How to Organize Your Photos with Lightroom So You Can Always Find Them Quickly

By Jason Row / November 13, 2013

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The introduction of Lightroom and Apple’s rival Aperture, heralded a new era in digital asset management for photographers. Initially aimed and professional photographers, both Lightroom and Aperture, in their current incarnations are priced such that even the enthusiast photographer can afford to invest in one or the other.
Whilst Lightroom removes much of the tedium of cataloguing, there are still some important considerations in creating and managing an effective library of images. In this article we will take a look at how to get started in Lightroom.
Understanding Catalogues
The first thing to realise with Lightroom is that when it catalogues your images, it does so by referencing them in folder.
A catalogue is basically a database of all images that you have referenced for that particular catalogue. You can have multiple catalogues but only have one open at a time. When first starting, it is best to keep it simple and have one single catalogue referencing all your images. If you already have your images well organised in a folder hierarchy, you can simply tell Lightroom to reference those files in their current place.
If you are starting from scratch with a motley disorganised collection of images, you can either manually arrange the images in to a well thought out folder hierarchy or use Lightroom to copy or move the files into a new location for better organisation. This is done during the import phase which we shall look at a little later in this article. 

Jason Row Photography, on Flickr
 
How to Get Organised
Whether you manually create your folder hierarchy or allow Lightroom to do it for you, it needs to be well thought out. My personal preference, as a travel photographer is to use a date/location strategy that looks a little like this.
 

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IMAGES FOLDER

 

2012 IMAGES 





 

2012 JANUARY

 

2012-01-23 – Odessa

 

 
This allows me to find shoots either by date or location. So lets take a look at options on importing our images into Lightroom
 
Importing – Copy, Move or Add
When we click the Import Photos or Video selection in the Lightroom menu, the Import window will open. On the very left side of the window you will see our import sources. This will show the hierarchy of folders on all your drives plus any memory cards or cameras that you have attached. Assuming we have already a well designed image collection we can navigate to the parent folder and from the top center of the Import window select the Add button. 
If however, we are starting from scratch, the better option is to choose Copy. This will copy all the images to a new folder that you can designate using the Destination section on the right of the screen. Think carefully about where you are going to store your images. Do you have enough space for your collection to grow into or would it be better to use a large external drive? Also if starting from scratch use the Copy selection rather than Move, just to make sure you don’t lose any images during the import.

Jason Row Photography, on Flickr
So when we import, on the right side of the screen we can see some further options. The file renaming dialogue is an important part of the cataloguing process. Again my preference is for a date location rename, so I would use for example 2013-04-24 Odessa-XXX. The XXX will be a consecutive number. You can create your own custom names using Edit in the Rename Files drop down.
Below this under the Apply During Import, you can apply your own Metadata stamp to all the images. Its a good idea to create your own metadata template, with your name, contact details, licensing details and copyright. This will be stamped into all imported images.

Jason Row Photography, on Flickr
Below this we can add keywords. If all the images being imported into one particular folder have common elements, you can add generic keywords to represent all of them and then more specific keywords later. Once happy click the Import button.
Once you have imported all you images to your new Catalogue, you can further refine the organisations. As well as applying more specific keywords to individual images, you can give them a rating from 1-5 stars, color tag them or add a flag to them. 

Jason Row Photography, on Flickr
 Using a combination of a well organised folder hierarchy, ratings and good keywording, once you have imported your images, finding individual shots will be simple and effective.

About the author

Jason Row

Jason has more than 35 years of experience as a professional photographer. He now concentrates on producing travel stock photography and video from around the world, and you can get to know him better here

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