Synced Collections started off as a way of sending photos to the Lightroom mobile app (now known as Lightroom for mobile) in Lightroom 5. Since then their use has evolved dramatically and they now integrate Lightroom with a variety of Adobe apps and services.
This is great news for photographers as it makes it easy to access your photos across the Adobe Creative Cloud ecosystem. If you’re looking for a spark to get your creative juices flowing, the ideas in this tutorial will inspire you to do something new with your photos! Let’s get going.
What is a synchronized Collection?
But first, let’s start with the basics (we’ll get to the creative stuff later). This is what happens when you sync a Collection in Lightroom Classic.
• Lightroom Classic builds Smart Previews for any photos in the Collection that don’t already have them.
• It uploads the Smart Previews to Adobe’s servers.
• Applications like Lightroom for mobile pull those Smart Previews from Adobe’s servers so you can view and edit the photos in the synchronized Collection.
• When you make any changes to your photos using Lightroom for mobile (or Lightroom for web etc.) Adobe updates the corresponding Smart Previews held on its servers.
• Lightroom Classic then downloads these updated Smart Previews and updates the Catalog with the new information.
Adobe calls this CreativeSync. You need an internet connection for the whole thing to work.
There are a couple of important points to note.
• All this takes place in the background so you can continue using Lightroom Classic as normal.
• You have to be signed into your Adobe account.
• You can disable or enable synchronization in the Activity Center.
• Lightroom Classic only synchronizes photos that are in a Collection. There is no way to synchronize photos from a Folder, Collection Set or Smart Collection (at least without a workaround).
• You can only synchronize the photos in one Catalog.
How to synchronize Collections
In Lightroom Classic you can see in the Collections panel whether a Collection is synchronized or not by the icons displayed on the left-hand side.
If a Collection isn’t synchronized, you will see an icon that looks like an empty checkbox. When you click in this box, the icon changes to one that looks like a sideways lightning bolt, indicating that the Collection is synchronized.
Tip: Create a Collection Set called Portfolio and add Collections to it for your best portfolio quality photos.
When you synchronize Collections Lightroom adds a new Collection called All Synced Photographs to the Catalog panel. This Collection contains all your synced photos. If Lightroom has any problems synchronizing photos then Lightroom adds a Collection called All Sync Errors to the Catalog panel.
You can quickly find synchronized Collections in the Collections panel using the search tool. Click the arrow in the Filter Collections field and choose Synced Collections from the menu. With this option enabled Lightroom only shows synchronized Collections in the Collections panel.
Synchronized Collections and the Activity Center
When you move your mouse over the Lightroom logo in the Top bar a small white arrow appears on the right. Click the logo or the arrow to reveal the Activity Center.
The Activity Center tells you how much space any photos imported to or created in any of the Lightroom apps take up (in this case 345.83 MB of a total 20 GB allowance) and whether the synchronization process is running or paused. Note that Smart Previews don’t count towards your storage allowance.
If Lightroom is actively syncing photos when you open the Activity Center it tells you how many photos it is syncing.
How to get creative with synchronized Collections
Now for the fun stuff! The interesting thing about using synced Collections is that they provide easy access to photos in your Lightroom Catalog from other Adobe apps and services.
Today we’re going to look three of the most interesting options. Experimenting with any of these encourages you to look at your photos with fresh eyes. You’ll start thinking about how you can present them to an audience.
1. Synced Collections in Adobe Portfolio
Lightroom Classic subscribers can use Adobe Portfolio to build a free portfolio style website hosted on Adobe’s servers. You can build the website by logging in to your Adobe Portfolio account at https://portfolio.adobe.com/ and following the instructions.
Adobe Portfolio is a good option for photographers who would like a portfolio website. It’s a way to save money compared to using services like SmugMug or Squarespace, and it’s a lot easier than setting up a WordPress website.
Adding photos to your Adobe Portfolio website is as simple as selecting the synced Collections you want to include.
Why set up a portfolio website?
I can think of some good reasons.
• It encourages you to select your best photos and organize them by category or theme.
• If you want to sell any of your photos, for example, to a photography magazine, then it helps if you have a curated portfolio website for people to look at rather than an Instagram, 500px or Flickr account.
