Folder System in Lightroom
So first let's think about the old school way of doing things. At least when I say old school, this is the way I used to do things, and it didn't really serve me. Then I'll show you how I've changed that and how it's much better now. I can find any image, I can know the status of any folder, any shoot, any whatever I run into. I can do things like my portfolios if I have a portfolio of here's travel photography versus landscape, versus portraits. They are actually automatically generated. They just are there, because I work this system, and so I'll share with you this updated system I've been using, and how can you integrate this system with all the stuff you've already shot? Because I know you haven't been working it up until then. So first, let's say I want to find a particular image. Somebody asks, we need a picture for the cover of a magazine, or something. Yeah it'll be great, my opportunity, get on the cover of a magazine. Awesome, but what we need is a monk on a bicycle. And I'm...
like, man, I know I've shot so many monks before in my life, I now I've seen them I think on a bicycle. When the heck was that? Well so, in the old system what I would end up doing is I would come in here to my folders, and I'd say, I know in 2014 I was near some temples and things, and I bet you there were some monks, and there's a chance I have it. And if I have it, then maybe I can find the image they need. So I come in here and I start looking at my folders, and I'm like, well when is it that it might have been? Maybe in Vietnam. And I start flipping through here and saying, well, I don't know. Then I go, no I didn't see it there, so maybe it was up here in Yangon. Come on, let me see a monk. And I'm just kind of going through with my memory, ah a monk, and so I find a monk. Was that very efficient to find that monk? And what was the primary thing I was using? My memory, of when was I somewhere, and just this list of folders to kind of give me an idea of where I've been in the past. But it's not efficient whatsoever. Now that's not a monk on a bicycle though, and so it might not get me what I need. So, you can go through here and deal with things that way, and that's somewhat what I used to do before, but I was a little bit better than that. I did come down here and use this area called Collections. And with collections, these are like virtual folders. It's just like if you were working with music and you create a playlist. You put music in the playlist, and it doesn't move the music on your hard drive or anything, it just remembers, what songs did you put in the playlist? And a collection is the same thing for photos. It's a collection of photos where if you drag a photo on to a collection, it just remembers where it is on your hard drive without moving it. And so you can later on come back and see that collection before. So what I used to do is I would create portfolios, and here are my old school portfolios. And if you take a look at this, I'll zoom up to make it a little bit easier for you to see, I just put in a bunch of different subject matters here, and as I ran into images that fit those categories, I would drag them over here if I thought they were great images, to have my portfolio. And if I ever forgot to drag an image over, that image I might not see again because I'd have to remember, what folder is it in, and why do I want to go look for it? And it just wasn't a very good way of working. Didn't serve me all that much. And then when I needed to think about processing images or just my images as a whole, I'd come to a folder of images, and I'd click, and I'd say okay, here's a bunch of images. Which images are ready to show somebody? Which images still need work? Which images have I looked at and decided that there's something about it I don't like and I just shouldn't spend any more time on it? Well just looking at it it's hard to tell. Now we did have some features we could use. We had star ratings. Well that helps a little bit. We also have this thing called flag status where you can flag it as a pick, or as a reject. But it's extremely limited, and it makes it so still I look at this folder and sure I see some star ratings, and I could use this little filter bar at the top, which would allow me to only view those images that have like four stars or above, and that's somewhat of the system I used in the past. But I just found that it was too frustrating for me. I could not, if somebody said, show me images from Vietnam, I couldn't get those images in front of me in three seconds time. But now with this system I've developed over the last six months, I can. And so, I'm gonna close up this folder of 2014, and since this was developed in 2015, I'm gonna go and view this. 2015 is using the new system, which I'd like to share with you. Now when you look at a folder in Lightroom, on the right side, there's a number. That number indicates how many images are in the folder. You're probably used to that. And so I can tell that I shot a lot of images in South Korea, but I didn't shoot all that many when I was on this cruise, right? But it doesn't