Lightroom – Collections or Folders?

Adobe Lightroom Classic

It’s a personal preference whether you use folders, collections or a combination of both to organize your workflow. Most of the photographers that I talk to have some type of folder structure to help them organize their images. Some common example are naming folders by date, client names, location or events – with all related files stored in that folder.

Then, to combine images into groups (without moving the originals from their folders), they create collections. For example, they might have a collection of their best of the portraits for 2011 for your marketing pieces, or a collection of the best bird photographs from across North America – these images are still in the original folders, but can now also appear in a collection(s).

Adobe Lightroom Classic

Posted on 03-01-2012


  • By Marti de Alva - 12:16 PM on June 6, 2012  

    I’ve just installed LR4, and opened it. I recall there was a question asked about whether I wanted to update my previous LR catalogue to LR4. Not knowing any reason why not – I checked ‘yes’. Now I see no recognizable folder structure, and don’t know how to find what I want. I just imported two photos, and I can’t open them in the ‘Develop’ module because it says that I have not ‘selected an image’. When I try to see the imported photos in the film strip, they aren’t there. Looking at the image metadata, it lists the folder, which I see on the left, but still – the filmstrip is empty, so I don’t know how to view it in the develop module. I would greatly appreciate any light you can shed!. Thanks!

  • By Ervin Silic - 3:41 AM on July 7, 2012  

    I have the same workflow as you have described Julieanne, but very ofter I would like to name photos by the name of collection on the export. I could not find that option. It seem that is not possible to add collection name as the file name at the export. Is this possible or is it is planed to be in some next version?

  • By James Little - 3:57 PM on August 28, 2012  

    Marti… It sounds like your catalog got slightly corrupted. I would try synchronizing the folders, which will make Lightroom look at the catalog and the folders and try to resolve any discrepancies it sees. Search for ‘Synchronize’ in Lightroom Help.

  • By Karen - 7:52 PM on September 1, 2012  

    Hi Julieanne,
    I was wondering if there is a way to move a Collection to the folders, because I want to redo/delete my collections. Also, when doing so, can the flags or other filters stay attached?
    Thanks! I love your tutorials!

  • By Romain - 7:34 AM on May 22, 2013  

    I think it is a shame that we cannot use a unified folder+collection structure. Aperture as managed to do this : their is one structure, each image belong to a unique “project” (think as disk folder), but you can put multiple instance of it everywhere (albums/collections).
    In LR, I have to use folders because:
    – I have to manage the storage
    – I you have images in “Project folder 1” and “Sub Project 1.1” inside, you can click on “Project folder 1” and see all the images if you are using folders. With collections, it is not possible. (Useful for project / sub project or date organisation)
    But I like collections too, because you can use multiple instances of a single image + smart collections.
    So I am stuck with 2 structures to manage instead of a single smart one like in Aperture.

    • By Pete Green - 4:14 PM on May 22, 2013  

      Feel free to post a feature request over on our feedback site where others can vote on the feature/idea: