Having decided how you’ll keyword your photos and whether to use a flat list or hierarchy (Lightroom Classic), you’re ready to start assigning keywords to your photos. All the principles we looked at before apply to both versions of Lightroom, but adding them is slightly different on each.
First rule – don’t go overboard!
Don’t go overboard, especially to start with. If you try to add 30 keywords to every photo you’ve ever taken, it can become an overwhelming job, so just start with a few significant keywords on your best photos.
Lightroom (cloud-based): Adding your first keywords
In Lightroom (cloud-based) and Lightroom mobile, it’s easy to add keywords:
- Mobile: Go to Detail view then select Keywords view (iOS) / Info view (Android) and simply enter the keyword(s) – separate multiple keywords by a comma.
- Desktop: Open the Keywords panel by clicking the Tag icon in the bottom right-hand corner and activate the Add Keyword field.
- Desktop: to add (or delete) keywords on multiple photos at once, go to Grid view, select the photos and enter the keyword(s).
On Lightroom (cloud) it’s as simple as that, but don’t forget they don’t sync back to Lightroom Classic.
Lightroom (cloud-based): Finding photos using keywords
Once you’ve keyworded your photos, it’s really easy to find ones with specific keywords, just by typing in the Search field. The text Search field is always found at the top of the Lightroom desktop window, and the shortcut Ctrl-F (Windows) / Cmd-F (Mac) moves the cursor to the Search field. To access the search field on mobile, tap the magnifying glass icon at the top of Organize/Grid view.
Lightroom searches the photos in the current view. To search all of your photos, select All Photos at the top of the My Photos panel (desktop) / Organize view (mobile).
To delete a search term, click/tap on its token.
To cancel the search, click/tap the X at the end of the search criteria.
With Lightroom connected to the cloud, you can even search on terms that you haven’t got around to keywording. Adobe Cloud uses an AI learning tool, called Adobe Sensei. This enables you to use terms like boat, car, dog and it’ll find ones that it thinks match. If you have your own keyword that Sensei also recognizes, you’ll see it listed twice and you can select the one you want to search on (your own keyword or the Sensei one).
Remember, Lightroom (cloud/mobile) keywords don’t currently sync to / from Lightroom Classic. Many people have requested this – here’s the feature request to add your vote if it’s important to you.
Lightroom Classic: Adding your first keywords
In Lightroom Classic, there are numerous ways to add keywords to your photos, including:
- Type in the Keywording panel.
- Create a new keyword using the Keyword List panel.
- Click the Keyword Suggestion buttons in the Keywording panel.
- Use Keyword Sets to group your most frequently used keywords.
- Assign an existing keyword using the checkbox in the Keyword List panel.
- Click and drag to/from the Keyword List panel.
- Use the Painter tool to quickly assign keywords.
- Use a Keyboard Shortcut.
- Use Face Recognition for names of people.
To help you get started, we’ll cover the first two options, but for more detailed information, see pages 127-140 in our Adobe Lightroom Classic – The Missing FAQ book.
Lightroom Classic: Type in the Keywording panel
Select the first photo, perhaps in Loupe view, and go to the Keywording panel in the right panel group in Library. Click in the keywords field that says Click here to add keywords (or the field above) and type your keywords, separating them with a comma (,). As you start to reuse keywords, they’ll be suggested as you start typing, which helps to avoid differences in spelling. When you’ve finished, press the Enter key and your keywords appear in the Keyword List panel, as well as being attached to the selected photo.
Lightroom Classic: Create and apply keywords using the Keyword List panel
At the top of the Keyword List panel is a + button, which is used for creating new keywords without applying them to the selected photo. Click the + button and enter your keyword in the Create Keyword Tag dialog.
There are a number of additional options in this dialog. They’re all explained in a diagram on page 135-136 in our Adobe Lightroom Classic – The Missing FAQ book (the interaction is complicated!), but there are three we’ll look out for here:
- Unchecking Include on Export is useful if it’s a parent (grouping) keyword such as WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN, etc. I suggest using all caps when naming these keywords, so they can be identified at a glance.
- If another keyword is already selected in the Keyword List panel, it offers to Put inside [keyword]. This is useful when building your keyword hierarchy. Once the keyword is created, you can also drag/drop keywords onto each other, but we’ll come back to this next week.
- If one or more photos are selected when you’re creating the new keyword, Add to selected photos automatically applies the new keyword at the same time. If you forget, click the square to the left of the keyword in the Keyword List panel, which adds a checkmark.
If you want to add the same keyword to a lot of photos, for example, you have a series of photos of snow, select them all in Grid view (it must be Grid view!) before typing the keyword in the Keywording panel or checking the checkbox in the Keyword List panel.
Lightroom Classic: Finding photos using keywords
Once you’ve keyworded your photos, there are a number of ways of finding the photos again later. But for now, here’s the easiest… simply click the arrow on the right of the keyword in the Keyword List panel. This opens the Metadata Filters to the right keyword. When you’re finished, click None at the top of the Grid view.
Have you already been doing some keywording, but created a mess? Or you want to convert your flat list to a hierarchy, or vice versa? Don’t worry, we’ll tidy up in the next post.
For extensive information on Lightroom Classic, see Adobe Lightroom Classic – The Missing FAQ.
If you have the Photography Plan, then as well as Classic you have access to the Lightroom cloud ecosystem including the mobile apps and web interface. For more information on these apps, see Adobe Lightroom – Edit Like a Pro.
Note: purchase of these books includes the first year’s Classic or cloud-based Premium Membership (depending on the book purchased), giving access to download the latest eBook (each time Adobe updates the software), email assistance for the applicable Lightroom version if you hit a problem, and other bonuses.
We also have a special bundle offer for the two books. This includes Premium Membership for the first year as described above for the whole Lightroom family!
Originally posted 3 April 2017, updated for current Lightroom versions, May 2020.