Using Lightroom Collections

Lightroom Collections are a great way to keep your photos organized for quick exports and sharing.

Before we dig in, however, let’s back up a step. Adobe Lightroom is designed on the principal of non-destructive editing, which means that all the edits you make in the software do not change the original raw image file.

I like to think of these edits as a “virtual layer” applied over the raw files. Because they’re virtual, you can create as many as you’d like. Collections, Virtual Copies and other Lightroom functions use this principal to provide powerful organizational features.


How to Create & Use Virtual Collections in Lightroom

What are Lightroom Collections?

Collections are a virtual method of grouping similar images into folders. A single photo can appear in multiple collections/folders. The best part of this is that building Collections doesn’t affect the directory where your raw files are stored – this is all virtual, so you can go bonkers!

My Lightroom Directory is organized by year and then by location. My Collections are organized into many different groups that help keep me organized: marine life, dive locations, client shoots, product photos, tutorial-specific images, social media sharing, and much more.

How do I Set Up a Lightroom Collection?

The Collections panel is located at the bottom of the left column in both the Library and Develop modules, so you can create a collection and add photos from either module. Here’s how:

1)  Click the + button next to Collections (make sure the arrow to the left of Collections is clicked and facing down).

Creating a new collection in lightroom.

2)  Type in the name of your Collection and click Create.

Note that if you want to organize multiple collections within one main folder (e.g. folder = Landscapes, with Collections inside for sunrise, sunset, ocean, lakes, etc.) then first create a Collection Set, and then create a Collection inside of that set. You can drag and drop Collections into new folders.

Create collections dialog box

3)  Drag and drop images from any folder in your Directory to that Collection. Want to skip all the dragging and dropping? Read my tutorial on How to Set up a Lightroom Target Collection.

4)  To remove a photo from a Collection, just right-click and select Remove from Collection.

A Lightroom Collection inside a Collection Set.

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Brent Durand

Professional writer and underwater photo instructor. Brent is an avid diver and surfer, and has led many intensive photo workshops around the world.