In Detail: File Organization
Depending on how you work, you will either find Lightroom's approach to file organization completely logical, or bafflingly wrong-headed. The first thing to realize about Lightroom is that it doesn't work like Photoshop Bridge, or Microsoft Explorer, or Finder on a Mac. In short, it isn't an image browser. As such, you can't simply point the program towards an existing folder on your desktop and expect to see its contents appear in the filmstrip.
This is because you don't actually browse images in Lightroom, you browse low-resolution previews of those images which are stored separately in a database. Lightroom calls this database a 'catalogue'. In order to do anything to an image in Lightroom you must import it into the catalogue first. Lightroom's catalogue is a library of data about your images. It contains everything from its physical location, star rating or keywording to what development preset you applied the last time you opened it. The images that you can see in Lightroom 3 are previews only, which represent the 'virtual' state of the parent file (which remains untouched).
Importing is the first and most important stage in the Lightroom 3 workflow. Importing an image into Lightroom adds it to Lightroom's catalogue, but does not necessarily entail physically moving the file to a new location. The only time that Lightroom will insist on physically copying your images from one place to another is when it detects that they are on a camera's memory card - i.e. when you will sooner or later have to copy them somewhere else anyway.
If you're importing images of the same event from from multiple memory cards, Lightroom only needs to know where you want the images to end up once. By default, 'location' is set to the last folder that was selected.
You can move files between folders in Lightroom 3, but if you move a file or a folder from its original location outside Lightroom, you will encounter problems. Although Lightroom will still show the images/folder in the 'Library' and 'Develop' windows, missing folders are marked with a question mark, and missing images will display a 'File XXXX is offline or missing' warning.
If your missing files are stored on an external drive that is turned off, re-acquiring them in Lightroom is a simple matter of turning the drive back on (although you may find that it saves time to quit and restart Lightroom 3). If you've moved the files to a new location, you just need to tell Lightroom where to find them.
Adding keywords to imported images is optional, but highly recommended. Apart from anything else, if you keep up to date with your keywording, a keyword search is the quickest way to find an image in a large Lightroom catalog. Keywords can be added at the import stage, or later at any time from the 'Library' window. Images can be searched for either using the Ctrl (Command/Apple key on a Mac)+F shortcut in the library view or by using the keyword window.
|The quickest way to find images quickly once you've built up a large catalog is to search for keywords.
Just enter a keyword in the search box, and it will bring up all of the images in the catalog which are tagged with that term.
Moving your Lightroom 3 catalog
If you store your photographs on an external drive, you might like to move your Lightroom catalogue there too. You don't absolutely need to do this, but it will save space on your computer's hard drive. Lightroom catalogs start small but they soon grow. Fortunately, moving the Lightroom catalog is very easy.