Organizing Collections into Sets


Today’s Question: Can you have subfolders in a collection in Lightroom Classic? I use collections for my history of various projects. I used to be able to have a “parent” folder, and then subfolders. But now I can’t and I don’t know why.

Tim’s Quick Answer: You can’t exactly have “subfolders” for a collection in Lightroom Classic, but you can organize collections into collection sets. In addition, you can “stack” collection sets into multiple levels, which provides a feature similar to the use of subfolders in the context of folders.

More Detail: Collection sets in Lightroom classic are somewhat similar to folders that enable you to group related collections together. What many photographers don’t realize is that you can nest collection sets within other collection sets, providing the ability to create a hierarchical organizational structure for your collections.

Let’s assume, for example, that you’re using collections to organize a variety of projects related to your photos. You might have collections for calendars you have produced, for books that have featured your photographs, and other projects.

You can create a collection set by clicking on the plus button to the right of the Collections heading on the left panel in the Library module and then choosing “Create Collection Set” from the popup menu. Enter a meaningful name for the collection set, such as “Calendars” in the example above, and click the Create button.

You can then drag collections into the collection set. In this case any collections that represented calendar projects could be dragged into the “Calendars” collection set.

You could also create a collection set to contain the collection sets from various projects. So, you could create a new collection set called “Projects” and then drag the Calendars collection set into the Projects collection set. This would create a hierarchical structure where a collection representing a specific calendar is inside the Calendars collection set, which in turn is located within the Projects collection set.

This ability to stack collection sets makes it easy to streamline the organization of collections if you tend to use a relatively large number of collections to organize your photos for various purposes.

Derivative Image Filename


Today’s Question: When you send a photo from Lightroom Classic to Photoshop, Lightroom assigns a filename to the resulting image. What if you want to give that image a different filename?

Tim’s Quick Answer: You can edit the filename for a derivative (or any other image) by updating the File Name field in the Metadata section of the right panel in the Library module. In the specific case of images sent to Photoshop (or other external editor) you can also change the filename structure in the Preferences dialog in Lightroom Classic.

More Detail: When you send a photo from Lightroom Classic to Photoshop and are finished working with that image in Photoshop, it is important to use the File > Save command rather than the “Save As” command. If you use the Save As command and put the image in a different folder or give it a different filename, the image won’t always make it back into your Lightroom Classic catalog.

If you prefer to use a different filename for that derivative image, there are two options for making this change.

First, you could simply rename the individual image. After selecting the image you want to rename, go to the right panel in the Library module and make the desired change in the File Name field in the Metadata section. That will rename the image within your Lightroom Classic catalog as well as renaming the actual file on your hard drive.

If you simply don’t like the filename structure used for these derivative images in Lightroom Classic, you can also change the renaming structure in Preferences. By default, Lightroom Classic simply adds “-Edit” to the existing filename, but you can change this to anything you’d like.

Start by going to the menu and choosing Edit > Preferences on Windows or Lightroom Classic > Preferences on Macintosh. On the External Editing tab, click the Template popup at the bottom of the dialog. If there’s a file renaming template that suits your needs on that popup, you can select it (or select one as a starting point). You can then click the popup again and choose Edit from the popup to make changes.

In the Filename Template Editor, you can change the template based on your preference. For example, you could simply replace the word “Edit” with “Derivative” if that was your preference. You could also use a completely new filename structure if you prefer, though I do recommend including the original filename as part of that structure so it will be easy to find the source image from which the derivative was created if needed.

After defining your file renaming structure, if you want to save the new structure as a preset click the Preset button at the top of the dialog and choose “Save Current Settings as New Preset” from that popup, enter a meaningful name for the preset, and click create. Then click the Done button to apply the change, and photos sent to Photoshop (or another external editor) from that point forward will reflect the changes you made to the filename structure.

Keyword Synonyms


Today’s Question: How are keyword synonyms used? What are uses?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Keyword synonyms in software such as Lightroom Classic provide a way to search for images based on those synonyms, and also optionally have synonyms included along with the “real” keywords when exporting photos.

