Using Collections in Adobe Lightroom Classic

It’s important to know the distinctions between the different organizational tools in Lightroom.
These tools include the catalog, your files, and your collections.

Lightroom is my favorite photo editor because of its power of organization. There are many layers of organization that include folders, collections, keywords and star ratings. Because of all of these elements, it is very easy to create a catalog that is simple to navigate. Images can be found in a matter of seconds if you use the power of Lightroom to organize them correctly. One of the best tools to use is collections.

The Catalog

The catalog includes digital facsimiles of all of the pictures and videos you have imported into Lightroom with their adjustments. Lightroom doesn’t import the actual images, just the information related to the location of the original image and the adjustments. The images and their adjustments are separate until you export that image out of Lightroom either as a DNG or RAW file. When you export as a DNG, the image can be reopened in Photoshop or Lightroom with all of the adjustment information intact. If you export as a Tiff or JPG, that image information is not stored with the image, only in the original Lightroom file.


Folders consist of the files that you have imported into Lightroom. I use folders as the primary organizational tool in my workflow. The folder hierarchy that you see in Lightroom is an exact copy of the files from your hard drive, only showing the files that you have told Lightroom to recognize. If you decide you want to move a file that has been imported into Lightroom, it’s best to do it from within the Lightroom program. That way Lightroom won’t get confused and give you an error message that a file is missing. If you do move a file outside of Lightroom, it’s best to go back and right click on the Lightroom image, then navigate to the file to tell Lightroom where it is located. As you can see from the image below, the folders can be set up to reflect the number of images in your folders and exactly where they are located.


Collections in Lightroom consist of a group of images that you want to keep as a set, like virtual folders. Collections work best when you want a group of images that are located in multiple folders. It basically holds the image information so that you can create a book, or have a set of similar images in one location. You can create subsets of these collections as well.

Here are a couple of ways that I use collections.

If I have just returned from a trip and I want a quick way to navigate to those new images, I will create a collection. If a collection is removed from Lightroom, it doesn’t remove the images from the catalog, it just removes the collection or just that set. It’s a good idea to remove the set once you are done working with the images and leave space for new collections. Some examples of collections could be all of your bird, flower, or dog images all in one place.

Collections are most helpful when working on a project that involves photos from multiple folders.

Of course, it is worth keeping in mind that collections only exist within Lightroom, and the metadata for your actual photos won’t show that those images are part of a collection. If you were to lose your Lightroom catalog, you would lose all the collection information. That’s why it’s important to use other metadata fields (such as the Keywords and star ratings) to record information related to the use of collections. That way you will have multiple ways to pull up the collection or a set of images.

If you would like some help with your photographic vision, join us at Jansen Photo Expeditions for one of our private or group workshops in California, Oregon, Wyoming, Iceland, or the destination of your choice. You will have an enriching learning experience and go home with a camera full of prized photographs.

If you want more information about my Lightroom Quickstart class, please head on over to the class page here.
We also offer one on one private classes, either in person or by Skype.

Hope to see you in the next class!

Jansen Photo Expeditions Instructor – Holly Higbee-Jansen

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Holly Higbee-Jansen is photographer, trainer, blogger, and workshop leader who enjoys teaching and the creative process. Her passions include teaching photography workshops in beautiful locations in California, Iceland, Costa Rica and the American West with her husband Mark. Holly also teaches online classes on Lightroom, Photoshop and photographic technique. Get Holly's Free E-Book on "Landscape Photography and the Light" and find out about her newest workshops at


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Mark and Holly Jansen
Jansen Photo Expeditions
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