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 to Make Keyword Lists and Get Them Into Lightroom

Hi gang. Hard to believe it’s already Monday (sigh). OK, well, let’s brush that off by learning something new to start the week off. If you’ve got a lot of keywords to want to add, it can be faster and easier to enter them in a text editor outside of Lightroom, and then take those into Lightroom. Here how:


STEP ONE: Open any text editor (I used Apple’s built-in TextEdit app), and enter your keywords. Put a return after each keyword (as seen above).

STEP TWO: To be able to import this keyword list into Lightroom, this has to be “unformatted text” — so my Mac I pressed Shift-Command-T which is the shortcut in the TextEdit application to convert from “Rich Text” (text with formatting, like font selection and bold, italic and such) to “Make Plain Text.”

STEP THREE: If you want to create hierarchical keywords, then the trick is to hit the ‘Tab” key on your keyboard before you enter the keyword. If you want to go another level deeper (like I did here — my top level keyword is NFC Divisions; then nested below that would be NFC East, and then under NFC East I want to list the four teams, so for that last nested level, you’d have to hit the Tab key twice before entering those keywords.

To recap: For a top level keyword; just type it. To have a keyword nested inside of that keyword; hit tab then enter the keyword. If you want to have keywords nested inside at that level, add two tabs then a keyword, and so on.

STEP FOUR: Now go into Lightroom, to the Library Module, and from the Metadata menu up top choose ‘Import Keywords’ (as shown above). Those keywords are now added to the Keyword list panel in the right side panels.

NESTING EXAMPLES:  Here’s what it looks like when you add a keyword list with a Top Level keyword, and then other keywords nested inside it (note the right-facing arrow to the left of ‘NFC Divisions’ shown circled in red above.

Above: When you expand the NFC Divisions top level keyword, you can see the other other divisions, and the teams in those divisions nested with them.

Hope you found that helpful. 🙂


P.S. Only 25-days ’till the Photoshop World Conference in Orlando. It’s not too late to get your ticket. Just sayin’

The post How to Make Keyword Lists and Get Them Into Lightroom appeared first on Lightroom Killer Tips.

5 Tips For Customizing Your Copy of Photoshop

Happy Monday everybody. Today we’re doing five tips for making your Photoshop look and act the way you want it by customizing a few key things (including a couple of hidden things that are pretty cool. Check out the short video below.

Hope you found that helpful.

Here’s wishing you the best Monday this year so far!




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The survey results are in!

First of all, thank you so much to the 4240 of you who took the time to fill out my 2016 reader survey. The results have been fascinating and will help shape my plans for the next couple of years, so watch this space…

So are you wondering about the results?  Here are the highlights:

Most of my readers are using Lightroom CC or Lightroom 6, with the majority on subscription.


You’re mainly amateur and advanced amateur photographers, although some of you earn some money from photography.


You love the intermediate to advanced blog posts and tips and tricks, as well as the what’s new posts, and you gave me some great ideas for future blog posts. You also told me you’d like me to do some short videos, so I’ll be playing with some video blog posts over the next few months, and I’d love to get your feedback on them.

time managementThe most frequent issue you have with Lightroom is simply a lack of time to learn and explore. I’m afraid I can’t help with that one, other than highly recommending David Allen’s Getting Things Done system. 🙂

Many of the things you find confusing in Lightroom are already covered in my free Quick Start eBook and the free Articles section of my website, so if you haven’t checked these lately, it’ll be well worth your time exploring. I don’t remember spotting any questions that aren’t covered in my main Lightroom CC/6 FAQ book.


There were some great questions and comments, some of which made me laugh out loud, resulting in some very strange looks from others in the coffee shop!  I’d love to be able to email everyone back personally, but since there aren’t enough hours in the day, allow me to answer the most frequently asked questions…


“You’re English.  Why do you use US spellings?”

I use the US spellings because the Lightroom interface uses them, and it feels wrong to say “go to the Color panel to adjust the colour”.  I try to use the same in emails and blog and forum posts for consistency, otherwise I end up confusing myself.


“I think you act as a sort of champion with/against Adobe. I’d like to see you do more of this, recognizing that Adobe sometimes has it wrong.”