• People can see your photos at a decent size on a computer monitor. That isn’t possible with apps like Instagram.
Below you can see some screenshots from an Adobe Portfolio website I created.
This is the first page of the website that viewers see.
This is another page of the website.
These designs are fully customizable. There’s currently twelve themes (layouts) to choose from and it’s easy to adjust fonts, colors and photo sizes.
2. Create web pages and graphics with Adobe Spark
Adobe Spark is a website and set of apps that you can use to create web pages, graphics and video stories.
Lightroom Classic subscribers can access the photos in their synchronized Collections and use them in the Adobe Spark apps or websites. Get started by going to https://spark.adobe.com/ and logging in with your Adobe account.
If you’re not a Lightroom Classic user then you can still use Adobe Spark as it’s free for everybody. But Lightroom Classic subscribers get more options, including premium templates and access to Adobe Fonts.
Spark Post is an Adobe service that helps you design graphics. You can use the Spark Post mobile app or the website to create your designs (designs made in one automatically appear in the other). Choose from hundreds of ready-made templates or make your own creations from scratch.
The ready-made templates include designs for social media, businesses (flyers, brochures etc.) and even designs for teachers and students. If you’ve never used Spark Post before then you’ll be surprised at how powerful it is and how useful its templates could be for you.
Here a some screenshots from the iPad app. For example, if I wanted to create a header for this tutorial, I could make something like this.
Here’s another example, starting with this template.
From that, I came up with these alternatives.
Here’s another one, using this template.
And finishing with this.
I think you get the idea.
Spark Page is a free app for designing individual web pages hosted on Adobe’s servers.
It’s ideal for creative types who want to add text and tell a story as well as show off their projects and best photos.
It works in a similar way to Spark Post. You can access your synced Collections from the app, giving you an easy way to add photos to your page designs. And just like Spark Post, it’s free to sign up but you need a Lightroom Classic subscription to unlock all the features. Your designs also appear in the Adobe Spark website when you log in.
This screenshot from the iPad app gives you an idea of how it works. On the left is the web page itself, on the right are photos from a synced Lightroom Collection that you can add to it.
You can see the web page that I created with the Spark Page app here. It took me about 15 minutes to create.
Unfortunately there’s no elegant way to integrate your Spark Page with your own website or a website created with Adobe Portfolio. The best way to share it is to send people the link.
3. Post projects at Behance
Behance promotes itself as the leading online platform to showcase and discover creative work. This includes photography and you can use your Adobe ID to sign in and create your own projects for others to see. Just like Adobe Spark and Adobe Portfolio you can access your synchronized Collections and add photos to projects.
Behance is an interesting photo sharing option because it encourages you to submit your photos in project form. That means you have to start thinking about how you can organize your photos by theme or subject.
Here are screenshots of a project I created in the Behance iPad app. You can also create projects in the Behance website.
Behance vs. Adobe Portfolio
In some ways this is similar to creating a website with Adobe Portfolio. But there are some important differences.
• A portfolio website is something you have to tell people about in order to get visitors (for example, you can put a link to it in your email signature).
• A Behance portfolio is something you put on a photo sharing website, which means that people will come and look at it. Behance is great for getting feedback, looking at other people’s photos and projects, and for being part of an online community.
• With Adobe Portfolio you have complete control over the appearance and layout of your portfolio website. Plus you can set it up to work with your own domain name.
• With Behance you are locked into the Behance layout, which is a straightforward vertical feed of the photos in a project. You have a Behance url rather than your own domain name.
• It’s quicker and easier to get started sharing with Behance. There’s a bit more work involved in setting up your own portfolio website with Adobe Portfolio as you need to make decisions about layouts, colors and fonts. But once your Adobe Portfolio website is set up it’s just as quick and easy to add photos as it is with Behance.
Photos tend to stay on your hard drive and not make their way into the world as fully formed projects. Hopefully this tutorial has given you some ideas about what you could do with your photos instead.
In tomorrow’s tutorial you’ll learn more about sorting your best photos into themes and Collections in preparation for creative projects like these!