Getting organized in Lightroom starts at the import stage. A little organization up front goes a long way towards succes.

While an entire chapter can be written on how to design and optimize a file structure system, I’d like to keep it simple. There are many way to accomplish this. What works for me, may not work for you. Overall your file structure system has to make sense to you (or you won’t follow it).

Getting Organized

This is one example on how I designed my file structure system for the majority of my photos. This example is for Senior portraits but is easily applied for other shoots.

  • I have an external hard drive named: Drobo-Photography (E:) connected to my desktop with a main folder Photography.
  • Inside this folder are subfolders organized by the clients name.
  • After a shoot, I import images to a subfolder I create with the date and a simple description inside the clients folder.
  • By naming the clients subfolder year-month-day-description, all shoots for that client are sorted first to last. I only put photos and model release forms (saved as a PDF) in these folders.

Quick Overview

  • Use an external drive to store your images.
  • Create a file structure that makes sense to you.
  • Apply a useful filename to your image keeping the original file number.
  • Add keywords and copyright information to the image’s meta data,

Create Clients folder

Let’s start by setting up a folder for each client.

  1. From the folders panel, right mouse click on the root folder of your photo library.
  2. Select Create Folder Inside <your photo library name>
  3. If your root folder doesn’t appear, right mouse click on any folder and select Show Parent Folder
  4. When the Create Folder dialog box appears, name this folder your clients name.
  5. Under folder options there will be a check next to Put inside <your photo library name>.
  6. Leave Include selected photos unchecked.
  7. Click create and your new folder will appear under your photos library name.

Create Clients subfolder

Now it’s a good idea to make subfolders for each shooting session or job.

  1. Right mouse click on the clients folder you just created. Select Create Folder Inside <Clients name>.
  2. When the Create Folder dialog box appears, name this subfolder year month day and a descriptive name. Example: 20131130 Senior Portraits.
  3. Under folder options there will be a check next to Put inside <your clients name>.
  4. Leave Include selected photos unchecked.
  5. Click create and a subfolder will appear under your clients name.

If the new subfolder does not appear under your clients name, find it and simple click and drag it under the clients name.

Import images from memory card

Now you’re ready for import.

  1. Right mouse click on the clients subfolder you just created.
  2. Select Import to this Folder.
  3. Images from your memory card will appear in the import box.
  4. If images do not appear, select your device from the Source Panel.

Import Dialog Box options

There are several options you should be aware of when importing.

  • File Handling. Place a check mark next to All Photos. Make sure Copy is highlighted. From the File Handling Panel place a check next to Don’t Import Suspected Duplicates

  • File Renaming. Place a check mark next to Rename Files. Click the Template dropdown menu and select Custom Name – Original File Number In the Custom Text box type your clients name.

  • Apply During Import. Click the Metadata dropdown menu and select your copyright preset. If you didn’t create a copyright preset, click new and follow the steps in the post.

Why Do It?

Creating a file structure that makes sense to you saves time when you need to quickly find an image. Conquering Lightroom’s Import Window is a simple concept that is cross platform, for both Windows and Mac systems, and isn’t limited to Lightroom.