Orginising your Lightroom Catalog

Organising Your Lightroom Catalog: Part 2

Gerry van der Walt All Authors, Gerry 1 Comment

In part 1 of this series of posts we looked at the Lightroom Catalog.

Remember I said that you can think of a Catalog as a photo album.  Inside this photo album you can add any amount of images from different events or safaris.  Each of these different events will then be a Folder of images that belong together.

So, if your Catalog is the top level of the Lightroom organisational structure then Folders will be the next step down and then after that you would get Collections.  Lightroom shows us this in the Library module.

Orginising your Lightroom Catalog

Can you see therefor that the top to bottom organisation means that you can have a Lightroom Catalog without any Folders in it – which means that there won’t be any images in the Catalog – but you cannot view the images in a Folder with Lightroom without those folders being assigned (in)to a Catalog.

Folders in Lightroom

The Adobe website says the following.

The folders that contain your photos are displayed in the Folders panel of the Library module. The folders in the Folders panel reflect the folder structure on the volume itself and appear in alphanumeric order.

This above description is important and two points are worth emphasising.

  • The Folders in Lightroom mimics the Folder name and locations as on your computer of external hard drive.
  • Lightroom will only show you the Folders that you have added to the current Catalog.

Looking at the screenshot of my Folders panel below we can tell a couple of things.

Orginising your Lightroom Catalog

The image shows all the Folders that are included in this particular Catalog.

They are:

  1. Macintosh HD:  These images are on my computer’s hard drive.  Note that there is only one Folder with 227 images.
  2. Gerry – Master LR:  These images are located on my external hard drive (names Gerry – Master LR).
  3. Gerry 3TB:  This is my large external hard drive where I copy all of my RAW files. This is home base for me.

Before we carry on you will see that all the Folders on my 3TB external hard drive has question marks next to them and the name of the drive is not highlighted.  This means that the external hard drive is not currently connected to the Catalog – i.e. it is not plugged into my computer – but Lightroom still shows me the Folders and files. This is where Smart Previews come in – which allows you to work on your images without actually having access to the original file – but more on that in a future post.

Creating Folders in Lightroom

There are two ways in which you can add Folders to your Lightroom Catalog.

The first is to allow Lightroom to create the Folders and copy the images from a camera or memory card into these Folders.

The second way is to manually create the Folders on your computer, either by copying the images from a memory card or camera  or by using another program to import the images to your hard drive.

In both instances the following happens:

  • A Folder is created on a hard drive
  • Image files are copied into those folders
  • Lightroom ‘looks’ at the Folders you tell it to, or that you have just imported, and mimics them in the Folders panel.

Once you have your Folders in Lightroom there are a couple of way you can manage them.

Managing Folders in Lightroom

The one way is to click on the + on the right of the Folders panel which will bring up a small menu.

Orginising your Lightroom Catalog

This menu will allow you to add folders from your hard drive or external hard drives, something which is very handy if you manually copy your images into directories and folders on your computer, or to change the way the folders are displayed in Lightroom.

The other way is to make the changes you want to the actual folder outside of Lightroom, such as copy new files, delete files or change the folder name, and then right click on the Folder in Lightroom which will bring up the following menu.

Orginising your Lightroom Catalog

If you have copied any new files into the specific Folder you can now simply click on Synchronize Folder and Lightroom will do the rest for you.

The rest of the menu items are pretty self explanatory and the main thing to remember is that whatever changes you make to a Folder in Lightroom will be reflected on your Hard Drive and vice versa as long as, in the second instance, you hit Synchronize Folder afterwards.

I say this on every Lightroom course that we run but it cannot be overemphasised how important it is, and how easy it will make your processing life, to have a neat and tidy Folder system.  Knowing where your files are is invaluable and your entire Cataloging system will be the better for it.

So, let’s recap a few important points:

  • The Catalog is the most top level of organising your digital images in Lightroom.
  • Once you import images into Lightroom the images are stored in Folders.
  • Folders are where your images ‘live’ on your hard drive.
  • Images cannot be in your Catalog without having a home in a Folder.
  • Lightroom mimics the Folders (with images) and shows them in the Folders panel.
  • Lightroom will only show you the Folders you ask it to and not your entire hard drive structure.

Once you have your Folders sorted, which means they are in your current Catalog, the next step in the organisational structure would be Collections.

These are just the basics but if you have any Folder specific questions feel free to leave a comment below and I’ll assist where I can and then make sure to stay tuned for the next post in which I will look at Collections and how they fit into the organisational structure in Lightroom.

Good luck and happy cataloging.

Until next time,



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About the Author

Gerry van der Walt

I am a private and specialist photographic safari guide, public speaker, co founder of Wild Eye and wildlife photographer. Visit my website at or follow my journey on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter a look forward to changing the way you see the world.  I also host a Wildlife Photography Podcast and I Vlog!

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