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How to Organize Lightroom

Published: 20/09/2021

Lightroom speeds up the editing process of real estate photographers. However, it can get messy and disorganized as you store and retouch thousands of images. In this article, we're sharing tips on how to organize Lightroom, so you can have an efficient post-production workflow and spend more time taking photos. 

How to Organize Lightroom

The key to organizing Lightroom is using a pictures folder, creating a Lightroom catalog, editing catalog settings, and using collections. You can also organize photos in Lightroom by renaming files, applying presets, rating photos, and deleting unwanted images.

Lightroom is an exceptionally valuable tool for post-production. However, among its amazing abilities is file management. For this article, let's go over the step-by-step guide and tips on how to organize your photos in Lightroom to ensure you can locate files immediately and focus on photo editing.

Organize Your Photos in Lightroom Using a Folder Structure

Years of using Lightroom liberally can result in a cluttered interface. Even if you're just learning real estate photography, among the easiest ways to organize photos in Lightroom is to develop a folder structure. 

Separating real estate images after transferring them to your laptop is the first step to an organized photo importation. To do this, create one folder called 'Real Estate Photos', where you would store all of your work-related property images or for other types of photography.

You can then create folders per year or any other desired property. For example, you will store all of your California bookings in Photos\December\California. You can then think of subcategories such as Sacramento residential properties or Irvine apartments.

A photo being edited on Lightroom

Create Lightroom Catalogs and Modify Settings

After sorting photos on your laptop or computer, the next step is to create a new Lightroom Catalog by going to File then clicking New Catalog.

The next best way to optimize the software is to modify the Lightroom Catalog settings. This also applies whether you're learning how to use Lightroom 5 or Lightroom Classic.

  • Go to Lightroom for Mac users or Edit for Windows users. After that, select Catalog Settings
  • You can choose either General or Standard Preview Size. From the General tab, determine the frequency of backing up the Lightroom Catalog.
  • From File Handling, you can decide if you want the software to render previews according to how you calibrate the monitor's resolution. Additionally, make sure to consider print paper profiles or how you add ICC profiles.
  • By default, the program will check Offer Suggestions from Recently Entered Values and Include Develop Settings in Metadata.
  • It's automatic for the application to turn off the option 'Automatically Write Changes Into XMP'. However, you can check this field to ensure the image file would retain all of the changes you made in the software.
  • You can also deselect the option to write metadata changes into XMP. Enabling this option tends to clog up the program with tons of XMP files you may not have to use.

Once you have a catalog, you can work on lots of real estate photos by giving the same effect to all of them. You can achieve this by simply copying the edits in multiple images.

Delete Lightroom Catalogs

If you can create catalogs, you can definitely delete a Lightroom catalog you won't use anymore. As some of the properties you photographed get sold or renovated, you probably won't have any use in some of the images.

  • Go to Edit and choose Catalog Settings.
  • Select the General tab from the dialog box.
  • Search for the location for the catalog's file path.
  • Delete the unwanted catalogs.

After deleting, you can relaunch Lightroom to create a new catalog.

Modify Lightroom Preferences

In one survey, photographers spend 28% of their time retouching photos and other computer-related tasks. However, you can shorten your time when you have file organization in Lightroom.

Lightroom provides a default setting when creating a new catalog. While you can still change them later, it's best to organize your photos through references right away.

  • Head to Edit > Preferences.
  • The first setting you can change is the Default Catalog option. You can select Load the Most Recent Catalog, Show Important Dialog When a Memory Card is Detected', or Prompt Me When Starting Lightroom.
  • The next thing you can change is the Presets settings. One of the benefits of using Lightroom is that you can store user presets in a general folder or each Lightroom Catalog. From there, you can modify the presets, including import settings, copyright information, or file naming.
  • Still from the Edit tab, move on to External Editing, which enables you to determine the File Format and Color Space. This is perfect, particularly when you need to jump from Photoshop to Lightroom.
  • If you're exporting RAW images in Lightroom, it's best to use TIFF or RGB. These formats preserve all image details for the ultimate color reproduction. You can also apply 16 bits for the bit depth and 240 or 300 as the resolution.
  • You can select the Stack With Original option, which allows an externally edited photo to remain attached to the original image for photo editing.

