How To Organize and Manage Your Photos in Lightroom

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Not sure how to organize your images?

Today you will learn how to organize and manage your photos in Lightroom, easily. 

I get it, organizing and managing photos may seem like a simple thing….at first. As you get more into your craft, the more images you shoot, the more you accumulate. Kinda like that weird counter in the kitchen that collects all the mail and holds all the junk. You know what I’m talking about, right?  You keep adding to the pile, it stacks up, it gets messier and before you know it, you have no idea how to organize it. 

Accumulating photos just sort of happens, like the mail that sort of just keeps piling up. In order to stay on top of it, I highly suggest getting a system in place at the beginning stages. If you don’t have a system in place (like now), you need too! 

There are lots of ways to organize your photos. There is no right way. It really is about figuring out the right way for you. Assuming you use Lightroom, we will go over how Lightroom handles your images, I’ll make some suggestions and show you my system in hopes it will get you started on creating your own.

*This post contains affiliate links, meaning at no cost to you, if you click through and make a purchase, I will earn a commission. With that being said, I only support and affiliate myself with products I know, love and use myself. 

When beginning to learn Lightroom, it can seem confusing or even daunting. I personally believe the two hardest parts of learning to use Lightroom is how to properly use the adjustment brushes (only something I’ve recently mastered) and how the filing system works. Today, we are going to be focusing on how Lightroom organizes and manages your images. So, first thing is first…..

Lightroom and its catalog does not store your images.

You heard that right. no images are actually stored inside of Lightroom. Lightroom puts or stores the images where you designate them during import. There are lots of different ways that you can choose to organize these such as via date, custom name, etc. One thing to keep in mind, are these are your RAW (if you shoot RAW) files that you are importing NOT your finished images. See the image below. 

If Lightroom doesn’t import my RAW images, where do they go?

As shown in the image above, you must designate where you want your images to go. This could be on the hard drive of your computer or a separate hard drive that you plug into your computer. If you will be doing a lot of photo editing, I suggest using a separate hard drive.

Lightroom is only a catalog of data.

Now that we know that Lightroom doesn’t store our images, what is it storing exactly? Your Lightroom catalog is storing the data from your images and all the changes that you make to your images during the editing process.

Where do my edited (finished) images go?

Just like your RAW images, you determine where to put your finished images. During the export process (when you have finished editing), you will be given the option to choose where to store your images. As suggested prior, if you are doing a large amount of photo editing, I’d suggest storing them on a separate hard drive that plugs into your computer. 

What do I do with all the images that don’t make it through the editing process?

This is a very personal question. Some people hold onto ALL of their RAW files for the day that they may be inspired and want to re-edit them. And also, they are just good to have for archive purposes. But it is possible to remove all the RAW files that don’t make it through the culling process in order to save space. See the image below. 

How do you handle the organizing and managing of your photos?

I import all my RAW files by date on a separate hard drive that isn’t on my computer.

I export all my finished images by client name or project name into my separate hard drive but in a different folder (divided by year).

Sometimes, I delete my RAW files but not all of them. Most of the time, I keep all RAW client files for one year then I delete them unless I really loved the images. Some people like to keep all them, forever. Some keep none. Me personally, I try to keep a balance of being safe with images but also not being a hoarder.


I truly hope this post helped you learn how to organize and manage your photos in Lightroom. I highly suggest taking the time to play around and find a system that works for you. Not everyone has the same way of organizing their photos, but it is crucial you develop a process. When getting into large amounts of photo editing, you want to be able to easily find all of your work. This makes your job or hobby a lot more enjoyable in the long run. 

And if you found it valuable, please do me a big favor and pin the graphic below!

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If you are interested In learning more about photography, check out these other resources: 

5 Things Your Should Know About Using Lightroom 

My Lightroom Catalog is a Mess – by Photoshop Cafe

Need a preset for Lightroom Mobile? I got you covered. 

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  • Thank you, Morgan! Your kitchen counter analogy made so much sense: if you don’t build organizing into your daily schedule, and have drawers (folders) for everything, it becomes overwhelming! I’ve been trying to organize my photos once a month but I think I need to do it as I’m working. I don’t use Lightroom yet (I tried the free trial but couldn’t produce better edits with it than I could with my Macbook Photos software) but I’ll save this post for when I do start using it. 🙂 Nipa @fashionipa