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  • Writer's pictureMichael Blachly

My Approach To Organizing Photos in Lightroom

Updated: Apr 29

When you first start organizing your photos in Lightroom, it's easy to feel overwhelmed by the multitude of options at your disposal. To help guide you in finding your method, I'd like to share my personal approach to selecting and organizing my photos. While I'm not a professional photographer, I've honed a system that works well for me, particularly because most of my images fall into two categories: personal photos (capturing my life's moments) and artistic photos. It's essential to note that I treat these two groups differently. So, here's how I do it:

Organizing Photos in Lightroom


The first step in my photo organization process is the initial pass in Lightroom, where I utilize the flagging tools (flagged, unflagged, rejected). The keyboard shortcuts for these are P (flagged), U (unflagged), and X (rejected). If your caps lock is on, it will auto-advance as you select your photos. Once this initial pass is done, I can then focus on the flagged images for further review.

For my personal photos, the flag tool usually suffices, as I often import them with presets, minimizing the need for extensive editing. My aim here is efficiency, spending as little time as possible.


When it comes to my artistic photos, I embark on another round of review, typically after an initial round of editing. I meticulously go through each image, assigning star ratings, but I limit myself to a scale of 1-3. Then after further editing, I revisit each category to see if I need to adjust the rankings. During this process, I also look out for those exceptional shots that could be rated as Four Stars and Five Stars. Here's what those ratings mean to me:

  • One Star Ratings: These are photos I have no intention of perfecting, but they serve a particular purpose.

  • Two Star Ratings: These are photos I like but don't necessarily love.

  • Three Star Ratings: These are the cream of the crop, representing my best work from that shoot or trip.

  • Four Star Ratings: Denotes excellent work and some of my best work of the year.

  • Five Star Ratings: Portfolio worthy photos.

Color Labels

Lightroom also provides the option to assign color labels. While I don't use these for ranking purposes, I do employ them to distinguish specific types of photos. For instance, I assign a color label to any working files, such as those used for creating panoramas or HDR photos.


Once I've completed the selection and finalization of all my photos, I engage in keyword tagging for any flagged photos. For personal photos, I tag them with locations and the names of people featured in the photos. In contrast, for artistic photos, I use a variety of tags encompassing location, descriptors, landscapes, objects, plants, wildlife, structures, sports, events, and more.


Finally, I create collection sets for each year, maintaining a consistent naming style for the collections within them. These collections include "Life" (day-to-day personal photos), "Artistic" (random artistic shots throughout the year), and "Best of the Year" (usually my 3+ star-rated photos). Additionally, I create collections for specific events, parties, vacations, and any client work.


I hope this glimpse into my photo organization system helps you find your own approach. It took me years to refine my process to its current state, and your journey might be equally unique. If you have a favorite method for organizing your photos, please share it in the comments below. Happy organizing and photographing!

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