Simplified Lightroom Image Management (The SLIM System)notesIMAGINE WHAT LIFE WOULD BE LIKE IF YOUR IMAGES WERE REALLY ORGANIZEDIt’s a wonderful happy place, where the sun is shining, the skies are blue, and animals in the forestcome up to eat out of your hands. Okay, it’s really none of that, but that’s what you’ll feel like whenyou finally reach that place. Luckily, it’s easier than you’d think. For most folks, it’s a simple weekend project (maybe even just a Saturday), and once you really know where everything is, and canfind the images you want quickly, it’s really Lightroom heaven. Here’s the path to get there:#:1 It starts before you get to LightroomIf your images are organized outside of Lightroom, your chances of having them organized insideof Lightroom go up immeasurably. There are two big keys to this happening:(a) Store all your images on an externalhard drive. Buy a second for backup.I don’t care how much free space youmight have on your computer now, itwill be full before you know it, and youcan bypass a bunch of hassle and messby simply keeping all your images on anexternal hard drive. These drives havenever been cheaper than they are today.Figure out how much you think you’llneed (in gigabytes or terabytes) and thendouble or triple it. You can buy decent a 4-terabyte external drive for around 88. Seriously. You’regoing to need a backup, so buy a second one. You get bonus points if you also back up your imagelibrary to a cloud service (I like’s 5 a month for unlimited storage—they’ll back upyour external drive and do it automatically). Depending on how often you shoot, you might needeven more storage space (like a Drobo or a Synology — something with expandable bays).(b) All your photos go inside ONEFOLDER on that external hard drive.You can have as many subfolders insidethat one folder that you want, but theyall have to reside inside one folder. Youcan name it “My Lightroom Photos,” or“Photo Archive,” or “Big Ben”—doesn’tmatter what you name it—you justhave to have ‘em all in there. This willkeep your organizational life simple.Do those two simple things above, and you’re already half way there.CREATE CATEGORY FOLDERS FOR WHAT YOU SHOOT: SORT YOUR IMAGES IN THEREBefore you get to Lightroom: create main category folders for the topics you shoot regularly insidethat one main folder. Mine are Travel, Sports, Family, Misc., Aviation, Automotive, Architecture,Landscape, and People. Sort your existing photo folders inside those category folders.1

Simplified Lightroom Image Management (The SLIM System)notes#2: Just use one catalog. Seriously.Okay, so how many catalogs are we going touse in Lightroom? One. Just one. “But Scott, Ialready have a bunch of different catalogs!”That’s okay, because you’re going to combinethem into one big catalog. That way youhave access to all your photos in one singleplace, and you can search through yourentire catalog of image (combining thesewon’t take nearly as long as you think). Youdo this by opening the catalog you wantto be your main catalog, and then importing your other catalogs into this catalog. Go under theFile menu and choose “Import from Another Catalog” and choose one of your other catalog. Itwill keep all your sorting and star ratings and all that stuff fully intact, so import all your otherLightroom catalogs into this one single catalog one at a time.NEXT, YOU’RE GOING TO MIMIC YOUR HARDDRIVE STRUCTURE IN LIGHTROOMBut you’re not going to use folders. Folders arenot the way to organize in Lightroom—that’s justshowing you the organization of the images onyour external hard drive, and the less you can messwith them through Lightroom the better. You’regoing to use collections and collection sets instead(collection sets allow you to put collections insideof them, just like folders on your computer allowyou to put subfolders inside of them). So, startby creating collection sets with the exact samenames as the folders on your external hard drive(as shown here, where I created mine). By the way, at this point, all these collection sets areempty—we’re just laying the groundwork before we import our images.YOU DO this By going to the Collections panel(in the Library module) and clickingon the little (plus sign) button onthe right side of the panel header.From the pop-out menu thatappears, choose Create CollectionSet (as shown here). A dialog popsup, where you can name your collection set. Click Create and it appears in the Collections panel.2

