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Learn Photography

Lightroom > Library Module >

6 - Library Module Panels

On the Right Side >

3 - Two Keyword Panels

Organize with Keywords

Photographers used to rely on a hierarchy of folders for organizing.

With Lightroom, collections are now used to organize photographs.

A second method for organizing is to use keywords.

Keywords are also called tags.

Three Types of Keywords

There are three types of keywords:

1) Content of a photograph

2) Life of a photograph

3) Workflow tracking

Keyword Type #1 -

Content of a Photograph

Most of your keywords will be about the content of your photographs.

Journalists write the who, what, where, when, and why of a story.

The same questions can guide your choice of keywords that describe the content of your photographs.

Keyword Type #2 -

Life of a Photograph

You can also use keywords record the "life" of your photographs.

What has the photograph "done."

You can create keywords for the "events" in your photographs life.

Was a photograph:

• Exhibited?

• Printed 20" by 24"?

• Stored in box #32?

• Licensed to so-and-so?

• Published by XYZ?

• Sent to Aunt Louise?

Keyword Type #3 -

Workflow Tracking

You can keep track of where a photograph is in your workflow with keywords.

For example, you could have a keyword rfp, ready-for-printing.

Click rfp, and all of the photographs ready-for-printing will appear.

Two Keyword Panels

There are two keyword panels, Keywording and Keyword List.

They perform one or more of these actions:

• Add a new keyword and apply it to photographs

• Apply an existing keyword to photographs

• Display all of your keywords

• Remove a keyword from photographs

• Delete a keyword from Lightroom

As you can see below, their functions overlap—confusingly.

  Keywording Panel Keyword List Panel
Add a new keyword & apply it to photographs

• Enter in field

• Click plus icon

• Right click & select

Apply an existing keyword to photographs

• Click the keyword

• Drag it to the photographs

• Drag photographs to it

• Click the left box

• Right click & select

Display all of your keywords

• No

• Yes

Remove a keyword from photographs

• Highlight it, right click it,

& select Cut

• Deselect the white checkmark

• Right click & select

Delete a keyword from Lightroom

• No

• Click minus icon

• Right click & select

As you use keywords, the functions of the two panels will become more clear.

Let's look at the first keyword panel.

Keywording Panel

Go to the Library module, in Grid view.

Open the Keywording panel.

There are three sections.

Open the sections by clicking the tiny black triangles.

Section #1 - Keyword Tags

Make sure the menu at the top of this section is set to Enter Keywords.

There are two fields.

The one on top is larger than the field below.

If the photograph already has keywords, they appear in the larger field.

The smaller field is for adding new keywords.

To add a new keyword:

1) Make a virtual copy of a photograph for experimentation.

2) Enter a keyword in the smaller field.

3) Press Enter.

The keyword shifts to the larger field.

The keyword icon appears on the preview.

4) Insert a comma, and then add a second keyword.

Always use commas between keywords.

3) Press Enter.

Section #2 - Keyword Suggestions

Lightroom suggests keywords in this section.

The suggestions are based on the keywords applied to the photograph, and to other photographs taken at about the same time.

Click on a suggested keyword to apply it to the selected photographs.

Section #3 - Keyword Set

Keyword sets make it easier to apply keywords.

If you've just imported photographs of a wedding, open the wedding keyword set.

You won't have to wade through unrelated keywords.

Lightroom provides three sets: Outdoor, Portrait, and Wedding.

There's also a Recently Used set.

Let's say you've been editing photographs of hawks flying in thermals.

You've applied keywords to the hawk photographs.

These keywords are now in Recently Used.

You can save them as a separate set.

Do the following.

1) Go to the Keyword Set section of the Keywording panel.

2) Select Save Current Settings As New Preset in the menu.

3) Enter the name for the keyword set.

4) Click Create.

Keyword List Panel

The Keyword List panel contains all of the keywords that you've created.

To add a keyword "under" another keyword (a "sub" keyword), right click on the keyword, and select Create New Keyword Inside "x."

To apply a keyword to selected photographs, click the box on the left end of the keyword.

Retrieve Photographs Using Keywords

There are two main ways to retrieve photographs using keywords.

Retrieval Method #1 - Library Filter

The Library Filter is above the work area.

If you don't see it, press \.

Do the following.

1) Click Text.

2) Change Any Searchable Field to Keywords.

3) Change the selection in the next menu, as needed.

4) Enter keywords.

5) Click None to collapse the Library Filter.

Retrieval Method #2 - Keyword List Panel

Do the following.

1) Open the the Keyword List panel.

2) Click a keyword.

3) Click the arrow on the right end of the keyword.

Apply Keywords When Importing

Keywords can be applied when you import photographs.

In the Import window, open the Add During Import panel and enter keywords.

Delete Keywords

To delete a keyword, do the following.

1) Go to the Keyword List panel.

2) Select the unwanted keyword.

