#CreativeFriday – Organising/Filtering and selecting your photos/videos in Lightroom

Filtering your photos in Lightroom

Lightroom was initially designed for professional photographers with input from professional photographers, and this ethos is still the way Lightroom is developed today. The original idea of Lightroom was to help and assist the photographers workflow in this digital world and to smooth out what can be a complex digital world. As we know and have probably experienced, when we are shooting digitally we tend to be collecting a lot more images than we ever did with film, we are also creating artwork and video which is additional to the images that we are storing. Once element of the workflow within Lightroom is focused on managing this problem and providing a way for photographers to find their images extremely quickly. Lightroom includes the Library module to enable achieve this, as well as some other tools to allow you to organise and find your pictures quickly. However,  there is some manual effort required to allow the organisation to be even better!

The core data that Lightroom holds and gives the photographer access to, is the data which is brought in from your camera. When you import assets into Lightroom, Lightroom automatically extracts this data(metadata) and adds it to the internal indexing system (a database). This core metadata then allows images to be found based on items like the Camera body, Lens, F-stop, Flash fired?, GPS coordinates etc, which are all important to photographers. But also, when you are importing the images you  have an additional option to apply keyword(s) in bulk to these assets and can important additional contextual information about the image, i.e. Keywords that describe where a photo was taken, who is in it, what’s going on in the scene etc. This extra information is really valuable for helping the images to be found at a later time.

Working example.

I was on a Photography trip recently covering the Holi colour festival. Before the trip I had started to think about what the images would be used for and and ideas for a story, this type of planning helps ams think about how will organise my images in Lightroom later . During then trip and when I am importing these images back home, I tend to think about how I might want to find them in the future, along with how I can remember the pictures.

Depending how regular you shoot and what you are shooting, can result in collections of thousands of images, and some of them can get lost. Over a good few years of continuous shooting, it’s not uncommon to have have 10’s of thousands, or even 100’s of thousands of images, then finding images can become a real issue, taking huge amounts of time to find the ones that you need. For example, I was asked recently to be part of an exhibition with my Chernobyl work on Behance , Wow I thought, what an amazing opportunity. These pictures were only taken 18 months ago, but I have still taken over 20,000 images since then, and I already had 110,000 in my Lightroom catalog before the Chernobyl shoot. Also, the chap that asked me for the images needed them within 24hours, and I still have a day job to do!

When I imported the images initially I had created them with the some keywords (Chernobyl, Abandoned City, Pripyat, Ukraine). Most of these make some kind of logical link to the images, the only keyword that may not make a logical choice was the “Abandoned City”. Using this type of world allows me to group other places that are Abandoned (i.e. if I ever get to Fukushima, Abandoned villages or other places), already gives me a good start to start and logically group images based on a theme. Ultimately, over many years i’ll have a collection, that may allow me to make a book on Chernobyl, or on Ukraine or on Abandoned places. So using this type of word keywords gives different ways to select for a future use. Also, I used to use Colour ratings for where an images ends up (i.e. Flickr, Blurb Books, 500PX, Behance etc), but I found that I kept getting lost with which colour meant what, especially when you move between different computers and catalogs. So, now I tend to use keywords to store the end location, i.e. 500PX, Behance and other locations are added to the keywords.

This approach to key wording isn’t a time consuming or onerous and doesn’t need to be done all at once, just as and when the images become relevant. Now If I or you get asked to show work, the images can be found quickly using different combinations of keywords and meta data, and it doesn’t get in the way of the image making process.

To enable this, you will need to start to implement adding Keywords into your workflow.

There are effectively two ways to find the data using metadata and keywords in Lightroom. These are using Keyword selections directly or by using the Filter system in Lightroom.


There are two areas that will be focused on in this blog. The Library Filter (Marked Red) and the Keyword selector (Marked in Yellow).  The Keyword selector is great for a quick selection of images that contain a certain keyword, and the Library Filter is great for more complex and combinations of selections.

Keyword Selector

The keyword selector (marked Yellow), has a search area at the top of the panel, which is used to narrow the number of keywords that are shown in  the list. The list of keywords has multiple areas of interactivity, one is the arrow on the left of the keyword, which can be opened to show hierarchy , i.e. if you wanted to categorise all of the Indian towns and cities that you have visited, you can make a keyword called India, then under this define Varanasi, Delhi, Agra etc. The number on the right hand side of the keyword is the number of items in the library that contain that keyword.

