Why You Should Use Keywording in Lightroom (and How to Do It)

Why You Should Use Keywording in Lightroom (and How to Do It)

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I have to admit, I did not know about keywords in Lightroom, or their powerful uses, until a couple of years ago. During one of Julieanne Kost’s tutorials, I heard the terms and saw it being used in a very practical sense – a way to add specific descriptors to images in a catalog. I was intrigued and the more I researched them, the more I realized what an amazing and awesome tool was available right at my finger tips.

Descriptive and Specific Keywords assigned to an image in Lightroom

Descriptive and Specific Keywords assigned to an image in Lightroom

In the simplest sense, Keywords in Lightroom are a way to describe key elements about a photograph. Just as the basic wikipedia definition of the term, keywords add description to an image and when used in conjunction with filters, are a great way to find specific images quickly in a large catalog. Keywords also provide a way for others to find your images on the web. Keywords get attached to images as part of the image metadata when an image is exported from Lightroom. These keywords in the metadata then act as an identifier and show up in internet searches when people search for certain words and phrases. If your images have your logo, watermark, or some other identifier, that is a another way for people to get exposed to your work.

Keywords can be found in the Library module in Lightroom. There are three panels related to keywords – Keywording, Keyword Suggestions and Keyword List. Each of these can be expanded or collapsed using the triangle looking arrow (see below image).

Keyword Panel in Lightroom's Library Module

Keyword Panel in Lightroom’s Library Module

Keyword List

Keyword List basically indexes all the keywords that you have setup in your catalog. To add a word to the Keyword List, click on the “+” symbol on the left hand side of the panel and a dialog box opens up. You can enter in the information (e.g. the name of the keyword, synonyms, etc.) and once you click okay, a keyword will be added to your list. Some of my keywords are Location, Time of Year, Seasons, Time of Day, Clients and Subjects.

Within these parent keywords, I have child keywords like name of the client, the four seasons of the year, type of photography, etc. To add a child keyword to a parent keyword, select the parent keyword and then select the “+” symbol. The same dialog box opens up except this time the keyword will be added to the parent keyword. Depending on the image, I select the relevant keywords and they get added to the keyword metadata for that specific image.

DPS Article on Keywords in LR by Memorable Jaunts - Adding Keywords to the Keyword List

Clicking on the “+” on the left of the Keyword List panel is a way to add new keywords and keyword categories.

Keyword Set

Keyword Set is a great way to setup a pre-qualified set of keywords. This is very helpful if you photograph different genres. I have three distinct set of keywords – Memorable Jaunts Wedding Photos, Memorable Jaunts Family Photos and Memorable Jaunts Outdoor Nature Photos. Each set has related keywords assigned to it. If I am working on a wedding gallery for a client, I can choose Wedding Photos and then have a shortlist of preassigned keywords to attach to specific images in that gallery. My wedding photos keyword set has words like bride, groom, candid, posed, family, wedding party, etc.

Keyword Suggestions

Keyword Suggestions are Lightroom’s way of anticipating what your keyword needs are. These suggestions are based on the latest, most frequently used keywords. If your keyword list is long like mine, you can use this to quickly assign keywords to images especially if you tend to work with similar type of images.

DPS Article on Keywords in LR by Memorable Jaunts - Assigning Keywords to images

Keywords Suggestions are based on the most recently used and frequently used keywords.

Once you assign keywords to a particular image in a galley, you can use Sync Metadata and assign the same keywords to all the images within that gallery, especially if they are all along the same lines – same session, same people, and same genre.

A few tips to keep in mind

#1 – Keyword lists can grow very quickly

It is important to take the time upfront to assign keywords to all images within your catalog. This makes sorting and filtering images based on specific keywords much easier.

#2 – Try not to add keywords on the fly

Ensure that keywords are always added using the appropriate hierarchy. For example, if you have four seasons – Fall, Summer, Winter and Spring under “Seasons” parent keyword group, resist the temptation to add Summer Equinox or Early Fall to a specific image without adding it to the “Seasons” parent keyword group. If you add a keyword that is not on the keyword list, Lightroom will add it as an orphaned keyword to your list. Soon you will have many adhoc keywords that don’t really belong to any specific category or group. Along the same lines, maintain your keywords – delete the keywords that you no longer use and no longer assign to any image.

#3 – Keywords can also be imported and exported from Lightroom

LR saves keywords as a txt document. What this means is that you can create your keyword list in a normal text editor, save the file as a “.txt” file and then import it into your catalog. You can also share your keywords list between computers, say your desktop at home and the laptop you use in the field.

#4 – Create a base keyword of your name or the name of your business and assign that to all your images

Remember that keywords gets stored as metadata information for images. This ensures that your name or business information is always present on each and every one of your images.

Another powerful advantage of assigning keywords to your images is the ability to search or filter images in your catalog based on specific keywords. When you filter in Lightroom, choose the Text option and the drop-down box to select Keywords, then start entering specific keywords. Lightroom will start sorting images based on the keyword until you find all the image that have that corresponding keyword in their metadata.

DPS Article on Keywords in LR by Memorable Jaunts - Filering using keywords - Searchable by keyword

Selecting Keywords as part of search criteria ensures the ability to get specific results based on exact keywords

DPS Article on Keywords in LR by Memorable Jaunts - Filering using keywords

Using keywords to sort through all images in a catalog

Regardless of whether your catalog is small or large, it is worth the time and the effort to assign appropriate and relevant keywords to all your images. This makes future management and maintenance of your catalog much easier and efficient.

Tell us in the comments below how you use keywords?

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Karthika Gupta is a culture, people and travel photographer, based in the Chicago area. Her images are fun, fresh and natural, and her love for nature makes it way into most of her images. She also has a Free Travel Photography Demystified E-Course, a 5-Day video series to help you improve your travel photography.