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President's Blog

Lightroom Image Organization, Round II
By Ray Roper
Posted on 4/6/2018 10:30 AM

In my last Lightroom post I promised to get to a few details that were a bit more than I wanted to cover there, but nonetheless, were important for the effective use of the tool. So here we take the plunge, for the last time on LR Catalog features. Probably.

Before we start with the serious stuff, let’s mention that one of the frustrations of Lightroom (LR) for beginners is that certain controls referenced in various how-to articles have a habit of disappearing or just being missing in the first place. If you have any trouble finding any of the various controls I’m going to mention in this post, do not pass “Go,” but take the time immediately to view this Laura Shoe Youtube clip on missing Lightroom controls.

If you got that far in my last post about LR image organization, you may recall I skipped mentioning the function of two of the Import>File Handling checkboxes. Those two are shown checked in the screen illustration at right.

The first, “Build Smart Previews,” does exactly what it says during the import process. So, why would you want “Smart Previews,” you ask. If all your editing is done on your home computer where the original image files are accessible, either on a local or external drive, or on your network, then you probably wouldn’t.

The purpose of the Smart Preview is to allow you to continue to edit the image even if the original image file is not available. Example scenarios could include while traveling with a laptop or mobile device, or simply while you’re at work or away from your home system temporarily and the original image files are on an external or network drive left behind. Smart Previews are stored in a separate catalog file linked to the main catalog and take up relatively little space on the drive. They allow you to complete any editing task that you could have done with full access to the original file and everything gets updated once you are back home with original files available again. There is also a potential to speed up processing for editing tasks using Smart Previews. The tradeoff is that it does take extra time in the import process to create them, and while the resulting files are relatively small, they do take up extra drive space. For a more detailed discussion of the pros and cons, see this discussion in "The Creative Photographer."

The other checkbox shown checked in the File Handling panel illustration is the one labeled “Add to Collection.” As you see there, when checked, that panel then expands to show all the current LR Collections in your Catalog. You can choose one by clicking to highlight it as I’ve done in the illustration with my “Belluno” Collection. All photos being imported will then be added both to the otherwise selected Catalog “Destination” file and to the selected Collection. Depending on how you use Collections, that can be a labor-saving feature.

Perhaps the more important subject I alluded to in the last post but did not elaborate on is the use of the LR Catalog features for search, filter, and sort. Search and filter are treated as the same function in LR, and there are two toolbars that are relevant. Each is indicated by arrows in the screenshot below

The “Library Filter” toolbar at the top of the image display above is only available if you are in the Library module, as indicated by the highlighted “Library” in the menu bar at the top right of the main LR window. If you do not see the toolbar, the backslash key (\) is used to toggle it on and off. It is enlarged here.

It shows the four choices of filter conditions as “Text,” “Attribute,” “Metadata,” and “None.” We’ll elaborate on each of those (well, “None” probably needs no further explanation) in a moment. But while we’re looking at the main window illustration above, the second toolbar, at the bottom of the main image display and above the thumbnail “filmstrip,” is actually a part of the filmstip control itself. The filmstrip will be available in the Library and Develop and all other modules of LR.  If the filmstrip is missing, simply click anywhere on the very bottom black border of the main LR window to bring it back. I’ve enlarged the right end “Filter” section of it here.

So let’s look at each of those controls in more detail. For the Library Filter bar (on top of the image display) there is an excellent Adobe tutorial that goes into the details of using each of the controls, so rather than repeat all that, I’ll leave you to peruse it at your leisure to find the rather impressive power of filters in LR. However, before you go there, a few basics that the tutorial assumes you already know bear mentioning.

When you click the “Text” option above, the toolbar expands to this:

The tutorial will tell you all of your options here, but they are essentially any text associated with file name, keywords, captions, Collection name and the like.

Clicking the “Attribute” option on the toolbar shows you the following toolbar expansion:

This is the option you want if you wish to filter on your image tags, such as star rating, color label, flagged status, or whether it’s the original “master” image or a virtual copy.

