Is there any way to export images from my collections, where the images are automatically placed into a folder tree that mimics their collections?

I'm not comfortable with having all that organization data locked away in Lightroom -- I switch computers a lot and oftentimes data sidecars like Lightroom's DB get lost in the shuffle. I'd like to export all my images into folders that can then be fed into Crashplan, etc.

Ideally I want it to archive only images in each collection that match a Smart search criteria, like 4+ stars.

jF's Collection Publisher plugin looks nice but it has its own collection tree that must be maintained separately. This solution is not DRY (Don't Repeat Yourself) enough for me: I don't want to maintain two separate hierarchies of collections.

EDIT: To clarify, let's assume I have images sorted in collections as such:

< Collection root >
    |- California
    |  |- Surfers
    |  |- Hipsters
    |  |- Beaches
    |- Holland
       |- Windmills
       |- Stroopwaffels
       |- Coffeeshops
       |- Grachten

I am looking for something that exports images into a folder tree identical to the one above, without any extra maintenance or work. So JPG or TIFF files would be exported/published to:


In accordance with the collections they live in in LR. jF's plugin is nice but it works from its own collection tree, which makes it unsuitable for this kind of request.


2 Answers 2


I'm not sure exactly what you mean by "mimics their collections," but I do something similar to what you're describing in my Dropbox and Aperture exports.

(Dropbox for off-site backup, Aperture for intelligent iDevice sharing. Yes, I bought Aperture just to make iTunes happy. You're welcome, Apple.)

I use Jeffrey Friedl's Folder Publisher plugin, rather than the Collection Publisher. I chose it because what I'm interested in is mirroring the on-disk folder structure as represented in LR's Folders pane, but using Smart Collections to select which photos get published.

Like you, I choose not to mirror my low-rated photos to the export sets, for example, a perfect job for Smart Collections.

If you use the built-in Hard Drive publish service instead, you get a flat folder of images, with name collisions resolved rather brutally.

For some reason, photo names don't always survive a trip through the Folder Publisher intact. If I have a 1.jpg in two different folders, they seem to get a unique number appended anyway, even though it isn't actually necessary. I suspect this is a limitation of the Lightroom programming API. There are a lot of such areas, where the limits of Adobe's own needs for the API get reflected into the API, so that Adobe's limitations become your limitations.

That problem doesn't really bother me, though, since the name of a photo file is of minimal concern. If I ever had to rebuild my Lightroom library from a Dropbox snapshot (shudder) I'd be much more interested in the folder structure and the photo metadata, both of which the Folder Publisher plugin preserves.

About the only metadata you lose are things like virtual copies and stacks.

Obviously you're also baking photo adjustments (DNG + XMP) into JPEGs when doing this. You should have a separate "real" backup.

I consider my Dropbox export to be a "my house burned down and then my city was hit by an asteroid and then it slid into an abyss" sort of backup. As for the Aperture export, photo names, the distinction between multiple JPEGs and virtual copies, and stacking is of no concern whatsoever.

Another option you can look into is LR/TreeExporter. I used to use it, but it hasn't been updated since the LR3 days, and at the time I started using it, the jf Folder Publisher plugin hadn't been created yet. Jeffrey is more responsive, and I like the way the plugin works better besides.


First, note that any Export in Lightroom is a RAW conversion***. So, attempting to get organization data from an export will result in getting that data into the JPG, but losing it in the RAW.

A better solution is to use Smart Collections, and have them be generated on metadata that can be associated with both RAW and JPEG. Collections are convenient to create via drag and drop, so creating Smart Collections involves more work. So I create Collections first, then create metadata tags for those images in the Collection, then create a Smart Collection from the tags, I then delete the Collection.

This way, XMP sidecars associated from your RAW images contain the metadata for another application to create equivalent of Smart Collections later, and your JPG images also contain this information in IPTC tags.

***Original JPEGs won't get RAW conversion of course


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