One of the reasons I fell in love with Lightroom when I first saw it was because it seemed to have so much promise when it came to keeping my photographs organized and easy-to-retreive when I needed them. Now that I’ve been working with the program for some months, I’m just beginning to appreciate how really powerful it is in that regard. There are lots of ways to add keywords to your photos. Then there are at least four ways to use both the camera’s recorded Metadata and Keywords to find pictures, and several of these methods have variations. So this week, I’m going to take you through the ways to do the keywording efficiently. Next week, I’ll take you through the ways to use keywords efficiently.
For openers, you can enter keywords right in the Import dialog so they canl be applied to all the photos in the shoot. Even if you have a few photos that need added keywords–or even totally different keywords–it’s a good idea to add the keywords that will apply to the majority of the photos being imported. Then it becomes very speedy to simply select the few photos that don’t fit the keywords and simply erase the import keywords and replace them with the correct keywords. Simply select the photos for which the keywords didn’t fit while the Keywords Panel is open. Each time you select a photo, the keywords that have already been assigned will appear. These words are already highlighted, so if you want to delete them all, just hit the Delete key.
I recommend doing all the deleting at once so that you can go straight to doing the next most efficient operation, which is using the Keyword Stamp. The Keyword Stamp is, or should be, on the bar just above the filmstrip when you’re in Library mode. If you don’t see a Rubber Stamp icon when you’re there, click the Down Arrow icon at the right end of the bar and choose Keyword Stamp from the list. It will be checked and the icon will appear.
Now just go through the thumbnails with the arrow keys. As soon as you see an image that doesn’t fit the keyword categories that were assigned on import, highlight it. In the Keyword Stamp field (just to the right of the icon) type the keywords you’d like to substitute. Now click the Rubber stamp icon and put your cursor on the photo in the thumbnail. Click and you’ll see the keywords appear that will be added to the keywords that are already assigned to that image. You can see the existing keywords in the keywords panel…and you’ll also see the stamped keywords appear there. If you goof, just click again and the keywords you just substituted will be removed. This routine works just as well when you have a whole series of images that need their keywords changed to a new set of keywords. All you have to do is highlight them by Cmd/Ctrl + Click-ing them.
When you’re all done entering keywords for your shoot, it’s a good idea to Arrow Key through each of the Thumbnails while keeping your eye on the Keywording Panel. If you want to edit or add keywords at that point, first check to see if there are other photos that should have the exact same keywords. If there are, Cmd/Ctrl + Click on each of those thumbnails. Some of the keywords may be followed by an asterisk, meaning that keyword is found only in a subset of the images you’ve selected. If the keyword doesn’t belong there, just delete it. If it belongs for all the images, just delete the asterisk. Finally, just add any keywords that you want to add for all those images. . For instance, you may have 14 photographs of Bicycles. You want to give them all the following keywords: Bike, Bicycle, Cycle. Four of them also need the keywords Man and Action. One of those needs the additional keyword Blur. Having a system like this keeps you from “hit and miss” keywording habits.
One more hint regarding the use of the keywords panel. If you think you’re going to want to add a certain set of keywords to a bunch of images that may, otherwise, have very different keywords, then highlight and copy (Cmd/Ctrl + C) those keywords the first time you type them. Then, if you come up with a need for them a few frames later, you can just put your cursor into the keywords panel and press Cmd/Ctrl + V to paste those keywords at the end of the list.
There’s one more very useful keywording trick up Lightroom’s sleeve: Keywording Sets. After you’ve done a fair amount of keywording, you’ll no doubt realize that you tend to repeat the photographing of subjects that could be labeled with the same set of keywords. So you can set up any number of pre-named Keyword Sets. Then, any time you see a photo or photos in a set of images that meets the definition of that set, just open the Keyword Sets panel and click the appropriate keywords to add to the Keywording panel. Those words will appear in the Keyword Tags box. When you press return, they will replace the keywords for that image.
TIP: Showing your Keyword Tags gives you a list of all the keywords you’ve entered so far. Type these up in your word processor and post them next to your monitor. Then you have a much easier time making sure that your not using different synonyms for the same category of subject matter. Using synonyms isn’t a bad idea. Just make sure that if you’re going to use them, you use them all on the same category of the same object. So, for instance, everything that’s marked Bike is also marked Bicycle and Cycle (unless it’s a motorcycle). This is particularly important if you’re going to post your photos to a stock agency or print delivery website. You want to make sure that all your photos are easy for others to find.
Next week, I’ll tell you all about the tricks I’ve learned for quickly finding and pulling together collections of photos for a given purpose (such as sending them to a stock agency).