How I Use Lightroom – Keywords

As part of my on-going posts regarding how I use Lightroom, I thought I would circle back and discuss how I keyword images and keep the keywords organized.

When I first started using Lightroom, my keywords were just one giant list.  I then came across a few free downloadable keyword lists which put everything in a hierarchy; and after some thought, I realized I preferred the hierarchy.  I took some cues from the lists I’ve seen and organize my keywords under one of five main criteria – Who, What, When, Where, and How.

  • Who – keywords describing any individuals in the images.  These can include names, ages, gender, profession, etc.
  • What – keywords describing any objects in the images.  These can include type of structures, make/model of vehicles, breed of animal, etc.
  • When – keywords describing when the image was taken.  While this information can be garnered by reviewing the metadata, I typically also keyword with what season the image was taken in, time of day (morning, afternoon, evening), holidays, time zone, etc.
  • Where – keywords describing where the image was taken.  While I can geotag the image and know exactly where it was taken, I may not want to include that when exporting images so I’ll keyword some geographical information (continent, country, state and town), some general location information (beach, park, river, etc.), and whether the image was taken indoors or outdoors.
  • How – keywords describing how the images was taken.  While some of this information is found in metadata, I like to add this information as a keyword as a backup in case the metadata gets stripped by accident.  I also keyword information which wouldn’t be found in metadata, like whether I used a neutral density filter, whether I panned the camera to capture motion blur, what type of light the image was taken with (sunlight, incandescent, etc.).

I’ve created smart collections which let me know when an image does not have a keyword which falls under one of these five categories (though most of the time I don’t have something from ‘Who’ since I mostly take landscape photos).

When I import images, I add keywords which apply to all of the images.  Then after the images are done importing, I go back and assign image-specific keywords to each photo.

How I Use Lightroom – Export Presets

Last time, I covered how I get my images out of Lightroom using Publish Services.  This time, I’ll cover Export presets.

I use export presets when having an image outside of Lightroom is only temporary and there isn’t a plugin to handle it automatically.  For example, if I want to share my images using social media that doesn’t have a Publish Services plugin, I setup a preset to export the image out of Lightroom, typically at a lower resolution.

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Another time I use export presets is when I need to send an image to be printed (AdormaPix, WHCC, Bay Photo, etc.).

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I also use export presets for when I bring images to a photography meetup.  Each month, the meetup group I’m in gets together and critiques everyone else’s images.  The images are exported out large enough where the detail can be observed but not so large that it takes time to progress from one image to the next.

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Of the nine areas that can be configured, I typically only change 5-6.

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I assign a separate export location for each preset and do not add the images back into the catalog.

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When I export images, I tend to leave the filename as it is since I rename during import.

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For file settings, I’ll leave image format as JPEG, color space as sRGB and change the quality to 80%.  I also don’t limit the file size.

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For image sizing, I only resize when needed.  For print, I leave the resolution at the original size.  Depending on the image and how large I’m printing, I may enlarge.

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Depending on the final medium, I’ll either sharpen for screen or print.

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I strip out person info for all images and also remove location info if the image was taken at home.

How I Use Lightroom – Publish Services

Now that I’ve covered how I get my images into Lightroom and how I organize them, now I’ll cover one of the ways I get my images out – Publish Services.

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I use Publish Services for pushing images to different social media like 500px, Flickr, Facebook.  I started using the built-in Flickr plugin but have switched to the plugin created by Jeffrey Friedl, mainly for the ability to find and link to existing images up on my Flickr account.

I haven’t published to my hard drive because I haven’t come across a need to keep images on my hard drive.  I typically export images to my hard drive using export presets, which I’ll cover next time.

How I Use Lightroom – Ratings, Flags and Labels

Now that I’ve covered how I get images into Lightroom, I figured I would cover how I (try to) identify my images and where they are in the post-processing workflow.

After importing all of my images, I will go through them in the Loupe view of the Library module.  Even though there are three different flags available, I almost always use only two.  Upon import, all images are Unflagged.  As I go through, if I see an image where the focus was off, I accidentally pressed the shutter and took an image of something I didn’t intend, or the exposure is too far off to even attempt to recover (usually because I forgot to check the light meter in the camera between shots), I will press ‘X’ to reject it (‘R’ is for the crop tool).  After I go through the images, I’ll delete from the disk all images marked as Rejected.  On the occasion where I have two or more similar images and don’t see anything about any of them to require me to mark it as a reject, I’ll pick one of the images over the others using the Pick flag by pressing ‘P’.  If I ever accidentally mark an image as reject or pick when it shouldn’t be, I can unflag it by pressing U.

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After I’ve removed the rejects, the rest of the images are given a star rating of one star.  Even though I can go up to five stars, I haven’t gone above three stars for any of my images.  To assign a star rating, I just press 1-5 on the keyboard.

