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Adobe Lightroom – an exercise in keywording

Categories: Most Popular, Organize Pictures, Software Review    Tags: ,   7 Comments

words on blackboardI have been looking for a long time for some software that would allow me to manage keywords in an efficient manner. What do I mean by efficient? It’s pretty simple: all I want is the ability to group my keywords into categories or domains. For example: I want car, boat, ship, carriage, bus and bicycle to all be grouped into a domain called transportation. This seems simple, but I can’t really find any decently priced 🙂 software to do that. Now, I was suspecting that Adobe Lightroom might do what I wanted but the price was way too much for me! Eventually I decided to give Lightroom a try and found out why people like it.

5 steps to create precise keywords for tagging your pictures
Adobe Lightroom version 3.0 BETA
How to start organizing your digital pictures

So, what was I trying to accomplish ?

Well, I decided to apply keywords to a bunch of folders containing pictures from my 2007 trip to Europe…then I got so excited that I started adding keywords to some pictures from my California trips. In total, I tagged close to 700 pictures as my first exercise. As I have written before, I like to think about my keywords before creating new ones. Otherwise, I know I’ll be creating a bunch of duplicate keywords. My method involves creating categories of keywords first and then assigning individual keywords to these categories. Would Adobe Lightroom be up to the task? I just wanted to make sure it’s a great tool for organization. Who knows, maybe someday when I make a lot of money from my blogs I would be able to afford it 🙂

Learn how to manage your image tags with Adobe Lightroom
words on blackboard

This article will describe only the management of keywords using Adobe Lightroom. I will not get into editing photos and other meta data for your pictures.

Let’s get to work!

Adding keywords to lots of pictures will take a long time. So, you’ve got to be sure that you’re going in the right direction so you don’t have to undo what you have done wrong. First, let’s create some categories for the places I have visited. So I created one category called europe. In this category I created one for each country belgium, france, switzerland and netherlands. Then for each country I have added one keyword for each city. This was a no brainer…just simple! Then I started to assign these keywords based on the folders I had. The good thing was that my folder names were very descriptive and it was easy to apply the location tags. Adobe Lightroom is pretty cool when it comes to bulk tagging of images…you can select all the pictures in a directory, then right-click on the keyword you want to assign and choose “Assign keyword to selected images”…pretty simple…so it’s cool!

Imagine how you will be searching

construction-keywords Now let’s go to my first folder again, with pictures from Bruges, Belgium. I’m just looking at the pictures in the thumbnail display…really nice city to visit…I wish I could go there right now 🙂 Oh well, gotta stop daydreaming! However, I need to start imagining what would I want to be searching for in the future. This is how I find my keywords. These pictures contain towers, churches, water canals, a really cool city hall building, horse carriages and bicycles. All these words are candidates for keywords. You can actually see my pictures from Bruges, Belgium…if you care. Hmmm…so, I created two categories transportation and constructions. Then I created keywords for the things I noticed in the pictures and I added them inside their respective category.

The one rule that helps you NOT create duplicate keywords

The key rule that I was trying to use consistently was NOT to add a new keyword that was NOT part of a category. This is the easiest way to create duplicate keywords. For example: I noticed that some pictures were taken at sunset and some at night and I thought that it would be cool later on to find all my sunset pictures. So, instead of creating keywords for sunset and night by themselves, I created a category called time of day and I created the sunset and night keywords inside this category.

What’s the big deal about this rule?

Well…it’s simple! It’s a lot easier to spot duplicate keywords in a category (or domain) than it is to spot them if they are all listed one after the other. There are simply fewer keywords in a category than if all of them would be listed all together. If you want to read more about why a rule like this is helpful, read “Creating precise keywords for your pictures”.


As I got to the California pictures, I created more categories of keywords. For example I created: nature for the different nature attractions like: beach, mountain, lake. I have also added one called amusement parks. This was obviously for Disneyland, California Adventure and the rest of the thousand amusement parks in Southern California. After a while, I noticed that I was NOT adding that many keywords because I would be finding them in the already defined keywords…which was a pretty cool feeling !

So, did I like Adobe Lightroom?

I actually did what I wanted to do and…I liked the software too! Of course I did…it costs quite a bit…it better deliver! One really cool thing about Lightroom is that it saves all the keywords into the IPTC fields that are embedded into each image file. This way, all my effort will not be wasted even if I’m will not be using Lightroom. Any program that can read the IPTC fields, will pick up all my keywords. This is the advantage of using open standards!

