When it comes to organizing, I’m a total freak. I have a long history of being a mess and the moment I learned how to get myself together a few years ago, I totally went overboard. Today, I have almost everything I own compartmentalized and tucked away safely. Even though I’ve been this way for a while, I’m still sometimes shocked when I find something where it’s supposed to be. I guess I’m still burning off the memories of the past.
One of the most critical areas of organization in my life is on my computer. If I let that go, I’d be in real trouble. Each and every day, I manage, move, add, delete and manipulate all types of files. Because of this, I’ve developed a system. In today’s post, I’ll discuss one small sliver of an idea for working with and organizing a very specific type of file inside of Adobe Lightroom.
By the way, if you’re a photographer and are looking for a method of file organization, I invite you to read through my ideas on the topic.
Since this post has to do with something called Virtual Copies in Lightroom, I thought I should lead you to some resources on that. So, if you’re interested in some background on this feature, please read through the posts I link to below.
As time goes on and as I write more about these things, you can just search “Virtual Copies” in the site search bar above. That will bring you to the latest and greatest posts.
For today’s post, I’ll be creating two different collections inside of Lightroom. The first collection will house similarly themed photos and the second collection will house variants of those photos. First, I’ll go through the actual creation of the collections and then after that, I’ll explain why this type of organizational method is important.
If you’d like to learn more about collection in general, please click through to this post below.
To kick things off, I’ll head into my primary catalog where all the photos I’ll be working with live. I’ll be in the Library view.
Next, I’ll scroll down until I see some photos of flowers. When I do see a photo, I’ll click on it to highlight it. To highlight multiple random pictures, I’ll click and hold down the Ctrl or Command key while clicking the additional photos.
The light gray boxes around the images are the ones I selected.
Finally, I’ll head over to the left column where I’ll find the button that will assist in creating a new collection. Inside of the Collections section, I’ll press the + icon.
After I click on the Create Collection menu item, I’ll see the Create Collection dialog box appear.
In this box, I’ll name the new collection. In this case, I simply named it Flowers. Under the Options section title, I made sure to only check the Include Selected Photos check box. When finished, I’ll click the Create button.
Now when I look at the Collections section over in the left column, I’ll see the Flowers collection I just created. When I select that collection, only the flowers I selected earlier will appear in the center Content panel.
Why Create a Collection?
I’d like to stop here for just a moment to talk about why I’m doing this. Let’s say I’m a nature photographer and have recently gone outside to take hundreds and hundreds of photos. I downloaded them to my computer and imported them into Adobe Lightroom to review. All of the photographs are in the same catalog, meaning there are many of them, which can get confusing to look at and to work with.
Upon review, I’ve decided that I’m interested in editing only a handful at the moment. With this in mind, I’d like to separate out those I’m interested in while leaving the rest behind. I don’t want to delete anything, I just want to leave them in their original location. This is exactly what collections are for. Organization. Just like I mentioned at the beginning of this post.
Creating a Collection of Virtual Copies
Since I now have the flower photos I’d like to edit tucked away in their own collection, which was my first goal, I’d like to leave them there as the originals. My plan now is to create virtual copies of these photos and then edit them the way I see fit. I’d also like to have these edited virtual copies organized in their own collection. Having two collections, one with the original flower images and then another with the edited images would be very helpful when it comes to satisfying my over-organized mind.
To create a new collection that contains these flower images, I’ll stay right in the current collection. I’ll select all of the photos and follow the same exact steps I took above. I’ll click on the + icon and then on the Create Collection menu item when it appears. After the Create Collection dialog box shows up on the screen, I’ll name the new collection and make one minor change when compared to what I did previously.
First, I’ll name this new collection Flowers – Edited. This will differentiate the two collections. Next, I’ll keep the first box checked in the Options section, but I’ll also check the second box as well. This one says Make New Virtual Copies, so when this new collection is created, virtual copies of the flower photos will be included in it, not the originals.
If you look at the screenshot above, you’ll notice a few changes from the previous ones. First, you’ll see that a new Flowers – Edited collection has been created. I outlined that in red. Also, inside the center panel, you’ll see that each image thumbnail has a small uplifted corner at the bottom left portion. This means these images are virtual copies.
It’s at this point, I could go ahead and edit these virtual copies. If I wanted to enhance their colors, I could do that without affecting the original images. If I wanted to make these versions black and white, I could do that in the same way as well.
Here’s the real charm for taking advantage of this type of organization and workflow. Since my primary catalog has tons of photos in it, I was able to separate out the images I wanted to work on. Since I didn’t want to affect the original images, I made virtual copies of them. The thing is, when I created these virtual copies, they are also created in the original content catalog, so if I went back to that panel, I’d see all of the tons of original photos, plus these new virtual copies. Can you image how confusing things would get if I tried to stay in that one combined panel and created multiple groups of virtual copies? Just me working on this post has me confused.
So, the true benefit of this workflow is that I’m able to easily identify images I’ve worked on and can easily delete them when I don’t want them anymore. Instead if manually filtering through hundreds of photos in an effort to located which ones are virtual copies and which ones aren’t, I can simply click on the Flowers – Edited collection and delete the copies from there. Now that’s satisfying.
I truly hope you learned something and got some ideas from this post. If you have any questions or concerns, please leave them in the comment section below. Thanks for reading!