In part 1 of the Learn Lightroom series, we discussed the Lightroom interface and how to setup basic preferences. In part 2 we went through the entire import process from start-to-finish, set up custom filenames and learned how to apply basic metadata like copyrights and contact information.
In part 3 of the series, we’ll start with selecting and manipulating images and go through Lightroom’s various view modes. After that, we’ll move on to the heart of Lightroom’s functionality, organization.
The folder and subfolder system that your operating system uses is a good system, but the organizational structure of Lightroom goes way beyond folders. Using a system of keywords, collections, ratings, flags, filters, and metadata along with typical folders makes Lightroom’s organizational structure one of it’s most powerful tools. If you learn to utilize these tools, filtering and finding images can be a quick and simple task.
As your catalog grows, it becomes increasingly important to have a good organization system in place.
In order to work on an image in Lightroom, that image needs to be selected. Some tasks require that more than one image is selected. The obvious way to select an image is to click on it, but how do you select multiple images or select none?
The source indicator above the filmstrip is one of the best ways to tell what photos are currently selected. It will tell you how many files are selected and give you the filename for the active image. Selected images remain selected throughout all of Lightroom’s panels and modules. If you have several images selected in the grid in the Library module those images will still be selected when you move over to the Develop module.
To add or subtract files from an active selection, hold the command/control key while clicking on additional images. If you want to add a group of images that are in sequence, select the first image. While holding down on the “shift” key click on the last image in the sequence and the whole group will be selected.
To select all of the available images use the cmd/ctrl + A keyboard shortcut or go to Edit > Select All. It’s always important to know which images are currently selected. A good practice is to deselect images before moving onto a new task so that you don’t accidentally apply changes to the wrong images. To deselect all images use the keyboard shortcut cmd/ctrl + D or go to Edit > Select None.
When multiple images are selected, the first image that you select is the target or active file. In order to distinguish it from the rest of the selected images, it will be highlighted slightly brighter.
Whether you forgot to rename your images during import or you just want to change some of them, images can be renamed at any point during your workflow. Select the image(s) that you want to rename then go to Library > Rename Photo…. The dialog box that opens has the same name templates that are in the File Renaming panel that we went over in the last part of this post.
Convert to DNG
During the import process you were given the option to convert to DNG. If you forgot to do this earlier or you changed your mind, you can convert images to DNG at any time in Lightroom. Select the images that you want to convert and go to Library > Convert Photos to DNG.
The dialog box gives you an option to only convert RAW files or to convert all file types. You can also delete the original files after the conversion. The last option, if checked, will store all of the original data from the RAW file into the DNG.
Rotate & flip images
Lightroom automatically reads orientation data that was created by your camera and rotates images accordingly. If you want to rotate an image, the toolbar in grid view has two buttons for rotating clockwise and counter clockwise. You can also hover over an image in the grid and icons will appear in the bottom corners of the cell.
Images can also be flipped vertically or horizontally. If you go to the Photo menu there are options for vertical and horizontal flipping. You can also flip all the images in a catalog horizontally by selecting Enable Mirror Mode in the View menu.
Remove or delete images
To delete images from the catalog or from the hard drive, select the images. You can either press the delete key or go to Photo > Delete Photos. The dialog box that opens gives you three choices. You can delete the images from the hard drive, just remove the images from the catalog, or cancel the operation.
Re-link missing images
If you moved some of your files outside of Lightroom or you have a disconnected hard drive, Lightroom may not be able to locate your files. You will see a “!” on the image thumbnails in the filmstrip and on the grid view for the images that are missing their source file. Remember, Lightroom doesn’t store the original files inside the catalog data, it only stores previews.
To re-link the source files with the catalog you can click on the “!” or go to Library > Find All Missing Photos. Click the locate button in the open dialog box and navigate to the new location of the files.
If you’re having problems with missing images or folders I have an entire post dedicated to this problem here.
Library view modes
The Library module has four view modes for previewing your images. You can switch between the view modes by using the buttons on the far left of the toolbar below the image preview window.
