Publishers of technology books, eBooks, and videos for creative people

Home > Articles > Digital Photography > Adobe Photoshop Lightroom

Keywording in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2

  • Print
  • + Share This
The most effective way to categorize your images is to label them with keyword information. Martin Evening explains keywording in Lightroom 2, including adding, managing, and removing keywords, keyword hierarchy, implied keywords, keyword sets, creating your own custom keyword sets, and suggested keywords.
Like this article? We recommend

Keywording and Keyword List panels

The most effective way to categorize your images is to label them with keyword information so you can use the Filter bar to search for pictures, either by typing in a specific text term to search for (such as a keyword), or by carrying out a general, filtered metadata search.

You can add keyword metadata via the Import Photos dialog as you import your images, or you can add and edit the keywords later via the Keywording panel. Figure 4.24 shows how I have sorted the keywords in the Keyword List panel into a hierarchy, which makes it easier for me to locate specific photographs. Notice how some of the keywords have been sorted into categories such as Nature subjects and Places. In the Places keyword category is a keyword subcategory called Europe and within that Norway, and then a sub-keyword: Bygdøy peninsula. You will find that it pays to establish a proper keyword hierarchy that suits the content of your library. Because you can assign multiple keywords to associate different criteria with a particular photo, you can then search for your images in lots of various ways. Note that the photo illustrated here also contains the keyword Seascapes. So you could categorize this image via using both Nature subjects > Seascapes and Places > Norway > Bygdøy peninsula.

You can also filter by keyword using the Keyword List panel. Just click the arrow next to the keyword count number.

Three ways to add new keywords

To start using keyword metadata, you can add new keywords as you import images into the catalog (Figure 4.25) or add and edit keywords via the Keywording panel (Figure 4.26). You can also add keywords to the Keyword List panel in anticipation of the keywords needed (Figure 4.27). Then select an image you want to update, select a keyword, and click in the box to the left (Figure 4.28). Whichever method you use, once a keyword has been added, it will then always be listed in the Keyword List panel. Once the keywords are there, you can arrange them into a suitable hierarchy. After a keyword has been logged into the system, Lightroom then autocompletes keywords for you as you start typing in the first few letters for a new keyword entry. Apart from making it quicker to enter new data, this helps you avoid duplicating keyword entries through careless spelling or typos. Lightroom also autoassigns the correct hierarchy. For example, the next time I add the keyword Seascapes, the Seascapes keyword will automatically be assigned under the Nature subjects category in the Keyword List panel.

Applying and managing existing keywords

The Keywording panel is located directly above the Keyword List panel and provides an overview of all the keywords associated with a specific image or collection of images. When you click an image, you will see any keywords present listed in this panel, separated by a comma (there should be no spaces). As with the Import Photos dialog, you can add a new keyword by typing it into the Keywords field in the Keywording panel, and Lightroom will attempt to autocomplete the entries as you type. If you have multiple images selected, the Keywording panel displays all the keywords that are active in the image selection. Those keywords that are common to all images in the selection are displayed as normal, but those keywords that apply only to a sub-selection of the images will be marked with an asterisk (Figure 4.29). If you have a multiple selection of images and want to unify a particular keyword across all of the images in that selection, simply highlight the asterisk and press the 146icon01.jpg key. This will ensure that all the selected images are now assigned with the keyword. If you want to change a particular keyword, you can always highlight it and type in a new word or press 146icon01.jpg to remove it from the selection.

You can apply keywords to photos in the catalog in a couple of ways. Figure 4.30 shows how you can apply a keyword to a selection of images by dragging a keyword to the image selection. The good thing about this method is that it is easy to hit the target as you drag and drop the keyword. The other option is to make a selection first in the Content area and then drag the selection to the keyword. In Figure 4.31I selected the same group of images and dragged the selection to the keyword New York.

Autocomplete options

As you enter metadata for keywords and other editable metadata fields, it can save time to have the “Offer suggestions from recently entered values” option checked in the Metadata Catalog settings (see Figure 4.68 on page 176), where you can also click the Clear All Suggestion Lists button to reset the memory and clear all memorized words. If you type in a keyword where there are two or more possible sources, Lightroom will offer these as choices such as Salisbury > Wiltshire > UK, or Salisbury > Maryland > USA (assuming both are logged as keywords). See page 150 for more about the way Lightroom handles identical keywords such as these.