More Detail: Adding keywords to a photo is rather straightforward, in terms of enabling you to locate photos based on the subject matter represented by the keywords, as well as to remind yourself of the content of an image by reviewing the keywords when you locate a photo.

In addition, with software such as Lightroom Classic, you can define synonyms for a keyword when you create or edit the keyword. In Lightroom Classic if you use the plus button to the Keyword List heading on the right panel in the Library module. You can enter the actual keyword in the Keyword Name field, and then add one or more synonyms (separated by commas) in the Synonyms field. You can also edit a keyword to add synonyms by right-clicking on the keyword in the Keyword List and choosing “Edit Keyword Tag” from the popup menu.

For example, if you had a photo of an orca (the species of whale) you might naturally add “orca” as a keyword to the image. But when you’re looking for an image featuring an orca, you might reasonably search for “killer whale”, which is a name commonly used for this species. You might also search for “Orcinus orca”, the binomial nomenclature representing the genus and species of the orca.

In this case, rather than adding “orca”, “killer whale”, and “Orcinus orca” as individual keywords, you could simply create (or edit) a keyword for “orca” and add “killer whale” and “Orcinus orca” as synonyms for the keyword.

In Lightroom Classic when you search based on keywords, synonyms of those keywords are included in the search. In the above example, if you entered “killer whale” as the search term on the Library Filter bar, images that include “orca” but not “killer whale” as a keyword would still appear in the search result, because “killer whale” is a synonym for the “orca” keyword.

In addition, you have the option to include synonyms in the Keywords field in metadata when you export a photo from Lightroom Classic. When creating or editing a keyword, just be sure that the “Export Synonyms” checkbox is turned on. Also be sure that keywords are included in the option you select for metadata to be included within the Export dialog upon export.

Virtual Copy to Photoshop


Today’s Question: Can you edit a virtual copy in Photoshop that was created in Lightroom Classic?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes, you can send a virtual copy to Photoshop from Lightroom Classic, which will create a derivative image based on the original capture, with the adjustments based on the virtual copy applied.

More Detail: A virtual copy in Lightroom Classic is simply an additional reference to the same source image. So, for example, you might have a color original, then create a virtual copy and create a black and white interpretation for that virtual copy. You could then create an additional virtual copy and take that further with a sepia tone interpretation, for example.

The virtual copy behaves just like an original capture, just with different settings for that original capture. If you send a virtual copy to Photoshop from Lightroom Classic, the settings from the virtual copy are applied to the source image, which in turn results in a derivative image. That would be a TIFF or PSD file, depending on the settings established in Preferences.

So, if the virtual copy was a black and white interpretation of the original capture, the derivative created by sending the virtual copy to Photoshop would be a black and white image.

Bridge versus Lightroom Classic


Today’s Question: What is the difference between Adobe Bridge and Lightroom Classic for organizing photos?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The key difference between Adobe Bridge and Adobe Lightroom Classic is that Bridge is a browser that does not employ a central catalog while Lightroom Classic does use a catalog. That catalog serves as a database that tracks the information about your photos.

More Detail: There are, of course, a variety of differences in terms of features in Bridge versus Lightroom Classic. But the core difference relates to the catalog.

The benefit of a catalog, and thus of Lightroom Classic, is that you’re able to manage your photos across the entire catalog, in many respects even if the source photos aren’t currently available (such as when an external hard drive is disconnected). With Lightroom Classic you can browse your photos, update metadata, search across your entire catalog based on a variety of metadata values, all without the source photos currently available.

In Bridge you need to have your photos available in order to be able to manage them. And while it is possible to search for photos based on various criteria across an entire hard drive, for example, that process is considerably slower because of the lack of a central catalog.

So, there are clearly some significant advantages to the catalog with Lightroom Classic. There are, of course, some disadvantages. As many photographers have realized, if you perform work with your images outside of Lightroom Classic, the catalog will not match your photo storage, and folders and photos can go missing. So, you do need to be a little more careful in the context of a catalog, but there are benefits to be gained if you use a proper workflow with that catalog.

Renaming a Virtual Copy


Today’s Question: Can you rename a virtual copy in Lightroom Classic without renaming the original image the virtual copy was based on?

