Travel Photography – Lightroom Before & After

How do I change or create keyboard shortcuts?

If you’re using the English version of Lightroom with another language keyboard, some of the keyboard shortcuts might not work.

Mac only

On a Mac, the easiest way to change a keyboard shortcut is to use the operating system keyboard preferences.

  1. In Lightroom, make a note of the menu command, being careful to note any punctuation too.
  2. Go to Applications > System Preferences.
  3. Open the Keyboard preferences and select the Shortcuts tab.
  4. Select App Shortcuts and click the + button.
  5. Select Lightroom in the Application pop-up. If it doesn’t show up, scroll down to the bottom, select Other and navigate to Applications > Adobe Lightroom > Adobe
  6. In the Menu Title field, type the menu command, for example, Build Standard-Sized Previews. You must type the command exactly as it appears in the menu, including ellipses (such as Synchronize Folder…) and any other punctuation. To type an ellipsis, use three periods without spaces.
    If you run into problems, you can enter the full menu path with a hyphen and right arrow to divide each menu, for example, Library->Previews->Build Standard-Sized Previews.
  7. Click the Keyboard Shortcut field and tap your keyboard shortcut, holding down Cmd, Opt and/or Shift as needed.
  8. Click Add.
  9. Repeat steps 4-8 for any additional shortcuts.
  10. Quit and restart Lightroom.

Windows or Mac

If you’re on Windows, there isn’t a user interface for changing shortcuts, but it’s possible to edit Lightroom’s TranslatedStrings file. This file is designed for language localizations, but can be edited to change various user interface elements including keyboard shortcuts. This isn’t officially supported by Adobe, but works reliably. If you run into problems, you can simply delete the file (or restore a backup), so it’s relatively risk-free.

  1. Quit Lightroom.
  2. Navigate to:
    • Windows—C: \ Program Files \ Adobe \ Adobe Lightroom\ Resources \ en \
    • Mac—Macintosh HD / Applications / Adobe Lightroom / Adobe Right-click on the app and select Show Package Contents, then navigate to / Contents / Resources / en.lproj /
  3. Create a plain text file in that folder and name it TranslatedStrings_Lr_en_US.txt. Use a plain text editor such as Notepad on Windows or TextWrangler on Mac (free on the Mac App Store), rather than a word processor like Word. (This was previously called TranslatedStrings.txt in Lightroom CC 2015.7/6.7 and earlier.)
  4. In another text editor window, open the TranslatedStrings file for another language, for example, TranslatedStrings_Lr_es_ES.txt from the es or es.lproj folder.
  5. The file is long and includes translations as well as shortcuts, so you’ll probably need to use your text editor’s search function to find the shortcut that you need to change.
  6. Copy your chosen line into the TranslatedStrings_Lr_en_US.txt and edit the shortcut after the = sign. For example, to change the Decrease Rating shortcut from a to ; you’d find the line that says “$$$/LibraryMenus/MenuShortcut/DecreaseRating=a” and change it to “$$$/LibraryMenus/MenuShortcut/DecreaseRating=;”.
  7. Save the file, and keep a copy somewhere else too, as it may be replaced when you update Lightroom.
  8. Restart Lightroom. If it doesn’t seem to work, check for curly quotes (“ ”) and replace them with straight quotes (” “), and ensure there are no blank lines at the end of the file.

If you’re using Lightroom in another language, the principle is exactly the same, but the TranslatedStrings file will already be in your language’s project folder (e.g. the ‘fr’ or ‘fr.lproj’ for French), and you’ll need to edit it, rather than creating a new file. If you’re editing an existing file, obviously back it up first!

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Should I use flat or hierarchical keywords?

In the last post, we were talking about the kind of keywords to add to your photos, but this week, let’s talk about the pros and cons of flat vs. hierarchical keyword lists.

On the left, we have a single long flat list of keywords, and on the right, a hierarchy of keywords nested inside other keywords. So which should you choose?


There are a number of factors that might influence your decision. They include:

  • Simplicity – Adding new keywords to a hierarchy requires a little more forethought and logic, whereas adding random keywords to a flat list can be done on-the-fly.
  • Universally Understood – Flat keywords are understood by most photographic software. If you create a hierarchy in Lightroom, it writes out the keywords as both flat and hierarchical, so if you move to other software, your keywords will still go along for the ride, but probably as a flat list.
  • Editing in Other Programs – In addition to moving to other software in the future, you can also run into issues with keyword hierarchies when exporting photos to edit in other software and then adding them back into the catalog. If some keywords are set to “Don’t Export” (often used for parent keywords like who, what, when), when the photos come back into Lightroom’s catalog, their keywords will be listed as new root level keywords.
  • Scrolling – If you start adding a lot of keywords to your photos, a flat keyword list can become very long very quickly. If you’re on Windows, you may even run into a bug/limitation, which prevents the Keyword List showing more than around 1600 keywords at one time. A keyword hierarchy allows you to collapse the list, so you’re seeing fewer keywords at any time.
  • Automatic Entry – One of the major advantages to a hierarchy of keywords is that parent keywords are automatically added to the photos. For example, if I tagged a photo with “my house”, the parent keywords “Southampton, Hampshire, England, UK, Europe” would automatically be added to the photo too. This can save a lot of time.
  • Time Spent Reorganizing – If you don’t start out with a clear idea of how you’ll organise your keyword hierarchy, you can spend a lot of time organizing and reorganizing the keywords into a list you like.
  • Multiple Catalogs – If you use more than one catalog (and we considered the pros and cons in this earlier post), and you reorganize a hierarchical keyword list in one catalog, you’ll end up with a massive mess and duplicate keywords when you try to merge that back into another catalog. This can even apply to travel catalogs.

