Organizing your photos in Lightroom

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When working with a large bulk of photos, the organization is everything. Lightroom offers us a quite comfortable system for sorting our imported pictures, located in the Library Module. Under this guide, I will give you the essential tools you need for organizing your photos in Lightroom in an efficient way.

First start by deciding the location of your photo folder and its structure. This is a key element since Lightroom will always refer to that location for storing your files. One common problem is to end up saving your pictures at your system HDD. If for example, you have a 500 GB hard drive, an old wise advice is to partition it half and half; this way you will end up with 2 partitions of 250 GB for each disk (note that sometimes is not exactly 500 GB, it will depend on the manufacturer way of assigning GBs to hard drive units).
At the first partition, let’s name it Root or System, is where you install your OS (Windows or Mac); the second partition (let’s name it Data) is where you want your personal files to be stored. The reason under this method is to avoid losing information in case of a virus (quite common if you work under Windows), where you have to format the whole unit if you didn’t partition it previously, therefore losing all of your data due to not planning a situation like that beforehand. Also, I recommend you to have a spare external HDD to use as a backup of your data: the external HDD will back up your info with the same folder structure you have on your PC, so if for some reason your PC stops working, you have an instant backup of your data to access.

The organization file structure in Lightroom works the same way as when you create a folder at your OS. If you create a subfolder inside Lightroom that very same folder will appear at your HDD at the location you settled for it.

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A good idea, either if you decide to import your photos directly into Lightroom or if you imported them from your hard drive, is renaming your pictures. For this task, I use the Filename Template Editor. At this tool, you can add date, numbering or custom text to your pictures, then rename the bulk of photos from the import by the same criteria; this works via creating a preset you can save for later on applying to other imports. Keep in mind to do the same process with the Metadata info by creating a unique preset for your shots.

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Don’t go by sorting your photos by date. If you do that you will mess up the whole sequence or you will end up having mixed files under the same date, as it will not respect your folder structure. Name sorting is your best approach, and if you re-named your pictures before in a format like this one:

YY/MM/DD_customtext_sequencenumber

You have then no problem to sort your pictures. An example of this could be renaming a shot from the original camera import “DSC_15470.jpg” to “150522_LaBarraBeach_01”. That way you have not only sequence imported but date imported your stack of shots.

By using flags or labels, even by rating you can also sort your photos. All you need to do is to switch to the Attribute filter at Library Filter. This works mostly for the culling process, and with the aid of several shortcuts you can accelerate the picking process of the shots you took and the ones you want to post produce.

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Remember always to set the Export Folder, creating a similar structure to your import folder but at a different location. Even though Lightroom will recognize both image entities (even if they share the filename) as different files, your OS will not and this will lead to overwriting the original photo files.

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