Introduction to Collections in Adobe Lightroom

A few days ago we talked about Understanding catalogs, collections, and folders in Lightroom. Today I want to follow that up with more details about collections in Lightroom. Collections are very powerful in organizing your images and are basically groups of your images based on a set of filters that you create. It’s a great way to create a view that only shows your 5 star images for example or with certain keywords. There are 2 types of collections you can create, a normal collection and a smart collection.

Lets start with just a normal collection of images you want to group together. To create a new collection just go to the collections section on the left side of the Library and click on the + button to expand the menu. From here click on Create Collection.


Next you will name the collection and choose to have it organized within a set (will cover this near the end). You can also choose to have any images you currently have selected be a part of the collection. This isn’t copying your photos over to another location just creating a new view that points to the originals. after you create the collection adding images is very easy, just select, drag and drop into the collection name. There is also a shortcut that many people don’t know that can be much faster than dragging and dropping into a collection. It’s called Set as Target Collection and uses a keyboard shortcut. To set this up just Control Click on the collection name (right click for PC) to open up a menu of options. Choose the Set as Target Collection.

creating lightroom collections

Once you choose this option you will see a + next to the collection name. Now when you have an image selected just hit the B on your keyboard and it will add that image to the collection. Really quick and easy way to organize in Lightroom.

Smart Collections – Smart collections are another type of collection in Lightroom and are awesome! They are just like a smart playlist you setup in iTunes and a way to setup a filter criteria that automatically updates based on the filters you set. To create a new smart collection just click on the + button at the top of the collections section and choose Create Smart Collection. Then all you have to do is create your filters, for my portfolio collection I have it set to everything that I have given a 5 star rating to. You can add as many filters as you need to if you really want to fine tune the results. Just click the + button to add another filter set. You can also choose to have this work if the rules you set Match Any, Match All or Match None.

creating lightroom smart collections

Smart collections are really great and a easy way to keep photos that you need to reference later organized.
Once you have created a bunch of collections you can place them into sets for easier organization. Again from the + button at the top of the Collections menu click the Create Collection Set. Create a name for it and you will see a new set appear in your list. The sets have a little file box icon and you will be able to drag and drop any collections into this set.

That’s it. A review of collections in Adobe Lightroom and how they can be used to organize your photography. If you have any Lightroom questions as always just leave a comment below, I love to hear your questions.

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Author: Mark

Mark is a fine art wedding and portrait photographer from Northern California. He has been passionate about photography since childhood and started his studio 12 years ago to bring a fresh style of photography to the wedding and portrait world.

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1 Comment

  1. Hello,

    Thank you so much for the articles explaining Lightroom! I wonder if you will be kind enough to answer a question:

    If I have a Folder imported and a corresponding Collection created of all images in that folder, is there a way to update/sync the Collection when new images are added to the Folder?



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