Your final decision will probably depend on how many keywords you think you’re going to add. If you’re shooting for stock photography, a hierarchy is the obvious choice. If you’re shooting for your own use, a flat list may be a simpler choice.

There is, of course, a compromise. You could have a very simple hierarchy, with a few parent keywords and all of the other keywords nested directly inside, for example, your parent keywords might be who, what, where, when, why, how. These can also act as a prompt, to remind you to add at least one keyword for each. You can even create a smart collection to show photos that don’t have at least one keyword under each heading.

If you decide on a hierarchical keyword list, draft your list in a text editor or spreadsheet, or even on a piece of paper. By doing so, you’ll save yourself a lot of time rearranging your keyword list later. One more tip… when adding People keywords, don’t try to create a family tree. Since most of us have more than one parent, it gets messy fast!

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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How do I clean up my keyword list?

In the previous post, we learned how to start keywording from scratch, but many Lightroom users have already added a few keywords, so this week, we’ll do some cleanup.

How do I edit an existing keyword?

If you want to edit a keyword, perhaps to correct the spelling, simply right-click on the keyword in the Keyword List panel and select Edit Keyword Tag. When you rename a keyword, it’s automatically updated on all of the tagged photos too.

How do I delete a keyword from a single photo or from all photos?

If you add a keyword to a photo by mistake, you can remove it using either the Keywording or Keyword List panel. With the photo(s) selected, select the keyword in the Keywording panel and press Delete/Backspace to delete the keyword, or remove the checkmark against the keyword in the Keyword List panel.

To delete the keyword from the keyword list as well as any tagged photos, select it and press the – button at the top of the Keyword List panel, or right-click and select Delete.

How do I create or change the keyword hierarchy?

By default, new keywords are added as a flat list, but you can drag and drop them into a hierarchy of nested keywords.

As you drag a keyword onto another keyword, that new parent keyword is highlighted. When you release the mouse, the keyword moves inside the new parent keyword, just as you would drag folders onto other folders to make them into subfolders.

If you want to do the opposite and change a child keyword into a top-level keyword, drag and drop the keyword between existing top-level level keywords instead. As you drag, a thin blue line appears. Don’t worry about dropping it in the right place in the list, as the Keyword List is automatically set to alpha-numeric sort.

If you’re building your keyword hierarchy for the first time, and want to add a series of child keywords inside the same parent, select Put New Keywords Inside this Keyword from the right-click menu. Any new keywords are then added to that keyword as child keywords, unless you specifically choose otherwise. The keyword is marked with a small dot next to the keyword name to remind you. To go back to adding new keywords at root level, right-click and uncheck the same command.

How do I merge duplicate keywords?

At some stage, you’re sure to end up with duplicate keywords. Perhaps, before you decided on consistent capitalisation, you added dog to some photos and dogs to others. Or perhaps you edited photos in another program and the photo came back into your catalog with new flat keywords. Merging them isn’t as easy as it should be, but it is possible:

  1. In the Keyword List, click the arrow to the right of the “wrong” keyword to show the photos tagged with that keyword.
  2. Select all of the resulting photos in the Grid view and drag them onto the “right” keyword, or check the checkbox next to the “right” keyword. This assigns the “right” keyword to the photos.
  3. Finally, go back and delete the “wrong” keyword.


Over the last 4 weeks, we’ve only skimmed the surface of keywording in Lightroom. We’ve discussed the kind of keywords you might add, whether to use flat or hierarchical keywords, and the basics of getting started with adding keywords to your photos. For more detailed information, see the Keywording section of my LRCC/6 book, starting on page 140.


Next week, we’re carrying on with the cleanup – this time, merging and deleting multiple catalogs.

The post How do I clean up my keyword list? appeared first on The Lightroom Queen.

Should you have one catalog or multiple catalogs?

weigh-multi-catSince version 1.1, Lightroom has been able to create and switch between multiple catalogs, but the question is, just because you can, should you?

There is no ‘right’ number of catalogs. As with the rest of your Lightroom workflow, it depends on how you work. So should you use a single main working catalog*, or should you split your photos into multiple catalogs?  Let’s consider the pros and cons…

Why is a single catalog the best choice for most photographers?

