Looking for the best tips on using Adobe Lightroom when having thousands of photos all located in one folder on your computer.

I want to sort them, categorize them and find a way to easier find old photos when needed.

So far I have added keyword(s) to all pictures. It looks alright and I can find pictures quickly using a search query.

The pictures are still just thrown into one large folder. I feel a need to have them sorted by year in physical folders as well, but I'm not sure how.

Are there any other techniques I should consider in this situation with Adobe Lightroom 5?

3 Answers 3


You can just re-import the pictures into a new Lightroom catalogue. On Importing the files, you can specify a folder structure and even a filename-pattern, that Lightroom applies while it's importing.

To successfully do that, you need to do the following steps:

  1. Make sure that all lighroom adjustments are saved to either xmp-sidecar files or into the files themselves (e. g. DNG-Files can do that), you can do so by either enabling that option in the catalogue-settings, or selecting ALL images and using the function Metadata > Save Metadata to file (Strg+S or CMD+S)
  2. If you have any virtual copies, export them first as DNG, or they will be lost in the process
  3. Now create a new catalogue in lightroom, go to import and navigate to the folder where your images are in
  4. In the import select copy to keep a backup of the old catalogue around in case something goes wrong
  5. On the right side you can now specify the Folder Structure Lightroom should create (also multiple "By Date" Variations), select one that you like
  6. Now click on import. Lightroom should recognize all keywords and development settings.
  7. After the import, if you have any smart-collections you want to keep, you can go to File > Import from other catalogue and select your old. Now select only a single photo to import, and do nothing about its location. You can delete it from the "Last import"-Collection later. This import wir copy all collections from the old to the new catalogue, but the non-smart collections will be empty.
  8. Don't forget to import the previously exported virtual copies. If you like you can create new virtual copies in your new catalogue and transfer all development settings from the dng files, or you can just keep the dng around.

Ideally, you should organize images when you import them.

First of all, you need to find a schema which you will use to search your pictures. For example, places, events, vacation destinations or kids names. I use places. You can select photos in grid view and move them into new destination. By moving photos inside Lightroom, all metadata and settings get moved as well. Additionally, you can create a sub-directories based on dates.

There is a great video from Tim Grey http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QSwkDC3q7uk, where he describes quite a good model how to organize photos.

  • 1
    Can you comment on the most useful parts of the video that apply here? I'm worried that this isn't adding much to this site since it is just a link to other content.
    – dpollitt
    Mar 20, 2014 at 19:14

The other answers suggest importing or re-importing to organize photos. That's not necessary:

Organizing into folders when you have some other meta to key off of is easy: use the "Date" attribute in the Filter bar to find all photos from 2013, for example. Then, create a new folder (from within Lightroom) and drag those photos to it. You can do that to sort by years, months, cameras, etc. to bring that extra bit of organization to your library.

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