Keywording in Lightroom

February 13, 2017

I'm finally getting to the end of my Keywording stint with all my photographs and thought I'd share my experience. This isn't a definitive guide, or a "best way" but after doing a bit of research, this was the easiest way for me to keyword over 7,000 photographs. It's taken my 2 years though, but now it's done, I just need to keep on top of it.


This method's greatest strength is the ability to do a bit at a time. Keywording is probably the dullest aspect of photography for me and I can do half an hour here and there and always make some kind of progress. This guide is best suited to someone who has no keywords in their library (or is prepared to start again). If you've part keyworded, you might need to jiggle things around a bit. If you shoot stock (where keywording is important) or any kind of photo business (weddings/sport etc) this guide might not work well for you - but you probably know that.


Right. Let's get cracking.


First up, design up to 9 "genres" of photography that all your photos fall into at least one of. My suggestions would include at least:
Landscape Photography
Portrait Photography
Nature Photography
Architectural Photography

Then I suggest you add 5 more that are suited to your style. For me, I have Street Photography, Animal Photography, Abstract Photography, Still Life Photography and Gothic Photography - but your mileage may vary depending on your interests. Keep these style names suited to the genre rather than style (B&W, or Infra-red for example) Use the TP sub forum headings as a guide if you're really stuck. You can have more than 9, but that will slow down the whole process.


These "Genre" Keywords should then be added as a keyword set. It's important to add the word "Photography" after the genre because that will help us filter it out in smart collections later.

Now, you should be able to see your keyword set (this is why we chose 9) and be able to one-click add a genre keyword to your image.


The next step is to create a Smart collection containing all the photos you haven't done. I have a whole "Workflow" Smart collection set because I don't always weant to keyword after I get home from a day out with the camera, and any new photos then just fall into this process allowing me to pick it up when I'm really bored and considering a keyword "session".


The parameters for the Smart collection are quite simple "Keywords > Doesn't Contain > Photography". This should give you your entire catalogue in the beginning. You can then start to go through all your photos and put them into at least one of your genres. It's not as bad as you think because if you're like me, your images - if ordered by date taken - will all be very similar. A day in the Lake District will be a whole bunch of Landscape photos. A day out with the family might be all portraits (or people centric) so you can select whole bunches of images (CTRL+Click individually or Shift+Click bulk) and then just click the keyword.

You should start to see your Smart collection count down. Once it's at 0, this means all your photos are now in a genre of some kind.


Now create Smart collections for each of your genres. ("Keywords > Contains Words > Landscape Photography" for example) I put these in a "Keywording To Do" collection set to keep things tidy. You then need to add a delimiter to allow the smart collection to only show photos you haven't keyworded yet. Depending on how you use Lightroom you could...

- Use stars (I reserve stars for the quality of my photos so this is no good) Where 1* =  keywording complete, and 0 stars is not.
- Flags  - Where "flagged" is keyword complete and "unflagged" is incomplete. Too much hassle for me as I use "rejected" (a third flag state) to cull my photos and don't want to get mixed up.
- Colour labels - Where (for example) no label = keywording needs doing, green = complete. This is the method I use and I make sure I don't use colour labels until the image has been keyworded.
- Use a keyword - By adding a "k_complete" or similar to your image as a keyword, you can filter for it that way, but it's an extra step. 


Modify your smart collection to exclude your "keyword complete" delimter (or include your "not keyworded yet" delimiter. In my case I include all photos that have no colour label ("Label Color > Is > None") and repeat for all your genres.


As you go through your images now, once they are keyword complete, you can (in my case) give it a green label and it will drop out of the Smart collection. This allows you to do a bit at a time without having to remember where you got up to. It also allows newly imported photos to be auto-added to the Smart collections (either the genre specific ones, or the all photos one) without any work.


How To Keyword
If you shoot stock images, you might want to do a bit more research and take a bit longer over this, because keywording is a major way to attract potential customers. I use keywords to find the photos I'm looking for, or to quickly filter for an image I want for a given job. I have several methods for doing this.

Initially, I will think of a sentence to describe the photo, then pick around three important words from that sentence. Those will be my content keywords. I also add some other keywords I know I'll find useful e.g.

"monochrome" for B&W
"panoramic" for panos
"film scan" for neg scans
"contact sheet" for... well..

I also use people's names as keywords - especially family, so that I can find them all easily. Same for pets.


My keyword "top list" looks like the image shwon on the left. 

Some unclear headings...

Actions - anything ending in "ing" like smiling, running etc.


Colours are for when there is a major colour in the scene.


Concept is for things like humour, sadness, friends, love, happiness etc.


Effects includes panorama, infra-red, monochrome, long exposure etc.


Utility includes screenshot, contact sheet, asset (web buttons, calendar pages), stock, borders, textures etc.

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