Tip – 3 Tips For Smart Collections

A while back, I created a video about Smart Collections. The other day, they really helped me out when I needed to find some photos quick, so I figured I’d resurrect that video as well as show you another use.

For starters, Smart Collections are collections (or you could call them albums which is what they really are) that automatically add your photos to them based on some sort of preset criteria. In the video mentioned above, whenever I use the HDR software, Photomatix, it appends the word “tonemapped” to the file name. So I created a Smart Collection called HDR and it automatically adds any image with the word tonemapped in it. That gives me a one-click way to find all of my HDR photos without me having to do any work to organize them.

Another use would be to add any PSD file. That way, any photos you work on in Photoshop automatically get added to the smart collection and it gives you an easy way to find them.

One more tip. If you look in your Collections panel you’ll see a Smart Collections folder. In there is one called “Recently Modified”. It automatically adds photos to it that were modified in the last two days. It also automatically removes them when they fall out of that “2 day” category. Pretty cool huh? And if you double click on the smart collection you can change 2 days to however many days you want. OK, that’s it for the smart collection love-fest. Have a great weekend. See you on Monday for the Photoshop CS5 love-fest :)

Author: Matt Kloskowski

Matt is the Vice President of Photography for onOne Software and a Tampa-based photographer. He's a best selling author of over 20 books and teaches Lightroom and Photoshop at seminars and conferences around the world.

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  1. I recently used Smart Collections to help sort and organize some 1,700 photos out of 4,000 submitted to me into 13 galleries based on keywords and star ratings. Once I set up the initial few and tested to be sure they were doing what I wanted, the rest came around quickly.

    Question, is there a way to copy a smart collection so that you can then make a minor modification? Or do I need to start from scratch in making them each time?

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  2. I use Smart Collections to group photos from different sources that are for the same event. Basically I go out with friends and we all take pictures with each other, and then we all post our pictures to our favorite social networking site to share them. Keywords with the event name/date and smart collection help me keep all of these pictures together,

    However, after I have all of them, is there a simple process to make the Smart Collection into a fixed, or “dumb” collection? It doesn’t make sense to have my CPU do a lot of work in order to recreate a smart collection with the same picutures every time I start up lightroom.

    ps. thanks for this blog!

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  3. Matt –

    You’re my online LR crush.

    I know for a fact I would not live in LR as happily as I do if it weren’t for you and Killer Tips.

    Thanks man.

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  4. Mark,

    The original video you referred to was in MP4V file type, which my winxp 2003 computer won’t recognize. How do I either play this (without being forced to install itunes), or trick it by renaming it to a more acceptable file type?

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  5. Great tips, as always from Matt.

    Has anybody figured out how to make a smart collection of all the photos you’ve printed? It’s something I would find really useful. Thanks in advance.

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  6. One of the best tips I’ve seen for Smart Collections is to hold down the Alt/Opt key when clicking the + key to create a new criterion. Try it and you’ll see why – hint, what if you want to search for A AND (B OR C)?


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  7. One way I would love to use Smart Collections is by crop ratio. I know I can get all landscape or portrait, but I would like to select all images I have cropped to 6 x 17, or 5 x 4 – any ideas?

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    • The only think I can think of is to add keywords – 6×17,4×5, etc. to your images. If you’re working on images in a batch, you could use colour codes to separate different crop aspects, then filter by colour and paint those keywords on the selected images.


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  8. This year one of my New Year’s resolutions is to edit more of my photos. Last year I shot thousands of photos and only managed to edit some of them. This year I’m using Lightroom’s smart collections to rethink my workflow, stay better organized, and get more photos edited. In this video I demonstrate how I’m using smart collections and show you how to setup your own.


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  9. Thanks for the tips. I definitely use collections (still not as fully as I should), but I’m guilty of not taking advantage of Smart Collections as much as I could. Hopefully these tips and reminders will help me remedy that, at least a little.

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  10. I’m wondering if I can use smart collections to easily create 2 sets of pictures, one B&W and the other color, of the same event.
    My problem right now is that I would like to have the same picture in the 2 different sets but the collection only displays the latest modification to the picture. So if I convert the picture to B&W it will also show up B&W in my color collection :(

    I’m sure I’m missing something here …

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    • You can use Smart Collections to separate Colour/B&W images by using Treatment = grayscale or Treatment = color


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  11. I use the smart collections to organize my photos. I have a super set called “Photos per year” to which I add smart collections that filter the photos on my library per year by checking the capture date.

    I also have other smart collections such as “Family photos” that will automatically show me any photo that I tagged with “family”. It is a very powerful tool that should be more explored.

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