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manual folder structure with Lightroom

Apr 24, 2012 4:17 AM

Hello, I'm just trying to get my head around how to organise folders with Lightroom


I am about to get an imac, and want to firstly get my photos from my laptop or external HD to the imac


I think I will be using referenced images, and would like a simple folder structure, so I am more in control. So thinking of just

doing a folder tree called say photos, then folders underneath showing locations (but no dates), and sub folders under those

also showing locations, but also dates.


Is this ok?


Would I then be able to simple drag folders into Lightroom and retain the same structure within Lightroom also


If I add another folder to the folder tree (outside of Lightroom) will it also change the Lightroom tree - Or if I change

the tree (if I can) within Lightroom, would it change the tree that is outside of Lightroom


Also, I will be changing my raw NEF files to DNG. I think I would prefer to do this before I take photos into Lightroom. Is

this possible / easier?  If so, which raw converter would you suggest (I believe if I do this inside Lightroom, then the raw converter

is built in, but presume I's need to download one if DNGs converted outside of Lightroom)


I was thinking of using Photo Mechanic with Lightroom, to retain control of images, but not sure it would be a great advantage?


Some of these questions may seem a bit dumb, but I'm learning. Many thanks

  • Currently Being Moderated
    Apr 24, 2012 4:39 AM   in reply to Roy Kaye

    Perhaps too many questions to answer quickly, but you might start by watching some of the excellent tutorials by Julianne Kost:


    But some thoughts.  By default in LR your images are "referenced" (the term Aperture uses), i.e. they remain where they were on your HD unless you move them on import or later.


    IMHO, you are much better off using a date-based folder structure and then using keywords for things like locations, events, people, etc.


    You can't "drag folders into LR," but you can create your folder structure first and then "ADD" to LR on import vs. copy.


    On Raw conversion and DNG.  Yes, LR has a built in RAW converter, and one of the options on import is to copy and convert to DNG.


    I don't know Photo Mechanic, but my assumption is that LR makes it unnecessary, that (almost?) everything you would do in PM you can do in LR.

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    Apr 24, 2012 5:14 AM   in reply to Roy Kaye

    Personally I never care where the photos are, so I just tell LR to create year/date folders on import.


    For existing folders (that existed when I first started using LR) I just pointed LR at the images and imported them in-location (no COPY on import).


    Once done, I never traverse the structure at all.  I use LR to find photos based on keywords, dates, camera, lens etc etc.

    If I need to pass the photo to some external app, I usually have to export it anyway since its in RAW format in LR.  If I really need to get at the photo file(s) I can

    ask LR to find it for me (find in explorer for Windows).

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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Apr 24, 2012 5:38 AM   in reply to Dennis Smith

    Strongly agreeing with Dennis Smith.


    The main advantage of the Lightroom Library Module is that it gives you better tools than folders to organize.


    To Roy Kaye ... your energy would be much better spent by adding keywords and captions and titles and other metadata to your photos, than dragging folders around. Why? Because keywords allow you much greater flexibility to organize ... a photo can have many keywords, but it can only be in one folder. So that picture of the kids at the beach? You can put it into the "Myrtle Beach" folder, but in LR you can assign keywords of "Myrtle Beach", "beach", "Atlantic Ocean","vacation", "Jennifer", "Bob", (the kid's names),"Family", "sand castle" and a few others. The idea of manipulating folders is very sub-optimal, in my mind; keywords is the way to go.


    Hello, I'm just trying to get my head around how to organise folders with Lightroom

    The easiest solution is to NOT organize your existing folders and to put future imports into default-named folders by capture date; you organize your photos with keywords and other metadata, as explained. Leave your folders where they are, don't think about renaming them or moving them around.

    I was thinking of using Photo Mechanic with Lightroom, to retain control of images, but not sure it would be a great advantage?

    As I have never used Photo Mechanic, I have no idea what you mean by "retain control", but of course, LR also allows you to "retain control" of your images, in fact properly used, LR allows you find just about any photo extremely quickly.