tell me, out of those images how many are ready to show someone else? But it can show that. All I need to do is after I've setup this system is I'm gonna go to the Library menu and there's a choice here called Show Photos in Subfolders, and that means that if I click on the name of a folder, should it show me only the images that reside exactly in that folder, and ignore the ones that are in subfolders? Don't show them to me. But the other thing that this does is it makes the number that shows up to the right of the folder also change. So that it also ignores the images that are in subfolders. So I'm gonna do that, I'm gonna turn off Show Photos in Subfolders, and that's gonna update all those numbers, and now I know exactly how many images are ready to show people. There are exactly five images from South Korea that are ready to show you. There are exactly two images from Taiwan. These two images happen to look so identical that I only wanted you to see, I only wanted to see one because they're too similar. You'll learn about that. Well of 20 images I got here from ancient town, this ancient town here, and down here I can see exactly how many images are ready to show people. Florida Southern College, 16, well that's because here there are many images that are the same. They're ready to show people but they're so much the same that it narrows it down to three. But that number right now is telling me how many images are ready to show people, and if I ever click on the name of a folder, the only thing I see are images that are ready for public view. Images I'd be proud to give to anybody to use for any purpose. So where are the rest of the pictures? And how do I know what status they're in? Well let's look at some of these folders. I'm gonna come in here and expand a few of our folders, and let's see what's inside. Well I create subfolders, and in those subfolders I have things that are in progress. That means images that I've either not processed at all, or have started but I don't think they're ready yet. They're not done. And then I also have another subfolder called Outtakes. Outtakes are images that no one else should see. They're images that will not be used for anything in the end, but I'm not gonna throw them away, or I'm not ready to throw them away yet. Because sometimes you need an image that's an outtake. You shot these images, you think you have some in your In Progress folder that are gonna work for that subject, and you put the outtakes, the ones that were pretty bad into that other folder, but in the end you found out that the eyes were completely out of focus in one of the shots you thought was gonna work. And you have to go back to the outtakes and see, is there any way I can scrounge in there and find one that could? Or you want to retouch an image, and to retouch it, you need to get rid of a large object like a bus out of it, and you might need to grab a background element like a tree, or a building, or something else from one of those outtake images that you're not gonna use for anything else, but you don't want to throw it away yet just in case it's useful for something. Or just in case you hate throwing stuff away, right? So the outtake images I think of as images I do not need to pay attention to again, unless there's some excruciating circumstance that would force me to go in there. So those are images I've already looked at, and I've decided this one just isn't worth processing, or when I processed it, it just didn't work and shouldn't see the light of day again. So it goes into my outtakes. So what that means is I end up creating these subfolders. And right when I get started processing images in a folder, I create the folder called In Progress. I drag all of my images into it, and the moment I finish an image and it's good enough to show someone else, I pull it out of that folder and I put it on the base level. Does that make sense? So that means the only thing that's in the base level of any folder are images that are ready to show other people. And therefore as long as I go up here to the Library menu, and I turn off this choice called Show Photos in Subfolders, then that means these numbers on the right side show me exactly how many images are ready to show people from every single place I've been to and shot. And if I want to go and start thinking about processing images, if I have a half an hour or 45 minutes to work, I look in here and I say, well look at this, when I was in this area here I can tell that I haven't processed any of them because the number is zero. So I expand that, and I say, oh it even says not started. That means I have done nothing in there, and I could click on here and say I'm gonna go start processing some of these. If I process one, once I get started I can come over here to the right and if I right-click on this, I can just choose Rename to rename the folder In Progress so I know I've started. And the moment I get an image that is good enough that could be shown to the public, could be proud of, I'd drag it to the base folder. And this little number that's currently zero goes up. Once I start noticing images