3) Click the minus icon at the top of the panel.

Note that all of the keywords in the hierarchy below the unwanted keyword will also be deleted.

For example, if you delete Solar System, below, all of the keywords below it will be deleted.


Milky Way

Solar System




United States


{New York City}

{Big Apple}





Purge Unused Keywords

At the top of your screen, go to Metadata > Purge Unused Keywords.

Design a Keyword Hierarchy

Spend some time thinking about a hierarchy of keyword categories, subcategories, and keywords.

What words will come to mind—a year from now—when you're searching for a photograph?

You may want to create the hierarchy in a text file which can be imported into Lightroom.

The Excel worksheet below . . .


Excel Worksheet

. . . looks like this when imported into Lightroom.


Keyword Spreadsheet in Lightroom

Note how the keywords are alphabetized.

The sequence of the planets from the sun wasn't maintained.

To order keywords, you can number them.


Keyword Spreadsheet in Lightroom with Numbers

Create the Hierarchy

You can use a text editor, such as Notepad (Windows) or Textedit (Mac).

However, use Excel.

Excel is part of Microsoft Office (Windows) and iWork (Mac).

If you don't have Excel, download OpenOffice, a free open-source suite of programs.

There are several advantages.

You can:

• Format text by size and color.

• Create borders around cells.

• Drag text from one cell to another.

• Go to the Data tab and click Remove Duplicates.

• Go to the Review tab and click Spelling.

Do the following.

1) Open a new spreadsheet.

2) Create a hierarchy of keywords.

3) Save the file as a .txt file.

4) In Lightroom, at the top of your screen, go to Metadata > Import Keywords.

"Special Effects"

You can use curly brackets {} to denote synonyms.

In the above example, {New York City} and {Big Apple} are synonyms for the keyword NYC.

Use brackets [] to prevent a keyword from being exported.

For example, you may not want to export keywords of the names of people.

Look for Existing Lists

You may be able to download free keyword lists related to your photographic area of interest.

For example, a travel photographer could search for:

Lightroom keyword list library catalog travel photography import.

Nick Potter offers several keyword lists for a voluntary donation.

If you're listing your work with a stock agency, download their keyword list.

You can buy a keyword lists for Lightroom, such as Controlled Vocabulary and Keyword Catalog.

Keyword Workflow

Adapt the following steps to your needs.

1) When importing, apply the keywords that apply to all of the photographs.

2) Go to grid view in the Library module.

3) After import, you may sort the photographs into collections.

As you do so, apply the keywords related to the collections.

4) Open each collection—or—click Previous Import in the Catalog panel—and look for distinctive photographs needing more unique keywords.

Esoteric Keyword Stuff

"Alien" Keywords

If you import photographs from sources other than your camera, the files may have keywords.

These keywords may appear in Lightroom along with your keywords.

All of the Above

When you apply a keyword to a photograph, all of the keywords above it in the hierarchy are also applied.

For example, let's say you apply the NYC keyword.


Milky Way

Solar System




United States


{New York City}

{Big Apple}





In the interest of having less clutter, only the NYC keyword you've applied is shown.

But, all of the keywords above it, are applied as well.


Milky Way

Solar System




United States


{New York City}

{Big Apple}





The keywords further up in the hierarchy have been applied by Lightroom, but are not visible.

These hidden keywords are active when you search with keywords, however.

To see the hidden keywords, go to the Keywording panel.

Open the menu at the top of the panel.

Select Keywords and Containing Keywords instead of Enter Keywords.

But, you can't enter keywords where you could before, the larger field on top.

You have to enter them in the smaller field.


Synonyms in Lightroom are a time saver.

You take a keyword, such as NYC.

You attach synonyms to the keyword, such as New York City and Big Apple.


Milky Way

Solar System




United States


{New York City}

{Big Apple}





Now, whenever you apply NYC to your photographs, the synonyms are applied automatically.

Click NYC, and you get NYC as well as New York City and Big Apple.

Transfer Photographs

From an Old Keyword to a New Keyword

Let's say you want to transfer photographs with the keyword NYC to a new key word, New York City.

Do the following.

1) Go to the Library module in Grid view.

2) Open the Keyword List panel.

3) Locate the keyword that you want to transfer to another keyword, such as NYC.


Transfer Keywords

4) Make sure the white checkmark is selected on the left side.

5) Move the cursor to the right side and click the white arrow that appears.

All of the photographs with the NYC keyword appear in work area.

6) Press Ctrl + a to select all of the photographs.

7) Move your cursor over the new keyword, New York City, and click the empty checkbox on the left side to apply the new keyword.

8) Go back to the NYC keyword, and click the white checkmark on the left side to un-apply the keyword to the photographs.

Keyword Plug-ins

There are plug-ins for keywords, such as:

Jeffrey Friedl's Blog » Jeffrey's Lightroom Goodies (Plugins and Tools)