In Lightroom 5, I have all my photos in a single folder. I use collections to group my photos (such as "Railway", "Terrace", etc).

Within each of these collections, I order my photos in a way that makes logical sense, or tells a story. Lightroom calls this "User order". So far, so good.

In addition to these collections, I have a smart collection called Uncategorized, which matches photos that are not in any collection. I would like to order my Uncategorized photos, for example, to put all the shots of my building at night together [1].

Unfortunately, Lightroom doesn't let me drag photos around in a smart collection [2] [3]. How do I get around this limitation?

I can think of a couple of approaches:

  1. I can make "Uncategorized" a plain collection instead of a smart collection, and define another smart collection called "Move to Uncategorized" that matches things that are not in any collection. Whenever I see a photo in "Move to Uncategorized", I drag it to Uncategorized. This is a ugly hack.

  2. I can stop using collections entirely, and use folders to group my photos. With a folder for Uncategorized photos, I can drag the photos around and arrange them in a sensible order, which I can't do if Uncategorized were a smart collection. This does mean I give up the flexibility of having a photo that belongs to multiple collections.

Should I try the second option? Or is there a different way of ordering my photos?

Foot notes:

[1] I have only a few, so creating a collection doesn't make sense.

[2] Neither do smart collections reflect the order of the photos in the underlying folder. Grrr. Ideally, when I drag photos around in the underlying folder, it would reflect that order in the smart collection, and vice-versa.

[3] ... or in All Photographs, which seems to be another arbitrary restriction.

  • \$\begingroup\$ have I answered your question? \$\endgroup\$
    – dialex
    Jun 13, 2014 at 16:18
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Indeed, and I have accepted it. Sorry that I forgot to do so till you reminded me. I ended up going with approach (2) in my question -- stop using collections, and switch to folders, so that each folder has its own order. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 14, 2014 at 0:27

1 Answer 1


User order is quite ephemeral and I recommend you to avoid using it. One day something happens (disk fails, lightroom update, copy folder, etc.) and you loose your precious custom sorting.

Instead, after you sort the photos as you do today you should:

  1. Select the photos you just finished ordering;
  2. Batch rename the photos (by pressing F2 or going to Edit > Rename);
  3. Give them a prefix and let Lightroom set a counter to each photo.

By doing so your sorting is hardcoded (i.e. forced) on each photo's filename. That way you can view your photos sorted even out of Lightroom.

  • \$\begingroup\$ This approach only works for the case where a photo appears only in a single collection/album/export. If you have photos that appears in a number of collections that use the filename as the sort order, then renaming will change the position of the photo in all of the other collections where it appears. \$\endgroup\$
    – alx9r
    Jan 9, 2015 at 15:51

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