Select a Viewing Method

When scrolling through photos on your mobile phone, you probably have a preference in viewing them. Do you select all pictures, recently added, or favorites? The same applies in Lightroom, as the software offers different options for viewing images.

To view the grid to the right, go to In the My Photos, then choose from any of the following: All Photos, Recently Added, By Date, People, or Albums. You can then see the images from the Sharing panel, including those Shared for Connections or Shared to Web.

After that, specify how you want to display pictures in the Grid.

  • Detail: Detail lets you work on photos while in display mode.
  • Square Grid: This kind of display allows you to see equal-sized thumbnails with ratings and sync status.
  • Photo Grid: This option enables you to view images as thumbnails without badges or borders.

Choose the File Handling Preferences

When working in the real estate photography industry, it's not enough that you shoot professionally. You also need to have a process for managing your images, and that involves managing several aspects of the software.

Advertisements prompt 90% of people to purchase something. For agents, real estate photography has an integral role to play in their marketing efforts. It's essential to control how you import images into the Lightroom library, as this affects photo organization. 

Another way to have an organized Lightroom Catalog is to manage Preferences in the Library module, especially when using multiple catalogs.

  • Go to the General tab, then head to Default Catalog. In this way, you can select the catalog you want to load right away when loading the software.
  • Set the File Extension to DNG because this format can store RAW images, making it easy to open RAW files in Lightroom. Even when you have to work on uncompressed RAW photos, DNG can save lots of space in the software by converting uncompressed files into compressed ones.
  • Set Compatibility to the latest Camera RAW version available so you can control the tools for editing exposure, white balance, or sharpness.
  • While you can resize photos during export, you can initially set JPEG Preview to Medium Size. Doing so would instruct the software to produce smaller previews inside the DNG files. In effect, you can save up to 15% of space per image.
  • Uncheck Embed Original RAW File. Checking this option only adds the DNG format, taking up more space in your drive and slowing loading times.
A woman editing the photos in her camera using Lightroom

Import and Organize Photos into the Lightroom Catalog

The way you import photos using catalogs deeply affects how smooth your post-production will become. To ensure that, launch the import catalog by going to File, then click on Import Photos. After that, you should see an import screen. 

The left portion is where you can grab files. The right part provides the destination and import settings, while the middle section displays the photos you will import.

This part of managing photos in Lightroom also helps the program determine whether you're using permanent storage, your device, or a memory card reader.

Specify Import Options

Lightroom has lots of organizational tools, even when you're just simply importing photos. Make sure to update your Lightroom regularly, so you can get all the options for bringing photos into your Lightroom catalog for object removal.

  • Build Previews: It's best to set the Build Previews option to Minimal to save time when importing photos into Lightroom. Meanwhile, you can choose 1:1 if you have plenty of storage and want files to render full reviews quickly.
  • Build Smart Previews: This option is particularly ideal when doing outside shoots. If you use a laptop or computer to store catalogs yet your actual shots are on an external drive, turning on Smart Previews enables Lightroom to create image previews as if you're connected to the central storage. 
  • Don't Import Suspected Duplicates: Turn this on if you usually sync photos for Lightroom mobile. Enabling this option instructs Lightroom to disregard duplicate files or photos for importing even if an image has a duplicate of another file with the same filename or file size.
  • Make a Second Copy: This option is ideal when moving or copying images into a catalog. From File Handling, select Make a Second Copy To, then specify the location.

Rename Photos When Importing

File renaming is another good way to sort out Lightroom data. It's typical to see photos with names like DSC_0001.DNG. However, random letters and numbers can look confusing when you're sorting through thousands of images. Besides, this may eventually create duplicates.

