Focused on photography

Colouring folders in Lightroom

There are many ways how to organize your digital photos and the workflow of their editing…

Long time ago I chose for organizing my photos that highly recommended system of creating folders for individual years and inside them folders for individual months and finally inside the months folders for particular days when the photos were taken. I had been faithful to this system for quite many years until some time ago when I decided to change that. On the one hand I had too many folders, some of them with just a few photos, on the other hand photos from the same place were scattered among several unrelating folders. As a result, the structure was clear but not much helpful.

Today I still keep folders for the individual years but inside them I sort the photos according to places, styles and events, which makes the overview much more comprehensible at first sight.

Then there is the thing about checking, sorting and editing your photos. It’s one thing to take a photo and another one to finalize and present it. I’ve been terribly lacking in this regard lately…

The start is good. I upload my photos to the computer and sort them into appropriate folders. Then I import them to Lightroom where I go through them, delete the worst ones and add keywords to the remaining ones. But there it ends and as I shoot in RAW, you can imagine that I have plenty of unprocessed photos good almost for nothing. I’m always happy to go on a photo shoot but what’s the point in just collecting the unedited photos you never come back to?

A few weeks ago we returned home from our holiday in Giant Mountains and I added a nice pile of new photos to the stack. When I was looking at all the folders, I  realized I didn’t remember which folders I had already been going through, which photos I should pay more attention to, etc., etc. So I tried to figure out how to deal with this issue and improve my workflow and I found a help in a Lightroom feature I had not even been aware of before. Have you known that in LR you can now add a colour label to a folder?

When you right-click on a folder name, a dialogue opens with the option to add a colour label to that folder.

I decided to label each folder with new photos imported to LR as red. When I sort out and delete the unwanted photos from such a folder and assign keywords to the remaining ones, I label the folder as yellow.

Then I choose folders labeled as yellow, one at a time, and go through all their photos. To those photos that I like most and intend to work further with I assign a yellow label.

When I evaluate all the photos in such a “yellow folder”, I change the colour of that folder to green. I know thus that such a green-labeled folder includes photos I intend to edit.

Also I’ve created a smart collection “To be edited” that automatically includes all the photos with the yellow label so when I open the collection, I can see all the photos I wish to process.

If I change my mind later finding out a selected photo is not good enough for presenting, I simply remove its colour label and the photo disappears from that smart collection right away.

When I complete processing of a photo labeled as yellow, I change the yellow label to green and again, it is automatically added to a smart collection, this one for finished photos. When I e.g. use any of the photos with the green label in a blog post etc., I add a keyword relevant to the publishing and I remove the colour label. Lightroom can always show me which photos are processed so I don’t need to keep them in this collection forever. Instead I see just those ready to be newly used.

Finally, when I make all intended edits and publish or use all edited photos in a folder, which means all photos in that folder are without colour labels, I change the colour of such a folder to blue and I know I don’t have to deal with it any more unless I specifically wish so.

I decided not to add new photos into the colour-labeled folders as it would be confusing. Instead I always create a new folder with similar name (e.g. Yard I, Yard II, etc.) and merge the folders only when they are all labeled either in green or in blue.

I know this might sound complicated but I’m happy about this new workflow of mine. In this way I can always see which folders are untouched, which photos are selected for editing and which photos are prepared for presentation or other usage. It feels like knowing where to start and in which way to go and the task of dealing with all the sorting and editing feels much less intimidating.

But well, it’s just a tip along the way for finding your own improved workflow…