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I have the same problem assigning a star rating to an image that I have to assigning a star rating to a song in my iTunes library.  A song (or image) I really like today may get 3 stars but a year from now, it may only get 1 or 2 stars.  Now that iTunes has added a like/dislike rating option (similar to flagging), I’m thinking about replacing my star rating with flags.  The only downside to this is that flag values are not written to metadata so if I ever switch from Lightroom to another post-processing program, the flags won’t come with the images.  Star ratings, however, are written to the metadata.

Upon import, all of the images are given a red color label.  There are five different color labels available but only four can be assigned by a keyboard shortcut.  The four colors, with their respective keyboard shortcuts are:

  1. Red
  2. Yellow
  3. Green
  4. Blue

The last color, Purple, is only accessible via a right-click menu.

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I use the colors to identify where the image is in my post-processing workflow.

  • Red = the image has not had any post-processing done to it
  • Yellow = the image has had some post-processing done to it but is not yet complete
  • Green = the image is done with post-processing but has not been published anywhere (Instagram, Facebook, Flickr, 500px, etc.)
  • Blue = the image is done with post-processing and has been published (Instagram, Facebook, Flickr, 500px, etc.)
  • Purple = the image is done with post-processing, and is part of an HDR or Panoramic image

Since I don’t do a lot of HDR or Panoramic images, it isn’t a bother having to right click to choose the color.

How I Use Lightroom – Collections

Last time, I talked about how I import images. This week, I’ll cover how I use collections, both regular and smart.

When I first started using Lightroom, I rarely used collections.  As I began shooting more often and having to post-process my images, I forced myself to take advantage of collections, especially since the folders panel is only available in the Library module.

I’ve also discovered the Workflow Smart Collection.  During import, I add all images to the 0.00 Current Work collection.

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I use collections for grouping images together which may have been taken at different times.  Also, collections allow an image to be in multiple collections without taking up any more space on your hard drive.  Some of my collections include:

  • Family photos
  • Photos of our cat
  • Photos taken at a specific location

I also use collections for syncing with Lightroom Mobile.  As of this writing, Lightroom Mobile only allows synchronization of static collections.  I duplicate some of my static collections as smart collections.  I use the smart collection to identify the images which should be in the static collection and then copy those images to the static collection.

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As for smart collections, I use them for a few reasons.  I use smart collections to group images together with similar metadata.  I also use them to identify images which are missing keywords, have not been processed, have the same color label, have the same rating, etc.  The image to the left shows some of my smart collections.

While it’s probably overkill, I keyword my images with the camera and lens used to take a particular image so that if that portion of the metadata disappears, I’ll still know what I used (so long as the keywords don’t disappear too).

For more information on how to create collections, check out the Lightroom Queen’s How do I create and manage collections?

How I Use Lightroom – Importing Images

I’ve now been using Lightroom for a few years now and thought I’d share how I use it, from importing images to grouping into collections to exporting and using publishing services.  I’ll split the information into separate posts, to keep them brief but provide enough detail.

In this post, I’ll cover importing.  Currently, I shoot with a Canon 7D Mark II, which takes SD and CF cards.  I shoot raw (.CR2) to both cards.  Since I’m concerned about bending pins on the CF slot, I pull the SD card out and import the images using a Lexar Dual Slot Card Reader which attaches using USB 3.0.

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After clicking on the Import button on the lower left corner of Library module, I choose to build Standard Previews and Smart Previews.  If I’m importing on my iMac, I also choose to make a second copy to another drive.  I’f I’m importing on my MacBook Air and don’t have an external drive with me, I leave the images on the cards until I can guarantee that I have at least two copies.  Lastly, I add the images to a collection.

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I rename my files from the default IMG#### to YYYY-MM-DD_HH-MM-SS_Suffix.  I only recently started adding the original filename number suffix to keep the as-shot order.  Before adding this, I was finding burst images being named out of order.  To ensure I don’t have to worry about the counter rolling over in the middle of a burst (9999 to 0000), I reset the counter on my camera on January 1.

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I have two presets I apply during import.  The first is a group of common develop settings.  These include applying lens corrections and changing the camera profile from Adobe Standard to Camera Standard.  The second is a metadata preset for applying my copyright information to each image.  If there are any keywords I can apply to all of the images, I enter them into the Keywords box.

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Lastly, I choose to organize my images by date.  Before using Lightroom, I used to store my images in folders named by topic (2010 family vacation, Yankee game, etc). All that information would be better used as Keywords. I choose YYYY/MM/DD format based on the date the image was shot, instead of the date the image was imported. I did go back and reorganize my old images to match the folder hierarchy. The only images I have which aren’t in this format are old scanned images where there wasn’t any indication as to when the photo was taken.

For some more detail into organization and destination folders, check out the Lightroom Queen’s How do I use the Import dialog’s Destination panel to put the photos into dated folders? and How do I organize into folders?

Cuba

With the embargo lifted, and US flights beginning to head there (United starts flying there from Newark next year), I’ve been heavily considering going to Cuba for my birthday next year while it still looks like it’s stuck in the 50s.
My only concern is lodging. Only one major US hotel chain has opened up down there and they want $300+ per night (obviously taking advantage of the boom). I could do AirBnB for 1/10th that amount but I’ve never done AirBnB before.