore photos that are not Camera RAW files (JPEGs, TIFFs and PSDs). Leave this option deselected if you want to convert all selected photos.

If you want to delete the original photo files after the conversion process ends then check Delete Originals After Successful Conversion. Otherwise leave it unchecked to preserve the originals on disk.

After that you can specify options for DNG creation. First, choose preferred file extension and then from the Compatibility menu specify the versions of Camera Raw and Lightroom that can read the file.

You can use the tooltips for each option to help you choose one. In the JPEG Preview choose the size you prefer. The last option, Embed Original Raw File, stores all of the original camera raw data in the DNG file.

One of the coolest things about Lightroom is the ability to have multiple versions of photos called virtual copies. They don't exist as actual photos or duplicates of photos. They are just metadata in the catalog that stores the different sets of adjustments.

The original file become master photo and you can then create as many virtual copies of a master photo as you wish. Also you can make one of the virtual copies a master, making the previous master a virtual copy.

Virtual copies are automatically stacked with the master photo. In the thumbnail of the master photo is shown the number of images in the upper-left corner and the virtual copies displays page-turn icons on the left side of their thumbnails.

When you export virtual copies as a copy of the master photo, or edit them as a copy in an external editor, they become actual photos. Also when you create a virtual copy of a photo "Copy 1" (or Copy 2, 3 and so on) is added automatically to the Copy Name field in the Metadata panel.

Now it's time to learn how to use this great feature in action. Right-click on a photo in the Grid view or the Filmstrip and choose Create Virtual Copy from the context menu.

If you select more than one photo you can create virtual copies for each of them at once in the same manner. To make a virtual copy master then select it and choose Photo > Set Copy As Master. And finally to remove a virtual copy, expand the virtual copy stack then right-click the virtual copy and choose Delete Photo.

Step 2: Working with Metadata

Metadata means "data about data". It is plain text information embedded in the file that can be manipulated independently from the pixel data.

When you capture photos with your digital camera, the camera software writes metadata into the image files. Later on in the image manipulation software such as Lightroom and Photoshop you can also write metadata and modify that metadata.

This information describes all kinds of things about an image file - such as keywords, star ratings, copyright information an so on. Don't ignore the importance of metadata and take advantage by using it actively in the entire workflow process from importing to the final export.

This will save significant time and effort later and will make it much easier for you, and other people, to find, filter and manipulate the photos in the future.

The place you can view stored metadata in the images is the Metadata panel. You can choose different combinations of metadata from the pop-up menu at the top of the panel.

If multiple photos with different metadata are selected, the metadata fields display < mixed >. To show the metadata for the active photo within the selection choose Metadata > Show Metadata For Target Photo Only.

To add metadata to your photos choose one or more images and type in a metadata text box. To add metadata from a preset choose one from the Preset menu. By default the Preset menu is empty so first you have to create some. How to do this was explained in the previous tutorial.

Lightroom automatically writes metadata to the catalog. If you wish the metadata changes to be written to XMP (Extensible Metadata Platform) then go to Edit > Catalog Settings and select Automatically Write Changes Into XMP. This way the changes made in Lightroom will be recognized by other applications.

You can also save metadata changes manually. To do this select one or more photos and choose Metadata > Save Metadata To File(s). If your files are DNG, then choose Metadata > Update DNG Previews & Metadata to save metadata changes to the file and also generate a preview based on the current RAW processing settings.

In order to edit the capture time, select one or more photos and choose Metadata > Edit Capture Time. In the dialog box you can select the type of adjustments needed. To set specific date and time, choose the first option and select from the calendar menu.

If you traveled to a different time zone and didn't change your camera's date/time settings before you started photographing, then choose the second option and select the time offset from the menu that appear.

The third option allows you to change the capture time to file's creation date. To revert the capture time back to the original then choose Metadata > Revert Capture Time To Original.

You can also apply a metadata preset by using the Painter tool. Select the Painter tool and choose Metadata from the Paint menu. Then select a preset and click or drag across photos to apply the settings.

To edit a metadata preset choose Edit Presets from the Preset menu in the Metadata panel. Then choose the preset you want to edit, change the settings and choose Update Preset "Preset Name" from the Preset pop-up menu. Click Done. From the same menu you can rename or delete existing presets.

If you want to copy and paste specific metadata between photos then select a photo that you want to copy metadata from and choose Metadata > Copy Metadata. Select the information you want to copy in the dialog box and click Copy. Then select photo(s) and choose Metadata > Paste Metadata.

To synchronize metadata between photos in the catalog, select the various photos and make the photo that has the primary metadata active (the other selected photos will synchronize to this active photo).