To solve this, you can rename your pictures in a different format or develop a sequence number. You can try using: YYYYMMDD-Property or Client's Name-Place. Make sure to include dashes in between for a clear distinction of the words.

Given this format, you can rename photos like 20210902-XXXX real estate apartment-Naples Florida. This is just an example, and you can change it to a format that makes it easier to distinguish files.

Identify the Destination Section

About 45% of brokers say the most complex challenge agents experience involves keeping up with technology. Among those is the use of digital images. To attract clients with your real estate photography services, it's essential that you can manage photos in Lightroom and have a systematic workflow.

However, storing images in random folders is among the common mistakes photographers and editors make when managing Lightroom. Fortunately, Lightroom lets you identify the location of where the import process will store files. 

  • By default, the program will create a folder with a file name like E:\Photos\2021. If you don't want to run with duplicates, leave the Into Subfolder option checked to let Lightroom create subfolders in the hard drive. 
  • You will then see two options from the drop-down menu. The first one is Organize By Date. This option allows you to specify the format for the subfolders.
  • If you already have folders for each month or year, you may not need to create subfolders. Instead, you can select the second option, which is Organize Into One Folder.

Modify Capture Time

Houses with high-quality images sell 32% faster than other properties. File organization plays a role in ensuring you work with your best shots during post-production.

One of the great things about using Lightroom is that you can change the date and time of photos. You may experience this when you're a traveling real estate photographer, and you weren't able to change the camera's setting according to the location's timezone.

  • Pick pictures in the Grid.
  • Bring up the Info panel from the screen's lower-right corner.
  • Click on the Edit icon, then select a single image. 
  • Once the Edit Date & Time dialog appears, you can change the information to your desired value.

Manage Filter Presets

Listings with professional images get a 139% increase in clicks than similar listings. As an editor, you need the best real estate photography presets to enhance your images and make the colors pop. You can even install filters that add snow, preset brushes, or VSCO presets on Lightroom.

Adding presets in Lightroom enables you to change the look of photos with a click. However, part of having a systemized Lightroom is managing presets in various ways.

Back Up Presets

Successful professionals working in the real estate photography industry prepare for the unexpected. Having a backup of filters ensures you don't misplace them, and you can access them quickly when post-processing or if you want to sell Lightroom presets.

  • Open the Develop Module and expand the Presets panel. Right-click on a preset, then select Show in Finder for Mac or Show in Explorer for Windows.
  • Return to the Lightroom folder after the file destination opens up, then click on Develop Presets Folder.
  • Copy and paste the folders to a different area on your drive.

Hide Unwanted Presets

Lightroom offers numerous default presets that you can apply to multiple photos. Eventually, you will learn how to make your own presets or save new filters in Lightroom. In time, all of the filters can clog up the program.

To hide filters you rarely use or don't plan on using anytime soon, right-click on the preset folders in the Presets panel. Once you select Manage Presets, a dialog box will show all of the filters. Uncheck the ones you want to hide, then click on Save.

In this way, you can save time managing filters, especially when you need to export Lightroom presets.

Sync Presets

Learning how to use Lightroom presets for post-production is pretty straightforward. However, it can sometimes be confusing when you can't use some filters on both Lightroom and Lightroom Classic.

When syncing Lightroom presents to mobile, the first option is to launch the program. Click on File, then select Import Presets. After that, go to the location where you want to store the presets. Choose the location, then click on Import.

Another option is to navigate the User Presets section, then right-click on the particular preset you want to sync.

A laptop on a desk with a Lightroom app opened

Do a Post-Import Check

Real estate is among the top industries that hire photo editors. To increase your chances of earning a high income as an editor, it's crucial that you use Lightroom efficiently.

Conducting a post-import check is another way of handling photos. Make sure to change the name of the photos folder, as well as the Keywords and Custom Text fields upon importing.

If you imported files with the incorrect setting, you can simply select the imported photos, then change the keywords and rename the folders. You can also create a sequence number for easier identification.

