Lightroom 2 Collections and Collection Sets

If you’re anything like me, on an average weekend you’ll shoot somewhere around 300 – 400 images at several different locations. When you return home, you load these into Adobe’s Lightroom 2 and begin the long and difficult task of sorting through this mountain of images, deciding which to throw out, which to keep (just in case) and which to further process for display on a website or for printing. I approach this critically important task with a wide range of emotions, from pure joy at finding a few well composed, tack sharp images to downright embarrassment at finding dozens of out-of-focus and poorly exposed images.

This whole process really bogged me down until I watched a few videos by Matt Kloskowski at Kelby Training. Matt talked about his workflow and organization in Lightroom’s “Library” module and how he sorts the wheat from the chaff in his image collections and collection sets. I’m not going to give away all of Matt’s secrets since I highly recommend buying an annual subscription at Kelby Training. There are quite literaly hundreds of training videos to view from some of the top photographers and instructors in the world like Joe McNally, Moose Peterson, Matt Kloskowski, Laurie Excell and Scott himself.

Back on topic, the one “key” to organizing and culling through all these images in Lightroom 2 is the use of Collection Sets and the Collections they hold. Take a look at the image above and you can see what I mean. For each place that I shoot I create a new Collection Set from the name of the location. Under each Collection Set I create two Collections, “Keepers” and “Select”. The “Keepers” are just that, images that I plan to keep and perhaps display on my blog or print later. The “Select” images are the best of the best in the “Keepers” collection. These are the images that will definitely be processed in the “Develop” module and exported for display on my website or blog or for printing.

Just how do I sort through 300 – 400 images to find the 10% “Keepers” and 2% “Select” images? Well, everyone has there own method but my workflow is fairly simple but sometimes painful. I use a three-pass system which generally takes under one hour to complete.

  1. Objective Pass – Find all the poor exposures and out-of-focus images and flag them as “Rejected”. Purge all these rejected images from Lightroom and from the primary drive where they are stored by selecting “Delete Rejected Photos” under the “Photo” menu.
  2. Subjective Pass – Find those images that are in focus, well composed and visually striking. These are my “Keepers” and my selections here are purely subjective.
  3. Professional Pass – Go through the “Keepers” to find the few images that I think are outstanding (or could be made to look outstanding with further processing). Not merely “in focus” but “tack sharp”. Not just visually striking but emotionally compelling. My criteria for this pass is simple and brutally honest. Would I want Joe McNally, Moose Peterson or William Neill to look at these images?

I’ve found that following this type of selection logic and workflow really lets me save time, disk space and heartache by culling each shoot’s images once and only once. By concentrating my “development” time on the few “Select” images, I find the results to be much more concise, professional and personally meaningful. And isn’t that we’re all looking for in our photographs anyway?

7 thoughts on “Lightroom 2 Collections and Collection Sets

  1. I’d add just one thing I do.

    Sometime there’s a number of photos that I can’t decide which one I like and where exactly they stand amongst one another. For example, it could be a few images of the same kind, but I simply couldn’t decide which one is better; or it could be a number of images that my heart just couldn’t let go.

    Here’s what I do. I no longer waste time trying to decide which one to keep and which one not to. I label them all blue and put to rest. I come back to them in a couple of days (they’re now really easy to find, because they’re all blue), and sort it all out.

    I find time and time again that after a few days have passed, it takes me a mere 5 seconds look at each image to figure out which one of these 4 snaps looks best.

    • Nikita,

      Thanks for reading. I agree with you completely. I always gain a better perspective on my own work after a few days. It takes all the anticipation out of the selection process.


  2. Hey Matt!

    All I did was pour over your videos with Lightroom (and Aperture to be honest) open and try things out. I’ve been using Aperture/Photoshop for my RAW workflow for about a year and really wanted ONE place to do everything. Lightroom 2 comes closer than anything else and I’ve decided to bite the bullet and export all my RAW files from Aperture and import into Lightroom as DNG. Thousands of images with little organization. I had to find a better way and your training gave me the 3-step idea.


  3. I think your workflow sounds awesome Jeff 🙂
    Hey, very nice site. Thanks for mentioning my and the Kelby Training site and I’m glad the videos have helped a little.

    Gary, I’ll offer this advice. Using the keyword stamper tool is definitely good but take a look under the Photo menu at “Set Flag”. In there you’ll see rejected and flagged as two of the options. In the end, it’ll accomplish the same thing but I think it’s a faster way of doing what you’re doing. Plus, with flags, you have a built in search/filter mechanism, whereby keywords you’d actually have to type them in. My two cents anyway.

    Thanks! Take care.

    Matt Kloskowski

  4. Gary,

    Thanks for reading and for the comment. Your workflow sounds like a good way to do this also. I haven’t looked at the keyword stamp tool yet but I’ll give it a try.


  5. Jeff:
    I’m fairly new to LR, as we all are. I know there are as many ways
    to culling photos, as there are photographers, I use the keyword stamp tool, set the keyword to reject, go through all the photos from the shoot, stamp the rejected ones. At the end of the process, click on “reject”, hit the delete key and poof they are gone. Then again, cycle through, set the keyword to keepers, and do the same process. I find this also is fast and consistent and works for me.

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