5 Ways to Use Lightroom Smart Collections

Laptop with Mortarboard and Scroll Education Concept

One of the most powerful features in Lightroom is its ability to keep really good track of the files that you need exactly when you need them. Collection Sets and Collections really take the pain out of the organizational elements of the program – but it’s the Smart Collections that I find to be the unsung heroes of the program. These collections are built by pre-setting a criteria, and letting the program do the rest for you!

Here are 5 ways that I think these Smart Collections can help your Lightroom workflow:

Smart Collections for Rejected Images

To create a Smart Collection, click on the plus symbol to the right of the Collections Panel and select Smart Collection.


From here, you’ll see a series of criteria that you can select from to make the smart collection. In this instance, I’m going to select anything that has a pick flag status of rejected.


Why: There are many times that you go through the culling process with your images marking pick and rejects – but I tend to sometimes forget to delete those rejected images. If you go across 100K images and start running out of hard drive space, this Smart Collection is a great way to do some garbage collection. Click on it.. review the images you marked as garbage, and delete away!

Smart Collections for Smart Previews

I love that Lightroom now gives you the option to work with images on disconnected drives using Smart Previews. That said, I feel like I am usually trying to keep as much free space as I can on my computer. If you thought 1:1 previews were big – Smart Previews aim to take up more space than that, so I want to use them judiciously.


Now, Lightroom doesn’t have a way to prompt you on your Smart Preview usage (something I really wish it did), so you have to manage this space a little on your own. Setup a Smart Collection with the Smart Preview option set to True. This will let you keep in mind of just how many youre making, and let you discard them if you need to.

Smart Collections for finding Specific File Types

Whenever I am working in HDR or panoramics, I tend to like to save these files as TIF images. Because of their uncompressed nature, these things could take up a lot of space. How about setting up a Smart Collection that looks for TIFF images?

Even better – there are times when I just don’t remember what kind of images I’ve worked on in the past couple of months and I need a quick reminder. I have a Smart Collection set with a file type of PSD for this. As I see it – anything that I spend a little bit of time on is probably saved as a Photoshop file (since I have Lightroom set to export them as PSD in the preferences. Clicking on the PSD Smart Collection helps me jar my memory, and get back to work.

Smart Collections for my Best Images (Star and Color)

When I’m going through the culling process, I tend to use the 5 star shots to show the best images that I made on a shoot. From there, I set the images that I want to work on in Photoshop as a color label of Green. Once the image is brought into Photoshop, Edited, and ready to send out, I set the color label to red.

This would mean that my 5 star images are –not- the images I would want to show. It’s the 5 star images that ALSO have a red flag associated with them. In Smart Collections, you can set additional criteria by clicking on the + icon. Set something up like this, and you can always show the most current work that you’re doing in no time.

Smart Collections for Aspect Ratio

I tend to print things in batches – sometimes several months after I’ve made the shot. I also tend to get stuck shooting in a particular orientation. These days, I cant seem to break from shooting Landscape. Well, what if I had to make a print for a wall, and I didn’t really know if I had worked on anything that happened to be in Portrait orientation?

Smart collections to the rescue! I can make one that shows all picked images, with 5 stars, that were edited (the red flag), that are PSD files, that have an aspect ratio of Portrait. Instead of weeding through all of the files, I can have Lightroom monitor it for me intelligently.

That’s the holy grail, isn’t it – Let someone else do the hall monitoring. We just want to be out there making the pictures!