Lightroom Smart Collections - a gem of a feature

July 31, 2015  •  1 Comment

I've been using Adobe Lightroom for many years and right from the get go, together with many photographers around the globe, I have found it to be a first class workflow, librarian, and RAW image processing tool.  If for some reason you've yet to try it, perhaps take a look at Adobe's free 30 day trial - I'm sure you'll be impressed!  I've only recently upgraded from Lightroom V4 to their latest incarnation: Adobe Creative Cloud, Lightroom CC 6.1, and by golly I'm sure glad I did! I may write up more on Lightroom v6.1 in a future blog.  

The Grid view in LightroomI've selected the source to be my entire catalogue.

This though is a brief intro about a super, yet not oft used feature in many (maybe all, not 100% sure) versions of Lightroom - that of Smart Collections.

Have you ever wished there was a quick and easy way to view all your long exposure shots? or maybe you've wanted to view those shots taken with a specific lens? or even shots that you have flagged as 'keepers' during the last week/month/year?  Well, using Smart Collections you can achieve this... and a lot more!  You don't ever have to manually add an image to a Smart Collection as Lightroom does this for you automatically - all based on the set of criteria used within the Smart Collection.

I enjoy long exposure photography and regularly take shots where the shutter speed is in excess of several seconds (or for me more usually minutes), so maybe I'll use an example here where we will create a Smart Collection that lists all the long exposure shots within my entire Lightroom catalogue.

We start off by selecting the source for the images - which in this case is my entire Lightroom catalogue (though you can set the source for any Smart Collection to be any folder/drive etc).  My Lightroom Grid view (G) with the whole catalogue selected is shown in the image above.  I will create a new Smart Collection by clicking the + symbol at the top right of the Collections tab and select Create new Smart Collection

You can see I have populated the frame with the following:

Name: My Long Exposures (call this what you wish)

Location: I previously created a Smart Collections set, so naturally I selected this location to save my new Smart Collection called 'My Long Exposures' in.

Match: All

Selection criteria: I selected shutter speed (from the camera info set) as this is how I determine if the shot is a long exposure.

I then selected 'is greater than' and '10' in the other two fields.  Once you press Create, a new Smart Collection is created within my Smart Collections sub-folder as you can see here.
You can also see that it has automatically populated the Collection with 605 images - meaning 605 of the images in my Lightroom catalogue have exposures of greater than 10 seconds.  Each time I load a new image into Lightroom that has an exposure of >10s this image will automatically appear within this Smart Collection.  Voila, there's no need to do anything.

If say I wanted to amend this Smart Collection to include 'flagged' images (you can see in the screenshot that there is at least one white flag in the top left corner of the thumbnail) I can easily add a further selection criteria as seen here. Simply right-click on the collection name you wish to amend, within the dialogue box add the additional selection criteria as shown.  Once you Save this new selection, the number of images within the Smart Collection will automatically adjust to reflect the number of images that meet BOTH criteria specified.

Isn't that awesome?

OK, this really is a simple example, but hopefully it illustrates how easy it is to use Lightroom Smart Collections and how very useful they really are! I hope this article makes you want to jump up, leap out of your chair, and try Smart Collections out in your version of Adobe Lightroom!   

Thanks for reading, and do feel free to ask any questions you may have about Lightroom, and do leave feedback.


1.Steve Williams(non-registered)
Thanks for this article, being relatively new to Lightroom (and having also just upgraded to LR6.1) its nice to be able to find some 'easy to understand' instructions on some of the features that I havent really spent any time with yet.

I now understand that its like having an extra database within Lightroom, that will allow me to sort and view my photos in many different groups.

I did 'give it a go' and set myself up a new 'smart collection', following the details as per your article. I selected mine to 'sort' by Focal Length, choosing 18mm as my widest lens, which I mostly use for my scenery shots.

It all worked perfectly, and I can now check out all my pics at 18mm Focal length, just by clicking on my newly formed 'Smart Collection'

Once again, thanks for your brief, but informative 'how to' article, i'll certainly keep an eye out for more of the same!
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