that just did not work and that just should be not paid attention to again, I'd go to the base folder and I right-click on it. And when I right-click there's a choice called Create Folder Inside, and I create a folder called Outtakes. And I drag those images that I really don't want to pay any more attention to into that. And by doing so then I can come here and anytime with any subject I've ever done in here I can expand it and see that look, here for this part of Japan I have three images ready to show people. I have three images in progress that I'd like to work on or finish. I have 34 outtakes that I don't think we really need to look at anymore. And then sometimes I create further subfolders. Examples of that would be, I create a subfolder called Personal. If sometimes I have pictures of like my wife taking a photograph, and it's not something where anybody else would be interested in it. It's just for me personally, and so I put it in there so therefore if I ever click on the base folder, and I have somebody looking over my shoulder they're never gonna see those personal photos that nobody else would care about. And I also have other things, like I capture textures all over the world, and I don't want to think of those textures as being outtakes that should be ignored, or in progress because there's no finish to my textures. These are things I might apply to a photo as an effect in Photoshop. And so they don't really fit. It's not an outtake, it's not in progress because it's never gonna be finished, and it's not ready to show people so I needed to create another folder. And if you ever have things like that, I create additional subfolders. Let's see if we can find a few. Take me a few minutes to do it though. I'm guessing Shanghai might have. Just go in here and start expanding some of these, we'll eventually find, there we go. So here's Personal Image, there's one personal image. Let's see what it is. It's my wife taking a picture. Sure I wanted to take that, I thought it would be nice but it's not something I want other people to see when they're thinking about the situation. So it's in a subfolder called Personal Images. Now if I'm viewing images with my wife, Karen, I click on the base folder and then I can hold down the Command key on a Macintosh, Control on Windows, and click on another folder to add it, so I'm viewing the contents of two folders. So that means I can see both the main topic images plus the personal ones, and so now you're seeing them both. Or if I need to talk to somebody, it's a client and we're really saying, these are not good enough, strong enough images. What else could we possibly work with? I can hold down the Command key and here I have a folder, it's rare that I create this but it's called Done but just OK. I'm not always consistent with that naming, but those are images that just, sure I'm done with them. They're okay, they're not really outtakes, but I'm not overly proud of them. I could Command + Click on that and now I have a much wider selection. Does that make sense how I can expand what I'm viewing? So if I look at my Done but just OK images, if you want to see a few of them. That's done. It's okay but I don't really like the person on the top of the bridge, and other things about it don't make it the strongest image. It's okay, but look at the woman in the back is kind of out of it. And so I happen to put those into a subfolder because I had a lot of images from this particular location, and just didn't feel that these should be cluttering the rest. Yes?
Ben, question. First of all, this is really eye opening. I don't know about you guys, but, and I can see where you're going in that ability to find images really quickly. Ari Drive says, "I'm confused as to where "the files are originated from in the folder "prior to being placed in the finalized "In Progress or Outtake folders." And I see that you have a folder that says not started.
Is that that the first step?
The first step is, and I'll show you how to do this, because what we're gonna do is show you how do you slowly incorporate this into your workflow?
Because you most likely have taken pictures before and they're sitting there in Lightroom and they're not stored like this so that's kind of the next place I'm headed. So we'll do that. What I'll do is I started using this system at the beginning of the year, and I didn't use it last year, and I have not in this catalog started to incorporate it in there, and I'll show you how I would get started, okay? So, hopefully this gives you a sense for the overall idea. Just remember one of the key principles is I need to have Show Photos in Subfolders turned off. If that's turned on, then the numbers that are here next to each folder tell you the total contents of every single image, even if they're in a subfolder there, and those numbers aren't so helpful, okay? So feel free to turn that on and off. Question?
So a couple other classes I've watched on CreativeLIVE, they say to make multiple catalogs, but I find that I keep drifting back to just having one catalog. What are the advantages and why should we stick to that?
