Powerful Searching with Lightroom’s Library Filters

January 27, 2010


"Flower Man" Savannah, GA

There are many ways to find your photos inside Lightroom. The Library Filter bar contains several tools that make finding specific images easier. You can apply these filters one at a time or in combinations to see only the images you’re looking for. To apply multiple filters, command(cntrl) click on the filter names in the filter bar. This is a great way to find and organize your photos for creating collections because filters can be applied to individual folders or your entire catalog.

To open the Library Filter bar make sure you are in the Library Module and press the backslash (\) key. The Library Filters will drop down at the top of the grid window. It looks pretty unassuming at first, but let’s open the tabs and see what’s inside.

Here are the Library Filters with all of the tabs open. From top to bottom (and left to right in the bar): Text, Attribute and Metadata.

First on the list is ‘Text’. The graphic below shows all of the options expanded for the Text filter. This filter seems simple, but there are a lot of options that allow you to get very specific results.

Text filter with it's options expanded

Next is the ‘Attribute’ filter. This filter is not as self-explanatory as the Text filter, but it makes sense when you open it. Here you can filter your results by pick flag, star rating, color label or copy status. If you click on the ‘≥’ before the stars you can change this setting from “greater than or equal to” to “less than or equal to” or “equal to”. I use pick flags, star ratings and color labels in my regular workflow (see my article on Smart Collections), and these filters come in handy for me. Copy status allows you to view original photos or virtual copies separately.

The last filter is ‘Metadata’. This is probably the most powerful of the Library Filters because it allows for so much customization. You can search for everything from EXIF data to upload status. You can add or remove a column from the filter using the drop-down menu in the top right corner of a column. Change the metadata category using the menu in the top left corner of the column. You can select multiple entries in one column by command(cntrl) clicking on multiple categories.

Metadata Filter

Lightroom includes Custom Filter presets like “Flagged”, “Rated” and a few others, but you can add your own to streamline your searching and organization.  Create a search or filter you would like to save, then choose “Save current settings as new preset” in the Custom Filter menu at the right side of the filter bar. You can apply filter presets from the Custom Filter menu, or from the drop-down menu on the right side of the filmstrip.

“Flower Man” photo shot with a Nikon D300s and an 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 VR lens. Black and White conversion made with Nik Software Silver Effects Pro.

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This post was written by:

- who has written 23 posts on The Digital Photo Experience.

Rob Knight is an Adobe Certified Expert in Photoshop Lightroom and a two-time Photoshop Guru finalist. Based in Atlanta, Georgia, Rob loves to travel and share his passion for photography with others.
You can follow Rob on twitter @RobKnightPhoto, and find out about Rob’s classes and photo workshops at Rob Knight Photography

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7 Responses to “Powerful Searching with Lightroom’s Library Filters”

  1. MattGranz Says:

    I know this will sound lame to the pros out there, but until Lightroom can make a catalog interface that is visual, I will continue to use iPhoto to store my photos and use Lightroom as a tool to edit only. It takes so much less time to browse through my 50k+ photos using Apple’s visual system in their application, and if I so choose to rate the photos or name them, their search will work much as what was described here. The photo editing world needs to take note of the power of visual searches.


  2. Sully Says:

    Please describe “Apple’s visual system” and how it differs from Lightroom’s visual catalog interface. Sorry, I have no idea what you are talking about here. I use both programs.


  3. Rob Knight Says:

    iPhoto allows you to stack photos in groups called “events”. You can mouse over the top photo in an Event and scroll through the photos inside. I’m assuming this is what Matt is referring to. This “visual system” is a far less efficient way to work for me, but everyone works differently.



  4. Steve Darden Says:

    Rob, very clear and concise article, thanks.

    How did you add the metadata classes such as “Uploaded to Smugmug”?



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