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    Apr 24, 2012 3:12 PM   in reply to Roy Kaye

    I always put my images into a carefully crafted folder hierarchy.  That way, my organizational strategy remains intact even if I change tools, look at my images using a tool other than Lightroom, or end up with a corrupt Lightroom catalog.  Combined with saving to XMP, I can basically re-create my catalog if need be.  This limits me to not using the tools that Lightroom has that aren't stored in the XMP data, but I've not really found that to be much of a problem.

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    Apr 25, 2012 1:02 PM   in reply to Roy Kaye

    I thought the xmp sidecar files contained all the edits - what tools are not stored in the xmp data?


    It is NOT true that everything you do in Lightroom is stored in XMP.


    Here are some things that are never stored in XMP (that probably Lee Jay doesn't use or doesn't need)

    • Collection membership
    • Edit History (the final position is stored, but not the sequence of steps)
    • Virtual Copies
    • Flags


    The actual list is longer, but those are the items I remember. So, if you are willing to not use these very useful features of LR, then XMP saves "everything". If these are important to you (and as I said, the actual list is longer), you cannot use XMP to serve as a repository for these items. Doesn't matter if you use DNG or sidecar files to store your XMP, these items are NOT stored. The only way to back up your catalog completely is to make a backup of your catalog file.


    In my opinion, the purpose of XMP is to allow Lightroom to communicate with other "xmp-aware" software. Thus, metadata like keywords that every photographic application understands is written to xmp. Virtual copies, collections, flags, etc. which only make sense to Lightroom, therefore are not written to xmp. In my opinion, the purpose of writing XMP was never to allow you to back up your catalog.


    Also, I will be converting to DNG which will include the sidecar file (or so I believe)

    This doesn't happen by default in Lightroom, even if you convert your images to DNG. You have to turn on the option if you want the xmp information written to the DNG files.

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    Apr 25, 2012 4:45 PM   in reply to Roy Kaye

    Could / should I copy them to the imac desktop or whatever in current folder tree format, and then import to Lightroom

    and let Lightroom do its thing, or can/should I copy direct from Laptop/HD direct to Lightroom, as I will need the edit history/

    virtual copies etc. I just can't grasp this, even after looking at the J.Kost videos

    I think you are confusing several issues. One is storage ... where do you want the photos to reside? The second issue is organization -- what methods do you use to enable you to find your photos quickly. While in the past, these two things might have been identical, they are separate in Lightroom, if you want them to be.


    So, where to put the photos. You put them where you want them to be. Anywhere is fine, if that's where you want them to be. You probably do not want to put the photos in one place, import into LR, and then move them somewhere else, this is twice the effort but not twice the benefit.


    The organization you do (wherever the photos happen to be) is by adding keywords, captions, etc. The organization then becomes the method by which you will find your photos. If you want to find your photos that have keyword "beach", you simply ask Lightroom to find them. It doesn't matter where you stored them, the photos can be in 72 different folders, Lightroom doesn't care, and you don't need to know where the photos are, LR remembers (computers are good at this) so you don't have to. Thus, your organization is independent of folders. You no longer organize by moving photos or folders from here to there.


    Just one more thing if I may - I don't know if anyone has moved photos that have been edited as NEFs in Nikon Capture NX2,

    as I am wondering whether I should firstly delete all edit steps/keywords etc before transferring to Lightroom (I will be changing

    to the DNG format - and, I think, NOT embed the NEF raw files into the DNG

    It is entirely up to you if you want the edits and keywords from NX2 to carry over to LR. I cannot possibly make this decision for you or advise you which way to go.


    It is entirely up to you if you want DNGs or NEFs. I don't convert to DNGs, but many people do.

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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Apr 25, 2012 3:47 PM   in reply to Roy Kaye

    A brief workflow suggestion:

    For new photos:

    Import them via Copy as DNG from your camera's storage card, into e.g. a date-based folder structure.

    (Monthly buckets may be well sufficient. I would not go beyond ca.3000 images per folder, but that is subject to taste.)