Well I use multiple catalogs myself, but not how most people do. I have one main catalog which is all my general photos, but then I have a few separate catalogs for things that don't really relate to my general photography. For instance, I own a vintage bus. If you want to know what I'm talking about go to creativecruiser.com, you can find details. And this is like a seven year project of restoring and having the interior done, and all that, so I have all these photos related to it. I want to organize them and look at them, but I don't want to see them when I'm thinking about my travel and general photography, fine art or stuff. So I put them in a separate catalog so they don't clutter up my search results and just my browsing here. Also, I have in the past shot some fine art nudes, and those are things where in searches and things, for some things like for corporate uses it's just not good if they just show up. And so I keep them in a separate catalog. Same thing with some iPhone pictures. Separate catalog just because they're not really high enough resolution for printing purposes, for big prints, and other things. So I just think about, what is it that I really would like to have separate where my mindset is different when I'm working in it? That's what I put in separate catalogs. Some people though would create a separate catalog for each location, and all that. I wouldn't do that for me personally for travel photography. Unless I'm being hired by a particular company to go do a shoot. National Geographic just hired me. They're sending me to wherever. Well then I'll probably create a fresh catalog for that, because that's an isolated project, and when I'm done with it, I want that catalog to be stored along with all the files, so that's in my National Geographic thing. And so it depends, there's always different ways of working. It's just like with cameras, there's no perfect answer that would work for everyone, and it's just a matter of evaluating what's available and seeing how it fits your mindset. Hopefully that gives you some idea though.
Definitely. Is there like too many photos, or is there like a max amount of photos that Lightroom can have in a catalog?
I'm sure there is but I haven't run into it. I have, let's look up here. This catalog has 228,094 photos. So I'm sure there is.
Is there like a speed, does it slow down at a certain point?
It can slow down a little bit but I find, I'm not complaining about it, so yeah.
Yeah. All right so now, let's first give you a few tips and show you, how can you transition to this? The first thing I would do is simply commit to the idea. And say, from now on everything I shoot from this day forward, I'm gonna start using this system, okay? Or a system similar to it. I'm just trying to show you what I do, and adapt everything I do to your purposes. So, commit to that, so from this day forward you're gonna start doing it. And just try to be consistent with it, and then over time, slowly work back in your archives. Where whenever you start working on a folder, or you return to revisit a folder, convert it over to this way of thinking. And I want to give you some tips on how to do that. So I'm gonna look at 2014 when I didn't use this system. Now it really depends on how you've been organizing your pictures. If by chance you have not been creating any subfolders at all, and a lot of people work that way where it's just all their pictures in there. Then what you're gonna find is next to each folder the little triangle that you'd usually tap on to expand that folder and see the subfolders will be gray, just to indicate if you clicked here it wouldn't do anything, because there are no folders in there, and it'd be great if you looked down all these here, and didn't find any of them lit up where you could expand it. If you do find some that have subfolders, that's where I'd start. I would say, let's first do those and get them into this system, because then anytime you see the little triangle lit up where you could click on it to expand, you know it's already in this system, and you know the number that's next to it, if you did not view subfolders, it uses the mindset that we've been talking about. So I would go through here and say, hey going back a few years. Do I have any subfolders? And it looks like I don't, but you might. If you do, then you might need to click on that folder, create another folder called In Progress, and drag whatever needs to be in there into there. If you maybe had a few images that were finished and you knew that, you'd leave those in the base folder. But how can I tell from these old folders what I've worked on and what I haven't? Well let me give you a few tips, because these can help you to determine what should be in the base folder? What should be in In Progress, and possibly what should be in the Outtakes folder? So I'm gonna find a big folder here. Well here's a folder with over a thousand images in Singapore. Click on that, and, come on I typed G, that means Grid. Oh I am in Grid, just my thumbnails are so big that they fill my screen. I'm used to a screen that feels physically a lot larger than this. Right now this feels like about a 12 inch laptop the way we broadcast, so it's a little odd for me to think about. So anyway I'm in this folder, and it looks like in this particular folder just by glancing that back at this time, I was using ratings quite a bit, because I see some stars rating in there. But here's how I can