My aim is always to be honest – both with you as readers, and with Adobe too.

I do tell Adobe when I think they have something wrong, but I usually do so in private, where we can have a much more productive conversation. However, if I ever think something needs to be said publicly, as with the Lightroom 6.2 release, I promise to do so.


“I can’t make up mind on whether to go for CC or perpetual license: have you done pros & cons?”

Yes, you’ll find them here. To be honest, I was skeptical when I first heard about the subscription plans, wondering whether Adobe would rest on their laurels with everyone “locked in” to a subscription. The team have been working hard to allay people’s fears about losing their work, as well as adding new features in dot releases. Watching their progress over the last year, and seeing what they have planned for the future, I’m now comfortable in saying I think the CC subscription is a great deal for most users.


“Where can I buy your books?”

You’ll find my books right here on my website, or the paperback is also available from online bookstores such as Amazon. Most local bookstores can special order if you prefer to shop offline.


“[I would like to] have the Missing FAQ book be accessible online (not as a PDF) so that its information can be found using keywords.”

Good news… it already is. If you’ve purchased the paperback and registered it, or you’ve purchased the eBooks or paperback direct from my website, the entire book is available in the Members Area and is fully searchable. It’s also kept up to date with the changes as Adobe adds new features.


“I bought the book digitally but now wish I’d bought the paperback”

No problem, just drop me an email.


“Many of the books, blog posts and videos are for Mac and don’t address Windows equally.”

That’s true, many educators and authors do seem to use Macs, and you’ll find the screenshots on my website are mostly of the Mac version as I write on a MacBook Pro. But don’t worry, it’s just cosmetic. Lightroom works the same way on both platforms, and where there’s a difference in behavior, I always note the difference.


“I’d love to be able to write in with questions when in doubt, but I realize this is unreasonable.”

It’s true that my time is limited, so I can’t answer everyone’s Lightroom questions personally, but email support is one of the bonuses I offer free of charge when you purchase my main FAQ book, either direct from this website or when registering a paperback. Why only book owners?  Because I can almost always point you to the right page in the book, and if something isn’t quite clear in the book, I can update it in the next version.

If you don’t own my book, you’re welcome to post your questions on the forum. We have a great team of experts, and I spend some time there each day too. If your question gets missed, feel free to reply to “bump it” up the listing again.


help-man“I wish you offered 1 to 1 screensharing support!”

I do! The purchase page is fairly well hidden under the Contact button as there are a limited number of hours in my day, but I’m here to help if you get stuck.


“You won’t share my email address, will you?”

No, don’t worry, I take your privacy very seriously.


“Can you pass what I said on to Adobe?”

If there was anything specific you asked me to tell Adobe (e.g. why can’t I buy an upgrade in Malaysia?), I have passed it on to Lightroom’s Product Manager, Sharad.

Don’t forget, you can always have your say on the Official Feedback Site. It’s the best place to report bugs and request features as the Lightroom team consider all of the requests posted there, even though they can’t reply to them all. You’ll also find helpful suggestions for workarounds, and you can vote on other people’s requests. Your votes DO make a difference.


Thank you again for taking the time to share your thoughts, and I look forward to another busy year of Lightroom Q&A’s.

The post The survey results are in! appeared first on The Lightroom Queen.

How do I create and manage collections?

In the “Why use collections to organize photos?” post, we learned why you might want to use collections to group photos. Now let’s learn how…

How to create a collection

To create a collection, scroll down to the Collections panel, which you’ll find in the left panel group in all modules, click the + button at the top and select Create Collection.

Name the collection (leave the checkboxes unchecked for now) and click Create, and your new collection appears in the Collections panel. When you want to view a different collection of photos, just click on its name.

From the Grid view, select your chosen photos and drag them from the preview area onto the collection. Don’t forget to grab the photos by their thumbnails, not the border surrounding them. If you don’t like dragging, right-click on the collection and select Add Selected Photos to this Collection from the context-sensitive menu instead.

Removing photos from a collection is as simple as hitting the Delete key. When you’re viewing a collection, Delete only removes the photo from the collection, rather than from the catalog or hard drive.

There are a few more collection tips and tricks on pages 115-120 in my Lightroom CC/6 book.

