Digital SLR Photography

7 Ways to Help Spring Clean Your Lightroom Catalogue

By Caroline Schmidt. Posted

1. Flag, rate and tag

The quickest way to sort through images upon first inspection is to use flags, ratings and colour tags. These then allow you to filter the images by each tag, or multiple tags, making them easier to search through and sort out. Best of all, there are shortcut keys so you can do it all without picking up the mouse, making the process even quicker. Use the P key to Flag as Pick, the U key to Unflag, the numerical 1-5 keys to set a rating from one to five stars (and the 0 key to zero the rating), and finally the 6-9 keys assign colour tags to those images. So, 6 is red, 7 is yellow, 8 is green and 9 is blue. Pressing that same key again will remove the colour. To search using any of these tags and ratings, go to Attribute at the top of the Library module and click the corresponding icons to set the filters.

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2. Collections

Think of Collections as custom folders that only exist within Lightroom. They live below your folder structure in the Navigator tab, as part of the Library module. The easiest way to create a new Collection is to first make a Quick Collection. Clear any images already in your Quick Collection at the top of the Navigator tab by right-clicking on it and selecting Clear Quick Collection. Then, to add an image to this Quick Collection, simply select it and press the B key. Once your collection is complete, right-click on it again and choose Save Quick Collection to convert this to a regular Collection. To add more images to your collection after that, you can simply drag and drop them into the folder in the Collections tab at the bottom of the Navigator window.

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3. Facial Recognition

Since Lightroom 6, there’s been a built-in facial recognition tool. This can help you find images of certain people that appear in your images – it works too! To use the tool, click on the People icon at the bottom of the Library window, or press the O key. If this is the first time you’ve used it, you can choose whether you want Lightroom to search through and index your entire catalogue, or only the images and folders you’ve currently selected. Obviously, the former will take longer than the latter the first time! Once done, it will stack the images that it thinks are of the same person, and then allow you to name this person for future reference – to do so, simply click on the ? below their face and add their name. Then, clicking on their name in the top bar displays all photos found of that person.

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4. Keywords

Keywording is a great habit to get into, and the keywords that you use in Lightroom can even be embedded into the final JPEG files, making searching for the images once they’ve left Lightroom’s environment easy too. Keywords are memorable words that you embed into the image metadata. These can then be searched for using the Text tab at the top of the Library window. Keywords are easiest assigned when importing, and can be done by batch. In the Import window, simply enter the keywords, separated by a comma if multiples, in the Apply During Import tab on the right. Alternatively, they can be added in the Library module after import – this section even offers suggestions based on previous keywords.

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5. Rename Folders

By default Lightroom will import images into folders named by the date on which they were taken. This is handy in the respect that you know that the newest images will be at the bottom of the folder structure, but not so useful when you want to find an image from a specific shoot, unless you remember the date! One way to improve this system is to right-click on the folder in the Navigator panel of the Library module after import and select Rename. Then, leaving the date in place (removing it will change the order of the folders), add a description after the date – simple!
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6. Metadata

Did you know that you can search your catalogue by the camera or lens you used? Or even the settings used, such as shutter speed, aperture or ISO rating? Well you can! Select the folder that you want to search in the Navigator window of the Library module. Then, at the top of the window, click on Metadata. Use the drop-down column menus to search through each field – if the field you want isn’t there, click to the top right of one of the columns and choose Add Column. Then, click on the column name and pick the field you want to search.

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7. Delete Rejects

If you’re one of those people who imports and saves every single image they take, even the duds, then stop! Keeping useless images not only takes up hard drive space, but it increases the size of the Lightroom catalogue, making indexing and searching for images slower. When you’re going through your images for the first time after import, pressing the X key will flag the selected image as a reject. Then, once you’ve made your first pass through, go to Photo>Delete Rejected Photos. This will cleanse the catalogue of rejects – doesn’t that feel better?

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