figure out what has been done possibly. Get some hint of it. We have a filter bar at the top, and if I click on the choice called Metadata within that filter bar, we're gonna get a bunch of different things we could filter by. And what I can do is each one of these little columns, I'll zoom up, make it a little easier for you to see here, you can click on the title of the column and choose what kind of information shows up there, and what I'm gonna do in here is I'm gonna first go in here and say File Type. Because I know that if I open anything into Photoshop and did any Photoshop work on them, that's most likely an image that's close to done. It's not like I just started it because I do a lot of work in Lightroom first. I'd make sure I'm done with my Lightroom work in general before I headed into Photoshop. And when I do something in Photoshop it doesn't get saved back into the original file, at least if it's a RAW file. Instead you get a new file, and most of the time those files are either TIFF files or Photoshop file format. Those are the most common. So in here I look for file type, and I say, are there any TIFF files? Yes there are, there's 12 of them. Tells me right there. All I did was change this menu at the top. Remember I'm in the filter bar under Metadata, and I set this to File Type. Right here it says TIFF, there are 12 images. All right here's 12 TIFFs. I'm guessing that those images are most likely ones that are either done or real close to it. So let me just create a subfolder so I can start pushing things into them. I'm gonna go over here, right-click on the folder, say Create Folder Inside, and I'm just gonna call one In Progress. And I'm not gonna tell it to put the selected photos in there, because these aren't in progress, I'm guessing they're close to done. So I've got that, I'm also gonna create one called Outtakes. Put that in there, so that now what I might do is in my filter bar, I'm gonna first set it to None to see everything, and I'm just gonna throw everything in one of those folders. And since it's a thousand pictures, I might not do the whole thing right now just because it would take a little bit of time. It actually has to move things. I'm not sure if it would take time or not, but I don't want to find out right now. When I'm at home I don't usually care, I just go get a coffee or something, but when you're live and have however many people watching, I might not want to watch a progress bar. So anyway, I would drag those over to In Progress, and therefore I know that I've started this folder and I'm gonna start having this system used. Then here's how I would end up figuring out what to put in the base level folder, and what to put in Outtakes. I go up to the filter bar, choose Metadata, and I'm gonna come in here again and go to TIFF. TIFF is probably something I've done in Photoshop. I'll Select All, and I would drag this onto the base folder, to say those are probably ready to see. I'm just making that assumption. I might review them afterwards to double-check. If I saw any here that said Photoshop file format, I would do the same thing. Then if I want to see which RAW files might belong over there, here's what I'm gonna do. I'll click on the word Raw, then in the column next to it, I'll click at the top and I'm gonna come up here and choose Develop Preset. Develop Preset, what's that? Well Develop Preset means, do you remember when we had those presets in the Develop module? Well the preset I want to look for in this list, and it looks like I did use some presets, is called Custom. Custom means it does not match any of the presets, and it is not at the defaults. It means it's been customized, and those are usually the ones that are gonna be closest to done. Because usually I end up applying a bunch of presets, but then I have to tweak it. Remember when I said the whites and the blacks sliders I think of as kind of finishing techniques? Those are things that presets really can't do for me, so by the time I'm done processing my images, they don't perfectly match any presets usually. On occasion they will but instead I've tweaked it a teeny bit to finish it off. And so right now I'm looking at all my raw files that have custom settings. They're not at defaults, they're not matching presets, so those are most likely ones. Now if I saw that I was using ratings, I can also change the next column over to Rating, and I can say, well do I want to move just the images that are three stars over there? If so, click right here. You could hold down the Command key to kick on another one to say both two and three stars. And so I'm just trying to narrow it down to figure out what is my best guess as to what would be showable to other people? I might also go down here and choose Flags because I think I noticed I might have flagged some images, and if there was any here that were called Rejects, I would tell it not to include those. By selecting everything else, it would be flagged or unflagged, that kind of thing. So anyway you see how you can kind of dial down a little bit to get some sense for these images might be workable? I'll Select All then and I would drag these to the base level folder. I'm not gonna do that right now because we don't have everything in the In Progress yet. We didn't copy it all. Then, how can I figure out what to put in Outtakes? Well first, in Outtakes, if I come in here and I kind of reset these things, I'm gonna just click on the topmost choice