One of my favorite features inside of Lightroom is the ability to add images to collections. Collections are great because they are similar to folders, but you are able to store the same image within several different collections without having to move the file itself. This way you can make changes to the file and it will display those changes to that file across all collections where it is located. There are a few different aspects to collections, so I have them listed here below.
By default, the Quick Collection is the first collection you will likely have exposure to. This collection, located under the Catalog panel, is the initial target collection inside of Lightroom, meaning that when you use the keyboard shortcut B it will add any highlighted photo to that collection.
The Quick Collection is a good choice to use when you need to quickly group photos, but don’t necessarily need to have a permanent collection created in the Collections panel. One example of this would be if you need to export a handful of images for a blog post, and they are all in different folders. By adding them to the Quick Collection you are able to easily group them together and export them together. (Figure 1)
(Tip: To set your own target collection, right-click over top of it and select Set as Target Collection. The plus sign next to the collection name indicates that the collection is the current target collection and you can use the keyboard shortcut B to add your images.) (Figure 2)
Collections and Sets
Standard collections and collection sets are all located inside of the Collections panel, and they allow you a permanent place to organize your images. To create a collection or set, click on the Plus icon and select either Create Collection or Create Collection Set. (A Collection is where you will organize your photos, and a Set is where you will group your collections.) Then, give it a name and select any other items as necessary. (Figures 3 and 4)
Ultimately, how you organize your collections is up to you. Some ideas for collections you can use are to organize your images based on who the client is, projects you may be working on (scrapbook, books, etc.), or even to collect skies and textures for composite images.
If you want to have Lightroom organize some of your photos for you, then Smart Collections is a great way to do just this. There are some default Smart Collections already inside the Collections panel, so you can take a look at those and see how they collect your photographs. And you can even create your own Smart Collection with whatever criteria you would like to specify.
To create your own Smart Collection, click on the plus icon in the Collections panel and choose Create Smart Collection from the drop-down. In the window that pops up, choose a location for your collection and then start to define the criteria in the main box. Smart Collections are great for quick filtering of images based on rating, flags, labels, and even criteria such as file type, source folder, etc. There are a lot of possibilities with Smart Collections, its just a matter of what your needs are and how quickly you need the information. (Figure 5)