Now either click the Sync Metadata button or choose Metadata > Sync Metadata. In the dialog box select the metadata that you want and click Synchronize. Optionally you can choose Metadata > Enable Auto Sync to automatically apply metadata changes to all selected photos as you edit.

To identify unsaved metadata, Lightroom displays three types of icons. "Metadata Files Need To Be Updated" indicates metadata changes made to the photo in Lightroom. "Metadata Was Changed Externally" indicates metadata changes made in an external application and not applied in Lightroom.

"Error Saving Metadata" appears when the same metadata for a photo has been changed both in Lightroom and externally. To make these icons visible in the Grid View panel in the View Options select Unsaved Metadata option in the Cell Icons area

Step 3: Working with Keywords

Keywords (aka Tags) are words and short phrases that describe the photo content. They are one of the most important metadata attributes. Make sure you use them widely and wisely!

You create a keyword in the Keyword List panel. Click the Plus icon to the right and, in the dialog box, type the name of the new keyword. In the second field type synonyms for the keyword - use commas to separate them (if you prefer you can use spaces for keywords separation but first you need to set this option in the Interface Preferences in the Keyword Area).

Now select any of the following options: "Include On Export" to include the keyword when exporting photos. "Export Containing Keywords" to include higher-level keywords that contain the keyword when exporting. "Export Synonyms" to includes synonyms associated with the keyword when exporting photos. "Add To Selected Photos" to apply immediately the keyword to the selected photos.

If an existing keyword is selected when you create a keyword, then an additional option become visible - Put Inside "Keyword Name" which nests the new keyword under the selected keyword.

To edit a keyword, right-click a keyword in the Keyword List panel and choose Edit Keyword Tag from the menu. Make the changes you want and click Edit. The same dialog box appear also when choose Rename from the menu.

To add keywords to photos select one or more photos and type keywords in the field labeled "Click Here To Add Keywords" in the Keywording panel. To add an existing keyword click a keyword in the Keyword Suggestions or Keyword Set area.

Also in the Keyword List panel, click the target box to the left of a keyword. The other way to do it is to drag selected photos to keyword in the Keyword List panel and vise versa.

To remove keywords from photos, select one or more keywords in the text box in the Keywording panel and delete them. If you want to permanently delete a keyword from photos and the catalog then right-click a keyword in the Keyword List panel and choose Delete from the menu or just click the Minus icon at the top of the panel.

If you want to automatically delete any unused keywords from the catalog choose Metadata > Purge Unused Keywords.

In Lightroom you have ability to import and export keywords. You can import keywords either from another catalog file, or from keyword lists saved as plain-text files.

Choose Metadata > Import Keywords, navigate to the text file or catalog file containing keywords and select it. Click Open.

To export keywords to text file choose Metadata > Export Keywords select a location and click Save. You specify which keywords to be exported when you create them.

You can create and apply keyword shortcuts. To do that, right-click one keyword in the Keyword List panel and choose "Use This As Keyword Shortcut". The plus sign appears next to the keyword name indicating that it is part of the current keyword shortcut.

To apply the keyword shortcut select one or more photos right-click and choose Add Keyword "Name Of The Keyword"".

You can also use the Painter tool to add or remove keywords. This time choose Keywords from the Paint menu and type some keyword(s) in the text field. Then click or drag across the photos. If you press the Alt key, the cursor changed to an eraser icon and now you can remove keywords in the same manner.

Another useful feature in Lightroom is the ability to create Keyword Sets. By default Lightroom has three keyword sets which you can access from the Keyword Set pop-up menu in the Keywording panel - Outdoor Photography, Portrait Photography and Wedding Photography.

Also, there is a Recent Keywords set that displays the most recently used keywords. Every keyword set can contain up to nine keywords. You can create new keyword set by converting the Recent Keywords set into new one - choose Save Current Settings As New Preset from the Keyword Set menu, type a name and click Create.

The other way is to edit an existing keywords set and to save it as new preset - this time choose Edit Set from the menu and type or overwrite keywords in the text boxes. Finally choose Save Current Settings As New Preset from the Preset menu. If you want only to edit a keyword set then when you type keywords in the text boxes just click Change button.

Step 4: Assigning Attributes to Photos

You can assign attributes to your photos such as flags, star ratings and labels. This will make finding and filtering photos later much easier - especially when your catalog(s) accumulates thousands of photos. To see these attributes in the toolbar choose them from the toolbar menu. To view them in the cells use the View Options described in the previous tutorial.


First, let's see how to set rating stars. Select one or more photos and choose Rating from Photo > Set Rating submenu or use the assigned shortcuts.

Another way to set ratings is by clicking on the five dots bellow the photo thumbnails in the Grid view or in the toolbar. Clicking the first dot assigns a one-star rating, clicking the second dot assigns two rating stars and so on.

