Keywording in Lightroom 3


Keywording really shows off the power of Lightroom as a digital asset management (DAM) system. The best way of using any DAM is to take advantage of the application’s ability to find specific images. Proper keywording and fully filling out all metadata is not only advantageous, but essentially the only way of finding specific images in a very large collection. It is one thing to scroll through a few hundred images to find the one you want. It is an entirely different matter to scroll through 50,000 images to find the image you want.


A keyword tag or “keyword” is metadata that categorizes and describes the key elements of a photo. According to one study, it may take more than 400 keywords to accurately describe an image without actually looking at the thumbnail. Building a Keyword Hierarchy can be a tedious and painful task, but it is essential to digital asset management. Keywords help in identifying and searching for images in a catalog. Keyword tags are stored either in the image files or in XMP sidecar files or in Lightroom Catalog. The XMP can be read by any application that supports XMP metadata.

Keywording Images

To keyword your images, think globally first and then go for local. Think of keywording the same way you would classify an animal. A Spider Monkey would first be a Mammal then an Ape, then a monkey and finally a spider monkey. For example, to classify Miami Beach, you might want to make several keyword hierarchies. One Parent would be Continent with a child called North America. A second Parent might be called Countries, with a child keyword of United States. A third Parent might be called United States with a child keyword of Florida and finally a parent called Cities with a child called Miami Beach.

In my own list, the top level Parent Keywords are in CAPS but they are private metadata and act as a placeholder and do not export with the image. All the child levels have the first letter of each word capitalized.

Location is an obvious keyword but there are many keywords that aren’t as obvious that make finding and organizing images a breeze. We have a Parent called Technique, for example whose Children include items like Blur, Reflections, Macro and Motion. This really helps when looking for certain types of images. We have another Parent called View with Children like Aerial, Fisheye, Front View, and Landscape. Again,the more specific the keyword, list the easier it becomes to find  images that you seek.

D65 has a Keyword list for license. It is $99.95 and can be purchased at keyword list The keyword list comes with easy instructions on how to install. There are currently 5500 plus keywords in a hierarchy. So for example if I keyword an image with South Beach, it automatically applies the entire hierarchy for that location which would be North America, United States, Florida, South Flordia, Miami, Miami Beach, South Beach.
Here are some screen shots of some of the keywords in the hierarchy.

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