Create A Keyword List in Lightroom

In this Lightroom Tutorial we’re going to look at building a keyword list in Lightroom that allows you to not only add keywords to an image but also automatically apply multiple associated keywords. In other words, you’ll be able to select a single keyword and Lightroom will add tons of great keywords for you.

This makes your archive easier to search and if you’re applying keywords for a third-party, such as a stock agency, then you’re also going to save a lot of time prepping those images for submission.

Creating A Keyword List in Lightroom

Create A Keyword List in Lightroom

First, make sure that you are working in the Lightroom Library Module. Now scroll down the panel on the right until you find Keyword List. To create a new keyword you need to click on the Plus Sign.

You can see below, that a Create Keyword Tag dialog has popped open. For this Lightroom Tutorial, I have a bunch of images I took while on vacation in Branson, Missouri. So, I’m going to start by creating some generic keywords that relate to the location itself.

The Keyword Name is the primary keyword. We can also add more keywords associated with it in the Synonyms box. This feature becomes a huge time saver in the future.

Create A Keyword List in Lightroom

The key to a successful keyword list in Lightroom is to not try cramming tons of synonyms in here. We want to start as generic as possible to determine a master parent keyword and then become more specific as we add more keywords beneath that parent.

Right now I’m thinking about location. So, what’s the most generic parent keyword we can think of related to Branson, Missouri? Well, it’s in the United States so let’s start there. I’m going to create a Keyword Name called usa. Next, I’m going to add the keywords united, states, america & american to the synonyms.

Create A Keyword List in Lightroom

Before moving on, I want to point out some very important things about what I just did or I should say what I didn’t do. I didn’t type USA in capital letters. In fact, I didn’t capitalize anything. The reason why this is so important is because Lightroom will look at usa, USA, united & United as four unique words.

Make a habit right now of not capitalizing anything. You’ll see later in this Lightroom Tutorial how this can cause problems. Another thing I did was I used the simplest word for the Keyword Name. This is because when I assign that keyword to a photo, Lightroom will automatically add the synonyms for me. You want to use the shortest words as possible and also ones that are easy to remember.

Lightroom will also allow you to create keyword phrases, such as “united states of america”. I highly advise not using keyword phrases. While Lightroom and most photography applications recognize this, there are many online applications that do not. This can potentially cause problems with your end-user, such as an online stock agency. While I wish this wasn’t the case .. that’s just the way it is.

I recommend enabling all of the Keyword Tag Options as seen above. Once you’re done click the Create Button.

Now, I’m going to repeat this process a couple more times. I want to add new keywords beneath my parent keyword. To do this right-click on your keyword and select Create Keyword Tag inside …

Create A Keyword List in Lightroom

I want to get a bit more specific each time I expand on a keyword. The name of the state is going to be the next logical step down from the country. So, let’s create a Missouri keyword. Again, all lower-case and I am using the abbreviation for the actual keyword name because it will be the quickest to type in the future – if you ever enter keyword manually, I don’t.

Create A Keyword List in Lightroom

Now I’m going to go one more step down from the state level which is going to be the city level. Pay attention to a couple of things here. Again, I’m using all lower-case. Second, I have a keyword repeated. The first keyword missouri appears again as a synonym for branson.

Create A Keyword List in Lightroom

I only repeated the word missouri for the sake of this Lightroom tutorial. I wanted to show you that it’s ok if you accidentally apply a keyword more than once to an image. Because I have been forcing myself to use all lower-case type, Lightroom will always see these duplicates as the same word and simply ignore the duplicates.

If I would have capitalized Missouri in either of the cases above, Lightroom would have applied both keywords Missouri and missouri. You might not see this as a big deal now but keep making this mistake and 12 months from now you’ll have a mess so big you won’t even want to think about trying to fix it.

Organizing A Keyword List in Lightroom

I’ve got my keyword list in Lightroom started now. We can see the three Keyword Names I just created by looking at the Keyword List in the right panel.

If I had made a mistake when creating the keywords – like created branson inside of california or new mexico – Lightroom makes it very easy to correct. Simply drag & drop the keyword to the correct location in the keyword list.

Create A Keyword List in Lightroom

Take the time to think about future errors when creating your keywords. Even though you can move them later, it’s best to avoid the problem altogether. Your goal is to create a nested structure that makes sense and is always easy to navigate.

Think of it like a family tree. In this Lightroom tutorial, we have usa as the parent, missouri is a child of the usa and branson is a child of missouri. The key thing to remember is that children inherit traits from their parents and that’s exactly what is going to happen in Lightroom. Let’s take a look at how this works when we actually keyword images in Lightroom.

Keyword Images in Lightroom

We have our Keyword List started and we’re ready to start keywording images in Lightroom. Select a photo in your library and then scroll to the Keyword List section of the Lightroom panel. As you can see below, when you hover the mouse over a keyword a box will appear to the left of the keyword.

Create A Keyword List in Lightroom

The image I want to keyword was taken in Branson, Missouri USA. Therefore, all of the keywords and synonyms I just created should be a good match for my image. Here’s where the magic happens. All I need to do is check the box for the keyword branson. Lightroom will then automatically include its parents and their synonyms.

Create A Keyword List in Lightroom

To get a better idea of what just happened, scroll up from the Keyword List section on the right panel to the Keywording section. You will need to click on the Keyword Tags dropdown menu and select Will Export, as seen below. This shows you all of the keywords, synonyms included, that will export inside your image.

Create A Keyword List in Lightroom

All I had to do was click on one keyword and a total of eight keywords were automatically added for me. You can see how putting the effort into creating a well-structured Keyword List in Lightroom can save you an enormous amount of time in the future

Keyword List Lightroom Tips

  • Don’t forget that children inherit the traits of their parents. Start generic and let the nested keywords become more specific.
  • Avoid using keyword phrases. Lightroom uses them but many online applications do not. Place a comma between each word.
  • Take the time and put effort into creating a well-structured Keyword List in Lightroom from the beginning instead of slopping through it and correcting the errors later.