How do I organize my collections into sets?

As your list of collections grows, it can become harder to find the right one. Collection sets allow you to build a hierarchy of collections, just like you would with folders.

To create a Collection Set, press the + button on the Collections panel and select New Collection Set. Name it, and then drag existing collections onto the set to group them. When you’re creating new collections, you can select which set to put them in using the pop-up in the New Collection dialog.

The one downside is collection sets don’t sync to the cloud. The collections show as a flat collections list in Lightroom mobile, which can become rather long if you’re syncing a large number of collections. You can start the names of similar collections with a word such as Vacation or Genre, which will group them together on mobile as well as in Lightroom on the desktop.

Do you need to create additional collections for your best photos of each grouping? No, that would just make the list even longer! You can use flags, star ratings and filters instead. More on that in the next post.

The post How do I create and manage collections? appeared first on The Lightroom Queen.

Lightroom Performance – Workflow Tweaks

workflowBesides optimizing your computer and Lightroom settings, you can also save yourself a lot of frustration by thinking ahead and allowing your computer to do many of its processor-intensive activities at a time when you’re not using the computer.


Build previews overnight

In the previous post, we learned about the different kinds of previews and caches that can be used to speed up Lightroom. You’re going to need rendered previews, but you don’t have to sit there waiting for them! Decide which size rendered previews you’ll need, then set the standard sized or 1:1 previews building overnight, or at least while you go and make a drink. The same goes for smart previews, if you want to use them to speed up the Develop module. While Lightroom’s rendering previews, it’s using a lot of the computer’s processing power, so you’re better off doing something else while it works.


Apply presets before rendering previews

While we’re on the subject of previews, think about Develop settings you apply to all or most of your photos. There’s no point rendering the standard or 1:1 previews and THEN applying a preset, because the previews will need to be updated again. Apply your presets or sync your most-frequently used settings first, and then build your previews to save wasted effort.


Pause background tasks

Lightroom runs a series of background tasks, including Sync, Face Recognition and Reverse Geocoding. These use additional processing power, especially for Sync and Face Recognition, so if you’re struggling for speed, it can be useful to pause these tasks while you’re working in Lightroom. To do so, click on the Identity Plate in the top left corner and press the Pause buttons in the Activity Center. Don’t forget to start them again when you’ve finished.


Use optimum slider order

In the Develop module, regardless of the order in which you move the sliders, the end result is always the same (with the exception of spot healing which can be affected slightly by lens corrections and also by overlapping spots). There is, however, a slight performance advantage to using the tools in the following order:

  1. Tonal Adjustments (e.g. Basic panel, etc.) can be done at any stage, but are often done first
  2. Spot Healing
  3. Lens Corrections (Profile, Manual Transform sliders, Upright, etc.)
  4. Local Corrections (Adjustment Brush, Graduated Filter, Radial Filter)
  5. Detail Corrections (Noise Reduction, Sharpening)

If you apply some of these settings  (e.g. the lens profile or noise reduction) on import using a preset or default settings, but you’re struggling for speed, you can temporarily disable the panel using the panel switch on the left, and then reenable it when you’re finished.


Clear history

If the History panel becomes extremely long, particularly with local brush adjustments or spot healing, it can slow down Lightroom’s performance. It also inflates the size of the catalog considerably. You can clear the History for individual photos by clicking the X button on the panel, or you can clear the History for a large number of photos by selecting them and navigating to Develop menu > Clear History.

Clearing the History does not remove your current settings. It only clears the list of the slider movements/adjustments you made to get to the current state. Even if you clear the History, your current settings remain, and if you want to change them, you simply move the sliders.


Use pixel editor for intensive local edits

In the first post of this series, we learned the difference between non-destructive parametric editing (Lightroom) and pixel based editing (Photoshop). Extensive local adjustments, such as detailed adjustment brush masks or large/numerous spot heals, are better suited to Photoshop. While it may be possible to do them in Lightroom, they won’t be fast. It’s also worth noting that the Auto Mask setting in the adjustment brush has a significant impact on performance too.


Close extra panels

If you’re really struggling for speed, you can also help by minimizing the work Lightroom has to do.

