In the previous lessons we looked at some of the ways that using keywords in Lightroom can help you search your photos. We also explored some ideas for creating your own keyword lists, and looked at the difference between personal and public keywords. If you haven’t read these lessons yet I suggest you do so, as it’s important to know what keywords you are going to use (and why) before you start adding them to photos (the links are at the bottom of the lesson).
How to add keywords to photos in Lightroom
The hardest part about adding keywords, once you have a system in place, is finding the time. If you get in the habit of adding keywords when you import photos (or soon after they have been imported) it becomes a natural part of your workflow.
Let’s look at some of the ways you can add keywords to your images in Lightroom.
Adding keywords when you import images
Adding keywords in the Import window is convenient, but you need to be aware that they will be added to all the photos you import.
If you take some landscapes today, some portraits tomorrow, and photos of something else the day afterwards, then import them all at the same time, you can’t add subject specific keywords.
Here’s an example. The screenshot below shows an import of photos taken at a place called Barrington Court, in the county of Somerset in the UK. I can add keywords that apply to all the photos (‘Barrington Court’, ‘Somerset’ and ‘England’) but I can’t add keywords that would apply to some photos in the import but not others.
Any keywords that are more specific than these (in other words, they apply to some of the photos, but not all of them) need to be added afterwards. Both the photos below were taken in Barrington Court. Both contain flowers, so I can add the keyword ‘flowers’ to both. I could also add the keyword ‘greenhouse’ to the photo on the left, and ‘wall’ to the one on the right.
Add keywords with the Keywording panel
The Keywording panel is one of the right-hand panels in the Library module. Start by selecting the photo (or photos) you want to add keywords to. If the photo already has some keywords Lightroom displays them in the Keyword tags field at the top (yes, keywords are also referred to as tags in Lightroom). You can click on this field to add more keyword tags, or add them by clicking and typing where it says (in faint letters) Click here to add keywords.
Lightroom places suggested keywords in this section (shown above). It learns how you use keywords over time and refines its keyword suggestions as you go.
A word of caution. In the previous lesson we looked at the idea that, for personal use at least, it’s best to use a controlled vocabulary for keywording. Bear this in mind before you start adding suggested keywords that are not in your keyword list!
If a photo contains keywords (and you’ve enabled Thumbnail Badges in Library View Options) Lightroom displays a luggage tag icon over the thumbnail in Grid View. It’s small, and you’ll have to look hard to see it, but it’s there.
Add keywords with the Painter tool
The Painter tool gives you a quick and easy way to add keywords to photos in Grid View. To use it, click on the Painter tool in the Toolbar (see below). Press the ‘T’ key to show the Toolbar if you can’t see it.
Select Keywords from the drop-down menu.
Type your keywords into the box on the right.
Click on a photo thumbnail to add those keywords to the photo.
If you hold the Shift key down while the Painter tool is active Lightroom displays a small window showing Keyword sets (covered in detail in another lesson). Click on any of the keywords to add them to the list of keywords applied by the Painter tool. Click Select All to add them all.
Click the Done button in the Toolbar when you are finished.
Removing keywords with the Painter tool
You can also remove keywords with the Painter tool by pressing the Option (Mac) or Alt (PC) key. The Painter tool icon changes to an eraser. Click a photo to remove the keyword tag.
Tip: You can filter the photos in Grid view by clicking the white arrow at the far right of the keyword you want to remove in the Keyword List panel. When you do this Lightroom only displays photos containing that keyword.
There’s another method for applying keywords that may come in useful. If you select two or more photos in Grid View Lightroom activates the Sync Metadata button at the bottom of the right-hand panels.
When you click this button Lightroom displays the Synchronize Metadata window. Click the Check None button at the bottom, then click the Keywords box. Lightroom displays the Keywords from the most selected image (i.e. the first photo that you selected) in the Keywords field. You can change them in the Keywords field if you need to.
When you are ready click the Synchronize button. Lightroom adds the keywords to all the photos in the selection, without removing any other keywords that you have already added.
Shortcuts for adding keywords in Lightroom
Adding large numbers of keywords in Lightroom is a potentially lengthy process, so Adobe has added some keyboard shortcuts to make it quicker.
Use Cmd+K on a Mac or Ctrl+K on a PC to open the Keywording panel from anywhere in the Library module, with the cursor in the add keywords field ready for you to type.
Use Shift-Cmd+K on a Mac or Shift-Ctrl+K on a PC to open the Keywording panel and place the cursor in the larger keyword tags field.
How to set the keyword Keyboard Shortcut
Go to Metadata > Set Keyboard Shortcut. Enter a keyword (or a set of keywords) and click the Set button. You can also right-click on a keyword in the Keyword List panel and choose Use This As Keyword Shortcut from the menu. Note that you can only add one keyword at a time to the Keyboard Shortcut using this second method, not multiple keywords.
Now you can add this keyword to the selected photo or photos using the Shift+K shortcut. You can also right-click on a photo and select the Add Keyword “your keyword” from the menu. Press Shift+K again to remove it. This is handy if there’s a specific keyword or keywords that you use a lot.
The Keyword List panel
Today’s lesson covers most of the things you need to know for photographers who use personal keywords. If this is you, you’ll also be interested in learning about Keyword sets. We’ll cover these in lesson five.
Before we get to that, the next lesson shows you how to use the Keyword List panel in Lightroom (it’s a lot more interesting than it sounds!). The link is below.
Lightroom search lessons lessons
Here’s a list of all Lightroom search and keyword lessons published so far.
The next steps
If you’d like to learn more about Lightroom I suggest you sign up to my Introducing Lightroom free email course (see below).
You can also click here to see all our Lightroom tutorials.
Mastering Lightroom Book One: The Library Module (2nd edition).
My ebook Mastering Lightroom Book One: The Library Module introduces Lightroom and shows you how to use the Library module to import, organize and search your images. It covers everything you need to know in depth – I even show you how to use Lightroom mobile to view your photos! Click the link to learn more.