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Updated: January 12, 2015  Categories: Most Popular, Organize Pictures, Software Review
Tags: ,    Comments: 7 Comments
Read related articles:
5 steps to create precise keywords for tagging your pictures
Adobe Lightroom version 3.0 BETA
How to start organizing your digital pictures

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Alvin July 5, 2008 at 1:40 am

Hey, thanks for the numerous tips on your website! They’re very helpful as I just got Lightroom and am now seriously looking to organize my photos.


Alvin July 5, 2008 at 1:47 am

I’ve just discovered something that you didn’t mention in your post though. Lightroom doesn’t automatically write your keywords out to IPTC.

“Up to now, I’ve been talking about XMP metadata relating to the Lightroom develop instructions. You may be wondering about the other metadata, such as keywords, ratings, etc. The same holds true for them. You need to push this data onto an original file if you want it to travel with the file outside of the Lightroom environment. You can do this on an image-by-image (or selection-by-selection) basis from the Library module menu command Metadata?Save Metadata to File. Or you can set your catalog preferences so it’s done automatically to all files and all file types (File?Catalog Settings/Metadata tab, then check Automatically write changes into XMP).”

Maybe you could mention this in your post 🙂


vlad July 6, 2008 at 5:33 am

Thanx for your comments Alvin…thanx for the link as well. Good article. It is true…Lightroom doesn’t automatically save your image metadata to your files…you have to set it up for that. This issue applies to all photo management software…they all have to be setup for this operation. I have actually mentioned this issue in another article:

Your comment made me read that article again and make it more clear…so thanx again. I hope you get to finish organizing your pictures. The more pictures you have the more you need to organize it.


tj October 29, 2008 at 3:38 pm

Hello. I really enjoy your organization tips and all. I reorganized all my folders using your idea about events. It took a tortuously long time but I think it will be easier to search now.

Before, I organized my folders using location based keywords, which seems now to be more appropriate to do with tags. For example, I would make folders like this: Country/Name of State OR City/Place in State Or City. But your way is better. I like it. Thanks.

Now though, I want to tag all those 1000s of pictures! : |

Some of them are already tagged from a long time ago. But, needless to say, many new and untagged pictures have gathered so I need to re haul the whole system. I use Windows Vista Windows Photo Gallery to do the tagging. It came with the computer. I can also make Categories with that Software too. Also I can do batch tagging.

Another thing. I also backed up all those reorganized folders and photos on 7 DVDs. (Cheapest method right now).

My original intent was to move all my original pictures completely off my hard drive (because space is becoming so tight) and then only keep thumbnails or scaled down copies that I can search. This would turn 28 GB into only 1 GB on my PC. Do you know an easy way to do that?

Once again, thanks for your site.

Doesn’t Windows Photo Gallery in Windows Vista do the same thing?


vlad October 29, 2008 at 3:45 pm

tj…thanx for your comment. I’m glad you found my site helpful. It looks like you have done a lot of work but it will pay off in the long term.

I’m not too familiar with Windows Vista tool for organizing/tagging pictures. If it does categories and tags you’re half way there. I’m not sure if it supports IPTC/XMP fields, which means that the tags you’re creating can be written in the image files themselves. If you can’t do that, all your tags and keywords will not transfer on another operating system or software…you will only see them on your computer. So, in this respect I don’t believe Windows Photo Gallery works the same as Lightroom or ACDSee.

Read this article for an better explanation:
The road frequently travelled by image metadata

Yes…keep doing those backups they are a life saver.


Keris September 4, 2015 at 1:59 pm

I love you work this blog post it great!I wanted to ask you about the Camera calibration profiles. How do you install the Kodak Portra profile as all I can get at the moment are the standard Camera Faithful’, Camera Portrait’, Camera Landscape’ profiles etc.


Vlad September 4, 2015 at 9:52 pm

Keris…if you mean how to add a camera profile in Adobe Lightroom…then first you have to check if it doesn’t already have it. You can check Adobe’s site for that. If you are asking about monitor calibration then you have to find the Kodak Portra profile and load it with your calibration software. If you are more specific, I can give you more specific answers.


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