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.