Simplified Lightroom Image Management (The SLIM System)notesTURNING A FOLDER FROM THE FOLDER’S PANEL INTO A COLLECTIONIf you’re not already using collections in your current Lightroom workflow, converting your folders into collections is simple: just click on a folder and drag it where you want it in the Collectionspanel, and it becomes a collection. Yes, it’s that easy (and collections have all sorts of features thatfolders don’t have. UPDATE: In Lightroom Classic update 7.2, Adobe now let’s you right-click on a collection and choose “Create Collection.” If you click on a folder with other folders nested inside it, thenchoose “Create Collection Set” instead and it keep everything intact and nested, but in Collections nowinstead of folders).#3: Collections are the basis of how we’re goingto organize everythingHere’s how I organize each shoot that goes inside a collection set. Look here, inside my Travel collection set,and you’ll see I have another collection set inside it thatcontains three separate regular collections:(1) FULL SHOOT: All the photos from my trip to London. 2 PICKS: Just the keepers—the ones that have a chance of being shared online or printedin a photo book.(3) SELECTS (FINALS): I narrowed my Picks down to just the best shots from the trip, andthey’re all found in Selects (finals). These are the ones I’ll tweak and edit, crop and whatever.These are really the only ones I’ll deal with from now on (after all, how often will you want tosee the shots that didn’t make the cut? The ones that weren’t “good enough to share”).I SORT every shoot like that.Whether it’s an existing shoot, or one I justimported. If I take a trip, I create a collectionset with a very descriptive name (like Parisor Paris 2017 or Paris with my dad), and Iput that inside my Travel folder. I know, if it’sa trip, it’s already in alphabetical order in my Travel collection set, and inside “Paris,” I’ll find collections for “Full Shoot,” “Picks,” and “Selects (finals).” It’s simple as long as you keep it simple.TRAPS TO avoid: Sorting By DateThe date you shot each photo is already embedded in the file itself, and Lightroom keepstrack of all your photos automatically sorted by date. Just go to the Library filter; click on theMetadata tab, and look in the Date Column. Every shot you’ve ever taken, already sorted by year,month, day, even day of the week. That’s one reason why Sorting By Date is a massive time waster), unless it’s something really simplistic like “Rome 2017,” and I’d only add the 2017 if you haveother trips to Rome and need to differentiate between them. Instead, we just give your collection simple descriptive names. If this is your first trip to Rome, just name it simply “Rome.” By theway, where would your Rome photo collection set go? Why inside your Travel Collection Set,of course (you can choose to put new collection sets right inside existing collection sets, likeTravel, from the Create Collection Set dialog. Just turn on the Inside a Collection Set checkbox,and then choose which collection set you want it to appear inside from the pop-up menu (asseen above). If you keep everything this simple, that’s how it will be when it comes time to findyour images in Lightroom: simple.3

Simplified Lightroom Image Management (The SLIM System)notes#4: How to sort a shootLet’s take that Rome shoot and break down the process for sorting your images. So, let’s say you wereworking with folders in Lightroom’s Folder panel, andall your images where just in that one folder. Let’s alsosay you dragged your Rome folder into that collection set and now it has become a regular collection(also named Rome). Right-click on that collection andchoose Rename from the pop-up menu (as shownhere), and change the name of that newly made collection to “Full Shoot.” Now we can start sorting:LETS FIND YOUR BEST SHOTS:Click on the first thumbnail in your Full Shoot collection. Now press the letter F on your keyboardto go into Full Screen mode (you need to see your images at a really big size to figure out whichones are your keepers—everything looks in-focus as a small thumbnail, and you’ll only see detailand sharpness at this large size. So, let’s get it full-screen size, which is not 100%; it’s just as big asyour screen will allow).HIT THE RIGHT ARROW KEY TO MOVE QUICKLY THROUGH YOUR IMAGESWhen you see a good shot, hit the letter P on your keyboard to mark it as a “Pick,” and a smallwhite Pick flag will appear at the bottom of the screen (as seen circled above). Press the RightArrow key and move to the next image. If it’s good, hit P. If it’s awful and needs deleting, pressthe X key to mark it as a Reject. Press the U key if you make a mistake. Don’t press anything if thephoto is just “okay.”4