Grid view (G)
The grid view displays image thumbnails in rows and columns. Grid view is useful for viewing groups of photos at the same time and for making adjustments to multiple photos at once. Each image thumbnail in the grid is surrounded by a grey cell.
The grid view can display two types of thumbnails, expanded or compact. The keyboard shortcut “J” will cycle through them or you can go to View > View Options to access the grid view options menu. The expanded view allows more information to be shown about the photos.
When you’re in grid view, the toolbar at the bottom of the window has a slider for changing the size of thumbnails. There are also buttons for rotating images and changing the sort order of images. If you click on the arrow on the right end of the toolbar, a menu will open with options for what you want to display on the toolbar.
Loupe view (E)
The Loupe view displays a single large image in the preview area. Another way to access the loupe view is to double click on a thumbnail in the grid view. You can double click the image again to return to grid view. Loupe view is used when you need to take a closer look at a specific image. Note in the image below how loupe view has a different toolbar than in grid view.
In the top left corner of the image preview there is a text overlay that shows relevant information about the file. You can press “I” to cycle through the available text options or go to View > View Options and select the “Loupe view” tab to customize the text.
There are several ways to zoom in and out of an image in loupe view. Clicking on the image will zoom in. The image will stay zoomed until you release the mouse button. You can also press and hold the “Z” key or the space bar.
If you look at the top of the Navigator panel there are four selected zoom ratios. Pressing the control or command key plus the +/- keys will zoom in/out of those four selected ratios. Click on the arrows in the top corner of the Navigator panel to see a list of other available ratios.
Any time that you are zoomed in on an image you can click and drag with the mouse button to pan around the image. Pressing the “home” key will pan to the top left corner of the image and pressing the “page up” and “page down” keys will navigate through the image one section at a time.
Compare view (C)
The compare view lets you view and compare two images side-by-side. Select two images and use the compare button or the keyboard shortcut (C) to open compare view. The target image will be the select image on the left of the window and the second image you selected will be the candidate image on the right. Notice that since we’re in a different view mode, the toolbar has changed again.
To change the candidate image to the next or previous image in your source, click the arrow buttons on the toolbar or use the left/right keys on the keyboard. The swap button on the toolbar will reverse the select and candidate images. The icon on the toolbar that looks like a padlock is the focus link button. If locked, the images will both zoom and scale together, which can be really useful for checking the sharpness up close in similar images.
Survey view (N)
To compare more than two images, use survey view. All of the currently selected images will appear in the preview area. Note that the more images you select, the smaller the preview. For more than 6-8 images, you’re probably better off keeping them in grid view.
If you hover over an image, an “X” will appear in the bottom right corner of the image that you can click to deselect the image and remove it. Adding more images to the selection is as easy as cmd/ctrl clicking them in the filmstrip. You can also rearrange the images by dragging them to a new spot, but it will change the order in the grid and filmstrip as well.
Manage folders in Lightroom
The folders panel shows your hard drives and all of the folders containing images in your catalog. When you add images to Lightroom, the folder containing the images is added to the folder panel. After images have been imported to Lightroom it’s best to manage and structure them from within Lightroom. When you click on a folder, the images it contains will be displayed in the filmstrip and the preview area.
At the top of the folder panel are the volumes or hard drives. If the light next to the drive name is green, that hard drive is online has plenty of free space. If the light turns yellow or red, the drive is running out of free space. When the light is dimmed to grey, the drive is offline or disconnected. By default, the volume bar will show the remaining amount of space on the drive. If you right click on the bar a menu will open with options to display disk space, a photo count, the status, or nothing.
On the right side of each folder name is a number that shows how many images in the catalog are located in that folder. If a folder doesn’t contain any images in your catalog, the number will be 0.
Lightroom’s default setting is to show all images in subfolders. Depending on how you set up your library, you might not want this option selected. It can make it hard to figure out which folder the images are located in. To deselect this, click on the plus (+) button in the top of the folders panel and deselect the option in the menu. You can also find the same option in the Library menu.
