What Are Collections?
Collections are a great feature found in Lightroom that allows photographers to organise their images within the software without actually affecting the original image files found on their hard drives.
Collections are a method used to group images together and no matter how many times you add an image to different collections or indeed remove them, it won't duplicate / delete your original image file.
The easiest way to think of Collections is by seeing them as virtual storage compartments which can be named and include as many image files as you wish. There's no limit on the amount of collections you can have and you can use them however you like. You could group images by type, where they were taken, if they are favourites, work in progress, competition entries etc.
Where Are They Managed?
You'll find Collections in the left Panel and they can be accessed from any of the Lightroom modules.
There are three main types of Collections: Collection Sets, Smart Collections and Collections.
To add one of the above, click on the + symbol next to where it says Collections to bring a menu up that houses the various Collection options. I'm going to begin with Collection Sets because if you imagine Collections as filing cabinets, folders and paper work, Collection Sets are the filing cabinet while Collections can be the folders that sit inside the draws of the filing cabinet, housing the paper work which in our case are image files. You don't have to create sets and can just work with Collections, however Collection sets do add another level of organisation to your workflow and they can make it easier to find particular images.
Once you click on 'Collection Set' a window will open where you can name the set and choose where it will go. I already have some Collection Sets that are organised by locations but this time I'm going to create a Set for all my edited shots. So, in the Create Collection Set window I've typed in 'Edited Images' as the name of my Set and I've selected Top Level as I want the Set to appear in the menu not inside an already existing collection.
Click 'Create' and the new Set will be added to the Collections panel.
As you can see from the screengrab there are currently no photos in the Collection Set but we will rectify this once we have created some basic Collections to sit in this Set.
These are basic, manually created collections where you have to add images you want to be included in them. As mentioned above, a list of basic collections can just be created and you don't have to organise them into Collection Sets but I, personally, find images easier to manage this way.
If you are creating a Collection that's not going to sit in a Set click on the 'Create Collection' option, rename it and make sure 'Top Level' is ticked. This will add the collection to the list rather than inside a Set. However, as I have made various edits to images taken in different locations, I want to create a series of Collections inside my Edited Images Set that will allow me to organise my files by locations. For example, I'm going to name this Collection 'Black Country Living Museum' so I can place all the shots I've edited that were taken at this location in this Collection. Then, to add it to my Edited Images set, I need to make sure the 'Inside a Collection Set' is selected and pick 'Edited Images' from the dropdown menu. There's also the option to include selected photos and to make new virtual copies but I don't need to do tick these options currently.
When I click 'Create' the Collection is added to the 'Edited Images' set. I can then continue to add Collections to this set so various locations are listed. If you can't see what Collections are inside a particular set, click the arrow next to the Set's name so the list of Collections appear.
Images can now be dragged and dropped from other locations (Folders, Sets, Collections) into this Collection. Images can also be added via the Target Collections (something we'll cover further into the tutorial).
If you want to remove an image from one Collection as you want to place it in another. You first have to move the image to the new Collection then delete it from the one it was previously in.
Smart Collections are rather clever and very useful as they automatically add images to specific Collections via criteria you've set previously. With this method, you don't have to manually drag and drop images into Collections as the software does it for you. The software will even remove / add images to different Smart Collections as image settings are changed.
When you open the 'Create Smart Collection' window there's options, as previously, to add a name and choose the placement of the collection. Towards the bottom of the window are several new options which we use to apply the settings that are applicable for that particular Smart Collection.
The criteria options available for Smart Collections is extensive but for this example I'm going to use Rating.
I want to group all my top-rated images (5 stars) together in one Smart Collection so I've selected 'Rating' then in the next menu along I have chosen 'is' as I only want images that have the 5 star attribute to be included. Finally I need to select all five stars. Once I click Create, all the images which have been rated with 5 stars will be automatically pulled into this Smart Collection and any images I add to Lightroom at a later date and award 5 stars will also be added automatically. Smart Collections have cog icons next to them so they are easily identified.
Multiple criteria can be applied if you so wish and this is done by hitting the + button found to the right of the Create Smart Collection window.
If you add multiple options do pay attention to 'all', 'any' and 'none' options.
If 'all' is selected then all the criteria must be met for the image to be included while 'any' means the image could have a 5 star rating or be taken in the United Kingdom and still be included in the Smart Collection.
A collection option that can't be found in the same menu as the other collection options is Quick Collection and this is found under Catalog.
It's best to view it as a none-permanent collection, a place to hold images while you're organising or even editing. For example, you may be compiling a selection of images you want to include in a book or slideshow you want to create. Images can be added to the Quick Selection by dragging or dropping or if it's set as the Target Collection there are some shortcuts that can be used which are explained under the next heading.
You can set any Collection (not set or smart) as the Target Collection and if you've never set one then Quick Collection will be selected as default. To change the Target Collection right-click on your chosen Collection and select Set as Target Collection from the menu. The Targeted Collection is highlighted by a + symbol and images can be added to it by selecting them and pressing the B key or by clicking the circle that now appears on images so it turns grey. To remove an image from the Quick Selection press B again or de-select the circle.