Today’s Question: Do you do more of your work from the Folder component rather than the Collection component [in Lightroom Classic]?
Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes, I consider folders to be my primary organizational tool within Lightroom Classic. I reserve the use of collections for special projects, and in fact often use special keywords to effectively take the place of collections.
More Detail: There is no question that collections in Lightroom can be very helpful for organizing photos for a wide variety of ways that go beyond the utility of folders. For example, at a very basic level, a given photo is only stored in a single folder on your hard drive, but can be referenced in any number of collections based on various projects or other organizational needs.
However, it is also important to keep in mind that collections in Lightroom are only managed within your Lightroom catalog, and are not saved to the metadata for your photos. That means that if your Lightroom catalog were to become corrupted or otherwise lost, the collections you are using to manage your photos would also be lost.
Obviously this is a reason to maintain a good workflow for backing up your catalog. But I also prefer to take an approach that helps reduce my dependence upon collections.
Therefore, I tend to use collections for temporarily organizing photos for various projects. Along the way (or at least at the conclusion of the project) I will use a special keyword to identify the photos that would otherwise be included in a collection.
For example, if I created a collection to manage photos I wanted to feature in a book about the Palouse, I might add a keyword such as “BOOK-Palouse” to the photos within that collection. By using this approach, even if I lost my Lightroom catalog (and therefore the collection containing the photos for the book) I would not have actually lost anything. The keyword “BOOK-Palouse” would still be included within my photos (since I enable the option to automatically save metadata to my photos), and therefore I could easily locate and identify the photos that had previously been included in a collection.
So, I tend to use collections somewhat sparingly. And when I do use a collection to manage photos for a particular project, I use special keywords to preserve the details about which collections a given photo is intended to be included in.