    Tick make a 2nd copy and specify another storage location for that, ideally on a different drive. The second copy will be in .NEF and serves only as a backup in case some corruption might occur during the DNG conversion or for failure of your main drive.

    Let LR directly render standard previews.

    Thus you spend more time in getting your images copied from your camera card, but you will be faster afterwards, smooth browsing in Library module. You can leave LR alone while this import runs.


    To update the xmp-part inside DNG: I would not do this constantly, so turn off in preferences settings. It is sufficient to do once they are mature. I usually save twice via cmd s: once after having done keywording, rating, caption, title, geomapping. Once after having done my develop edits.


    Verify the import results in spot checks, then clear your camera card inside your camera. No other device should write to it in my opinion to minimize risk of file corruption while saving the capture.


    For your existing photos:

    First move them in OS into a folder structure matching your finally chosen one. Then import them via Add. This will read any sidecar-xmp files if present in the same folders.

    Afterwards convert them to DNG.



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    Apr 26, 2012 4:25 PM   in reply to Roy Kaye

    Thanks. Sorry to be dumb, but I'm a bit worried still about what Mr Page mentions about certain things, that I will need, not being stored in xmp files - not sure in what event this would happen.

    I have no idea why you are so concerned about items not being stored in XMP. They are not going to be stored in XMP, so deal with it. Or explain why it is so important to you.


    So, to clarify, I have a main heading, say photos, then folders under this for each location I shoot at (these folders don't contain photos), then sub folders under these, which do contain folders, and are named with date-name of location)

    Any folder structure that makes you happy works. My advice, which I stated earlier, is to keep things simple (use default folder names, which from LR would be capture date) and to do your organizing in LR, use folders simply as a storage location ... this means don't even bother putting location into the folder name, put location into Metadata.


    The reason I would like a folder tree like this is to be able to go it it as a sort of reminder of what I have taken photos of. I know I can search with keywords etc, but I see it's like having a garden with various flowers - you can search for 'roses' as a keyword, but if you've forgotten there are any roses in the garden it's no use searching for 'roses' under keywords because you never will - you've forgotten they were there. That's why I want a folder structure (does that make sense?) After the photos (in folders) go into Lightroom (they will only have from 1 - 10 or so photos in each), then I am happy from there to use keywords, as I will only use the folder tree (which is outside of Lightroon of course) to keep me happy, so I can see what I have. I would add another folder to tree each time I do a shoot

    You continue to confuse storage (where the photos will be placed) with organizing/searching, which is, in my opinion, independent of folders. In your "roses" example, you are saying you can find roses via folders if you forget you have a "roses" keyword ... makes no sense. You can always look at your list of keywords and see what keywords you have. You look at your list of keywords, you can see ... oh look, I have a "roses" keyword. Your example is just plain wrong.


    So, that's why you have a folder structure? Not in my view, which again keeps organizing separate from folders. You have a folder structure because you must put your photos somewhere. And Lightroom doesn't care where your photos are, so you can use any folder structure you want, anything that makes you happy, from simple to complicated (although I would keep it simple and use capture date).


    And if you really want to see what you have, folders keep you happy, you can still browse them in Lightroom as well. In my opinion, you have decided to make your life more complicated by putting such emphasis on having a  folder structure that you are going to use for organizing as well as storage. I never look at my folders ... I have committed to use metadata alone to find my photos, and that's much simpler than having two methods (metadata and folders) to help find my photos.

    Can I do this, then import to Lightroom as referenced files, without losing edit history, virtual copies etc in xmp? I am new to this, and some stuff is going over my head, so I apologise.

    I have no idea what this means. You don't have an edit history at this time because your photos are not in LR and have never been edited by LR. The sentence just doesn't make sense. Once the photos are imported into LR and you edit them, LR maintains your edit history and your virtual copies. Edit history and virtual copies (and collection and a few other things) are not written to xmp, and I have no idea why you have such a concern about this. Again, as a beginner, I am not sure why you are worried about this, as this seems like a very minor issue to me, the bigger issue is using LR to organize and edit.


    To confirm again, I will be converting from NEFs to DNGs, and including the xmp within the DNG, and not saving the original NEF raw inside the file.

