Join Jan Kabili for an in-depth discussion in this video Keywording photos, part of Up and Running with Lightroom 3.
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Keywords are subject-matter tags that you can add to photos to help you later find those photos based on subjects. The beauty of using keywords is that they can help you to find a photo without having to remember where the photo was located in your folder's system. You could add multiple descriptive keywords to a photo-- maybe the names of people in the photo or the location where you shot the photo-- and then later when you're looking for that photo you just have to come up with one of those keywords and it will lead you right to that photo. This system works best if you're diligent about adding keywords to all your photos, so you may want to get in the habit of keywording right after you import each shoot to Lightroom.
I've selected this folder here in the Folders panel to work on, but I'd like to have more room for the photo thumbnails in that folder, so I'm going to collapse the panel group by clicking in this column on the far left of the screen. There are multiple ways to create keywords. One way is to create keywords at the same time that you apply them to photos. To do that, I'll select some similar photos here, clicking on this photo of the clouds, holding the Shift key and clicking on this photo to select all the photos in between, and then I'll go over to the panels on the right and I'll go to the Keywording panel-- not the Keyword List panel, but the Keywording panel.
I'll expand the first area there, and I see this area where I can click to add keywords, so I'll do that. And then I'll try to think of a word that I might use to describe and search for these particular photos. The first word that comes to mind is 'clouds', so I'll type that. It's a good idea to add multiple keywords to the same photos to increase the chances that you'll be able find those photos, so I'll type a comma to separate the keywords, and then I'll type 'sunset' and another comma and I'll type 'sky'.
So now I have three keywords on each of the selected photos. I'll press Return or Enter, and then I'll deselect those photos by pressing Command+D on the Mac, Ctrl+D on the PC. Now notice that each of the photos to which I assigned keywords has this little keyword tag symbol at the bottom right. And in the Keyword List panel, I can now see a running list of all the keywords that I've created. If I select one of the photos to which I've assigned keywords, over here in the Keywording panel, I can see a list of the keywords that I've assigned to that particular photo, and down here in the Keyword List panel, I'll see a check mark next to each keyword that I've assigned to that particular photo.
The number to the right of any one keyword represents the number of photos to which I've assigned that keyword. I'm going to press Command+D or Ctrl+D again to deselect because I want to show you another way to create and add keywords, and that is to use the spray can, which is a really fun, quick, and easy way to add keywords to photos. I'll go down to the toolbar at the bottom of the screen, and I'm going to click on the Spray Can icon. In the Paint menu, I'll make sure that I have Keywords selected because it's keywords that I want to add to these thumbnails, and then I'll go to this field, I'll click there, and I'll type the keywords that I want to add to some of the thumbnails here.
I could use keywords that are already in my Keyword List, or I could type new keywords. I'm going to create a new keyword, the keyword 'flag', and then I'll press Return or Enter on the keyboard, and I'll come up into the content area, I'll move over a photo of a flag, and I'll click, and that's all I have to do to assign the keyword 'flag' to that photo. I can quickly apply that same keyword to other photos here by doing the same thing, just clicking on thumbnails to assign the keyword 'flag'. So you can see that this is really useful when you want to apply a keyword to thumbnails that are scattered around in your content window.
When I'm finished, I'll come down here and click Done. And now if you look at the Keyword List, you can see that there's a new keyword, 'flag', and that it has been applied to five photos. Now, some photographers prefer to build a well-organized keyword list and then later apply the keywords to photos. The simple way to do that is to go to the Keyword List and click the Plus symbol there. In the dialog box that opens, I'll type a new keyword. I'm going to create the keyword 'Denver', and then I'll leave everything checked there and click Create.
Now I have the new keyword 'Denver' in my Keyword List, but it hasn't yet been applied to any photos. So I might continue building my Keyword List this way, and then let's say I want to apply one of those keywords to some photos. I'm going to select some photos that I took in Denver. Clicking on one of the photos in the content area and then holding down the Shift key and clicking on another photo right here, and that selects all in between. To apply a keyword to all these photos, I can go to the Keyword List and click in the check box to the left of the keyword, in this case the keyword 'Denver'.
Now as you can see, that keyword has been applied to all 12 of the photos. I'll press Command+D or Ctrl+D to deselect. Sometimes I'll apply a keyword to a photo and then change my mind. So if I want to delete a keyword from a photo, I'll select the photo, say this photo, and then I'll uncheck the keyword over here in the Keyword List, so now that keyword has been applied to just 11 photos and deleted from the selected photo. I'm going to press Command+D or Ctrl+D again. Sometimes I'll have a keyword that I decide I no longer need in my list at all, and I can delete that keyword by selecting it here in the Keyword List and then going up to the Minus symbol at the top of the Keyword List and clicking there, and I'll click Delete.
And that deletes the 'clouds' keyword from my Keyword List and also removes that keyword from all of the photos to which I had originally applied it. The whole purpose of adding keywords to photos is to help me to find particular photos later. So let's say that I want to locate photos of flags that I took in Denver, but I don't remember exactly where those photos are in my folder system. I can use my keywords to find those photos by going up to the Filter bar at the top of the screen and clicking on Text.
That gives me these three fields where I can formulate a filter query. So I'll go to the first field, I'll click there, and I'm going to choose Keywords, telling Lightroom that I want it to search for text only in Keywords. And then I'll leave the next field at its default, Contain All, and I'll go to this third field, and here I'm going to type one or more keywords on which I would like Lightroom to search. So I want it to come up with all of the photos that I've taken that contain the keyword 'flag', so I'll type flag here.
And right away Lightroom shows me all my photos that are keyworded with flag. Now, I really want only the flag photos that I shot in Denver, so I'll type a comma and I'll type the keyword 'Denver', and that limits the returned photos to just those flag photos that I shot in Denver. If I want to go back and see all of my photos again, I could click None here in the Filter bar, or I could go to the Custom Filter menu and choose Filters Off. So that's how keywording works in Lightroom. It's a very useful way to organize and find photos, although it requires some work on your part to apply keywords to all your photos.
If you're diligent about doing that, keywording will pay off in the end by helping you to quickly find particular photos among the many in your growing photo collection.
- Understanding Lightroom catalogs
- Importing photos from multiple sources
- Organizing photos with ratings, keywords, and collections
- Working with virtual copies
- Making basic corrections to photo color and tone
- Making local photo edits with the Adjustment Brush and Graduated Filter tools
- Removing spots from multiple photos at once
- Reducing digital noise and sharpening
- Cropping and straightening
- Printing and exporting edited photos