Simplified Lightroom Image Management (The SLIM System)notesAT THIS point, every “keeper” is flaggedas a Pick. Photos that are horribly out offocus or you shot with the lens cap on, etc.,are flagged as Rejects. The rest are just asthey were (unflagged). First, let’s get rid ofthe Rejects. Go under the Photo menu andchoose Delete Rejected Photos (it’s at thevery bottom of the menu). This gathers thephotos you marked as Rejects, and if youwant these rejected photos truly removedfrom your collection (yes, you do!), click the Remove button (as shown) and they’re gone.FINDING JUST YOUR PICKSNow that your Rejects are gone, let’sfind your Picks. It’s just one click. Inthe top right of the Filmstrip (alongthe bottom of the window), you’llfind three grayed-out Filter flags:Picks, Unflagged, and Rejects (if youhave Flagged selected in the pop-upmenu on the right). Click on the firstone, the white Pick flag and now justyour Picks are showing. (NOTE: This isweird, but the first time you click this Pick flag, it doesn’t work. You have to click it again, thenit will work. Ugh.)NOW JUST the images you flagged as Picks willappear, as seen above. Let’s get those in a collection, so they’re always one click away. PressCommand-A (PC: Ctrl-A) to select all your Picks, andthen press Command-N (PC: Ctrl-N) to put them intheir own collection. Now, don’t just put this collection any ol’ place—it needs to be inside your Romecollection set. So, in the Create Collection dialog,turn on the Inside a Collection Set checkbox andchoose Rome from the pop-up menu. Also, make sure the Include Selected Photos checkbox isturned on, so all your selected Picks go into this collection. Click Create when you’re done.KEYWORDS AND WHY YOU PROBABLY SHOULD SKIP DOING THEMIf you’re not licensing your images for sale through stock photo agencies, you can probably skipkeywording altogether. In fact, I’d recommend it (even though just saying this freaks people out).If your photos are organized, you don’t need keywords so desperately. If your Lightroom organization is chaos, then keywords are your only hope (but we’re about to fix all that). Why do so manypeople keyword then? For the same reason people don’t go swimming for 30 minutes after theyeat—they were always told that’s what they should do. I’ll talk more about this in class.5

Simplified Lightroom Image Management (The SLIM System)notesNOW LET’S MAKE OUR SELECTSThis is when we go through our Picks (the keepers) and, from those, we choose which shots areactually the best ones from our shoot—these are the ones we’ll wind up editing in Lightroom tocreate our final images. These might be chosen by your clients from your keepers (I’ll show youhow to do this later today), but more likely by you, right at this stage. The process is very muchlike choosing your keepers (your Picks), but now your choices really matter. Well, they certainlymatter more. Go through your Picks collection at full-screen size.TIP: If you don’t like Full Screen mode, then press Shift-Tab to hide all your panels, so at least youhave an uncluttered look, and your image will still appear on a nice neutral gray background.SINCE YOUR keepers already have Pick flags attached to all of them, at this point we switch tousing 5-stars to choose our bestimages: but we only choose oneranking—5 stars. You do thatby pressing the 5 key on yourkeyboard (there are no 4-star or3-stars selects—it’s either a 5 staror it’s not), and then sort the collection by showing only the 5-starimages (you do this to the right ofthe Filter flags, in top right of theFilmstrip). Just click and drag yourcursor across all five stars (showncircled here) and it highlights the5-star filter and now only yourPicks that are rated 5-Star arevisible on screen. Those are your‘Selects’ — the very best images from your shoot.OPTIONAL: USING color labels. If you want to skip the star-ratings all together, you can useColor Labels to separate your best images from your Picks. You do this by pressing the 6 key toassign a Red label to a photo. Then, you filter to show just the Red labeled images (again, in the topright of the Filmstrip, to the right of the Filter flags and star rating filters; just click the little red square.Choose Rated from the pop-up menu, if you don’t see them).ONCE YOU’RE showing only your “best of the keepers,” then you Select All, make a new collection, choose to save this collection in your Rome collection set, and name it “Selects.” Now you’rejust one click away from your very best images from your trip to Rome, and you know exactlywhere they are (under Travel, in a set named “Rome”). That’s the process (and it’s way faster thanyou’d think—and actually very easy once you’ve done it even once).IF YOU ALREADY HAVE A BUNCH OF COLLECTIONS THAT’S OKAYYou now know the basic idea, so you can start sorting your existing catalog like you just learned,and creating collection sets with the Full Shoot, Picks, and Selects.6