Perform Full Backup

One of the best ways to organize your photos in Lightroom is to store images on the root folders of your laptop or computer's hard drive. The software doesn't back up images, yet it can back up Lightroom catalogs. However, there's still the risk of losing crucial photos.

Furthermore, overstuffing Lightroom with files may cause the program to slow down. While you can reset Lightroom in case of bugs or technical issues, you can prevent such mishaps by doing a full backup. 

  • Prepare an external backup drive.
  • Head on to the root folder where you're storing images. Choose that and then drag and drop it into the backup folder to begin the copy process.
  • Wait for the external drive to copy the pictures.
  • Search for the file on your hard drive. Choose the ones with a 'lrcat' extension, then move the Lightroom catalog to your external hard drive.

If you have more budget, you can also use a storage array unit that uses multiple drives for storing a massive amount of information. When a single drive fails, you can replace it, and the system will sync and go back to regular operational mode.

Photo Management in Lightroom

To use Lightroom efficiently, it's important that you take time to manage your photography files. These are the different ways you can manage Lightroom for better image archiving.

Use Keywords

Using a keyword allows you to filter pictures, especially when your files become a complete mess. You can start with a general category and then narrow it down into subcategories.

For instance, the main keyword is 'Connecticut Residential Homes'. From there, you can break it down into subcategories such as Danbury Apartments, Glastonbury Luxury Homes, or Bridgeport Townhouses.

In this way, you can effortlessly search for images using keywords. Click the Help icon from the screen's upper-right corner. Then, enter the keyword that is relevant to what you're looking for in the software.

Stack Images

When you import photos into Lightroom, decluttering a catalog is another way to organize your photos. One of the best ways to do that is to use the software's image stacking feature.

Learning how to stack photos in Lightroom lets you gather several pictures in a single place on the Grid or a collection.

To do this, pick multiple photos either from the Photo Grid, Square Grid, or Detail. Click on the selection and choose Group Into Stack.

Use Collections Within Lightroom

One of the great things about Lightroom is that it uses Collections to organize photos. Think of a collection as a digital photo album. You can create as many Collections in Lightroom to serve as a virtual folder within the Lightroom Catalog.

From the Collections panel, click on the New Collection plus icon in the top right corner, and you can create any of these Collections.

  • Smart Collections: A Smart Collection depends on user-defined attributes. Click on Collections, click the plus symbol, then select Create Smart Collection. Name the collection, and decide how you would like to categorize the folder, whether through color labels or keywords.
  • Collection Sets: This is another type of collection folder that lets you add Collections for organizing. From the Library, choose Create Collection Set. Rename the collection and pick the parent collection set from the drop-down menu.
  • Published Collections: Published Collections are for Lightroom's publishing services. This collection plugin allows you to export copies of Lightroom images to a local disk that copies your collection hierarchy within the program. To do this, click on the publishing service you've set up, choose a collection, then click on the Publish button.
  • Target Collection: This collection enables you to group pictures together quickly for further processing. From the Collections panel, click the plus button and pick set as Target Collection. A little circle will pop up for you to add pictures to the new collection.

You can even strategize to add collections of unsorted images. However, keep in mind that a collection can't move or duplicate images, as it can only help you locate photos.

Input Metadata Presets

The main advantage of metadata is that the details help identify you as the owner of the photo. Such information also enables you to search for images on Lightroom easily.

With this, you can search for particular pictures containing certain elements. For example, if an agent wants photos showing living rooms, you will search by the word 'living room' or 'guest room' for the software to locate these images.

To imbed such information, go to Edit > Catalog Settings. Click the Metadata tab to write adjustments. You can also use the software to add a watermark.

Develop a System for Flag, Star, and Color Labels

People are increasingly looking for digital floor plans, with 63% wanting to see photos to help determine if a property is right for them.

Producing stunning real estate photos doesn't end at removing shadows, changing the background color, or fixing out-of-focus images. It's vital for photo editors to have a clear process on how to choose which images to fix.

