In previous posts, we’ve learned how store photos and videos in folders on your hard drive, but now let’s start organizing them into virtual collections based on their content.
Collections are designed to group photos and videos for a specific purpose. Unlike folders, a single photo can be in multiple different collections without taking up extra space on your hard drive, and these grouped photos can come from any number of different folders on the hard drive.
Collections aren’t limited to containing photos and videos—they store your chosen sort order, and they can also remember your filtering (depending on a preference setting). Special types of collections also store the print/book/slideshow/web settings.
When would you use collections?
So when might you want to create a collection?
- You prefer photos grouped by topic or genre. Perhaps you regularly view all of the photos of your grandchildren, or you want to group the photos from your vacations.
- You’re gathering your best photos for your portfolio.
- You’re working on a creative photo project over a long period of time.
- You want to share a collection of photos with friends and family using Lightroom Web.
- You want to sync photos to your phone or tablet.
- You’re gathering photos for output – perhaps as prints, books, slideshows or web galleries.
What’s the downside?
Collections are virtual, so they don’t exist outside of Lightroom. This means they can’t be viewed in other software, and they’re not written to XMP metadata stored with the files, so they’re difficult to transfer if you move to alternative asset management software in the future. These aren’t major disadvantages in most cases, but they are worth being aware of.
For this reason, collections are best used as temporary groupings. Keywords remain the best choice for long-term storage, as they can be written back to the files in a standardized format which can be understood by any photographic software. (We’ll come back to keywords in a few week’s time, along with smart collections, but if you want a head start, see pages 140-150 and 190-192 in my Lightroom CC/6 book.)
But what if I have too many collections?
Eventually you’ll end up with a lot of collections and the list can become a little unwieldy. Like folders, you can organise them into a hierarchy of Collection Sets. It’s a little different to a folder hierarchy, because collections can only usually contain photos and videos, whereas collection sets can contain collections or other collection sets but not the photos or videos themselves, but it still allows a degree of organization.
That’s the theory of collections and collection sets… next week, we’ll put it into practice, learning how to create them.