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Once you start to type into the keyword search the list will start to reduce. In the example below, the words “Kol” have been entered and it finds words starting with the same characters, however, typing “kata” would also find the same word. The search is applying a contains filter to the list. As you can see, there are only 6 images shown in the grid, that’s because there are only 6 images that have the word Kolkata in the list, clicking on the small arrow (marked blue), will show these six images.


Next to the search icon there is a small drop down arrow, this will show any sub folders that exist under the folders that are selected as part of the search. In the following example, India has been placed in the search bar and you can see that the “Blurb India Book” and “India” (under the Places folder) have been selected, but in this view,what’s under the India folder is not shown.

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If the fly out menu is opened (marked in red), there is an option to select “Show all Keywords inside Matches”. This option will show the folders under India as shown below. There are 39 images under Varanasi and the rest are under the India folder (i’ve not yet finished moving things into the correct places).  You may also notice the small tick box next to each keyword, clicking this check box will allow you to add the keyword to the images that are selected, un-checking this box will remove the keyword from the image(s).

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Library Filter

The library filter is available to show and hide by pressing the ‘\’ key in the Library module, or from the menu bar item View / Show Filter Bar. Once the filter bar is shown there are many options to choose from.


The text option will allow you to select images where the text value that is entered into the search box will be found in the meta data fields described in the yellow box that match the rule in the green box.

I use this option a lot to find an image by file name. Typically when I upload an image to the web I keep the file name in the metadata. If there is a need to access the file, then it will have the same name, regardless of the extension used (PNG/JPG/PSD etc).  I just type the file name in to the search box and Lightroom will look across the folder(s), Collection(s) that have been selected.

The same selection selection options are available within the search box (marked blue), this is available by clicking the arrow next to the magnifying glass.



The Attribute filter enables selection of images using a variety or ways, or a combination of them. Images can be selected by the “Flag” status (i.e. Picked for selection, Flagged or Rejected), marked in yellow. Images can also be selected by using the star rating system (marked blue),  (managing your pictures is covered in this post). If you are more of a colours person, then images can be filtered by using colours (marked pink).

The “Kind” option (marker green) allows users to view images by Master / Virtual copies and Videos.



The meta data filter option allows you to filter the images based upon any metadata fields that exists inside Lightroom. I.e. on the screen below there are options to select by Keyword, Camera, Lens and ISO, however, these can be changed by selecting the drop down next to the heading (marked in Yellow). Also, columns can be added and removed by selecting the fly out menu on each column (marked green). This will provide you flexibility to select the right pictures based upon metadata settings in Lightroom that have been captured by the camera, or been entered in using the keywords.

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It is also possible use a combination of the Attributes selectors as part of the metadata searches as well, just by clicking the attributes/both buttons.

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Selecting multiple options in the metadata search

When in the metadata filter screen, multiple options can be selection (marked in red below). To do this, select the first one by clicking it, then for subsequent ones (across different columns), hold the CMD (Mac)/ Ctrl(Pc) key down and then click on the ones that are also required.  This selection will apply ‘AND’ logic, i.e. Canon 5D Mark II and EF50 F1.5 and ISO 200 and ISO 250. So this is another way to refine the searches and start to use the metadata to plan the story that you might want to tell.

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I had a project running a long time ago, which was pictures that were taken out of a moving car with a 50mm lens using F4. This would have been easy to select using the method described above.

It’s also possible to use the filters across many collections or folders at the same time (as shown below, marked in red). To do this, select the first collection, then using the CMD(Mac) / CTRL(Pc) key click the additional ones to be used. The selected ones are shown at the bottom (marked in yellow), along with the number of pictures filtered (3) and the total number (105) in this example. The multiple metadata items are shown in blue and you can see that the images that are selected over the chosen collections, are images that were taken with the Canon 5D mark II and a TS/E 90mm lens.

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Saving filters as part for future use

The “filters off” combo box is a way to save the filters by creating a preset. The saved presets are available in the top half of the list, saving is easy, just clicking on the “Save current settings as a new Preset” will save to the list. There are other management options available as well.



I hope you find this post useful for organising, selecting and filtering your images.



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