Most changes you make to the folder system in Lightroom are also applied to the disk file structure. To move a folder simply click on the folder and drag to a new location. If you right click or ctrl/cmd click on a folder it will open a menu. In the menu are options for renaming and removing the folder. There is also an option called Create Folder Inside “yourfoldername” that will create a new subfolder.
Removing a folder that contains images is the only action that doesn’t get applied to your hard drive’s folder structure. Removing a folder from Lightroom with images will not remove it from your hard drive. If the folder is empty, however, it will be removed and sent to the system trash.
Note that when you remove a folder from Lightroom, all of the previews, develop settings, and any information about the images in that folder are discarded. If you make a mistake, don’t exit Lightroom or you won’t be able to fix it. Accidentally deleted folders or any other mistake can always be corrected with the undo command. You can find this in the Edit menu or use the ctrl/cmd + Z shortcut.
In the menu that we just opened above by right clicking on a folder, there is another option named Synchronize Folder. It will compare the images in your catalog with the images inside the folder and make sure your catalog is up to date. Folders should be synced after you do any editing or changes outside of Lightroom.
Create & manage collections
Lightroom’s collection system is an easy way to group images together for quick access. The collections panel is located on the left below the folders panel. There are three main types of collections: collections, smart collections, and output collections. You can also group several selections together in a collection set. A catalog can have as many different collections as you want.
To create a collection, click on the plus button at the top of the collections panel. Select Create Collection from the choices. Give your collection a name and decide whether or not to nest the collection inside of an existing collection set. You can also opt to include the currently selected images to the collection.
Images can be added to a collection at any time by selecting the images and dragging them to the collection name. You can also add an entire folder of images to a collection by dragging the folder name to the collection. If you aren’t able to add an image to a collection, it’s because the image is already in that collection.
To delete an image from a collection, select the image from inside the collection and hit delete. The confirmation dialog won’t come up on screen because you aren’t deleting the photo. The image will still be in the catalog and in any other collections it is a part of.
To set a collection as the target collection, right click on the collection name and select Set as Target Collection from the menu. A plus icon will show up next to the collection’s name, indicating it is set as the target collection. Any images that are already a part of the target collection will have a grey dot in the upper left corner of the thumbnail.
To add or remove an image from the target collection, click on the dot in the image thumbnail. You can also use the keyboard shortcut “B”.
Unlike a standard collection, there can only be one quick collection in a catalog. Quick collections are used as a temporary place to group images. The quick collection is located in the catalog panel and not the collections panel. Just like a regular collection, the quick collection can be set as the target collection. Adding and removing images works the same way as with a standard collection.
To save a quick collection as a regular collection, go to File > Save Quick Collection or right click on the quick collection and select Save Quick Collection. The dialog box that opens gives you the option to clear the quick collection after it has been saved as a collection.
Smart collections group images based on metadata criteria. The Lightroom collections panel has several smart collections created by default, but you can make as many more as you need. An example of a smart collection would be a collection that includes all images with a four star rating. As you go through your catalog and rate images, all images that you rate with a four star rating will automatically be added to the smart collection.
To make a new smart collection, click on the plus button in the collections panel. Select Create Smart Collection. In the dialog box that opens, give the new smart collection a name, then add a rule for adding images to the collection. Click the plus button to add the rule. Smart collections only require one rule, but you can include as many as you need to. Use the plus and minus buttons at the end of the row to add or delete rules.
Smart collections automatically include any images that meet the criteria specified in the rules. You can’t manually add or remove images from a smart collection. If you want to edit the rules of a smart collection, right click on the collection name and select Edit Smart Collection.
Lightroom’s output modules (Book, Slideshow, Print, and Web) can create output collections. These will appear in the collections panel with the rest of your collections. I don’t want to go into detail on these just yet, because we will cover them later on. I just want you to know that they exist.
