10 Things I Would Tell New Lightroom Users: #3

Welcome back, everybody and we’re here with #3 in my 10-part series. Just a friendly reminder: if you missed, didn’t read or forgot my official disclaimer for this series posted at the beginning of #1, please give it a quick read, so we all stay on the same page. OK, here’s #3:


(3) Store all your original photos inside one main folder

That folder doesn’t have to be on your computer — it can be on an external hard drive — no problem, and you can have as many sub-folders inside that one main folder as you want, but if you want to have peace, calm, and order in your Lightroom life, the key is to NOT import photos into Lightroom from all over your computer. Start by putting them all within that one folder first, and then when you import new photos from a memory card, import them into a subfolder inside that main folder, so everything’s together under that same main folder.


Above: Here’s an example: on my external drive I have a folder named “My Photos.” Inside that folder are are a bunch of subfolders, and if you click on any of those folders, you see more subfolders, but in the end, they are ALL inside that one “My Photos” folder.

Why does having one folder make your life easier?
Well, for one thing — you’ll know where ALL your originals are located, and the chances of moving a folder outside that main folder and then breaking the link to Lightroom is much, much less. Secondly, creating a backup of your entire photo library is simple because you can just drag that one folder to another hard drive and not only does everything get backed up, it keeps your file structure intact. When I talk to somebody using Lightroom and they tell me they know they’ve messed things up from the start, having folders in different locations is usually the culprit.

If you like order and peace-of-mind, go the one main folder route and you’ll be glad you did (even if you have to spend a few hours collecting folders from all over and gathering them into one main folder and then relinking the folder).

So there’s my third recommendation — short and sweet.

Hope you all have an awesome weekend, and I hope to see you back here on Monday for #4.



P.S. Before you post a comment, just a reminder that this is what I would tell a new user just starting with Lightroom. If you have Lightroom up and running, and it’s working fine for you with files in six different locations on three different drives, and 15 catalogs, I’m happy for ya, and I’m not trying to convince you to change your ways. Remember, this is what I would recommend to NEW Lightroom users. 🙂



  1. Will Rudd 25 May, 2015 at 15:26 Reply


    I’m new to Lightroom and I want to follow your advice and move all my photos to a single external drive. Here is where I need help. I have photos in My Docs, My Photos, My Videos, My Downloads. Is there an easy way to find them and move them without doing a manual file-by-file search? I did a search and came up with hundreds of gif files any other images which are not my photos.

    Also, I may have saved some photos directly to Dropbox, Google Drive and Microsoft’s OneDrive. What’s the best way to identity them as originals, not copies, before I move them.

    I am sure I have created duplicate copies of my most valuable photos. Is there an application I can use to distinguish original photos from duplicates?


  2. Andy Taylor 25 February, 2015 at 09:22 Reply

    I have just completed this via my macbook, what a difference this makes, so much easier to get to certain pictures you may want to view or share, these are fantastic tips, and if you think about it, so simple too, thanks SK

  3. Rona 10 February, 2015 at 14:23 Reply

    I’m new to Lightroom, switching from Aperture. I haven’t imported my Aperture library yet, so how would you handle that library?

    • Eric Bush 16 February, 2015 at 11:39 Reply

      Lightroom has a plug-in to import your photos from Aperture/iPhoto libraries. It brings over a fair amount of information and can copy your photos. The directory structure is date based. Some things like Albums and Projects are converted to Collections in Lightroom. Some of your tagging and meta data comes over. Individual corrections are not. The best thing I know of for that last limitation is to be sure to import the full-sized Previews of corrected images in Aperture so you will have something with your last changes applied. Also be sure your Previews are up to date in Aperture before you import. There should be tutorials and links out there for settings used with the plug-in.

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  5. chris 4 February, 2015 at 00:20 Reply

    This is what i want to do but i am stuck with two attempts at doing my structure right. so i have one catalog called my pictures and a second catalog called my photos and they both reside with the LRcats on my mac laptop hard drive. i want to move the whole mess to an external which is sitting here purring and rarin to go. I look exactly like a deer in the headlights. If you dont want to go through it here and can point me at this scenario i can read somewhere else i would be very grateful!

  6. Lance 3 February, 2015 at 17:31 Reply

    I have always put originals in one main folder. although i now split it in 2 as i have 2 catalogs. Important or current stuff and not important stuff i might get around to one day

  7. IanB 30 January, 2015 at 21:13 Reply

    one of the better ideas I got from your LR3 book I think it was Scott

    my pictures>>year>>month>>maybe subjects + keywords. But I’m just a happy snapper these days with lots of unimportant files but I can find [most] of them.
    But still have to worked out that collection thing!

  8. Colin 30 January, 2015 at 13:34 Reply

    I’m also wondering with Egidio. If you go with your family to Italy, Scott, and have lots of pix of them mixed in with a few landscape shots and Italian street scenes and so on, where do you put the shoot? Do you lose track of the cool landscape or do you use keywords regardless of the initial folder categories and subcategories? I’m curious how you deal with mixed types.

  9. Egidio Leitao 30 January, 2015 at 07:31 Reply

    With the power of LR keywords and collections, do you think that subfolders really very useful? I am a hobby photo enthusiast and generally find that my shots may cover more than one topic. I sometimes have a hard time sorting them into one category only. I do keep all photos in an external hard drive. Inside that folder, there is a subfolder only for videos. What are the advantages of subfolders with specific topics? Would you please elaborate a little? Don’t keywords allow you the same freedom as subfolders?


    • Craig 30 January, 2015 at 14:03 Reply

      Colin/Egidio – while some people disagree, I keep all of my images in ssubfolders filed and named by date (such as Macintosh HD>Pictures>2015>20150129 for a shoot the other day), where the date comes from the EXIF data on the CF card from my camera. I do not (usually) keep images in folders by subject, primarily because those images could go into multiple categories (like “Vacations” +'”Travel” + “Family” + , etc,). for the rare times I use a subject title for a subfolder, like a multi-day vacation, I’ll create date-based subfolders beneath that for each day’s images (such as “Alaska Vacation>20140814”, with additional subfolders for each day of the vacation). That said, I use keywords religiously and then use Collections and Smart Collections to partition images, knowing they could be (and are often) in multiple collections. Thus I use the OSs file folder system only for storing images and nothing else. Since I almost never have to find images by date (and because the date shot is part of each images metadata), keywords are critical; the image’s location on a hard drive is almost irrelevant because I can find it by keyword. Hope this helps….

  10. Paul C 30 January, 2015 at 05:57 Reply

    Scott – you pointed to another great tip for photographers on your blog today that everyone on LKT should see – your clip with Dave Black… pure wisdom, so obvious yet so overlooked, pure gold. Thanks.

  11. Paul C 30 January, 2015 at 03:57 Reply

    Probably the most sound advice anyone can be given when starting out in LR… one primary folder, one catalog, use collections. Perfect.

  12. Dena Flows 30 January, 2015 at 03:57 Reply

    I like this one, I’ve gone a little (very little) different path, though.

    I have not a folder but a hard drive dovoted to photos and nothing else. All my photos are in this HD and there’s no other thing but photos in it.

    This way I have the same peace-of-mind and it also eases making backups and moving/copying the photos from one PC to another.

    • Roger 30 January, 2015 at 08:48 Reply

      I did this too, but I think I like Scott’s way better. Sometimes if I’ve run out of space in another drive, I’ll cheat and copy a big file or folder to my photo drive. Easier to forget/lose it with a whole bunch of folders on the root of the drive. Now that I’m going to move my photos to a central folder, I think I’ll do a better job keeping the drive organized.

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