Removing keywords

It is easy enough to remove keywords. You can go to the Keyword List panel, select the keyword or keywords you want to delete, and click the minus button at the top of the panel. This will delete the keyword from the Keyword List hierarchy list and also remove it from any photos that had that keyword assigned to them. Of course, if you do remove a keyword via the Keywords panel you will only be deleting it from the Lightroom database. If you think that the keyword had already been saved to the file’s XMP space, you will need to force-save the metadata change (the keyword deletion) back to the file’s XMP space by choosing Metadata 124icon02.jpg Save Metadata to Files. By the same token, if keywords are removed using an external program, the keywords will not appear removed when you view the photo in Lightroom.

As photos are removed from the catalog, keywords that were formerly associated with those pictures will consequently become unused. You can remove them by selecting and deleting as I have just described, or clear them from the Keyword List panel by going to the Metadata menu and choosing Purge Unused Keywords. Just so that you don’t remove these keywords accidentally, a warning dialog appears asking you to confirm this action.

Keyword hierarchy

It is important to plan not only your keyword list but also the hierarchy of keywords using a controlled vocabulary of keyword categories. The keyword list can be edited in the Keyword List panel by dragging and dropping the keywords in whichever way suits your needs best. It is possible to have several tiers of sub-categories. For example, you could organize place name keywords in the following order: Places > Country > State > City. When you are working in the Keywording panel, you can enter new keywords and assign a hierarchy by including a > character after the keyword, followed by the category. So if you wanted to add a new keyword called Elephants as a subcategory of Animals and Nature subjects, you would type Elephants > Animals > Nature subjects. When you press 148fig01.jpg, you will see the Elephants keyword appear as a new subset keyword in the Keyword List panel and be listed in the Keyword List section of the Keywording panel.

How you categorize library images is entirely up to you, but if you submit work to an external photo library, you will most likely be given guidelines on the acceptable keywords and categories to use when annotating photographs for submission. These guidelines are normally supplied privately to photographers who work directly with the picture agencies. But there are online resources that you can refer to that describe how to use what is known as a “controlled vocabulary,” which ensures that the keyword terms used to describe the images conform to prescribed sets of words universally used by others working in the same branch of the industry. When you get into complex keywording (and I do know photographers who assign images with 50 keywords or more), it is important to be methodical and precise about which terms are used and the hierarchy they belong to.

Keyword categories can also be used to catalog images in ways that are helpful to your business. For commercial shoots, I find it is useful to keep a record of who worked on which shot. Some catalog programs let you set up a custom database template with user-defined fields. In Lightroom you can set up keyword categories for the various types of personnel and add the names of individuals as a subset, or child, of the parent keyword category. Figure 4.32 shows how I created keyword categories for Clothes stylists, Hairdressers, and Makeup artists. Inside these categories I created subcategories of keywords listing the people I work with regularly. Once I have established such a keyword hierarchy, all I have to do is start typing in someone’s name. If Lightroom recognizes this as a possible match to an existing keyword in the Lightroom keyword database, Lightroom autocompletes the keyword metadata entry in addition to correctly placing the keyword within the established hierarchy. This type of organization is also useful for separating library images by job/client names. When the keyword names are in place, you should find it fairly easy to keep your catalog of images updated.

Importing and exporting keyword hierarchies

You can create your own keyword hierarchy from scratch or import one that has already been created. All the keywords that are currently utilized in Lightroom can be exported by selecting Metadata 124icon02.jpg Export Keywords. A keywords export is saved as a text file using a tab-delimited format. Similarly, you can choose Metadata 124icon02.jpg Import Keywords to import keywords into Lightroom from a tab-delimited keyword file (Figure 4.33).

A tab-delimited file is a plain text file with a tab between each indented level in the text. Tab-delimited files are one way to import and place data that is arranged in a hierarchical format. In the tip to the left you will see a link to David Riecks’ Web site, from which you can purchase a ready-made vocabulary that is compatible with Lightroom. To install this, download the file, launch Lightroom, and choose Import keywords from the Metadata menu. That’s it—these keywords will be added to the Keyword List panel. Similarly, you can export a keyword hierarchy for sharing on other computer systems or catalogs by selecting “Export keywords.”

