Adobe Lightroom: everything you need to know about the ‘alternative Photoshop’

Adobe Lightroom: what every photographer must know about the 'alternative Photoshop'

Adobe Lightroom: master the Library module to stay on top of your images

In this section we continue our investigation of what Adobe Lightroom offers photographers in terms of photo management with an in-depth look at Lightroom’s Library Module.

Adobe Lightroom: master the Library module to stay on top of your images

A large part of Adobe Lightroom’s job is keeping your images organised. This becomes a progressively greater challenge as your image library grows in size, and the number of different ways you want to use your pictures increases, too.

It uses industry-standard ‘metadata’ embedded in your images to help, consisting of keywords, captions, copyright information 
and more (click here to find out more about What is metadata?).

But it also offers quick-access Flags, Ratings and Labels and an interactive Filter Bar to help you quickly find and isolate the pictures you’re looking for.

Adobe Lightroom Library Module: Folders and Collections

Click on the infographic below to view the larger version of this file. Alternatively, drag and drop it to your desktop.

Adobe Lightroom Library Module: Folders and Collections

01 Folders
This is where Lightroom displays the real location of your photos on your computer or your external drive. If you move photos and folders here, you move them on your computer.

It’s important to realise, though, that if you move them on your computer instead, Lightroom won’t be able to find them any more and you’ll have to manually relocate them within Lightroom and re-establish the connection.

You can use Folders as your main organisational tool, though many photographers prefer to use Collections and Collection Sets instead.

02 Smart Collections
Smart Collections can be created and stored alongside regular Collections, but they’re a very different thing. You should think of them as ‘saved searches’ instead.

Imagine you want to find all pictures taken on a Nikon D700 containing the keyword ‘snow’ and taken in the Alps in 2011.

This is quite a long-winded set of search criteria you wouldn’t want to have to type in twice, but if you use a Smart Collection instead, your search is saved permanently among your other Collections.

The key thing to know about Smart Collections is that you can’t add or remove pictures manually – they’re chosen according to their properties, so the only way to control what appears is to change the properties (keywords, for example) of the picture.

03 Collections & Collection Sets
These are like ‘virtual’ folders. They’re completely independent of the folders on your computer. You can create Collections for images you want to use as a portfolio, photos to show a client or as a way of bringing together pictures that share a common theme.

Deleting a photo from a Collection doesn’t delete the photo, only that particular reference to it, and you can add the same photo to many different collections – but it’s still the same photo, not a copy.

So if you apply any adjustments or effects to a photo, these will show up in all the Collections where the photo appears. Collection Sets are simply folders to help you organise your Collections.

You can nest them one within another, just like nesting folders on your computer.

PAGE 1: What Adobe Lightroom offers photographers
PAGE 2: Getting to know the Adobe Lightroom interface
PAGE 3: 3 things you need to know about the Adobe Lightroom Metadata Panels
PAGE 4: Adobe Lightroom Library Module – Folders and Collections

PAGE 5: Adobe Lightroom Library Module – Filter Bar
PAGE 6: Adobe Lightroom Library Module – Flags, Ratings and Labels
PAGE 7: Getting to know the Adobe Lightroom Develop module interface
PAGE 8: Making selective adjustments in the Develop module
PAGE 9: New sharing options in Adobe Lightroom 4
PAGE 10: How to create a website in Adobe Lightroom
PAGE 11: How to make a slideshow in Adobe Lightroom
PAGE 12: How to make books in Adobe Lightroom
PAGE 13: How to speed up your workflow using the Quick Develop tools
PAGE 14: All your options for printing photos in Adobe Lightroom


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  • jmeyer

    You’re right – thanks for pointing that out. Looks like we uploaded the wrong version of the infographic. This has now been fixed and it should be much more readable.

  • Michelle Ropiza

    Hi, I’m so confused. I’ve been scouring the internet and can only find this cloud version of lightroom that costs $9.99 a month (or more) Is there a program I can install on my mac, or just the web based system? Thanks for any advice. Michelle