Tim’s Quick Answer: If you rename a virtual copy, you are actually renaming the source image as well. If you want a unique reference name for a virtual copy, you should use the “Copy Name” field instead.

More Detail: A virtual copy in Lightroom Classic is simply a reference to the original image, providing a way to have more than one interpretation of the same source image. As such, if you rename a virtual copy, you are actually renaming the source image, along with all virtual copies, since the virtual copies are simply a reference to the original.

If you want to have a unique reference name for a virtual copy, I recommend using the “Copy Name” field in metadata. By default, the first virtual copy you create from a source image will have the name “Copy 1” put in the Copy Name field, with the second having “Copy 2” for Copy Name, and so on.

The Copy Name field is editable, however, so you can enter any text you’d like in that field, such as descriptive text about the virtual copy. For example, if you created a black and white interpretation as a virtual copy based on a color original, you could enter “Black and White” in the Copy Name field.

Note that the Copy Name is shown to the right of the filename for the selected image in the info display above the thumbnail filmstrip toward the top-left of the bottom panel. That Copy Name field can also be displayed as part of the filename in the information shown for each photo in the grid view display. In other words, while you can’t change the filename for a virtual copy without renaming the original, the Copy Name field serves the same basic purpose quite well.

Keyword Conundrum


Today’s Question: Every keyword I create in Lightroom Classic goes into a hierarchical structure with an existing keyword, even though I have not chosen the option to put the new keyword into a hierarchy. Do you know how I can get keywords to be added normally again?

Tim’s Quick Answer: This unwanted hierarchy for keywords would be caused by the “Put New Keywords Inside this Keyword” option being turned on for an existing keyword on the Keyword List. Turning that option off for the keyword will restore normal behavior for new keywords.

More Detail: Lightroom Classic enables you to create hierarchies of keywords, so that for example you could have a hierarchy along the lines of United States > California > San Francisco. To create a hierarchy when creating a new keyword you can use the option to put the new keyword inside an existing keyword, such as by right-clicking on the existing keyword and choosing “Create Keyword Tag inside ‘[existing keyword name]'” from the popup menu.

It is also possible to essentially “lock” a keyword as being the destination for a hierarchical relationship for new keywords. This can be convenient for adding multiple keywords into a single hierarchy. For example, if you wanted to create keywords for all fifty states in a hierarchy under “United States”, you could designate “United States” as the destination for the hierarchy and then simply add new keywords for each of the fifty states. All keywords for the fifty states would then be under “United States” in the hierarchy.

Of course, if this feature is enabled without you realizing it, each time you add a new keyword it can be a frustrating experience.

When a keyword is set as the destination for a hierarchy with new keywords, that keyword will have a small dot icon to the right of the keyword name on the Keyword List on the right panel in the Library module. Once you locate the keyword that has this status, you can right-click on that keyword and choose “Put New Keywords Inside this Keyword” from the popup menu to turn that feature off.

This setting on the popup menu is a toggle, so you can choose the same option if you want to turn on this feature for the convenience of data entry for multiple keywords in a hierarchy. And, of course, you can turn this feature off when it is no longer needed.

Limits of Non-Destructive Workflow


Today’s Question: Can you inadvertently destroy your raw image file in Lightroom Classic or Bridge? I heard you can never destroy your original.

Tim’s Quick Answer: While both Lightroom Classic and Adobe Bridge have an overall non-destructive workflow, it is still possible to destroy the original raw capture, such as if the file gets corrupted or if you delete the original image.

More Detail: Lightroom Classic is relatively well known as having a non-destructive workflow, and Adobe Bridge and Photoshop can also be generally regarded as non-destructive in the context of a raw capture (though Photoshop can absolutely be “destructive” with other image file types).

Non-destructive in this context simply means that the source file is not altered in any way by the software. When you apply adjustments to a raw capture the source file is not updated. That file is simply used as the basis for generating pixels, such as when you open the image in Photoshop or export the image from Lightroom Classic.

However, there are ways that a raw capture can be damaged or lost. File corruption can occur in a variety of ways, generally caused by hardware or software errors when the raw capture is written. It is possible for raw captures to be corrupted at the time of capture when written to the media card, when copied from that media card to your hard drive, or when moved from one location to another.

