How to Use Library Filters and Collections to Sort & Search Images in Lightroom

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Lightroom is a fantastic program and it is designed to help you manage thousands of images, as well as edit and process them for whatever you need. However, with so many photos in your library, it can sometimes be hard to find the ones you want! Thankfully, in addition to all of its amazing editing tools, Lightroom also contains powerful tools for sorting your images and searching for specific ones within your library.

Two of these amazing tools include Collections and Filters.

What are Lightroom Collections?

A Collection is a way to group photos within your Lightroom Library and make them accessible across all Lightroom panels. With a collection, you can add photos from different folders across your drive and have them all in one place in your Lightroom Library, which makes it much easier to access your photos while you are editing.

Why should you use Collections?

Most people have their photos organized in a folder system on their computer or external hard drive. The drawback with using only a folder system is that if you want to edit photos from multiple folders on your drive, you will have to switch back to the Library module and choose a new folder each time. If you organize your photos into a Collection within Lightroom, you will able to access all those photos from any panel in Lightroom.

How to Use Smart Collections

Smart Collections are very different from regular Collections and are helpful in their own ways. With a regular Collection, when you want to add photos to the Collection, you simply click and drag photos into the Collection, or delete the photos when you want to remove them. You cannot do this with Smart Collections. Smart Collections are used to find and include or exclude photos based on criteria or filters that you have set for that Smart Collection. Rather than adding photos by dragging them in, photos are collected based on those set criteria.

For example, you may create a Smart Collection that contains all photos that you took between June and September 2020, that were given a 3+ star ratings, and are located in a specific folder on your hard drive. Rather than searching for and manually adding the photos with these criteria to a Collection, the Smart Collection collects all the photos automatically and adds them to the Smart Collection.

How to Create a Collection

To create a Collection, start by selecting a group of photos that you want to add to the Collection.

In the Collection panel on the left side of Lightroom, click on the + button at the top of the panel. This will open a menu which will allow you to select the type of Collection you want to create.

Filters Create Collection


After choosing the type of Collection, give your Collection a name, and then click “Create”.

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What are Library Filters?

Filters allow you to search for and sort your images based on a variety of parameters. You can search for a variety of filters that fall under: Text. Attribute, or Metadata.

The Text filter allows you to search your images by their text fields, including title, caption, keywords, searchable metadata, and more.

Image Attributes filters allow you to search by flag status, colour label, star rating, and file type.

With Metadata, you can search by camera, lens, ISO, shutter speed, and date.

How to Use Filters

To find filters, you need to be in the Library module, in the grid view. The filters can be found along the top bar of the Library module.


If you have searches that you use frequently, you can also save searches or combinations of filters as presets so you can easily use them again and again. To save a preset, go to the right hand side of the window (next to the padlock icon) and open the drop-down menu there. From that menu, select “Save as Preset” and then simply name your preset, and it will be there the next time you need to make that search!

Filters Preset

Another helpful tool to use with your filters is the padlock tool. When you are using filters in Lightroom, if you switch to another folder or Collection, Lightroom will automatically reset all of your filters. If you do not want your filters reset, click the padlock icon so that it is in the “locked” position, and then your filters will remain in place as you switch folders or Collections. This padlock icon is found at the right side of the window.

Filters Padlock

Once you understand how to use Collections and Filters, you can unlock even more of Lightroom’s power! Keeping your images organized and being able to find them quickly will save you tons of time and make your workflow so much smoother in the long run!