Lightroom Organization Tips

This entry is part 12 of 12 in the series Lightroom

Matt Kloskowski wrote a post on common Lightroom organization mistakes the other day.  Before you read my comments, please go read what Matt wrote.

I totally agree with Matt’s points.  I hear criticisms of Lightroom which I believe are because new users try the things Matt mentions when starting to use Lightroom.  When they go down one of these paths they become frustrated because Lightroom didn’t work for them.  A great example is moving images outside of Lightroom.  Once you commit to using Lightroom to organize your images if you manually organize outside of Lightroom it is not going to be looking at the same information as before.  Of course it won’t work right!  My advice to new users is read up on how Lightroom works and study advice from folks like Matt.

Speeding Coal


In my Ligtroom Catalog this image lives in the Photos folder on my storage drive.  It has the following keywords which will help me find it
in the future: 2013 06/01 CMR Photo Freight, Cars, Signal.  It also lives in a collection called Blur which helps me identify motion blur images.

To Matt’s list I’d add some items which are to some extent corollaries to Matt’s comments but apply to the railfan community.

Organizing By Rail Artifact

Just like organizing by date, I don’t recommend organizing your images files into a folder system based on a rail artifact like subdivision name, station name, railroad, locomotive model, or locomotive manufacturer.  Once you go down the path of organizing this way you will tend to use the folder structure you created to search for things.   Doing that defeats the purpose of having a robust organizing tool like Lightroom.   Instead I recommend all the original images are placed into a single folder and Lightroom keywords are used to categorize by your favorite rail artifact data.  Inside of Lightroom you not only would have access to search the keywords you assigned, but you’d also have an indication of which images are your picks (flags, colors, stars), and the metadata associated to the image.

If you organize images by a rail artifact today transitioning inside of Lightroom to keywords is pretty straightforward and quick.  I would import the photos using the folder structure you have today.  If  you organized by station name, click on the station name folder under Folders on the left side, do Ctrl/Cmd-A to select all the images, then add a keyword for the station name on the right side under Keywording.  Lastly move all of the images to the new folder structure.  Done!

In my catalog I keyword every image with an event (why I was shooting) and keywords which tell me more about what
is in an image.  Railroad images which include a locomotive are key worded with a locomotive number.

Renaming Files

I’ve heard many railfans rename their files to include information about the photo.  For example “4449_AMTK51_trip_to _bend_taken_at_moody_oregon.jpg”.  File names are not the best way to convey meta data like this.  There are too few characters and if you forget your naming standard suddenly there is no consistency so finding something becomes even more difficult.  Instead I recommend keeping the file name as simple as possible.  For the longest time I continued to use the file name assigned by the camera.   As Lightroom detected duplicates it appended a -# (e.g. IMG-0001-5.cr2).  That was fine but I wanted it a bit cleaner so I added the d

ate and time of capture to the file name to keep each file name unique.  There are many different schemes for this so I’m not saying mine is the best way.  My though is pick a naming convention that keeps the file names relatively unique and doesn’t include caption or keyword information.


All of my images have a modified filename which includes the date and original file name.

Those are my thoughts on organizing in Lightroom.  If any of you railfans would like my thoughts on your personal situation or catalog, drop me an email.  I’d love to get you started in the right direction.


Steam in '93

UP 3985 passes under I-84 east of Meacham, Oregon on June 13, 1993

Most of you that have been around me for a while know I’m pretty organized.  My vehicle is always clean with no trash on the floor, my gear is always in order, and I can always find my timetables.   If you were to ask me about any of my 20K + images I could find them in an instant thanks to good keywords and organization in Lightroom.

If this was your impression of me you were mostly right.

Last weekend while cleaning one our closets I found the box that I kept my old slide trays in.  It was time to be rid of the trays, projector, and screen as neither had been used since September 1994.  How do I know that date so precisely?  Well, inside one of the trays was a 57 Kodalux developed slides with SEP 94 stamped on them.

From what I can recall I loaded the slides in trays to show right after I got them back from developing.  Just like anyone else I wanted to see how I’d done (ahem, 2 weeks later, I really like digital).  For whatever reason I never took the next step and unloaded them from the tray and put them in the archival sleeves that the rest of my slide collection is in.  It also seems I never made any notes on them in my notebook either at capture time or later on when I reviewed them.

What a mess!  At least what a mess for me.

Did I miss these slides?  Well, apparently not.  When I found them, I did recall taking them and many of the details about them (save for some of the dates, thanks Mom & Dad!).  I think in my mind I’d written them off because I recall a roll of film being accidentally ruined around 2000.  I never expected to come across them.  I’m happy I did.

After scanning, adding to Lightroom, and key wording I tucked the stray slides into the archival sleeves for safe keeping.  Now that everything is in order again you can go back to thinking I’m really organized.