Implied keywords

The Keywording panel lists keywords that have been applied explicitly to images in the Keyword List section. But as I mentioned, some of the keywords that you enter will already have implicit keywords associated with them. So if in the future, I apply the keyword Bygdøy peninsula, it automatically includes the implicit keywords: Places and Europe. So I don’t have to type in Bygdøy peninsula > Oslo > Europe > Places if there is already a keyword with such a hierarchy in the database. It should only be necessary to type in the first few letters such as Byg... and Lightroom will autocomplete the rest. If the Keyword List menu is set to display Enter Keywords (Figure 4.34), you can edit the keywords in this mode but the implicit keywords will be hidden (although they will nonetheless remain effective when conducting searches). If you select Keywords & Parents or Will Export (Figure 4.35), you will see a flattened list of keywords that includes the implicit keywords, but you won’t be able to edit them in the Keywording panel when using these modes.

When you enter a new keyword, you use the > key to signify that this keyword is a child of the following keyword (such as Chicago > Illinois > USA > Places). This establishes the hierarchy, and as I explained, when you use the Enter Keywords mode, all you will see is the first keyword; the parent keywords will be hidden. However, if you apply a keyword that is identical to another keyword where both have different parents, you will then see the > hierarchy appear in the Keywords dialog. To give you an example of why this is the case, take a look at Figure 4.36, in which you see the Keyword Camilla repeated twice. This is because my wife Camilla is both a makeup artist as well as being “someone I know.” I can add the keyword Camilla in two separate contexts. Lightroom is able to differentiate between the Camilla I know and the Camilla I work with.

Keyword sets

The Keywording panel can also be used to display sets of keywords. Having commonly used keywords quickly accessible in this way can easily save you a lot of time when keywording certain types of photo projects. It offers a quick method for adding commonly used keywords to images in the Content area. Select an image or a group of images and click a keyword to apply it to the selection. To access a keyword set list, click the disclosure triangle (circled in Figure 4.37) to reveal the Set section of the Keywording panel. This will normally display Recent Keywords, which can be useful for most keywording jobs. Or, you can select one of the supplied Keyword Set presets such as Outdoor Photography, Portrait Photography, or Wedding Photography. In Figure 4.37 you can see an example of one such Keyword preset and instructions for previewing the keyboard number shortcuts for each keyword in the set. For example, if want to assign a Flowers & Plants keyword, I would hold down 151icon01.jpg to preview the number shortcuts in the Keywording panel and note that I need to use the 151icon01.jpg–9 shortcut to apply this particular keyword (see also Figure 4.38).

Creating your own custom keyword sets

If you have lot of photos to edit from a specific trip, or there are certain types of events that you photograph regularly, you will most likely find it useful to create your own keyword sets for these types of shoots. To do so, follow these instructions:

  1. To create a custom keyword set, go to the Keyword Set section of the Keywording panel and click “Edit set.” This will open the dialog shown here (using the current keyword set list) where you can edit which keywords you would use for quick access when keyword-editing a particular project. In this example, I created a keyword set that I could use when editing photographs taken in Antarctica.
  2. After creating a new custom keyword set, go to the Metadata menu and check out the Keyword Set submenu to see the shortcuts listed for applying keywords (these shortcuts are toggled). The Keywording panel shown here now also displays this new custom keyword set. Hold down the 151icon01.jpgkey to preview the keyboard shortcuts and use the 151icon01.jpg key plus a number to quickly assign any of these keywords.

Suggested keywords

Here is a brand-new Lightroom 2 feature. If you select Suggested Keywords from the Keyword Set menu, Lightroom will adapt the list of keywords that are available for use based upon the keywords that are already in that image plus those photos that are close neighbors in terms of capture time. The logic system that’s used here works really well when trying to guess what other keywords you might like to add to a particular photograph. In Figure 4.39, the selected image had the keywords New York and USA. Lightroom was able to suggest adding the other keywords shown in the Keyword set list such as Times Square, Central Park, Manhattan, and Architecture. This is because all the other photos that had New York and USA as keywords also had one more of these keywords assigned. The list of suggested keywords was also prioritized based on the keywords found in photos taken shortly before or after the current photograph.

  • + Share This
  • 🔖 Save To Your Account