Three Ways To Get Creative With Synced Collections

by Andrew S. Gibson
Three Ways to Get Creative With Synced Collections


Editor's note: This month only – take the next step on your creative journey and enroll in the Finding your Creative Voice 2024 course for just $25! Click here to learn more. Thanks for reading, Andrew.



Synced Collections started off as a way of sending photos to the Lightroom for mobile app in Lightroom 5. Since then their use has evolved dramatically and they now integrate Lightroom Classic 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 pause or resuming syncing photos at any time.
  • 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 (in other words, it doesn’t work with multiple Catalogs – another good reason for keeping all your 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.

Note: You can synchronize Collections (including Book, Print andSlideshow Collections), but not Collection Sets or Smart Collections.

Tip: Create a Collection Set called Portfolio and add Collections to it for your best portfolio quality photos.

Synced Collections Lightroom Classic

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.

Synced Collections Lightroom Classic

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.

Synced Collections Lightroom Classic

Synchronized Collections and the Cloud icon

Click the cloud icon in the Top bar (see screenshot below) to open the Cloud Storage panel.

Cloud Storage Lightroom Classic

Here you can see how much space any photos imported into or created in any of the Lightroom apps take up (in this case 8.7 GB 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.

Note: In older versions of Lightroom Classic this information appeared in the Activity Center.

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.
  • Your Adobe subscription is probably less expensive than the hosting fees for a custom built website, and for portfolio building website services like SquareSpace. Services like SquareSpace have more features than Adobe Portfolio, but if all you need is a simple portfolio website then it’s hard to beat Adobe Portfolio for ease of use or price.

Below you can see some screenshots from an Adobe Portfolio website I created.

This is the first page of the website that viewers see.

Adobe Portfolio website

This is another page of the website.

Adobe Portfolio website

These designs are fully customizable. There’s currently eighteen themes (layouts) to choose from and it’s easy to adjust fonts, colors and photo sizes.

2. Create web pages and graphics with Adobe Express

Adobe Express 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 Express apps or websites. Get started by going to https://www.adobe.com/express/ and logging in with your Adobe account.

If you’re not a Lightroom Classic user then you can still use Adobe Express as it’s free for everybody. But Lightroom Classic subscribers get more options, including premium templates and access to Adobe Fonts.

What is Adobe Express?

Adobe Express is an Adobe service that helps you design graphics. You can use the Adobe Express 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 Adobe Express before then you’ll be surprised at how powerful it is and how useful its templates could be for you.

The templates are great because you can simply replace the sample text and photos with your own, giving you a quick and easy way to make professional looking graphics, flyers etc. Or you can change the colors, fonts and layout as much as you want. You have full creative control.

Here are some screenshots showing some of the templates. These are birthday card templates.

Adobe Express templates

These are Instagram Story templates.

Adobe Express templates

And these are Infographic templates.

Adobe Express templates

There’s some amazing (not to mention useful) ideas amongst the templates, and it’s worth spending some time browsing to see what you can find. There’s plenty of choice and Adobe is adding more all the time.

Spark Page (part of Adobe Express)

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 making graphics in Adobe Express. You can access your synced Collections from the app, giving you an easy way to add photos to your page designs. And as part of Adobe Express, 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 Express 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.

Adobe Spark Page app

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 Express 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 app

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.

Final thoughts

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. There’s a lot of fun to be had experimenting with services like Adobe Portfolio, Adobe Express and Behance, so why not give it a try and see what you can do with your photos?




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