In addition, there are certain cases where a raw capture file might actually be damaged even with software that is generally “non-destructive”. For example, in Lightroom Classic it is possible to enable the option to write capture time changes back to the original raw capture, as opposed to only having that update reflected in the Lightroom Classic catalog or to an XMP “sidecar” file.

In addition, with both Adobe Bridge and Lightroom Classic (among other software tools or even with your operating system) it is possible to delete a raw capture, which of course represents the ultimate destruction of a raw capture. While it isn’t likely that a file would be deleted accidentally, it is certainly possible, which helps underscore the importance of a consistent and effective backup workflow.

Reasons for XMP


Today’s Question: I’m still not understanding why XMP files are needed or how they are used [with Lightroom Classic]. Are sidecar XMP files only really important if you lose your catalog?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Saving metadata to XMP sidecar files from Lightroom Classic provides a backup for key metadata in case your catalog is ever lost, and also enables other software (such as Adobe Bridge) to see the updated metadata for those photos.

More Detail: In Lightroom Classic the information about your photos is stored in the catalog, and any updates you apply to your photos (such as updating metadata or applying adjustments) are by default only saved in the catalog and do not get reflected in the image files on your hard drive.

You can manually save metadata to selected images by choosing Metadata > Save Metadata to Files from the menu. You can also enable automatic saving of metadata to the source files by turning on the “Automatically write changes into XMP” checkbox on the Metadata tab of the Catalog Settings dialog. Just keep in mind that both of these options only cause standard metadata (such as star ratings, keywords, and more) to be saved to your source image files. Lightroom-specific features such as collections, virtual copies, pick/reject flags, and more are not included.

For raw captures the metadata is saved to an XMP “sidecar” file, while the metadata is saved directly into the source image file for other supported image formats.

The value of this metadata being saved to the source image files is twofold. First, it provides a backup of key metadata, which would be especially helpful if you lost your Lightroom Classic catalog and didn’t have a backup you could restore from.

Second, saving metadata to the source images enables the standard metadata updates you apply in Lightroom Classic to be visible in other software applications, such as Adobe Bridge. You need to be very careful not to actually update the metadata in those other applications, as that would create a metadata mismatch. However, it can be helpful to be able to at least browse some of your metadata updates outside of Lightroom Classic.

Understanding Smart Collections


Today’s Question: What is a smart collection [in Lightroom Classic]?

Tim’s Quick Answer: A smart collection in Lightroom Classic is a collection that populates with photos automatically based on criteria you define. In effect, a smart collection serves as a saved search result for photos.

More Detail: In Lightroom Classic there are two types of collection: “normal” collections and smart collections.

With a normal collection you choose which photos you want to add to the collection. For example, if you’re working on putting together a slideshow featuring favorite photos, you might create a collection for that purpose and then drag-and-drop photos to the collection if you’d like to include them in the project. One of the nice advantages of a collection is that you are able to include photos from a wide variety of different folders.

When you create a normal collection you only really have to provide a name for the collection. With a smart collection, you also need to specify the criteria that define which images you want to include in the smart collection.

For example, let’s assume you would like to be able to quickly review your favorite photos that were captured relatively recently. You could create a smart collection and add criteria based on star ratings (to identify favorites) and the capture date (such as photos captured in the last five years).

Once you’ve created a smart collection, it will automatically include all photos that meet the criteria you defined. So, in this case the smart collection would include all photos captured in the last five years with a star rating above whatever level you defined for the smart collection criteria.

As you capture new photos and assign star ratings to the favorites, those photos would be added to the smart collection automatically. If you remove a star rating from a photo that had been in the smart collection, that photo would be removed automatically from the smart collection. And over time as photos age to the point of being more than five years old in this example, they would also be automatically removed from the smart collection.

So, again, a smart collection behaves like a saved search result, which gets updated automatically based on which photos currently match the criteria you defined for the smart collection.

Keep in mind, by the way, that all collections represent what are simply references to the source photos. Whenever an image is included in either a normal or smart collection, the photo in the collection is not a copy of the original image, but simply a reference to that image for the convenience of organizing your photos in a variety of ways.