Today’s Question: I have imported a number of older folders from a hard drive into the new catalog as collections. I would like to convert these collections back into folders in my catalog. Is there a way to do this without having to remove the collections from Lightroom and re-import them as folders?
Tim’s Quick Answer: Actually, even though you added photos to collections at import, they are still reflected in your catalog with folders based on the folder structure on your hard drive. You can use the collections as needed to determine which folder the photos are actually in.
More Detail: When you import photos into a Lightroom Classic catalog the images are always included within the Folders section on the left panel in the Library module based on the hard drive and folder location of the source images. The Folders section in Lightroom Classic is a direct reflection of the storage structure of your photos.
Collections can be thought of as being like a “virtual folder”. A given photo that has been imported into your Lightroom Classic catalog will always be listed in the Folders section of the left panel in the Library module. A photo can also be included in the Collections section, but only if you have actually added the photo to a collection.
I think of collections as something of a saved search result, or as an album that groups together related photos. Adding a photo to a collection does not move the photo out of a folder. The source photo is still in the folder, and a reference to the source photo is added to the collection.
If you’re not sure which folder the photos in a given collection are stored in, you can right-click on a photo within a collection and choose “Go to Folder in Library” from the popup menu that appears. This will take you automatically to the source photo in the applicable folder in the Folders section.
If all of the photos in a given collection are stored in a single folder, then of course you only need to use the “Go to Folder in Library” command for a single reference photo. But if the photos had been taken from a variety of different folders, you can use this command on various photos to determine where they are located in your folder structure.