Lightroom Collections vs Smart Collections – Explained!

I don’t want you to be like me.  You see, despite always being a raving fan of Adobe Lightroom, I only was familiar with my normal routine within the program.  I knew what I knew (and very well at that) but there is so much more to Lightroom that I didn’t even know about for far too long.

One of those items was Lightroom collections.

…and then Lightroom came out with smart collections which have become an immense time saver that I never even knew about!

Today I am going to show you the similarities and differences between Lightroom collections vs smart collections and break it down so you have exactly what you need to know to start using this powerful functionality.

lightroom collections vs smart collections

What is a Lightroom Collection?

A regular collection is nothing more than a group of photos that you’ve “collected” from different folders within your Lightroom collection.  That’s it.  Why would you need a collection rather than just use folders?  Sometimes you might want to group together photos from different photo shoots or folders or even pull your favorite wedding photos for a portfolio – those are great examples of when collections might make sense.  Here are some other aspects of collections you will find helpful.

  • You can add photos to  a collection by dragging and dropping from main view to a collection OR if your collection is set as target collection simply add by hitting the “B” key on keyboard.
  • Any updates or edits you make to a photo in a collection, the edit or adjustment is carried through in both the collection and its original folder location within Lightroom
  • To delete a photo from a collection, just click delete or backspace.  However note that this deletes from the collection only and not from the original location within the Lightroom catalog.

What is a Smart Collection?  And How Smart are they?

Wouldn’t it be amazing if you could build collections without having to do the collecting?  Of course!  Well, you can do so with Lightroom smart collections.  Lightroom smart collections are “smart” by using filters based on metadata to return photos that meet the criteria that you’ve defined.

Want to group all of your photos taken with a certain lens?  You can do so.
Want to only see your favorite portrait photos?  Yep, you can do that too.

Smart collections are pretty awesome and a real time saver!

Want a visual example of collections and smart collections in action?  Check out the video: below!