You can use the Painter tool to assign ratings. Choose Rating from the Paint menu, set the rating in the toolbar and click or drag across the photos.

To change ratings, click a different ratings star to increase or decrease the rating. Or even easier - use the left and right bracket keys to increase or decrease the rating.

To remove a rating, click the stars in a thumbnail cell, in the toolbar, or in the Metadata panel. If a photo has a five-star rating click the fifth star to remove the rating and so on.


Now it's time to see how to use flags. Flags have three states indicating whether a photo is a pick, rejected or unflagged. Flag states are local - the same photo can have different flag states in different collections.

With one or more photos selected, choose State from the Photo > Set Flag submenu. Or select one photo and press P to flag the image as a pick or X to mark it as rejected.

Hold down Shift and press P or X to set the flag and select the next photo. Click the Flag icon in the thumbnail cells of the Grid view or in the toolbar. Use the Painter tool by choosing Flag from the Paint menu, then specify the flag status in the toolbar and click or drag across photos to apply the flag settings.

The Refine Photos command causes unflagged photos to be flagged as rejected and picked photos to be unflagged. Select photos and choose Library > Refine Photos. Then click Refine in the dialog box.

To select flagged photos choose Edit > Select Flagged Photos and to deselect unflagged photos choose Edit > Deselect Unflagged Photos.

Color Labels

The third attribute you can assign to photos is a color label. To do that, select one or more photos and choose a color from the Photo > Set Color Label submenu. Or move the cursor over the Color Label icon at the bottom of the thumbnail cell, then click and choose from the menu.

You can assign custom names to color labels. Choose Metadata > Color Label Set > Edit. In the dialog box type a name next to a color.

Then choose Save Current Setting As New Preset from the preset menu, type a name and click Create. If you want only to edit the existing preset click Change when you change the names.

Step 5: Grouping Photos into Stacks

When you group photos in a stack, the photos are stacked according to their sort order in the Grid view and the active photo is placed at the top of the stack. The top photo in a stack displays the number of photos in the stack.

Select the photos you want to stack and choose Photo > Stacking > Group Into Stack (Ctrl + G)

To ungroup stacked photos, select the thumbnail of a collapsed stack or - if the stack is expanded - select any photo in the stack (you don't have to select all photos in the stack) and choose Photo > Stacking > Unstack (Ctrl + Shift + G).

To add photos to an existing stack, select the stack and one or more photos that you want to add and then choose Photo > Stacking > Group Into Stack.

When a stack is expanded, all photos are visible. When a stack is collapsed all photos are grouped under the thumbnail of the top photo in which the upper-left corner is displayed the number of photos in the stack.

The easiest way to expand/collapse a stack is to click the stacking number in the upper-left corner of the photo. You can also right-click a collapsed stack or a photo in expanded stack and then from the Stacking submenu choose Expand/Collapse Stack.

To remove or delete photos from a stack, select one or more photos in the stack and choose either Photo > Stacking > Remove From Stack or Photo > Delete Photo.]

Keep in mind that removing photos from a stack keeps them in the Lightroom catalog while deleting photos from a stack removes them from both the stack and the catalog.

If you want you can specify any photo from the stack to be the top photo. Just select the photo and choose Photo > Stacking > Move To Top Of Stack

To move photos in a stack, select a photo and choose Photo > Stacking > Move Up/Down In Stack. A quick way to do it is by pressing Shift-Left/Right bracket key.

To access quick and easy Stacking commands right-click on the number icon of the thumbnail which will display a context menu.

Stack By Capture Time

You can automatically stack photos by their capture time. To create a new stack, you specify a duration between capture times (from 0 seconds to 1 hour).

From the Stacking submenu choose Auto-Stack By Capture Time and in the dialog box drag the Time Between Stacks slider to specify the minimum duration between capture times that creates a new stack.

Step 6: Creating and Managing Collections

Collections are photos grouped together in one place for quick and easy access. You can make as many collections as you need, and if you need to temporarily group photos for certain tasks then you can create a Quick Collection. Unlike collections, there can be only one Quick Collection at a time in the catalog.

The other type of collections are Smart Collections, based on metadata criteria that you define. For example, you can create a smart collection of all photos that have a five-star rating and photos that meet that criteria will be added automatically to the smart collection. Collections can be also grouped in Collection Sets.

To create a collection, select photos and click the Plus icon in the Collections panel. Choose Create Collection and type a name in the dialog box. If you want the collection to be part of a collection set, choose it from the Set menu, otherwise choose None. Select the Include Selected Photos option and click Create.

You can create a collection set in a similar way, but instead of Create Collection choose Create Collection Set.

