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I am a casual photographer who is considering migrating to Lightroom.

I have my own photography library organized in folders: First, by years, then by themes. For instance:

  • 2009
    • Travel to Greece
      • 0001.jpg
      • 0002.jpg
      • ...
    • Spring
      • 0001.jpg
      • 0002.jpg
      • ...
    • Mike
      • 0001.jpg
      • 0002.jpg
      • ...
  • 2010
    • ...

How could I import my library automatically and get Lightroom collections that represent my old folder structure?

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3 Answers 3

Why?

You can import that whole structure of files into Lightroom by starting with the parent folder (whichever folder contains your year folders) and Lightroom will bring the photos in and show the heirarchy in the "Folders" panel of the Library module. That will let you keep using your current structure if you wish.

Why do you want to duplicate this hierarchy as a set of collections? What advantage or benefit would that provide? Collections are great in that they allow for an arbitrary grouping of files regardless of file/folder location. Smart collections let you make this grouping automatic.

If you're trying to use Collections just like Folders, you probably aren't getting the benefit of using Collections.

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I may be mis-understanding your question slightly (if so, please put me right in a comment). I think that you are asking how to get Lightroom to replicate your existing folder structure so that your images in Lightroom are grouped together in the same way as they already are on your compluter's hard disk. Is that right?

Give that, here's my best answer...

Lightroom organises images into folders

These may or may not reflect the actual folder structure on disk.
When you first import your images, you can tell Lightroom to leave them where they are and to use your existing folder structure as the Lightroom folder structure. If you do this then you will see the same thing in Lightroom as you see on your disk.

Lightroom uses collections differently

Lightroom collections are different beasts (but very useful): they allow you to group together images from different folders. (e.g. you might want a collection of your best images in 2010, or all the pictures of your children).

So I think your problem is already solved?

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Simply import the root folder of your hierarchy. Do that multiple times if you have more than one root. This will import everything in there. You will be able to navigate that old structure because Lightroom supports navigation by folders.

You may have been confused by some answers because in Lightroom there is a distinction between folders and collections but you can navigate both just as easily from the left pane in the Library view. The top structure represents folders, the bottom collections.

Collections are more flexible than folders because they do represent a disk directory and images can belong to multiple collections. To preserve your folder hierarchy, you do not need to use collections, simply let Lightroom import folders as folders.

That is exactly as I work. Things get organized by folders and imported in-place. From the Import Dialog make sure to choose the Add operation (it says Add Photos To Catalog Without Moving Them under that option when selected).

Then you can also use collections to organize things in orthogonal ways at the same time. So you can have images you've taken over several years in the same place (which would be in separate directories in your folders) to show up in one collection.

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