A version of this article was recently featured over at MosaicArchive.com. I am a big fan of Mosaic’s online Adobe Photoshop Lightroom backup system and the way that their software makes my catalog viewable online. Their backup service is definitely worth checking out.
Keywords are one of the cornerstones of an efficient, searchable image organization system. Keywords make searching through a large volume of images using Adobe Photoshop Lightroom fast and easy. While everybody loves what Keywords can do for us, most photographers dread the data-entry time required to add this kind of searchable text into every image.
The cause for this stress is often because many Photoshop Lightroom users lack an efficient keywording strategy. Without a good strategy, we either add far too much or we grow lazy and begin to skip over this crucial part of the digital photography workflow. For those selling images in stock or doing documentary photography projects, adding dozens of keywords to each image is important, but for most Lightroom users two or three keywords is probably sufficient.
If we use this “bare bones” approach, then we must carefully choose our terms. To pick the right keywords ask yourself, “What will I remember the most about these images five years from now?” In other words, what broad category of photography describes these images? What is the most specific detail about an image that you are likely to remember years from now?
Thus, my advice is to add at least one broad categorical keyword onto each and every image that you add to your Lightroom Catalog. For categories, I suggest words like “landscape,” “portrait,” “architecture,” or “family.” If an image spans the lines between categories, then by all means add more than one broad categorical keyword tag. Using Adobe Photoshop Lightroom’s Text Search Tool in the Library Module Grid View, I can tell the program to find all my photos that I tagged with the keyword “family” in seconds.
However, adding only the broad categorical keyword “family” is too vague when I want to find pictures of one particular family member. To find images of just my sister, I need to search specifically for the files that contain her name. This brings us to the other part of my keywording strategy. When adding our bare bones keywords, we need to add something very broad–the category–and also add something very specific, such as my sister’s full legal name.
If I am going to search specifically for images of my sister five years from now, then I need to make sure that I use her name as a keyword on every image where she appears. So far this sounds easy enough. The trouble is that typing be very time-consuming. To really speed things up here, nothing beats a custom Keyword Set. With a custom Keyword Set, adding family member’s names is incredibly efficient and push button easy. Watch this video to see what a custom Keyword Set can do for you when you are indexing photos of those that matter most to us.
Building a custom Keyword Set for the members of your family is a great start. Once you have saved your custom set, all you need to do is to click the appropriate buttons! Keywording a family photo is literally click, click, click easy!
Things get even faster too once you learn the ALT + a NUMBER trick. Combine the ALT trick with block selection skills and you can fly through thousands of family photos in no time!
Now I need to let you in on one more Lightroom secret. You can only have nine words in a custom Keyword Set. Nine words is the limit because there are only nine numbers, not counting zero, on the ten-key number pad. So while you can only have nine words per set, you can have an unlimited number of Keyword Sets. If you have a large family, break things down into smaller groupings. Make yourself an Immediate Family Set, a Nieces and Nephews Set, a Grandkids set, etc.
If you are clever and you remember Lightroom’s obsession with alphabetizing, you can easily line your family Keyword Sets up so that they follow a logical order by putting numbers in front of the Keyword Set’s name. If you add the numbers 00, 01, 02, etc. in front of your custom sets, then they will line up in a logical order so that the first group is your closest kin folks and the last group are your more distant relatives.
The last trick here is that you can switch from one custom Keyword Set to another without taking your hands off the keyboard! ALT + 0(the zero key) moves you from one keyword set to the next in alphabetical order. ALT + SHIFT + 0 moves you from set to set in reverse alphabetical order. It’s so slick and so easy if you take the time to build the sets before you leap into keywording a thousand family photos.
Before you get carried away, please let me caution you about creating too many sets. Experience has taught me that building custom Keyword Sets for words that I will not use again and again is a waste of time. Lightroom’s Recent Keywords feature, the Painter Tool, and the Smart Typing feature are fine for keywords that you only use occasionally. Save the custom Keyword Sets feature for those that really matter.
- Selection Secrets in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom
- Searching With Metadata in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom
- Keyword Sets from Sean McCormack
- Adding Keywords Sets from Erik Bernskiold