Organizing Lightroom: How To Keep Family Photos Organized

When it comes to organizing Lightroom, I do the same thing over and over again.  One thing to note about organization is that it looks different for everyone and everyone has a different system that works for them.  Some people love creating collections and folders within Lightroom, but that has never been my thing.  So if you have a system that works for you, that is so wonderful!  If you need a little inspiration for organizing Lightroom simply, I will share what I do for an idea of what to consider.  To keep my family photos organized so that I can quickly print, share, blog, and make photo books with my images, I do one thing religiously.  And I do it both for personal family images and for client work.

For a complete guide on how I photograph my baby girl’s first year, be sure to read The First Twelve.  And to learn how I document our everyday moments between milestones, be sure to read The Everyday Photograph.

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Organizing Lightroom: How To Keep Family Photos Organized

Organizing Lightroom: How To Keep Family Photos Organized | Bethadilly Photography |

Every year, on January 1st, I create a brand new Lightroom catalog.  To create a new catalog, you will simply open any catalog in Lightroom, click FILE, click NEW CATALOG, and there you go!  Once you do that you are prompted to name the catalog; I always name mine after the year, such as “2019.”  For me, this is how my brain works.  I think in terms of years.  When I need to locate a family photo, for some reason I always remember the year more than anything else, which makes it easy for me to quickly open the correct catalog and locate the desired image(s).  Yes, I totally know that Lightroom has a folder system that could make my organization even better, but I have never felt the need to utilize it.  In fact, I am going to try it out this year just to see how I like it…just so I can know if it could be worth the extra step.

So, why do I create a new catalog each year?  Aside from it being a simple way for me to locate images, there are many other reasons why I do this.

Makes Photo Book Making Effortless

At the end of each year, I make a family photo book and having separate Lightroom catalogs by year makes it really easy to choose images to place within the book.  Because my catalogs begin with January images and end with December images, it’s easy to export chronologically and quickly put them into a photo book to print.

Encourages Complete Editing

There is something to be said about a brand new, empty Lightroom catalog on January 1st.  It’s a chance to start over.  One thing I am really good at is keeping up with editing.  It’s not to say I have never fallen behind because Lord knows I have and will in the future.  But when I fall behind, I intentionally make time in my day to catch up.  It may take more than one sitting (more like a week’s worth), but I make sure to catch up.  I know this is a huge struggle for most and I totally understand.  Editing can be a stinker.  I think knowing how quickly editing can pile up has always encouraged me to stay on top of it and I always start the year off with the previous year’s images completely edited.

When color coding in Lightroom, I code my images PURPLE once they are completely edited, as it allows me to visually see what is edited and what still needs work.  (As you can see above, all the images are PURPLE, meaning they are in their final state and ready for print).  I think having a year’s worth of images at a time can encourage editing because it can help make editing a goal.  If you make it a goal to finish your previous year’s editing before starting the new year’s catalog, it’s amazing at how encouraging that can be.

Need help catching up with editing last year’s images or want to learn about how to be better with managing editing this year?  Be sure to read How To Catch Up On Editing Photos : 5 Habits That Make Editing Effortless.

It’s Just Safer

In my opinion, having a separate Lightroom catalog for each year is simply safer.  I am a firm believer in not putting all of my eggs in one basket, and the same goes with my images.  If the unimaginable happens and something happens to a Lightroom catalog, I would much rather lose one year’s worth of images than years and years worth.  Let’s be real, I would be devastated to lose even a single year, but it would truly be better than losing every single image I ever took.  For this reason, having several smaller Lightroom catalogs, organized by calendar year, makes more sense to me.

On a photography business note, I create a brand new Lightroom catalog for each session I take, naming the catalog the client’s last name, session type, month and year.  For example: Smith Newborn January 2019.  I start with the client’s last name so that I can easily locate the catalog in the future, should I need to use some of the images.  While I shared that I organize my personal images by year and my client images by last name, it’s because with clients I am more likely to remember their name than the year I photographed them.

If you are interested in taking clients and learning more about family photography, be sure to read The Family Photograph: Unlocking the Secrets To Successful Lifestyle Family Sessions.  And if you are interested in lifestyle newborn photography, you definitely need to check out The Ultimate Newborn Session Guide Bundle.

I know that organizing Lightroom can seem a little daunting and I know many have asked me to share my approach for image organization.  But that is truly it!  It is pretty simple and quick and I keep all of my images in Lightroom until I need to export them for a project.  If you are struggling with organizing Lightroom and keeping all of your photos edited, don’t stress about the past and just look forward.  It’s a new year and that means it is a great chance to start a new organization system that might work better this year.  Don’t let organizing Lightroom stress you out this year, you’ve got this!

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Organizing Lightroom: How To Keep Family Photos Organized | Bethadilly Photography |

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  • Catherine - Thank you for explaining this:)  I also like to label things by year and then by month but I do it in folders rather than catalogues so I may have to change this since it means everything is in the one spot.  I really struggle with the fact that I have all of my photos on my computer and now no space to store any more:(  Do you export yours somewhere else also?  And when your computer is getting full do you delete photos?  I would be really interested in your approach to photo storage:)ReplyCancel

    • {beth} a-dilly - Hello Catherine! I am definitely trying out the labeling this year and, since my catalogs are organized by year, I am going to label by month: event. Such as FEBRUARY: VALENTINES. Can’t wait to see if I like it! When it comes to photo storage, I never delete files. Here is a post I wrote about how I store photos to keep them safe Enjoy!ReplyCancel

      • Catherine - Thank you for explaining that for me I do appreciate it:)  I will most definitely be getting a new storage system for backing up but what to do with my computer…. I have no more room for all of my gorgeous family pics:(ReplyCancel

        • {beth} a-dilly - You are so welcome! Happy to inspire and help! And yes, make room for more photos of your beautiful family!ReplyCancel