In addition to being an excellent image post processing tool, Skylum’s Luminar 3 is also a digital asset management tool. As with any photo organization tool, users should put some thought into the organization of the images on their hard drive before getting too far along with the software. A poorly-organized hard drive can make finding and working on your photographs a nightmare.

One of the neat things about the new version of Luminar is that it combines many of the best features of a browser and a catalog into one software package. This combination of features means that you can easily organize images inside or outside of Luminar 3.

File organization

Before getting started with any photo organization software, the most important thing you can do is to organize your files on your hard drive in a logical way that makes sense to you. I recommend first setting up your file structure then importing your images into the Luminar 3 library.

Since everybody’s brain works differently, don’t feel like you have to follow my personal system for file structure and folder organization. Rather, I encourage you to develop your own that functions well for your workflow.

I personally use a folder structure organized by years, with subfolders labeled with download date and text describing the content within the folder. For example:



I’ve been working with digital asset management systems for decades and have even written a book on the topic. Over the years I’ve coached photographers to use organizational systems based around all kinds of concepts. For example, a wedding photographer might organize based on date and client name. A travel photographer might organize based on continent, country and city/region. An amateur photographer might organize based on subjects like children, trips and events. A stock photographer might simply organize in dated folders, then make significant use of keywords.

Your goal should be to develop the system that works for you, then stick with it. Every time you photograph an event or a trip, make sure your images go into the same organizational file structure that you set up for all the other images in your archive.

Another point I should make is I’ve found that the key to success in a file organization system is to use an approach that is independent of the software you are using. Photographers need to make sure that their organizational structure works with whatever software the future holds.

Luminar 3 is a catalog and browsing tool

As I mentioned in the opening paragraphs, the cool thing about Luminar 3 is that it is a hybrid of a catalog and a browser. The catalog functionality of the software stores information (metadata) about the images separately from the individual files and allows you to search and sort regardless of how the images are physically organized. The browser functionality of the software allows you to work outside of the program to do things like move folders or add/delete images with other software.

Because of this unique functionality, you can use Luminar 3 to organize, add, remove or relocate folders and images. Alternately, if you find yourself browsing your files using something like Mac Finder, Windows Explorer or any other browsing software, then Luminar 3 automatically tracks those changes (as long as the files were moved inside folders that Luminar 3 is already tracking).

Since Luminar 3 works directly with the actual folders on your hard drive, any and all changes to your folders or files are immediately updated both in the catalog and on the hard drive. Moving images from one folder to another inside Luminar 3 means you are actually moving them on the hard drive.

Luminar 3 scans the folders you’ve previously added to its catalog so that if you move, change, or edit files outside of the program, it will properly update them inside the program. This means that Luminar 3 stays in sync with your hard drives without a lot of fuss. Contrast this with Lightroom Classic, where you have to be very careful about moving folders and files outside of the program. Most Lightroom users try to do everything inside of the program or they risk losing track of the images inside of its catalog.

Since any organization that happens inside or outside Luminar 3 stays coordinated with the software you can work on a photo in Photoshop and then save it back to a folder that is already in the Luminar 3 catalog. Luminar 3 will automatically notice the new or changed image and add it to the catalog. In this way, the catalog is behaving like a browser such as Photo Mechanic, Adobe Bridge, Mac Finder or Windows Explorer.

Folders vs. albums

Luminar 3 gives you a couple of different ways to group and organize your photos: Folders and albums. As mentioned above, folders are a mirror-image of the folder structure on your hard drive. Folders are where images are actually stored.

Albums on the other hand are virtual organizational tools that allow you to add images from any folder into a common group. For example, you could create an album of images of your daughter where the images were from multiple years. Or, you could create an album of big cats from different wildlife safaris. This functionality is almost identical to collections in Lightroom.

How do edits impact files?

All edits and modifications in Luminar 3 are non-destructive. This means that the adjustments you make to your images are actually stored in the catalog database. In this way, Luminar 3 is behaving like a catalog tool.

Importing images vs. adding folders

There are two main approaches to adding images to Luminar 3. The first is by importing images and the second is by adding folders.

Importing images physically moves files from their current location to a new location that you specify. For example, you’ll use this method to move photographs from a memory card to your hard drive.

During this import process, you can choose to copy images or move images. Copying the images leaves the originals at their starting location and I strongly suggest using this approach for importing images from your memory card. This will make sure you don’t delete the files until you have your data backed up in at least one more location like a second hard drive or a cloud-based storage location.

The second method for adding images to Luminar 3 is by selecting Add Folder… This approach simply adds the folder from its existing location to the Luminar 3 catalog.


I recommend structuring your folder system in a way that encourages you to consistently follow the same approach every single time you save images to your hard drive. Your system should be independent of your software and allow you to operate in the future with any operating system, editing program or database program you might be using. Since Luminar 3 operates both as a catalog and a browser, it allows you to organize folders and images inside or outside the program. Essentially, Luminar 3 works seamlessly with your file structure without having to do any additional synchronization.