    I don't understand. Your DNGs do not have xmp at this time. There is no xmp to include at this time.

    When I asked should I remove edits steps from NEF files first, it's because I read (I think) that Lightroom won't read the edits, but I'm just worried the data will be sort of 'in the way' or add to the file size

    Remove edit steps from the NEF files first ... what do you mean? What edit steps? If the photos aren't in LR yet, there are no edit steps (and even if they were in LR, there's no way to remove edit steps anyway). If you have edited photos in other software, you don't get any edit steps ... you just get an edited photo.

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    Apr 26, 2012 6:18 PM   in reply to dj_paige

    Maybe we should both take a step back.


    I don't understand your concerns (especially about xmp), and I request you explain this in more detail. I think that 99.9% of LR users just aren't concerned in any way that xmp doesn't contain certain features of LR and does contain other features, it is simply an accepted fact; and so I can't seem to figure out why you are concerned.


    Your basic plan is not what I would advise, but it will work. Create whatever folders you want, import the photos into LR, keyword as desired, use folder names and keyword to help you find things, it will work. I do not understand why you are hesitating. You seem to be wanting some type of assurance, which I now give you. Just go ahead and do it, as I said, it will work.


    Finally ... Your existing RAWs do not have XMP. It is my understanding that Capture NX does not create xmp files, so there is no XMP to transmit to LR if you want to import the RAWs into LR. Your unedited RAWs with no metadata will wind up in LR. So I am still mystified by your continued discussion of xmp going into DNG.


    If you want the Capture NX edits and metadata to go into LR, you need to export the photo from Capture NX (I don't know if NX uses the word "export", but I'm sure you can figure out what the right word is) as either a TIFF or JPG. The keywords, captions and other metadata and edited photos (but not a list or history of the edits) will then show up in LR. If you go this route, there really is no reason to convert to DNG, as you aren't gaining anything converting TIFF or JPG to DNG.

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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Apr 26, 2012 7:28 PM   in reply to dj_paige

    You are getting lots of good advice here.  You do need to filter it by your own needs. 


    For example, I do underwater and wildlife photography, mostly.  In a day of diving, I'll take a couple of hundred or more shots, and typically keep five.  I ruthlessly edit.  I have a folder for each calendar year in which the picture was taken.  Now, If I were a wedding photographer, and taking several hundred shots in a day, and has to keep everything that's not a complete dud, at least for a while, I'd have a folder per wedding (or for a more extreme example, I know someone who shoots body-building contests, and will do 10,000+ images in a day.).


    I DON'T convert to DNG on import.  I'm not at all convinced that Adobe knows everything they need to know to convert NEF/CR2/etc. to DNG.  That says to me that conversion to DNG MAY be a lossy process.  I don't want lossy processes in my workflow.  So my NEF files stay NEF.


    If you are going to export from Nikon/something prior to importing to LR, export to 16-bit TIFF.  Export to JPG is A) Lossy, B) only 8-bit


    Finally: experiment first.  Pick some of your more heavily processed pictures, and get them into LR, and make sure the workflow doesn't mess up your edits.  You can do this on your current computer (Install the LR evaluation version).

    And note that LR allows you to install on two machines for your use.  That might come in handy down the road when you go on the road (you can import the LR catalog and raw files from the laptop to the iMac).



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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Apr 27, 2012 10:24 AM   in reply to Roy Kaye

    Also I saw a video by Julienne Kost where she seemed to make folders in Lightroom after a shoot in Ireland titled 'Ireland' with sub-folders under this for the different locations she shot in Ireland.

    Yes, you CAN use LR to make folders like this. Of course, LR can do this.


    My discussion/advice to you is not about what LR can do; but what I think you should do.


    I was trying to say that you don't have to do this, there are alternatives that are superior, in my opinion. The alternative which I am trying to get you to use is that you can organize entirely via keywords/captions/titles/other metadata, and then you don't need to make such folders and subfolders; your folder structure is independent of your organizing. Less work creating folders, but no loss in the ability to find photos.

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