How I Use Lightroom: Collect and Share

This post is part of an ongoing series related to how I use Adobe Photoshop Lightroom.  If you haven’t read them yet, check out How I use Lightroom: Getting Photos In, How I use Lightroom: Taking Out the Trash, and How I use Lightroom: Getting Photos Out.

Collections, Quick Collections and Smart Collections

In the first post in this series I discussed importing your photos into Lightroom and explained how I have Lightroom configured to import into a nicely organized, folder structure based on the import date.  So you’d think I’d use this all the time, right?

Not as much as you may think.   And the reason is becuase the primary organizational unit in Lightroom is the Collection.

Collections can be found on the left sidebar, beneath the Folders section.

Organizing your work by collections, forget about folder structure.


A collection is nothing more than a named set of photos.  Collection Sets allow you to create a heirarchy of collections so you can organize everything to meet your needs.  Part of my tree of collections looks like:

I have a tree for family photos, another for more general photography, and another for helping to manage exporting to devices.

Smart Collections

With regular collections, you have to manually select which photos are members of that collection.  Most of the time, that’s what I want – I create a collection for a finished set of photos that I’m happy with and want to be able to view as a cohesive set in the future.  Birthdays and trips, for instance.

Smart Collections, on the other hand, are essentially saved searches.  Lightroom allows you to create complex queries against all of the data available in your photos – capture time, lens used, aperture shot at, flagged status, and on and on.  And all of these search vectors can be defined on a Smart Collection, so any/all photos that match the criteria are included in the collection.  The great thing is that it’s constantly updated.

I make use of Smart Collections for two main purposes.  First is to track which photos I export for use in some devices, like digital picture frames, or have uploaded for specific purposes to various websites, like for my SmugMug slideshow on as an example.

Just a few of the Smart Collections I have setup.

I don’t get very complex with my Smart Collections, mostly because I just haven’t had the need.

As I'm browsing the catalog, I just add the keyword "picture frame" to select photos. Later I can just export the entire Smart Collection and copy them to the picture frame.

The other big use of Smart Collections, for me, is to quickly get to any photos I’ve touched recently.  So I have a Recent Smart Collection setup to show me those photos that have been created or modified in the past 30 days.

Search definition for my Recent collection. Click to enlarge.

The Quick Collection

There is a built-in collection called Quick Collection which I use when I’m gathering one-off sets of photos.  By default, if you are sifting through your pictures and press the letter B on your keyboard, the selected photo(s) will get added to the Quick Collection.  This collection is viewable on at the top of the left sidebar.

Tip: You can collect photos with the B key into other collections by right-clicking on the collection and selecting  Set as Target Collection. 

The collection which is the current Target will have a "+" symbol next to its name. Press the B key to add photos to this collection.

Now for the magic: Publish Services

 Publish Services build upon Collections and were introduced in Lightroom 3, and they have become the primary method I use for performing standard exports to Facebook, Picasa Web (Google Plus), and iTunes for my iPhone and iPad.

At their most basic, Publish Services let you create collections which are synchronised elsewhere.

The Publish Services I use: Facebook, Hard Drive (for iOS syncing) and Picasa Web (for Google+)

Each one of these setup publish services is configured just like Exports shown in the previous article, so I’ll spare you the details.  I will explain how I use each of these.

Hard Drive

When I have pictures I want put onto my iPad and iPhone, I just drag/drop them into any one of the collections setup under the Hard Drive -> iPad Album publish service.

Each one of these defined collections results in a new folder on my hard drive. Each folder shows up as a photo album on the iPhone/iPad once sync'd. This makes for easy browsing.

iTunes is then configured to syncronize photos from this same directory.

Point iTunes to the same directory as the above Hard Drive Publish Service.


On my Facebook account, I have a poorly named album called From Lightroom.  Whenever I drop new pictures into the From Lightroom collection (see above) and click Publish, they’ll be uploaded to that Facebook Album.  Lighroom will also pull comments in from Facebook and re-publish edited photos (although there’s a bug where re-publishing has problems deleting the original photo from the Facebook album).

I really should re-name that album to something other than From Lightroom, but I’m afraid that may break the syhcronization and cause me to re-upload these pictures – and spam people.

Picasa Web for Google+

I use it just like the Facebook Publish Service with the exception that I have to then go copy/paste the the URL into Google+ because followers aren’t notified when new photos are added to albums as in Facebook.

All Done?

I think this completes my high-level overview of how I use Lightroom.  If you’ve read this far, thank you and I hope you found something that made it worth your time.

If you have any questions or suggestions on topics to cover here, contact me and I’ll see what I can do!






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