To delete a collection or collection set select one in the Collections panel and click the Minus icon. When you delete a collection the photos are not removed from the catalog or deleted from disk.

To make a Quick Collection, select one or more photos and choose Photo > Add To Quick Collection (B) or move the cursor over a thumbnail image and click the circle in its upper-right corner. To view photos in the Quick Collection select it in the Catalog panel or in the Filmstrip Source Indicator menu.

To remove photos from the Quick Collection select one or more photos in the collection and choose Photo > Remove From Quick Collection (B) or move the cursor over a thumbnail image and click the circle in its upper-right corner.

You can save then choose to save a Quick Collection as a regular collection. Choose File > Save Quick Collection, type a name and select Clear Quick Collection After Saving to clear the Quick Collection after it's saved as a collection or deselect it if you want to preserve the Quick Collection after it's saved as a collection. Click Save.

To add photos to a collection drag them to a collection in the Collections panel. To remove select photos and choose Photo > Remove From Collection or just press the Delete key.

To sort collections click the Plus icon and choose either Sort By Name to sort collections alphabetically or Sort By Kind to sort collections by type.

A target collection allows you to override the temporary Quick Collection, making a permanent collection behave as a Quick Collection for as long as it is targeted.

In the Collections panel select the collection you want to target and then right-click and choose Set As Target Collection. To turn off the target deselect Set As Target Collection from the menu.

Smart Collections

To create a smart collection, click the Plus icon in the Collections panel and choose Create Smart Collection and type a name. Specify the rules for the smart collection by choosing options from the pop-up menu.

You can click the Plus icon to add additional criteria, or click the Minus icon to remove criteria. Alt-click the Plus icon to open nested options that let you refine criteria. Choose to match all or any of the criteria from the Match menu and click Create.

If you want to change the rules for a smart collection right-click it in the Collections panel and choose Edit Smart Collection. Choose new rules and options and click Save.

You can Export or Import smart collection settings. Right-click a smart collection you want to export and choose Export Smart Collection Settings. Specify the name and location and click Save. Right-click the Smart Collections set and choose Import Smart Collection Settings. Navigate to and select a smart collection .lrsmcol settings file and click Import.

You may also turn a regular or smart collection into a new catalog. Select the collection or smart collection that you want to use, and choose Export This Collection As A Catalog. Specify the name, location and other options for the catalog and click Save.

Step 7: Filtering and Finding Photos

To filter and find photos, Lightroom provides you with a rich set of options which can be accessed from the Library Filter bar at the top of the Grid view. The Library Filter bar offers three modes for filtering photos which can be used separately or combined for more complex filtering.

  • Text - this allows you to search any indexed metadata text field including filename, keywords, EXIF and IPTC metadata
  • Attribute - search by flag status, color labels, star ratings, master photo and virtual copies, and video files
  • Metadata - this mode provides you with up to eight columns of metadata criteria

To show or hide mode options, click the relevant name. One, two, or all three filter modes can be opened at once. Click None to hide and turn off all filter modes.

To use the Text filter, select Text in the Library Filter bar. Choose the field you want to search from the "Any Searchable Field" pop-up menu and then choose a search rule from the "Contains All" menu. Type the text in the search box.

You can add an exclamation point (!) before any word to exclude it from the results, add a plus sign (+) before any word to apply the "Starts With" rule to that word, or add a plus sign (+) after any word to apply the "Ends With" rule to that word. To clear the search box click the "X" icon that appears when you start typing in.

To use the Attribute filter, select Attribute in the Library Filter bar. Choose one or more options to filter the photos.

To use Metadata filter, select Metadata in the Library Filter bar. Choose a metadata category from the left column by clicking the header caption and choosing from the pop-up menu.

Then, choose an entry in that column. For example, choose Date, and then select All Dates. You can select multiple entries by using Ctrl and Shift keys.

Continue to choose as many metadata categories and criteria as you like. Click the pop-up menu at the right side of any column header to add or remove the column, change the sort order, and switch between hierarchical and flat view.

If you need you can combine all filters together for best search. Just use Ctrl key to select them all.

You can customize the Library Filter bar by choosing predefined filters from the Custom Filter menu at the right side of Library Filter. Also, if you want to save a custom filter search you can do it by choosing "Save Current Settings As New Preset".

You can also search photos by using keyword tags. In the Keyword List panel, select a keyword and click the right-pointing arrow next to the photo count. Lightroom displays all of the photos in the catalog that contain that keyword tag in the Grid view and the Filmstrip. Lightroom also opens the Library Filter bar and displays Metadata keyword criteria.


That's it for today! I hope you've found the organizing and filtering tips useful, and we'll see you next time when we delve into the world of actually editing your photographs!

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