The Lightroom Quick Collection is a smart way to gather together a group images from any of your folders in a Catalog without changing the location of the original images. It is essential to the process of maintaining an organized library. Whenever you start a new project within Lightroom, a book, slideshow, etc., it makes sense to create a Quick Collection of selected images and then save it. Quick Collections are temporary. Collections are saved Quick Collections. And so, with that confusing comment in mind, I’ve tried to make particular note of those issues that have confounded some my students. For some, this will be less of a tutorial and more like an, “Oh, %#&!, that’s why that happens,” kind of post. Once you get into the habit of creating Collections, you’ll wonder why you waited so long.

Lightroom Quick Collections

To make sure your copy of Lightroom has Quick Collection Markers turned on, go to the top menu and choose View>View Options (Command J for the Mac or Control J for the PC). Select the Grid View tab and in the Cell Icons Panel, make sure the Quick Collections Markers is checked. Then close the Library View Options dialog box.

Lightroom Quick Collection Checkbox in View Options

Now, when you float your mouse cursor over any thumbnail in the Grid View or Film Strip, a small circle will appear in the upper right hand corner. Click on it and the circle becomes gray. The image never moves from its original location, it is only added as a thumbnail to the Quick Collection folder located in the Library’s Catalog Panel.  Or you can tap “B” which is the keyboard command for adding an image to the Quick Collection. As far as I know, there’s no limit to the number of images you can add from any folder within the catalog, including saved Collections (see below). Clicking the gray marker or tapping “B” will also remove an image from the Quick Collection as well.

Lightroom Quick Collection IconsNOTE: When you click on the Quick Collection Marker, Lightroom does not give you any feedback, there’s no indication that you have added the image to the Quick Collection other than the gray circle, which you may not easily notice with images that have a similar gray colored background or in very small thumbnails. However, if you use the keyboard command “B” when adding an image to the Quick Collection, Lightroom flashes a little note on-screen “Add to Quick Collection.” I don’t know why Adobe doesn’t flash that note in both cases.

Quick Collection Folder Contents

Images are added as thumbnails to the Quick Collection folder, but they are not moved from their original folder locations.

At this point, you can work on developing your images from the Quick Collection as you would normally and the changes you make will be reflected in the original image, no matter where it is located in your Lightroom Catalog.

 A Saved Quick Collection Becomes A Collection

Lightroom can only have one Quick Collection but can have many Collections. Saving a Quick Collection makes it a Collection. Get it? Boy, was I lost on that one originally. Anyway, to save it, all you have to do is right click the Quick Collection title for the contextual menu. If you choose “Clear Quick Collection” it clears the gray circle markers from the images and empties the content of the Quick Collection folder. Lightroom doesn’t even ask you if you’re sure you want to clear the folder. Oh, well. Just be sure that’s what you want to do.

Save Lightroom Quick Collection

Right Click to Display the Contextual Menu

If you choose “Save Quick Collection,” a dialog box comes up. (I named my Collection “Head Shots”) And whether or not you choose to Clear the Quick Collection After Saving, there’s still gonna be some confusion, especially the first time around. I hope the notes below clear things up.

Save Quick Collection

Saving a Quick Collection Will Make It a Collection

Confusing behavior #1: If you Save without selecting “Clear Quick Collection After Saving,” the collection will be in two places – 1. The images will remain in the Quick Collection folder in the Catalog Panel and 2. The saved Collection will be in the Collections Panel. And this can become confusing because Lightroom doesn’t take you to the saved Collection, it remains looking at the Quick Collection folder when, in my opinion, you should really now be looking at the saved Collection. Additionally, any future images you choose for the Quick Collection will be dumped in with what is already there. Messy.

Confusing behavior #2: If you select “Clear the Quick Collection After Saving,” the images in the Quick Collection are cleared and you are now looking at an empty Quick Collection folder, probably wondering what just happened.  Just like the previous note, it’s in the Collections Panel on the bottom left side of the Library Module. I don’t know why Adobe doesn’t at least have a prompt that tells you where to go. 

So, after saving a Quick Collection, you will always have to scroll down to the Collections Panel in order to find your saved Collection. *Unless Adobe decides to fix it in a later version. (Currently this is LR 5.6)

Quick Collection Saved as a Collection

How Adobe was able to make such a simple concept so confusing is truly remarkable feat of engineering. It’s exactly that that trips users up in Lightroom. And, explaining it has turned out to be equally as challenging. So, I hope this has helped!

Here are some additional links to Adobe tutorials on the Quick Collection that might be helpful:

Tim Grey’s Adobe TV Video on creating a collection –  http://tv.adobe.com/watch/learn-lightroom-5/the-quick-collection/

From the Adobe Help pages –  http://helpx.adobe.com/lightroom/help/photo-collections.html