Did you know that Lightroom can help you answer all these questions with just a few clicks of the mouse?

  • Which photos did I take in January 2011? 
  • What is my aperture’s “sweet” spot for a given lens?
  • How much are my photos distorted when I shoot at 24 mm?
  • What are all my 5 Star Photos?

Last week we talked about Lightroom’s EXIF Data.  Lightroom’s filters built in to the Library module is a very powerful search tool that helps you find photos with specific EXIF data and much more.  And it’s quite easy too, once you understand a couple of things.

First off, choose which folders of photos you will filter (search from) using the Folders panel in Lightroom’s Library module.

In this screen shot, you can see that my master parent folder is selected.  If I search right now, LR will look at every photo I’ve ever imported into its catalog.


By clicking on April, 2012, on the other hand, I could search only on the photos that I imported into the April 2012 folder.

Sometimes, the hardest part of the search process is figuring out how to configure these folders that you want to search from.  If you want to search all photos in your catalog and  your Folders panel isn’t displaying a master parent folder (meaning a folder that all the others roll up into), you can display it by right clicking on the topmost subfolder.

For instance, in the view below, I could search either in my Erin folder on my hard drive, OR in my 1st external hard drive (La Cie), OR in my 2nd hard drive (Free Agent).  I can’t search in all 3 of them together because there is no one VISIBLE parent folder that holds all 3 subfolders.  However, I can right click on any one of those subfolders and select Show Parent Folder.  That gives me the view in the first screen shot above where there is a master parent.

What if you don’t see many subfolders?  Go to the Library menu and select Show Photos in Subfolders.  

Now, you should be able to easily find the folder or folders that you want to search in.  To begin the search, make sure you are you in the Grid view of the Library (type G or go to the View menu) and look for the Filter Bar just above the Grid.

If you don’t see the Filter bar, type , or go to the View menu and select Show Filter Bar.

This bar gives you 3 different types of filters to choose from:

    • Text:  search on Filename, Keywords, etc.
    • Attribute:  search for photos “picked” with white flags or rejected with black flags, search for photos you’ve assigned color labels too, or search for photos that you’ve assigned a star rating to (zero stars through 5 stars)
    • Metadata: search on any of the data points in the white drop down menu in the screen shot below.  (You can click on it to zoom in.) To the right of the drop down menu, you can see the ISO speed filter.  This tells me that in my entire catalog, there are 164 photos that I took at ISO 50.  To see those 164 photos, I simply click on ISO 50.  

    • To search on something other than ISO Speed, I would simply click on the words “ISO Speed” to bring up the drop down menu and select another data category.
    • You can search on multiple categories at the same time.  For instance, I would use two columns in the Metadata filter area to search on all photos at ISO 50 and Shutter Speed 125.

The Metadata filters are so valuable for feedback about your camera and your photography.  This is where you could look at all your photos taken at a focal length of 24mm, for example, to examine just how distorted they are.  Or, you could look at all the photos of a given aperture, one aperture after another, to determine which is sharpest at its focal point.  You could compare one lens to another to determine which really is best for portrait work.  Or, you could use this to look at all the photos you took in a given month – if you don’t store your calendars by month like I do, this could be really helpful.

If you don’t use these filters already, I hope that you will.  Not only do they make it easy to find a photo that you can’t otherwise, you can also use them to learn about your photography, your favorite lenses and your best shooting settings.