A collection set is like a parent folder for collections. To create a collection set, click on the plus icon at the top of the collections panel and select Create Collection Set. You can put as many collections into a collection set as you like.
Assigning attributes to images
Attributes help you organize your images so they can be easily filtered and found later when you have much larger catalogs. The attributes that Lightroom uses are the star ratings, flags, and color labels.
The easiest way to access the attributes are in the toolbar. If any of the attributes you’re looking for aren’t visible, click on the triangle on the right end of the toolbar to make sure they’re enabled. Sometimes, if your window is too small, not everything can fit on the toolbar. In this case, you might have to remove some of the other tools to make more room.
Before you start tagging images with attributes, think about what you want each of them to mean. Everyone has a slightly different organizational system, so there is no right or wrong, but consistency is key. If you come up with a good system for labeling images from the start, your life will be much easier later on.
There are several ways to apply ratings to an image. When you hover over an image in grid view, you will see 5 dots below the image. Clicking on one of the 5 dots will rate the image with that many stars. If you click on the star again, it will remove the rating. You can also click on the star rating buttons in the toolbar or right click on the image and go to Set Raitng and select the appropriate rating from the menu.
Personally, I like to use the keyboard shortcuts for rating images. Use the numbers 1-5 to rate images and 0 to return the rating to zero again. You can use the painter tool in the toolbar to assign ratings also. Just select the painter tool and then select rating from the menu. You can then pick a star rating and paint the rating onto multiple images quickly.
Lightroom has five color labels: red, yellow, green, blue, and purple. Applying labels works just like with ratings. You can use the toolbar buttons, right click on the image and select Set Color Label from the menu, or you can hover over the image and click the label icon below the right corner of the image. The numbers 6-9 on the keyboard are shortcuts for the red, yellow, green, and blue labels, but purple doesn’t have a shortcut.
Flags are used for marking whether you’re keeping or rejecting images. All images start out as being unflagged. There are two choices for flagging images: reject and flagged (pick). Mark images that you want to keep with the flagged status. Just like the other attributes, you can mark an image flagged through the menu, toolbar or by hovering over the image in grid view. The flag icon is located at the top left corner of images in grid view. Click on the icon to flag the image as a pick, or right click on it to open the menu with all three options. The keyboard shortcut “P” marks an image as a pick and “X” marks it as a reject.
Assign keywords to images
Keywords are single words or short phrases used to describe your images. You can use them to describe the image’s content, location, use of color, theme, subject, or any other elements that you think are important.
Keywords are important for several reasons. Inside your Lightroom catalog, keywords are used for accessing and organizing. For images that you plan to upload to the web, adding keywords is equally important. One of the main things a search engine looks at when searching through images are the keywords embedded in the image.
Applying keywords isn’t a one-step process. They should be continually updated throughout the processing workflow. The first round of keywords should be applied to the entire set of images during the import process. These will be broad and generic words that describe the entire set of images. As you continue through the editing process and rate, flag, and label images, you can add more specific keywords to the smaller groups of images until you’re satisfied.
The Keywording panel
If you open the Keywording panel on the right side of the window, you’ll see keywords that are applied to the selected images (if you applied keywords during the import process). If you didn’t, it’s okay, there just won’t be any keywords there yet. Select an image or images that you want to apply keywords to and start typing the keywords in the box separated by commas. Hit enter and the keywords will be applied. You can easily delete any of the keywords by selecting it in the text area and deleting it.
You can tell when an image has had keywords added to it by looking in the grid. The lower corner or the image will have a tag icon indicating that it has been tagged with keywords.
After you’ve added a few keywords to some of your images, Lightroom will start to give you suggestions based on the keywords that you’ve already applied. In the suggestions area below the text box, you can click on any of the suggested keywords to instantly apply it to the currently selected image.
Sometimes keywords will have an asterisk (*) next to them. This indicates that the keyword is only applied to some of the selected images but not all of them. If you want to apply that keyword to all of the selected photos simply delete the asterisk in the text box.
