After a sustained attempt to sort my digital life out and substantial learning and reading; it appears I am almost at the end of the campaign to straighten things out. In the midst of this work I found out about a really cool technique to supercharge a workflow and I wanted to share it with you!
I can’t say that this solution will work in every situation and for everyone. It should also be considered as part of a holistic approach to the workflow problem – but I did find one killer application that really helped me along…
We are, most of us, probably acquainted with the term ‘workflow’; in photography, it’s used to describe the process that we follow to take a digital image from capture/creation through to storage and publication. Well, Adobe Lightroom gave us a gift from above in trying to handle a workflow: It’s called a ‘Smart Collection’.
We are all familiar with the folder structure on a personal computer. It’s been evident for a while that this structure doesn’t really cope that well with the way we humans remember where to find things. I think we can summarise the problem like this: We need to store one version of a file in one physical place on a computer hard drive but we also need to find it in many places in software applications.
Many of the big names in the IT world have found solutions to this problem and Adobe is no different with Lightroom. If we think about the physical storage of digital files on a personal computer we quickly realise that the folder structure where we try to classify files is too limiting. For example, we may have a couple of photos; one of a duck and the other of a bear taken at Johannesburg Zoo. How do we store them? We could put them in one folder marked ‘zoo’ or two folders marked ‘duck’ and ‘bear’ or even folders marked by ‘date’, either way, we see that these images fit more than one criteria. In other words, they can be logically grouped in more than one way. Smart Collections are designed to help us with this conundrum.
With a Smart Collection we can organise our files, or rather virtual copies of our files, by any searchable criteria held in the file or Lightroom itself. These criteria could be words in the title or caption, ratings stars, colours, time, edits, adjustments, publication info, file type or keywords. We can perform basic queries on the criteria to return certain sets of images to our collection, but here’s the beauty; we can save the criteria to the folder and keep it.
*Tip/ To edit the criteria ‘right-click’ the item and select ‘edit’ from the popup menu
This is really useful just in ordinary Lightroom use. For example, I could keep all my portfolio standard images in one Smart Collection ready to view whenever I like. I could subdivide that Collection by animal or place, subject or client and have a really quick and useful way to get to images that I want to use or show to people – without having to create a folder specifically for them on my computer. However, if I only did this it would miss a key benefit: Using Smart Collections as a workflow.