Re-work of Lightroom Catalog

In Standard by Patrick

I have done numerous posts on how I manage my images using a combination of Adobe Lightroom and Photomechanic.

Way back in 2016 when Scott Kelby introduced me to his SLIM system for managing images I have been using a variation of that with pretty good success, but something was still missing. I went back and reviewed how Scott organized his images and then it hit me. I had forgotten a critical step in the process and finding the images that I need is finding to be more difficult at this point. As a result, I am reorganizing my Lightroom catalog. OVER 70,000 images and countless shoots over the years. Needless to say, this won’t be a quick fix, but in the end it will be so much more organized and finding my best images will only be a click away.

Before I get into how I am doing this, let me first share the items that you will need to accomplish complete image organization no matter how large or small you library is. You may have some variation of these tools but here is a list of what you will need:

  • Lightroom Classic or Cloud
  • Samsung 500GB or 1TB External SSD Drive or equivalent

That’s it?! So, let me start at the beginning. I currently have all my images on an Primary SSD drive as my main catalog. I also have a backup SSD which will be a critical part of this process which I will get into in more detail on in a moment. To undertake this process and become even better organized, you will need to create a new LR catalog from scratch on the SSD drive. The SSD drive should be blank prior to starting and you will only have the one catalog on this drive. Call it whatever you like. I call mine, “My Photo Library”.

Now in the catalog folder you just created, you are are going to create sub-folders for each category of photograph that you shoot. Generic titles work best. For example, here are mine:

  • Aviation
  • Travel
  • Wildlife
  • Landscapes
  • Zoos
  • Family
  • Miscellaneous
  • Portraits

No each time you go out on a shoot, you can create a folder under the category that is appropriate. If you go to an airshow, you would create a folder under airshows with the name of the show and place it in Aviation. Now upload all your photos from the shoot into the folder. This will happen each time you go on a shoot. Because you created you main catalog on the SSD drive, Lightroom will read from this catalog when it opens and it will mirror the structure you have created on the SSD.

Now here is where the true organization I feel begins. I mentioned earlier my backup SSD and the importance of that. This is where I am going to get my images from when importing into Lightroom for my new organizational structure. From the backup I open each shoot folder that I had and import those into the new sub-catalog structures. Now, in Lightroom > Collections I create a Collection Set with the name of the shoot. (WARNING: Always work from collections when editing and rearranging and never off the folders as that is your main catalog.) Under the Collection Set I have 3 collections: Full Shoot > Picks > Selects. Now the structure looks like this:

Full shoot is all the pictures after the have been sorted through for keepers. Picks is for the ones that are shots that are really good and Selects are those images that you are going to post-process for sharing on social media, your blog or website or you are going to print. Selects are only the best of the best. I do this for every shoot. So to recap step by step:

  • Create new catalog on external SSD Drive
  • Create main category folders inside main catalog
  • Create sub-folders for each new shoot under appropriate main category folder
  • Import images off memory card into sub-folder
  • Create Collection Set in Lightroom
  • Create Collection called Full Shoot under Collection Set in Lightroom and upload images from sub-folder
  • Create Collection called Picks under Collection Set and upload ones you like from full shoot
  • Create Collection called Selects under Collection Set and make choices of best images to finish

Simplified Lightroom Image Management makes life so much simpler and the best part is that you will be able to find any picture quickly and easily. Set this system up and see for yourself how much smoother this will make your life as a photographer.

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