Like most people of my generation, I took a lot of photographs during my teens and into adulthood. I'd process the black and white shots myself, although since colour was fiddly and tricky, I'd get the prints or slides processed commercially. And of course, I'd careful store my negatives and slides in suitable sleeves.
My problem was that since that's all I did, I wound up with boxes of preserved photographic material - and I couldn't find anything. There's not much point in storing images if you can't find them!
Enter Adobe's Lightroom. Not only is it an increasingly powerful photo editor, but it is a practical and very useful cataloguing system for your images.
Lightroom offers many, many ways to list and find images. You can list by name, date, focal length, ISO ... you name it. And if you do as I literally always do and keyword your images when you load them (which takes as long as 4 or 5 minutes for a big batch), finding that image of Aunt Maisie in Sydney's a breeze.
But sometimes, you want to look at images as a group. Shots from a big trip, or all images of tulips, or as I do prior to the monthly Southside Camera Club meeting: find my best shots from the past month, collections are the way to go.
I love collections!
A collection in Lightroom is a virtual grouping of images. They come in two flavours:
Because collections are virtual, I can add or delete images in the collections without either duplicating or deleting the actual images. I can't lose!
So how does this work? Easy. Let's begin with a straight collection. In the Library module, click on the "+" symbol next to collections. This opens a simple dialogue box like this. Give the collection a name, select where you want it to be (I've created a few sets of collections to keep things tidy: books, competitions - you get the idea) and if you plan to put images in the collection immediately, select the Set as target collection option. You can then browse your images, and by using the keyboard shortcut B (trust me, it's "B") when on a particular image, it will be added to your collection.
Or - you can drag and drop your images into a collection.
And a collection can always be made the target collection later. Just right click and tick the box.
You can add or delete images from the collection, and always find your photos of say, your trip to Fiji at literally the click of a mouse button.
Smart collections are only slightly more complicated. Use these when things are likely to change. For example, it makes more sense to let Lightroom find all your images made in the past month, or images you've rated four stars and above than doing the drag and drop.
In the case I'm showing here, I have three criteria which must be met for the image to be added to the smart collection: it must have the key word "kangaroo", I must have rated it three stars or better, and it must be colour coded green (which is my system for indicating it's one of my shots and it's been processed). If the image meets those criteria, it goes into the collection.
And because the collection is dynamic, if I make more images that meet those criteria, they will be added. Similarly, if I have one of those "what was I thinking moments" and downgrade an image to two stars, it will drop out.
And the criteria for smart collections can be changed, too. By right clicking on the smart collection, I can edit the criteria. In this case, I might raise the bar by requiring four stars. Alternately, I could add another criterion by requiring that only images made with my D800 are included.
We have many, many options!
If you're using Lightroom and not using collections of either type, you're missing out on one of the great features of LR. Give them a try. It will only take a few moments, and if they're not working for you, just delete them.