Clicking the “Metadata” option will show this:

It allows you to filter on any item you see listed there and is incredibly powerful if you want, for example, to see all your wide angle lens shots or all shots from a particular camera or something similar.

Two other important points should be noted: First, you can select multiple different filter criteria from these various methods into combination filters that will show you only the images that meet all of the selected criteria. And second, any filter conditions or combination thereof will be applied only to the folder selected in the Catalog panel on the left side of the LR window. So if you want to search all photos, for example, you should select your parent folder of “My Pictures” or whatever is appropriate for your own file organization. Of course that applies for “sub-parent” folders as well. Whatever folder is selected, the filter conditions will apply to it and all of its subfolders.

Whew! I’m glad you’ve survived to this point. So now for the filmstrip toolbar functions. On the right-hand end of that bar you’ll see these controls:

You can click on these controls as shortcuts to set filters on Flagged, edited (or not edited), star ratings, and color labels. The arrow above shows a toggle switch that will put the same set of controls with the same functions at the top of the Library module image window, just below the Library Filter toolbar discussed above. It will look like this when activated:

That added filter bar can be convenient if you have the filmstrip hidden for any reason.

The filter section of the filmstrip bar is shown here with the filter set for a rating of one star or higher.

With a star rating filter set, the ≥ symbol is enabled, and if clicked, shows this drop-down menu that allows much greater flexibility in how you use that star rating to filter.  

The boxes to the right of the star rating are the color label choices. You can select more than one of those at a time and like other selections on this bar, the filter will be set to those images that meet all selected conditions. (With color labels, a single photo can have only one color label, so if two or more color label boxes are checked, you will get all images that have any of the checked color labels.)

The settings shown above are for all images rated one star or higher and that are also color labeled green or blue. (Tool tips will show the colors on the color label checkboxes when you hover the mouse over them.)

The three “flag” filter are shown below all selected (at the left end of the bar) and are, from left to right, flagged, unflagged, and rejected. Any combination can be selected, although my choice here of all three for illustration purposes clearly makes no sense.

The “Edited” and “Unedited” switches are in the center of the group. Both are shown highlighted here.

Finally, the current filter is indicated on the right end of this bar and is itself a drop-down menu that can be clicked to select filter conditions or remove them by selecting “Filters Off.”

You’ll notice in the above menu that a given set of filter conditions can be stored as an LR Preset. If there is a complicated set of filter conditions that you use frequently, saving them as a preset can be a real time-saver.

There are keyboard shortcuts for most of the flag, star-rating, and color label tags. So with the target image selected, keyboard 1 through 5 for the star-rating, 6 for red, 7 for yellow, 8 for green, and 9 for blue. Other colors must be selected by right-clicking the image and choosing the appropriate popup menu option. Keyboard “P” for “pick” fo set a flag, “U” to “unpick,” and “X” to reject.

There is also another set of controls on the “Toolbar”  feature that is available only in the Library module. The Toolbar appears at the bottom of the main image window and if it is not visible, keyboard “T” to toggle it on or off. It is used to set the various tags for the currently selected image(s), not to set filters. The contents of this toolbar are user selectable and can be set up using the small downward pointing triangle at its far right end. The toolbar looks like this:

That completes the picture for the filter and search functions; sorting is rather more simple. In the toolbar illustration directly above, see the “Sort: Custom Order” box in the middle of the bar. The “Custom Order” label portion of of that box is a drop-down menu. When clicked, it offers the sort choices shown at right. Simply pick the one you want.

“Custom Order” is indicated when you have changed the order manually by using drag and drop in the filmstip vew. Simply click on any image in the filmstrip—by the center of the image, not the frame around it—and drag it to a new position on the filmstrip. There are a few cases where this feature is not available. For more details on that see this Digital Photography School post.

You will be relieved to know that we have now covered the topics of filter, search, and sort in Lightroom. Whether with glory is a subject for a different debate. If you have any further questions or comments, please avail yourself of the comments feature below (or in Facebook on the link to this post).

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