Targeted & Smart Collections in Adobe Lightroom

  • Thread starter KodyWallice
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May 7, 2021
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To begin this post, I think it would be helpful to define what both “Targeted” and “Smart” collections are. I’ll be discussing how these types of collections can greatly assist you, organization-wise, while working in Adobe Lightroom, so let’s get some of this housekeeping out of the way.

Targeted Collection: When marking a collection as “Targeted,” you’re essentially making it the working collection. The marking of a targeted collection is with the use of a small “+” symbol that sits to the right of the collection name. The collection is managed with a keyboard shortcut (we’ll cover that below) and when that shortcut is used, any photo selected will automatically move to the targeted collection. It’s basically a faster method of adding and removing photos to and from a specified area.

Smart Collection: A “Smart” collection is one that already exists in Adobe Lightroom. You can see it in the “Collections” panel. This type of collection already has a few sub-folders inside of it and they filter out photos that have been previously rated, marked or labeled. This type of collection transcends folders, meaning the photos that inhabit it (them) can be from anywhere inside a Lightroom catalog.

Targeted Collections​

In order to specify a particular collection as Targeted, you merely need to right-click on the collection name in the “Collections” panel and select “Set as Targeted Collection.” Take a look at the screenshot below.


Once I make that selection, the small “+” symbol will appear, as I mentioned above.

Let’s say that I’d like to begin adding some photos to this targeted collection. To do so, all I’d need to do is to select the desired thumbnail or thumbnails and either hit the “B” key on my keyboard or head up to and click on the “Photo > Add to Targeted Collection” menu item.


Once that’s finished, my photo will be included in that particular collection. In my case, it’s the one I named “Flowers.” Let’s take a look.


To remove any photo from this collection, all I need to do is follow the same instructions I gave above. From inside the collection or inside the originating thumbnail area, I can select the photos in question and either click “B” on my keyboard or use the “Photo” menu up top. They both accomplish the same task.

I think the primary reason folks use this feature in Lightroom is to speed up their work process. If you’ve got tons of photos, you can simply round up the ones you want and click a keyboard shortcut to place them somewhere. It’s much quicker than clicking and dragging.

Smart Collections​

Personally, I prefer using Smart collections over Targeted collections. If I’ve already done all my rating and labeling, in my mind, I’ve already done the filtering labor. This may be simply because of how I work and what I do, but I really do find these types of collections handy. Just remember though, Smart collections affect your entire catalog, not just one or two folders inside of it.

Let’s take a look at the folders inside of the Smart collections area.


As you can see, there are some pre-existing folders inside of it. Right now, we’ve got “Colored Red,” “Five Stars,” “Past Month,” “Recently Modified,” “Video Files” and “Without Keywords.”

Now, if I click on the “Five Stars” Smart collection, I’ll see all the photos that I’ve rated as five stars. The photos currently in this collection just happen to be from one folder, but if I had other photos with this particular rating in other folders, they would be in this collection as well.


Here’s the thing – and you may have already noticed this – the pre-existing collections inside the “Smart” collections panel may not be to our liking. What if I wanted to filter out four star ratings? Or a color other than red? Or a bunch of other things? Well, it’s really easy to set up more sub-smart collections. To do so, simply click the “+” symbol to the right of the “Collections” panel label and choose “Create Smart Collection.”


Once this is done, you should see a nice informative dialog box appear. It gives all sorts of options to create the collections of your liking.


In the above screenshot, you can see that I already created a new collection. I also left the collection type drop-down box pulled down, so you can see all the choices available. Just remember to name the collection up top or else you’ll have another collection called “Smart Collection.”