  • The whole point of a DAM (Digital Asset Management) system like Lightroom is being able to easily search through them and find specific photos, but you can’t search across multiple catalogs (e.g., to find the best photos from multiple shoots) without opening each catalog in turn.
  • It’s a pain to keep switching catalogs, especially since you can’t switch catalogs while a process is running (e.g., if you’re running an export in one catalog, you have to wait for it to complete before switching to another catalog).
  • Mobile sync only works with one catalog.

Why do some people recommend multiple catalogs?

  • Some people say that small catalogs are faster than big catalogs, and this is true in some circumstances:
    • Smaller catalogs are faster to open and back up than very large catalogs – but how many times a day do you need to open and back up?
    • Big catalogs can be slow to search, if you’re searching the whole catalog – but it’s still faster than opening multiple catalogs in turn to search through each one.
    • We should define big/small catalogs – even 50,000 photos counts as a small catalog… 4 million is big!
    • As long as the catalog’s optimized regularly and stored on a fast drive, viewing and working in individual folders/collections should be almost the same speed regardless of catalog size.
  • Some people encourage multiple catalogs on the basis that you’ll have less to lose if your catalog becomes corrupted – but simply backing up the catalog regularly works just as well.
  • Some people say it’s easier to organize photos by topic in separate catalogs, perhaps separating their bird photography from wildlife. We’ll consider alternatives that may be simpler, later in this post.

For most amateur photographers, the benefits of a single master catalog massively outweigh the disadvantages. Professional photographers may need to weigh the pros and cons a little more carefully and decide what’s right for their workflow.

Who should consider multiple master catalogs?

  • You want to separate “Work” shoots from “Home” (or “His” and “Hers”) and there’s no overlap.
  • You have multiple employees who need to be working in Lightroom at the same time, and the web interface doesn’t offer the features that the “other” people need.
  • You shoot for other people and it’s essential that their photos don’t mix (e.g., The Smith baby shoot doesn’t get accidentally dropped in the Jones folder, and Mr Smith doesn’t accidentally see Mrs Jones makeover shoot.)

How do you differentiate between shoots in a single catalog?

If your reason for multiple catalogs is simply wanting to separate work from home, or His and Hers, then consider the ways you can do so in a single catalog. For example, your Folders, Collections and Keywords panel may have separate hierarchies for each style:


This way, you still have all of the benefits of a single catalog, but with the ability to quickly and easily view and search specific photos.

What if there’s more of an overlap? Perhaps some of your holiday landscapes are used in work brochures. Then leave all of the photos in a single dated folder structure and just use ‘virtual’ divisions, using Collections and metadata filters (based on Keywords, or even Copyright metadata) to differentiate.


If you do decide to use multiple catalogs, there are some danger areas to look out for:

  • Be careful that the same photos don’t end up in multiple catalogs, as this causes no end of confusion (for example, they may be edited in one catalog but not the other, have different keywords in different catalogs, or when renamed/moved in one catalog they get marked as missing in the other, etc.)
  • Be careful that the photos don’t end up in the “wrong” catalog, as transferring them is a pain.
  • Be careful that you don’t completely miss importing some photos.
  • Watch out for different keyword spellings and hierarchies, especially if you’re going to merge catalogs later.

If you decide you need multiple catalogs, there are also a few questions to ask yourself:

  • How are you going to divide the catalogs?
    • By client (all of the shoots for the Jones family – engagement, wedding, baby, family)
    • By job (the Jones baby shoot)
    • By date (2016)
  • How will you know which catalog to open to find a specific photo? For example, it would be easy to remember that Kate & John’s wedding photo would be in Kate & John’s catalog or in the 2016 Weddings catalog, but it’s not so simple to remember whether a photo of a friend would be in the 2014, 2015 or 2016 catalog.
  • Do you ever need to search through all of your photos to find a specific photo, or group together your best shots for your portfolio? If so, you may choose the best of both worlds: keep your current photos in a small working catalog (or a catalog per job), and then use Import from Catalog to transfer them into a large searchable archive catalog when completed.
  • Where will you store the catalogs? Will you keep all of the catalogs together in a single folder, or keep the catalog in the same folder as the photos?
  • How will you make sure they’re backed up regularly?
  • How are you going to make sure there’s no crossover, with the same photos appearing in more than one catalog?
  • Where are you going to put the photos that don’t fit into the categories you’ve selected?
  • How will you make sure your keyword lists are consistent in all of your catalogs?

As a general rule, use as few catalogs as you can. For most photographers, that’s a single catalog, but if you need additional catalogs, think it through carefully before you act. Multiple catalogs can work, but they also add a degree of complexity that’s unnecessary for most photographers.

If you already have multiple catalogs and you want to figure out which ones you can delete, or how to merge them into a single catalog, don’t worry – we’ll come back to tidying up existing catalogs later in the series. If you want to get started now, see pages 522-524 in my Lightroom CC/6 book.

In the next post in the series, where should you store your photos?


* In this post, we’re not referring to temporary catalogs which are created for a purpose, for example, to take a subset of photos to another machine before later merging them back in, but more specifically, your main working or master catalog.

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