Simplified Lightroom Image Management (The SLIM System)notesIF YOU ALREADY HAVE MULTIPLE CATALOGS, HERE’S WHAT TO DO:If you have a bunch of different catalogs, you’ll want to combine them into one single master catalog that you’ll use from now on. Choose whichever catalog from the ones you have you like thebest, or you can start off fresh with a clean new empty catalog and bring all your other catalogsinto this new catalog (while keeping everything in tact). To do that, just go under the File menuand choose New Catalog. It will create an empty catalog with nothing in it, then you combine allyour other catalogs into this one new catalog. Whether you create a new catalog from scratch, orpick your favorite existing catalog to combine the rest into, the process is the same from here.STEP ONE: Go under the File menu, andchoose Import from Another Catalog, asshown here. This brings up a window whereyou can navigate to one of your existing catalogs. Choose it, hit Import, and it brings thatcatalog with your Collections and folders, andall your metadata and tagging and all thatstuff all intact and ready to rock. You’ll haveto repeat this process for as many catalogs asyou have, but the process is actually prettyquick so don’t let the fact that you have 15 or 20 different catalogs dissuade you — you’ll done in30 minutes (or so). ;-)IMPORTING:Importing FROM your camera’s memory cardIf you’re fairly new to Lightroom, I have a method that can help you sidestep the #1 thing that getspeople confused when they’re in Lightroom, and that is they are not sure exactly where their photos are. They know they’re “in Lightroom,” but where? So, if you’re new, here’s what I recommend:STEP ONE: You did a landscape shoot outat the Canyon Slots in Page, Arizona. Plug inyour memory card from that shoot and dragthe images straight from that memory cardright into their proper place on your externalhard drive. So, for these landscape images,you would go to your external drive, go insideyour Lightroom Photos folder, then insideyour Travel (or Landscape) folder, where you’dmake a new folder named “Canyon Slots”(simple descriptive name), and you’d drag those images from the memory card straight into thatfolder. Now there is zero confusion or concern about where those photos are—you know rightwhere they are; you put them there; on your external drive, in your Lightroom Photos folder,inside Travel. You could tell somebody else over the phone where they are without ever launchingLightroom and they’d find them no sweat. Okay, that’s step one.7

Simplified Lightroom Image Management (The SLIM System)notesSTEP TWO: Take that folder thatyou created on your external driveand drag it to the Lightroom iconin your Dock (or on your desktop). This will launch Lightroom’sImport window and all you haveto do now is click the Import button and it adds those images toLightroom. NOTE: It doesn’t copythem, it doesn’t move them, itdoesn’t really do anything physically to them—you’re now justmanaging those images on your external hard drive with Lightroom. Now, when you see theseimages in Lightroom, where exactly are the originals? They are right where you dragged themfrom your memory card—they’re on your external hard drive, in your Lightroom Photos folder,inside your Travel folder, in a folder named “Rome.” But now you’re managing (sort, editing, etc.)those images using Lightroom .WHAT IF YOUR IMAGES ARE ALREADY ON YOUR COMPUTER?No sweat. First, get them off your computer and copy them on to your external hard drive (thendelete the ones on your computer, or it’ll mess you up later—all your photos should be on anexternal hard drive, and, again, you need at least one backup of those photos on a separate drive,and, if it were me, I’d have a cloud backup, too). Then you’d import them just like I mentioned inStep Two above. Now you know exactly where they are!MISSING PHOTOS: Lightroom is very dependent on the locationof your photos, and by that I mean, as long as things stay where theyare, in the same order they currently are on your external hard drive,everything will be lovely. However, if you decide to go to your external drive and drag a folder to a new location, Lightroom won’t knowthat you did that. Although you’ll still see the thumbnail previewsfor the images in that folder, Lightroom has lost track of the originals (after all, you moved them, right?). When you try to edit any ofthose photos in the Develop module, you’ll get a warning that says,“The file could not be found.” So, you’ll need to simply tell Lightroomwhere you moved them. It’s as easy as that. Click the little exclamation point warning icon in the topright corner of a thumbnail, and a dialog will appear where you can choose the folder’s new location.Once you’ve done that, Lightroom now knows where they are, and you’re back in business.8

library to a cloud service (I like’s 5 a month for unlimited storage—they’ll back up your external drive and do it automatically). Depending on how often you shoot, you might need even more storage space (like a Drobo or a Synology — something