The Keyword Sets area is in the bottom of the Keywording panel. You can use this to create sets of up to 9 keywords. By default, Lightroom has three keyword sets: wedding, portrait, and landscape. You can select “Recent Keywords” from the drop down menu to display the 9 most recent keywords you used.
If you open the Keyword Set drop down menu again, there are options for creating your own custom set. If you want to edit the recent keywords list to nine specific keywords, choose Edit Set. After you’re happy with the set, open the menu again and choose Save Current Settings as New Set. Give your new set a name and save it.
We briefly talked about adding metadata during the import process where we added a copyright to the imported images, but there is a lot more you can do with metadata. The Metadata panel is located on the right side of the window. Metadata can be applied to single images or groups of selected images simultaneously. To change what type of information is displayed in the metadata panel, click on the drop down menu at the top of the panel.
To start adding metadata to your images, just select your images and start entering data into the fields. If you want to make a preset for your metadata settings so you don’t have to apply them over and over. Just click on the preset menu at the top of the panel and select Edit Presets. After you’ve edited all the relevant information, open the menu at the top and select Save current settings as new preset.
You can copy metadata from one file to another. Select the file with data that you want to copy and go to Metadata > Copy Metadata. Select all the areas that you want to copy and click the copy button.
You can also sync metadata between whole groups of images. Select the image with the data you want to sync first to make it the active file. Now, select all the other images that you want to sync it with and click the Sync Metadata button at the bottom of the metadata panel. Select all the areas that you want to sync and click the synchronize button.
You can change how Lightroom applies metadata to your files in the Catalog options. Go to Edit > Catalog Settings and select the metadata tab. If you want the metadata to be readable by other applications, check the box next to Automatically write changes to XMP.
Lightroom automatically writes metadata changes to the catalog. If you want to manually save the changes to the original files, select the images and go to Metadata > Save Metadata to Files. Alternatively, if you’re using DNG files, choose the Update DNG Previews & Metadata option instead.
Find & filter images
Using the attributes we’ve applied to your images, we can now filter the results to show only the images that we want. The filter tools are located on the top right corner of the filmstrip and also above the image preview area when in grid view.
The filter area above the filmstrip has buttons that you can click to filter by any of the attributes. The button on the right end of the bar that looks like a switch turns the filter on and off. You can also click next to the switch to open a menu with more filtering options. You can use the menu to save your current filter settings as a preset to use later.
The filter bar is located above the grid view. You can enable or disable it by using the “\” shortcut. The filter bar has a much more advanced set of options for filtering. You can use metadata, text, keywords, attributes, and file data to filter the results. You can also create combinations of any of the selections and save the settings as a preset. One or more of the filters can be active simultaneously, so make sure to click on the previous filter again to turn it off. You can also click on none to deactivate all filters.
Depending on what you want to search for, there are three links that you can click on: Text, Attribute, and Metadata. By default “None” is selected, and all of the images in your source are shown in the grid. As you select more filters, less images will be displayed in the preview.
When you click the text filter link it gives you two drop down menus and a text box. First, select where you want to look for the text. By default, “any searchable field” is selected, which will search in all of the file’s data for the text. The second menu decides how Lightroom will search for the text. Choose whichever option works for your search. Then all you have to do is enter your text in the search box and hit enter.
To use the attribute filter, click on as many different attributes as you want.
Click on metadata to open the metadata filter. By default, Lightroom shows keyword information. Click on the left column header to open a drop down menu and choose a category from the list. After you choose a category, choose one of the entries in that column. If you want to select multiple entries, hold down the ctrl/cmd key while clicking on the entries.
Clicking on the icon on the right side of a column header will open a menu to add or remove the column from the filter.
If you want to save any of your filters as a preset, click on the “Custom Filter” drop down menu on the right side of the filter bar. Choose Save Current Settings as New Preset.
That’s it for part three of Learn Lightroom. I hope you’re starting to get a feel for how Lightroom works. If you have any comments or suggestions, please leave a comment below.