Lightroom Keyword Hierarchy

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In a previous post, lightroom keyword ideas, we discussed several possible ways of setting up an effective keyword list within Lightroom. These ideas are meant to set you up for a successful, long-lasting, more importantly, realistic and manageable list of keywords.

We also glossed over the fact that keywords could be created as categories and sub-categories the same way you can organize folders on a hard drive. You can also forgo the idea of folders and sub-folders, instead, you can choose to keep one long, alphabetical flat list of keywords. It is important to know that we don’t want to biased your decision one way or the other, however, we do have a favorite which we will disclose at the end of this post.

What we would like to do in this post is talk about the pros and cons of flat versus a hierarchy style of keywording. Let’s jump into it.

Flat Version
  • Simplicity, as it relates to the flat version, is probably the most obvious reason for choosing this option. There really is nothing to it. Have a new word you want to add to the list? Easy! Create it…done.
  • Software Language is not always what we hope. If you export your photos out of Adobe Lightroom, you can be certain that all the words in a flat list will make their way out with all the photos.
  • Scrolling is going to get crazy. Think about 1000 words or more marching in a single file line. That line could go on forever.
  • Reorganizing your keywords is not needed because each flat word added to the list falls in line alphabetically. This will save you some work for sure.
  • Travel catalogs are so much easier to manage with a flat version of keywords. The reason for this is that when catalogs merge, matching keywords within each catalog will blend together seamlessly.
Hierarchical Version
    • Simplicity, is not quite how we might describe this option. You will need to take into consideration which category a new word falls into.
    • Software Language could be a little tricky should you find yourself moving to something outside of Adobe Lightroom. If you are using a system with a hierarchy you might find that keywords will remain but could end up as a flat version later. In some cases, you could end up with keywords exporting out as both a flat and hierarchical version.
    • Scrolling is going to much easier. Because you are creating a hierarchy system, you can collapse down categories not in which will make your list much shorter and will require less scrolling.
    • Reorganizing your current keyword list into an effective hierarchy list could take some work and time. Lucky for you, we gave some ideas in the lightroom keyword ideas post to help you get started. If you are starting from the beginning it shouldn’t take as much time.
    • Travel could get tricky when and if you merge one catalog to another. This is often the case when you use a separate, Travel Catalog, as we often do outside of our regular master catalog which remains at home. I great tip for helping with this, however, is to create a template catalog that matches your Master Catalog. Then when you merge them together keywords will most likely line up in their proper place.

In the end, you should start off by asking yourself how many keywords do you really think you are going to create. If you are someone who loves organization and is taking a lot of images and is using Adobe Lightroom a lot to manage all those images, our opinion is that a hierarchy list is going to help you a great deal.

However, if you don’t want to take the time it takes to create and maintain a hierarchy system then a simple, flat keyword list should work just fine.

When it’s all said and done at least do one or the other. You might even consider creating a hybrid list that resembles a little of both should you find that to be a little more practical. Not creating keywords at all is the worst decision you could make as you will soon see in some future posts, using keywords to find photos will greatly improve efficiency and save you time and stress when you need to find a particular image quick. This, as is with many tools Lightroom offers, is a no brainer.

In the next post, we’ll start on the practicalities – how to create keywords, apply them to your photos and most importantly, how to use them to find the photos again later.

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