Today’s Question: I have been using Lightroom Classic for a number of years and have created new collections with some regularity. However, it seems I almost never return to the collections unless I am creating one. How and when should I be using collections?
Tim’s Quick Answer: To me collections in Lightroom Classic are first and foremost a method of organizing photos beyond the folder structure on your hard drive. In general, I recommend using collections for specific projects, or for synchronizing photos to other devices for sharing. I think it is also important that just because collections are available in Lightroom Classic doesn’t mean you necessarily need to create collections all that often.
More Detail: Collections in Lightroom Classic can most certainly be a helpful feature. However, I think it is worth keeping in mind that just because a feature exists in a software application doesn’t mean you should necessarily make use of that feature. If collections are helpful, by all means put them to use. If you don’t find a need for them, that’s perfectly fine too.
Most photographers develop a folder structure to help them keep their photos organized. The folder structure you establish on your hard drive is reflected within Lightroom Classic, and of course when you make changes to your folder structure within Lightroom Classic those changes are reflected on your hard drive.
Sometimes, however, you may find that you want to organize photos beyond the folder structure. Perhaps you want to put together a slideshow of photos from a single trip. Those photos are likely all in the same folder, so a collection wouldn’t necessarily provide a significant advantage. However, if you want to create a calendar featuring photos from a wide variety of folders, a collection could be very helpful.
In addition, in Lightroom Classic you synchronize selected photos to the Creative Cloud (and thus to other devices such as a smartphone) through the use of collections. If you add photos to a collection for which synchronization has been enabled, those photos can be viewed and shared using the mobile version of Lightroom on a smartphone or tablet, or from virtually any computer using Lightroom through a web browser.
So, collections can be useful for various projects, or just for organizing your photos beyond the folder structure. But creating a large number of collections without necessarily having a need for those collections will increase the amount of clutter and confusion in your workflow.