By Chris Malinao
Father Greg and Father Andrew, Catholic priests, were among recent attendees in my Lightroom workshop. One day, Father Greg came back to me with a Lightroom problem. It turns out, he was accessing his photos via the Folders and not Collections. Hence, the title of this article
Let’s get this perfectly clear: You cannot hope to use Lightroom properly if you do not use Collections. You will use Collections to organize your photos in Lightroom, not Folders, because Lightroom is built that way, it’s meant to use Collections. You access your photos—edit, enhance, and export them—from Collections, not Folders.
You see, the important contribution to photography by parametric software like Lightroom is to separate organization from storage. Collections is organization, Folders is storage. With Folders, you copy and paste; with Collections there is no copy-paste, it’s more powerful and flexible. You can reuse a photo in a collection, make several versions of it, or have it listed in other collections without reproducing the image, no copy-paste, you don’t bloat your hard drive. It’s efficient!
Parametric software like Lightroom reference photos via metadata, not Folders.
So, okay, how do we make collections again? After importing photos into Lightroom, making the application aware of their location and metadata, it is a matter of good practice to create the collections right away.
Let’s say I shot an event, a birthday party for my friend George that I shot on April 18, 2017, and I have imported the photos into Lightroom. The first thing I’ll do is make a Collection Set, you click the plus (+) sign next to the word Collections in Library, and I will name it “20170418 George Bday.” A collection set cannot contain photos, so inside the collection I just created I will make a Collection, that plus sign again, but this time it’s a collection and not collection set. I will name this “All photos,” right-click on it to set it as Target collection and see that the plus sign from Quick Collection is there.
Then I’ll go the photos I just imported, it’s in Previous Import in the upper left of Library, and select all photos there (CTRL+A), after which I’ll just hit the B key on the keyboard and Boom! They’re all there in “All photos.”
What to do with pictures in “All photos” collection? It’s up to you. If I want to choose photos from all these, then I might make collections named Facebook, Photo album, selected, For print, etc., and populate these collections by choosing pictures from “All photos.”
What we would like to emphasize is that you are not copying and pasting photos when you make collections, you are simply referencing the photos via metadata. That means you are not creating additional files, and that is the beauty— the efficiency—of using Collections. Same photos could belong to different collection but you are not duplicating the photos, there is always only one original image.
When you want to make several versions of the same image, like in the illustration, you simply create Virtual Copies. Right-click on a photo and select Create Virtual Copy. Again, you are not creating another file, you are simply referencing the original photo and each time you edit the photo it is being recorded in metadata by the sidecar file, the XMP file, that you can generate when you do CTRL+S. But you don’t have to, let me hasten to add, because you don’t really have to save your edits in Lightroom, they’re being saved automatically.
So, use Collections to access your photos in Lightroom, it’s meant that way, and it becomes efficient and powerful that way. Import your photos, make collections for them, edit, enhance, and export them from collections. When you export, that’s when you create additional files, so export them directly to a USB stick if you intend to print it at the mall. You don’t have to save them in the hard drive because the edited photos are always there, on call for whatever you need them for.
The next FPPF Lightroom workshop is on April 29, 2017. Ciao!
Chris Malinao teaches Lightroom as workflow software to photography students at the FPPF (Federation of Philippine Photographers Foundation), a nonprofit organization that offers year-round workshops in Basic Photography, Advanced Photography, Wedding Photography, Strobist Lighting, Food Photography, Photoshop, Lightroom, and other specialty photography workshops. For details, please visit www.photoworldmanila.com.