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Tag Your Images–Keywords in Lightroom

Today’s tip is one that grew in the telling. When I sat down to create today’s tutorial, I had originally intended to discuss Collections in Lightroom, as a great way to organize your images. However, the best Collections are Smart Collections, based on image metadata – and with keywords, we have the ability to add very useful information into our photos. Adding keywords to tag images can be a tedious process, but if you make it a regular part of your workflow, it really brings your catalog to life. Searching, sorting and working on your images can be so much easier if they contain descriptive keywords. In today’s tip, I’ll explain the basics of tagging your images with keywords in Lightroom.

It all begins during Import

When you begin the Import process, you’re presented with the import dialog. In LR3, this is a massive screen that looks a little intimidating – but left to right, 1,2,3. you can interpret it as “Where are the images coming from, how do you want to import them, and where are they going. On the right, in the “where are they going” section, you’ll find a panel labeled Apply During Import:

LRKeywords-01

Within this panel are several options, and one of them is Keywords. You can simply type your keywords in here. Lightroom will auto-complete keywords that it recognizes based on prior usage, so this can make quick work of entering the tags:

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Important Note: These keywords will be applied to EVERY image in your import queue, so it’s best to keep these limited to very general information related to your group of images – event type, location, general subject matter, etc. You can get more specific later.

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Being More Specific

Once you’ve imported your images, and are looking at the Library module, you can being to add more specific tags to your images. Being able to search for a city or event is helpful, but what if you wanted to find that yellow school bus you saw on your ski vacation? Within the Library module, we can tag our images with additional keywords to help us in later searches. Look to the right panel in the Library module to see the Keywording panel. It all starts there:

Important Note: For this process to work well with multiple images, you must be in GRID view. Filmstrip view will not allow you to tag more than one image at a time.

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Within the Keywording panel, we see a text box containing the existing tags that are found in the photo or group of photos we have selected. Just below that text box is a small text entry box, where you can type additional keywords. As the tool tip tells you, keywords can and DO contain spaces. If you want to enter multiple keywords, you must separate them with a comma:

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For example. I have a picture of a pink bus, so I can just type it in, comma separated:

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Moving on, I come to a yellow bus that I want to tag. I can type in the same thing, but Lightroom remembers recent words and keeps them in a set called “Recent Keywords.” I can just click on the word to tag the image, and the tag changes to bold font. Clicking a bold font word removes the tag from the image as well:

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If you find yourself tagging images with common tags over and over for different jobs, you can even create keyword sets and load them using the dropdown menu next to “Recent Keywords.”

Spray them on

One of the more unusual tools in Lightroom’s arsenal is the spray can, and you can use the spray can to apply keywords. You can choose a keyword, and scroll through your images, spraying the keyword on any that need it. Here’s how it works:

Choose the spray pain can from the Toolbar at the bottom of the Library module window (press “T” if you don’t see this toolbar). The spray paint can comes loose and becomes your cursor:

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Next to the tool icon is the selection of what you want to paint. Make sure you choose Keywords:

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Finally, type in the keyword you want to apply. In this case, I want to spray on “Snowmobile:”

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Hover over an image, and your cursor is the spray can. Click to tag the image with your chosen keyword or keywords:

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As you click to “spray” on the keyword, Lightroom displays a confirmation in the middle of the window:

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At this point, you can scroll up and down your library thumbnails, spraying on keywords to your heart’s content. Cool! When you’re done, click the empty paint can well in the toolbar to return the spray can to its home and switch back to the normal cursor.

Whether tagging during import, or from the Keywording panel in the Library module, or even using the spray paint can, you now have the ability to tag your images with keywords, giving them some intelligence. How do we make use of that intelligence? Join me next Tuesday as we begin to run Lightroom’s database through its paces!

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About Michael Hoffman (224 Articles)
Mike has been a photographer, artist, educator, and technophile for most of his life. Early in his career, he created technical illustrations and photographs for electronic equipment manufacturers, and taught classes in computer aided drafting and 3D modeling software. When digital cameras became widely available in the late 1990s, the move was a natural one, and has led to a happy combination of technology, software, photography and art. Mike is an Adobe Certified Expert in Photoshop and Acrobat, and is well versed in Lightroom and Photoshop Elements, as well as Illustrator and InDesign. He has also contributed his time and efforts to the excellent work being done by Operation Photo Rescue, in restoring photographs damaged by natural disasters. As an active member of the National Association of Photoshop Professionals, he continues his quest for excellence in art, excellence in design, and excellence in education.

9 Comments on Tag Your Images–Keywords in Lightroom

  1. Do these keywords apply during something like adding to Flickr or Picasa, or does it just apply to your Lightroom catalog?

  2. Gabe, it all depends on your export settings. If you ask Lightroom to “Minimize Embedded Metadata” then only your copyright and contact information will remain in the images. However, if you do NOT check this option, all metadata including keywords will be maintained in your image. Flickr and Picasa will use whatever is in the image, and if that includes keywords from Lightroom, they will indeed make the trip over to Flickr!

    mh++

  3. I think your advice on tagging and keyworking is valuable. There have been many times when I want to find a certain image and because of lack of keywording, I’ve had to rely my knowledge of WHEN it was taken or some other metadata aspect that I could filter on.

    So my question…do you think that one can OVER keyword images? Is there such a thing as keyword clutter? I’d like some opinions.

  4. Jon, that’s a great question, and depends on your point of view. I believe having lots of keywords is a good thing, as long as they are words that you’d like to generate a ‘hit’ for that image in the future. However, the list of keywords can grwo quite long; you can create nested categories of keywords within Lightroom to help keep the list organized. Watch for a future tutorial on this topic!

    mh++

  5. Thanks for the great tutorial!

    Straight and to the point and just what I needed this morning!

    Tip: Use the keyboard shortcut CTRL-K to dump you directly into keyboard tagging.

    So when you are going through your pictures hitting pick/reject if you want to tag something just hit CTRL K, type the tag, then Enter+ESC or Enter+Enter to continue going though your pictures. Tagging w/o touching the mouse.

  6. Gabe, it all depends on your export settings. If you ask Lightroom to “Minimize Embedded Metadata” then only your copyright and contact information will remain in the images. However, if you do NOT check this option, all metadata including keywords will be maintained in your image. Flickr and Picasa will use whatever is in the image, and if that includes keywords from Lightroom, they will indeed make the trip over to Flickr!

  7. I think your advice on tagging and keyworking is valuable. There have been many times when I want to find a certain image and because of lack of keywording, I’ve had to rely my knowledge of WHEN it was taken or some other metadata aspect that I could filter on.

    So my question…do you think that one can OVER keyword images? Is there such a thing as keyword clutter? I’d like some opinions.

  8. Excellent – sorted out three of my known unknowns! Thanks

  9. Hi, thanks for the post very helpful. I have a question. If you tag photos in Lightroom and then export the photos to website hosting, does the website recognise the tags and then allow searching by tag?

    Thanks in advance.
    Best regards,
    Ryan

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