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.

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