in each column. That means set it so this particular column is not being used to narrow down my results. So right now I'm viewing all the images. I might come in here and look for raw files that are set to Rejected. Do you see right there I happened, because I was using the flagging system as reject for bad images, well these have to be outtakes. I wouldn't have set them as rejects, flagged them as rejects. In case you're not familiar with flagging as rejects, you can go to, I think it's under the Photo menu and down here, Set Flag, as Flagged or Rejected, or press the letter X. And so these are most likely bad images. I would Select All and I would drag them to the Outtakes folder. Does this make some sense? There's no perfect system because this is back before, things were so random where star ratings varied depending on what I happened to be thinking of that day, and all that kind of stuff. But it's what I would do. I would first start with the folders that already have subfolders within them, and then I would just start using this anytime I revisit a folder. I have some reason to go and look in that folder. Fine, might as well spend 10 minutes to get it over to the new system. And then once I've done that, anytime I go back if I ever see, in my folder list, this little triangle lit up, I know it's in the system, and if I don't see a triangle next to it, I know it's not in the system. That's why I would first start with the folders that already have subfolders. Does that make any sense? So I know there's a lot of details there in that, and that's why it's good to like play me back and maybe, I don't know if there's a slow speed setting or a pause, and take a note. But see, it's just, in the past I wasn't consistent with star ratings and my mindset behind them. I wasn't overly consistent with, am I using flags today, or am I using something else? And, from the beginning of this year on, I've become very consistent, and I'll show you exactly how I think about all of those features. Is there a question or a comment?
Yeah, do you ever delete your photos?
For me personally I rarely do, but part of that is I teach, and when I teach, we need to work on bad pictures, and I need to show you when we're out in the field, like teaching this class on travel photography, if I threw away all my bad pictures, I wouldn't be able to show you what was my mindset when I worked the scene to get the good picture. So for me personally my mindset's different than what yours might be, so you just have to decide. And some people are hoarders, you go home and you can't throw away all those whatever it is you keep in your house. Well you probably keep all your photos too, and other people are like clean freaks, and they're like, I'm getting rid of everything and everything is organized everywhere. They're probably gonna be deleting some, that kind of stuff. It's a personal thing, you've got to figure out what works with your personality. All right so now, that's the folder system, but that's only part of the idea. We now need to be able to find any photo that's important in five seconds or less, and we gotta learn how to do that. Before we do, any questions or comments before I somewhat shift topics? Still related.
So a quick question from Ron Cooper, Ben, who says, "I can only move one image at a time "from one folder to another in Lightroom. "Am I missing something?"
I'm not sure why, if you want to see that you can move more than one, here I will view the contents of this folder. And I will not show the contents of subfolders, and I will grab all these images. I just, I click on one image, I hold Shift and then I click on another and it gives me all the ones in between. Then I click and drag to In Progress, and they start moving. So I'm not certain what's causing that limitation without being able to take a peek over your shoulder to say, oh it's that,
Great, thank you.
I just can't guess.
Do you have to be connected to where the source files are?
In order to create new folders?
That is the biggest limitation that I run into with this system is I need these hard drives attached. There are two disadvantages to this system, and that is these need to be attached to do it, and when these aren't, when I'm in the field I need to come up with some way of dealing with that, and part of that can be using collections. Just whenever I finish an image I drag it into a collection that's called Done, and when I get home and I hook these drives up that's when I move those pictures around, and so that's the biggest limitation. I just haven't found an alternative to this that works as well as this. The second limitation is, when I have a backup drive, keeping the backup drive in sync with my main drive becomes more complex, because it's not just that a picture has a newer modification date, that indicates it needs to be updated, it might be in a different folder now, and so that creates a complication, and it just takes some time to manage. I use a program called Beyond Compare to compare my main hard drive to my backup hard drive, and it shows me exactly where there are differences. And it can do a bunch of things. It's not a cheap program, I don't remember what the price is. If somebody wants to look it up, that'd be good information to know, but I've just found it to be overly valuable in my working with files. And there's probably alternatives if anybody knows of a good one.
What was the name of that again, Ben?
Beyond Compare, yeah.