Using Smart Collections for Project Life, 365, 52…

Last year I started Project Life and was pleased with the fact that I actually stuck with it for the whole year.  In fact, I feel like I am addicted to it.  There’s something about capturing the everyday moments that makes the memory keeper in me happy.


One of the reasons I feel I was able to complete my year is that I set myself up for success using Lightroom.  A way I have done this is through the creation of Smart Collections.  Smart Collections, as opposed to Quick Collections, are dynamic folders that pull items together that meet a criteria you set.  For instance, I create a Smart Collection for each week for Project Life, so that when it is time for me to create my weekly spread, I can quickly see the pictures taken during that time period.


Smart Collections are stored in the Collections section of Lightroom.  Should you not see this, right click on any section heading on the left side of your screen and confirm that Collections is selected.  This is typically near the bottom of your screen, so you will need to scroll down to see it once active.  By default this should already be displayed and should only need to be activated if you had previously hidden it.




My personal preference when working with Smart Collections is to keep like collections together (for example, various Project Life weeks).  To do this, I must first create a Collection Set called “Project Life”.  To do this, select the “+” beside Collections and select Create Collection Set…  From here you can assign it any title you like before selecting Create.  For my purpose, I created one titled Project Life.




From here, I create my Smart Collections.   As mentioned before, I like to have a collection that will pull together images from a date range.  To recreate this same setup, select the “+” once again beside Collections, this time selecting Create Smart Collection…




Once the screen opens, we will give our Smart Collection a name (I choose to name mine by the week I am looking to create).  Please note that Lightroom will store your smart collections alphabetically.  From, here I make sure that Inside a Collection Set is active and that the Collection Set I just created, Project Life, is selected.  The next section offers many choices.   For the purpose of this tutorial we will only focus on a small area, but it is easy to see by looking through the drop down menu that there are many criteria you can select.  From here, I select Capture Date from the Date section in the first drop down menu and then make my choices for the following menus as such.




Once I am happy with my selections, I select Create and my smart collection is now active.  Now, every time a picture that has a capture date in the date range selected, will now show up in this collection.  Think of the pictures in the collection as a shortcut to the pictures, it is not creating a copy.


From here you could stop if you are happy with the set up.  In my example I have 28 pictures – not too bad, but typically I tend to take many pictures and find myself overwhelmed by the choices.   Please ignore the auto tone of the pictures, I have not tweaked the settings of my pictures yet.  😉




From here, I like to create another Smart Collection for the same week with only a select few that I will use in my Project Life spread.  To do this, I will cycle through my pictures and mark them with a flag to select them.  To do this, I will either select the flag that is in the top left corner of the picture or will select it from the menu that appears when I right click on my picture.




Once I have made my choices, I will now create a Smart Collection that finds the flagged items in the range set.  To do this, I follow the same steps as before, but this time, I add in a second criteria.  To do so, I choose the “+” beside the date range in my newly created Smart Collection.  This time, my secondary criteria is that the picture is also flagged.




As you can now see, my pictures are now narrowed down to a much more manageable 8.  From here, I edit my pictures and may remove the flag from some that may not work as originally believed.




Once you have finished your week, you can edit the Smart Collections you added by selecting Edit Smart Collection… when you right click on the Collection or simply delete it in the same menu.


I do hope that this snapshot into my process helps you in some way.  We’d love to hear if you’ve used Smart Collections and if so, how you do so in the comments below.

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  • Cheryl Allen January 22, 2014   Reply →

    Very cool, thank you!! Nice to learn something helpful in Lightroom

  • April September 11, 2014   Reply →

    Oh my goodness, this tutorial was JUST what I was looking for. I’ve used Lightroom for a year now and my photos are a wreck, messy as can be. I had no idea I could organize them this way. You are a gem for sharing this tutorial. THANK YOU!

  • Vanessa K McKelvey-Smith April 3, 2015   Reply →

    Thank you for this very well done tutorial!

  • Ann Clamme-Monroe April 3, 2015   Reply →

    Thank you for this great tutorial! I really like Lightroom for organizing my photos as I take the time to import them with keywords and in the correct folders. This idea will be very helpful in getting the photos I need for each grandchild’s pages. Thanks!

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