Last week when I ran my “10 Things I wish I Could Tell New Lightroom Users” post (link), one of the 10 things I talked about was using Collections rather than Folders, and I had a number of follow-up questions on my collections workflow, so I thought I’d break it out a bit here. Here’s what I do:


STEP ONE: Make a Collection Set
Immediately after importing my photos into Lightroom, I go to the Collections panel and from the pop-out menu I choose “New Collection Set”, as shown above (which is kind of like a big folder I can put other collections inside to stay organized. It’s empty at this point, just like when you create a new folder on your computer). I’ll name this Collection Set “Tuscany.”

STEP TWO: Deleting the obvious mistakes
Before I do anything else, I quickly scroll through the images I just imported and delete any images that are obviously mistakes (Ones that are totally out of focus, or solid black, or shots where I accidentally took a shot of my foot, or the ground, or anything that so bad that even as a small thumbnail I can tell—-this needs to be deleted now).


STEP THREE: Create a “Full Shoot” Collection
Now that the obviously bad ones have been deleted (from Lightroom, and from my hard disc), I Select All, then press Command-N (PC: Ctrl-N) to put all the photos into a new collection (as shown above). When the New Collection dialog appears, I make sure this new collection appears within the Collection Set I created in the previous step.


STEP FOUR: Find the Winners and Losers
I double-click on the first image (to enlarge the size), then I press Shift-Tab (to hide all the panels), then I press the letter “L” twice. This puts my photo center screen, with a black background around my photo, so all the distractions are out of the way. Now I use the right arrow keys to move through the images to mark just two things: (1) Which ones are so bad that they should be deleted [really bad ones I missed when just looking at small thumbnails), and (2) The really good shots from the shoot—-ones the client might actually see.

STEP FIVE: Separate the Best Shots
I turn on the filter so only the ones I marked as really good are showing. Now I do a “Select All” and put those in their own collection called “Picks.” At this point, inside my main Tuscany Collection Set I have two Collections:

(1) The Full Shoot (minus the really bad ones)
(2) Picks (the keepers—the ones that could possibly wind up being seen by the client)

STEP SIX: Narrow it down to just the very Best Shots
I don’t want to send my client 80 or 90 photos—–I’d rather do the photo editing and edit things down to the best of the best. Maybe 15 or 20 shots max (more likely, less). So, I go through the Picks collection and find the very best ones, and mark them as so.


STEP SEVEN: One Last Collection of “The best of the Best”
Then I turn the filter on again to just show those I marked as the best. I Select All and put them into a Collection, and name it “Selects.” These are the ones I email to the client, or post in a Web gallery for them to proof. Now I have three collections inside my Collection Set (as seen above).

How this works for me:

(1) If I want to see all the shots from this shoot, I’m one click away—I click “Full Shoot”
(2) If I want to see just the good shots—the keepers–I click “Picks”
(3) But most of the time, all I really care about in the future are the very best shots from that day—-so I click “Selects”

If I’m shooting an event, like a Wedding, or Sporting Event, I use the same basic idea, but I use more Collections inside my Collection Set (as shown below).


Now, you could actually break these groups of three info their own Collection Sets inside the Collection Set, which I sometimes do, but since they all appear together (thanks to the magic of alphabetizing), I don’t have to (but again, sometimes I still do. If things gets crazy [lots of collections] then I usually do).

Well, there you have it—a look at how I arrange my own Collections in Lightroom. This obviously won’t work for everybody, but I’ve tried a number of different options, and for me this way is quick, simple, and consistent. Also, using this method is much, much faster than it looks here in print—the whole process moves along really quickly, and gets you down to the ones you’ll actually show the client (or your friends) very quickly.

I hope that answers at least some of the questions from last week. :)


P.S. I’m teaching my “Photoshop for Digital Photographers” tour today in Tampa, so I won’t be able to answer any questions until later this evening, but during the lunch break I will take at look at your comments.

About The Author

Scott is a Photographer, bestselling Author, Host of "The Grid" weekly photography show; Editor of Photoshop User magazine; Lightroom Guy; CEO; struggling guitarist. Loves Classic Rock and his arch-enemy is Cilantro. Devoted husband, dad to two super awesome kids, and pro-level babysitter to two crazy doggos.