Keywords are one of the cornerstones of an efficient searchable image organization system. Good keywords make it easy to quickly search through a large volume of images using Adobe Photoshop Lightroom.
While everybody loves what keywords can do, most photographers dread the data-entry time required to create this kind of searchable text for every image. The cause for this stress is usually the lack of an efficient keywording strategy and the fear that we will need to work on an image by image basis.
I’m happy to say that there is absolutely no reason why you need to add keywords on a one-by-one basis with Adobe Photoshop Lightroom! Lightroom is perfectly capable of handling bulk metadata additions. By using your multi-file selection skills, and Lightroom’s Library Module Grid View, it’s simple to add keywords to dozens of files at a time.
Now without a good strategy, it would be easy to either add far too many keywords, or eventually grow lazy and begin to skip this crucial part of the digital photography workflow altogether. For photographers who are selling their images online as stock photographs or doing documentary photography projects, adding dozens of keywords to each image is important. However, for most Lightroom users, adding just a few keywords to every image is sufficient. If we adopt a “bare bones”– three or four keywords is enough– approach, then we must carefully choose our terms.
To pick the right keywords you need to ask yourself, “What broad category of photography describes these images?” Then ask yourself, “What is the most specific detail about these particular images that I am likely to want to search for ten years from now?”
The keywords that we choose to add flow from the answers to these essential questions. I recommend adding at least one categorical keyword onto each and every image that you import into your Lightroom Catalog. For the categorical keyword, I suggest using broad terms like “landscape,” “portrait,” “architecture,” or “sunset.” If an image spans the lines between categories then by all means feel free to add additional keyword tags.
Once you have added the broad categorical keyword(s) to your images then it is time to add something specific. You can add as many keywords as you’d like, but keep in mind that this is all about enabling you to search for images down the line. My advice is to add a mixture of both broad and specific keywords that relate to important parts of the photo that you are likely to want to search for in the future.