Image Management in Lightroom

One of the key areas that we will be focusing during our upcoming post-processing workshops, is image management and its effect on your workflow process. Unfortunately, many of us end up using Lightroom just for editing images and might not be aware of the powerful filtering and image management tools built right into the software. Before I started using Lightroom, I used to have a very messy folder structure in my computer, with images residing in multiple folders and several drives. I never really bothered to organize images in my file system, because there was no good way to do it – most operating systems cannot even properly read image EXIF data and lack built-in functionality to effectively sort through thousands of images. After discovering Lightroom, I was able to finally organize all of my images in my computer and once I developed a good methodology, I have been using the same process successfully for many years now. I wrote a detailed guide on this a while ago in my “how to organize images in Lightroom” article, where I go into more details on the import process. In short, if you have a messy folder structure today, I highly recommend that you organize it as soon as possible. Not only will it save you from a lot of headaches when searching for a particular image, but it will also standardize your workflow process and make your backup process simple.

I recorded a video earlier today, where I demonstrate the image management capabilities of Lightroom and talk about why you should be managing your files directly from Lightroom rather than your operating system. Here is the video:

For those that cannot watch the video, I will soon be updating my article on organizing images in Lightroom for the latest version and include many of the notes from the above video.

If you have any questions, please let me know in the comments section below. I hope you find the above video useful and I hope it will motivate you to re-organize your photo library.


  1. 1) Clarence
    July 11, 2013 at 8:29 am

    Great tutorial!! My LR folders are a little messy and I will try your suggestion to reorganize them today.
    Do I need to do anything with the LR catalog?

    • July 15, 2013 at 1:23 am

      Clarence, if you have already edited your images in Lightroom, simply try to re-organize the photos using the folder structure that I showed in the video. If you have not edited your images, it might be best to start over…

  2. 2) Harjeet
    July 11, 2013 at 8:13 pm

    Great video Nasim. Thanks a lot. Really helpful to clear the mess in my laptop.

    • July 15, 2013 at 1:22 am

      You are most welcome Harjeet, glad you found the video useful!

  3. 3) wornish
    July 12, 2013 at 4:44 am

    Great video, it spurred me to sort out my photos.
    I am using LR5 on a MAC and when I try to create a new subfolder it does not give the option ( the check box) to move the selected photos from the original top level folder as per the video. Is there a way to do this or do I need to drag and drop them.

    • 3.1) wornish
      July 12, 2013 at 6:45 am

      After a lot of experimenting I have managed to answer my own question.
      In LR5 on a MAC you need to just hover the mouse over the target subfolder and then right click and select create target sub-folder on the menu. Hope this helps someone .
      Only 3500 photos to sort now.
      Thanks again for a great tutorial

      • July 15, 2013 at 1:21 am

        Glad you sorted it all out! Trust me, once you sort through everything, you will wonder why you have not done it earlier :)

  4. 4) Marco
    July 12, 2013 at 8:29 am

    Thank you so much for this tutorial Nasim. In all seriousness, this is life altering stuff. I had no idea Lightroom could make organizing my photos so easy.

    • July 15, 2013 at 1:21 am

      Marco, thank you for your feedback, glad you found the video useful.

  5. 5) Keith
    July 15, 2013 at 1:19 am

    I shoot raw only and use Lightroom to edit my photos. I have a question about what should we do about the exported jpeg files after images post processed. Should we not keep theses Jpeg after uploaded to websites. Keep in original same folder with RAW. Or delete them, when necessary, then export again from lightroom. What is the better handling suggestion for the exported jpeg files?

    • July 15, 2013 at 1:21 am

      Why keep the exported JPEG images? I always delete them, since I have the original files in RAW format :) I can re-extract JPEG images in any size later on, if I have the need.

  6. 6) Johny Wong
    July 15, 2013 at 12:40 pm

    Hi Nasim,

    I always want to know how professionals organize their photos. Currently, I don’t have many photos, but I learn to organize my photos as neat as possible. So, I won’t lose any photo when my collection grows.
    Your video really helps me because I learn better with video and voice. So, thank you for this. I’m looking forward for your future video tutorial.

    Btw, when I heard the video for a couple of seconds. I almost didn’t believe it was your voice. I though it was Roman’s. I repeat the earlier part just to make sure I heard the sentence “Hello everyone, Nasim here with photography life”. I always think you have a deep, baritone voice. Surprisingly, your voice is bright and crisp.

  7. 7) Richard D.
    July 23, 2013 at 11:12 am

    Hi, Nasim.

    I just started looking at the video. Just had time for about the first 6 minutes, and it looks quite good.

    I will say that long ago, I did start organizing like you do…..I have a folder by year, starting in 2003, all the way to the present. But, before I do years, I have a parent folder indicating the type of photos….I have “My Personal Photos,” “Professional Photos,” “Pictures from Mom” (I edit a lot of her photos for her), “Pictures from Others,” etc. Under each of these parents, then I organize by year. My hard drive will probably fill up by year’s end, so what I will probably do, in addition to getting a new computer system with RAID backup, I possibly may split my professional photos off onto a drive all its own.

    Under each year, I specifically name the event, along with the date. If there are multiple dates, especially with many images, I organize by date.

    So, as an example, for Christmas 2012, when all of my brothers and sisters come into town over various days, I’ll have the following folder structure:

    My Personal Pictures
    Christmas 2012

    etc., etc.

    I don’t have all of my images organized in this fashion….when I first started with digital, with an older PC, I organized differently. Slowly, I am moving those older folders into LR in the manner I described. And, of course, all new photos for probably the past 5 years have been imported properly.

    I’ll watch more of the video later….great job! Makes me feel better that I organize similar to how you do so!

  8. July 26, 2013 at 3:29 pm

    Hello. I am from Spain and I have known about your web recently, but I am amazed by the quantity, quality and easy language you use to make both novice and pros understan your lessons. Only for that, for sharing your knowledge and experience i can only say THANK YOU.
    I am using several years ago Aperture software, similar to LR but only for Mac. I am quite comfortable with it and have several thousands of pics, but since some time I am noticing that this software starts to be a bit outdated, so thats why I am going to try LR. I think some powerful tools, but I am scared about all the menus, options, etc. i think i will start step by step but sure I will need a lot of help.
    Let’s see if I can extract most info from my RAW files from my D90!!!.
    My tools:
    Nikon D90
    Grip MB-D80
    Nikkor 18-105 f3,5/5,6 VR
    Nikkor 35 mm f1.8 DX
    Tamron SP 70-300 mm VC USD
    Flash Metz 48AF
    Tripod Velbon
    Kenko filters CPL

  9. 9) Leo
    September 18, 2013 at 8:01 pm

    Thanks for the excellent video on LR4

  10. 10) Manish Suwal 'Enwil'
    August 11, 2014 at 11:27 pm

    I have been following your techniques and managing my photos. However, I stumbled upon a problem, and have a question for you.

    Where do you keep few random photos which doesn’t belong to any event? I have around 1000’s of those type of random photos which doesn’t have any event.

    For example, photos I take with my cell phone. I have around 5000 of those photos in one directory, but no events associated with it. Just random 3 or 4 photos of some places and then photo of some friends, selfies, etc.

    Also, on which years directory do you keep photos which don’t belong to any year. For example, photo of my passport, citizenship, license, birth certificate, etc? Also, Skype screenshots, and other photos from the internet.

    Thank you very much for the article, it really helped me manage my photos, except for the above problems. :-)

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