Much like having varying styles in post-production, every photographer also has their preferred way of rating photos in Lightroom. Setting a labeling process saves you time during the culling or initial selection of real estate photos. The ideal structure depends on the number of images you need to retouch. 

  • Flag: Learning how to view flagged photos can make your Lightroom workflow simpler. To flag an image as a Pick, select that photo and press the P key. Pressing the U key removes the flag icon while pressing the X key considers a photo a Reject.
  • Star: The star rating is a good option if you want to assign the level of importance to your photos. All you have to do is press the corresponding numbers, 1 for 1 star, 2 for 2 stars, 3 for 3 stars, 4 for 4 stars, and 5 for five stars.
  • Color: Go to Photo > Set Color Label, then select from Red, Green, Yellow, Purple, or Blue. You can also assign meanings to these colors. For example, assign the color red for highlight photos you need to retouch right away, then green for the rest of the images for final delivery.

Real estate marketplace company Zillow recommends an average of 22 to 27 photos for property selling. When you have a fast rating system, you can easily select the best shots for post-production and deliver them on time.

Exporting files to Lightroom classic

Export Photos Using a Single Selection Process

After working on photos in a collection, you need to save photos from Lightroom for later use or sharing. Learning how to export all images from Lightroom is part of having an organized system.

The best way to do so is to follow the selection method. This simply involves choosing all the necessary photos, prompting the export command and then exporting your work.

Clear Lightroom Cache

The cache acts as a storage area for instructions and data to make Lightroom work faster. As the program uses too much cache, which consumes space, this can cause errors and disrupt your editing workflow.

With that said, it's important that you know how to clear Lightroom cache to free up space and ensure everything runs smoothly.

Camera RAW and Video Cache

The Camera RAW cache helps display images quickly, especially when converting from RAW to JPEG. If you tend to shoot RAW and store thousands of RAW photos in Lightroom, the cache can clog up disk space easily.

To clear the cache, go to Edit and click on Preferences. Open the Performance tab, then click on Purge Cache.

Previews and Smart Previews Cache

Lightroom uses Previews to show your photos in the Library module. On the other hand, Smart Previews display a low resolution yet fully editable version of a RAW image.

Another way of optimizing the Library module performance is by deleting the Previews and Smart Previews cache. Look for the corresponding files through Finder on Mac or Explorer on Windows. Make sure to close the software before deleting these files.

  • Previews: C:\Users\[user name]\Pictures\Lightroom\Lightroom Catalog Previews.lrdata
  • Smart Previews: C:\Users\[user name]\Pictures\Lightroom\Lightroom Catalog Smart Previews.lrdata 

Delete Unnecessary Photos

You will accumulate thousands of images as you venture into the world of interior and exterior photography. However, not deleting a number of unwanted photos can clog up your external hard drive.

Much like cleaning out your camera bag, getting rid of clutter can lighten the load. Thus, you can also organize your photos in Lightroom by deleting unusable images.

A simple system to clean and organize photos in Lightroom is to right-click on a picture in the filmstrip, then select Remove Photos. The program will give you an option whether you want to delete the photos from Lightroom or an external hard drive.

Related Questions

Why Should I Declutter the Develop Module?

The Develop Module is the part where you can blur the image background, work on image layers, stitch stacked photos, or remove glare on photos. Having an organized Develop Module lets you see all the photos clearly and make adjustments seamlessly.

How Can I Enhance My Real Estate Photos in Lightroom?

Among the best ways to enhance your real estate shots in Lightroom is to change the image background or make the background black. Additionally, the software can dehaze shots to ensure viewers won't lose focus on the subject. You can also work on flipped images for a more eye-catching effect.


An organized Lightroom helps real estate photographers and photo editors become more efficient in post-processing. We hope this article can help manage your pictures folder, catalogs, ratings, and collections for a time-saving process. In this way, you can edit in Lightroom like a pro and have more time for photography.