This includes closing panels such as the Histogram panel, the Navigator panel, the Develop Detail panel 1:1 preview, the Keywording & Keyword List panels, the Metadata panel and the Filmstrip. Closing the Collections panel and then restarting Lightroom also saves having to count the smart collection contents, which can slow down metadata entry on large catalogs.

When you’re moving photos to a new folder, start the move and then switch to an empty folder or collection, such as the Quick Collection, so that Lightroom’s not having to constantly redraw the Grid view while it’s working. You can also turn off the thumbnail badges in View menu > View Options.


Leave exports for when not using computer

Finally, leave large exports for times when you’re not using the computer. It’s a processor-intensive task that can slow down the fastest of computers, due to the complex calculations involved.


Next week, the final post in this series… a summary of where to look when you’re suffering speed issues in specific areas of the program.

The post Lightroom Performance – Workflow Tweaks appeared first on The Lightroom Queen.

It’s New Class Thur… Err, Friday!

Scott Kelby’s 7-Point System for Lightroom
Scott Kelby’s Seven Point System book revolutionized how photographers edit their images, and in this new course you’re going to learn his latest updates and refinements to the system (including his own post processing “secret sauce”) for Lightroom (or Camera Raw) users. Once you learn these Seven Points, you’ll know exactly what to do, in what order, and why for every JPEG, Raw, and TIFF photo you edit. It will transform the way you edit your photos from this moment on.

In Case You Missed It
Streamline your mobile photography workflow with Lightroom Mobile! Join Josh Haftel, senior product manager at Adobe, as he teaches you how to use Lightroom Mobile to import, organize, edit, and share your mobile photography, as well as how you can synchronize it all with Lightroom on your desktop and Lightroom Web.

The post It’s New Class Thur… Err, Friday! appeared first on Scott Kelby's Photoshop Insider.

If your camera doesn’t have GPS built-in, you will LOVE this Lightroom tip!

Hi gang, and happy Friday. Adobe’s own Terry White was on “The Grid” as my guest this week (we were talking about travel photography), and he showed this tip about how to instantly tag all your photos with GPS data for people whose camera doesn’t have built-in GPS tagging (or any other kind of 3rd party GPS add-on). So simple, very clever; super easy. Check out the video below:

A big thanks to Terry for sharing that tip with you guys here on Lightroom Killer Tips. 🙂 If you’d like to watch the actual episode of The Grid with Terry (with our travel photography topic), click here.

Hope you all have a great weekend, and we’ll catch ya back here next week.


P.S. Today we’re releasing my new class: “Scott Kelby’s ‘Seven Point System’ for Lightroom” — an expanded version of what I taught on my live “Shoot Like a Pro Tour” and if you’re a KelbyOne member, you can go watch it right now (or, at the very least, I hope you’ll check it out this weekend). If you’re not a KelbyOne member yet, take the 10-day free trial and you can start watching it immediately. 

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It’s Photo Tip Friday

Well, actually it’s at least 3-photo tips for this Friday (we do these every week – have been for a long time — if you follow KelbyOne on Facebook, you’ll see them every Friday, even when I don’t blog about ’em). In fact, there’s a new tip there today that I’m not featuring here, so when you’re done with these, head over to catch today’s new tip. Here we go:

We’ll start with a very clever tip from KelbyOne Instructor Dave Cross:

Dave’s new KelbyOne course on Photoshop selections is right here (ya know, in case you’re so inclined).

OK, here’s a nice one for Wacom tablet users from KelbyOne Instructor Erik Valind:

If you’re digging that, check out Erik’s class on Active Lifestyle portaits. Ready for another one? This one’s from KelbyOne Instructor Gabriel Biderman:


Thanks, Gabe! By the way (ahem…) Gabe’s awesome class on nighttime photography is right here. 

Well, folks — there ya have it. Some Friday Photo Tip love.

Here’s wishing you an awesome weekend! :)



P.S. If you’re looking for a new class to watch this weekend, Today we’re releasing my new class: “Scott Kelby’s ‘Seven Point System’ for Lightroom” — an expanded version of what I taught on my live “Shoot Like a Pro Tour” and if you’re a KelbyOne member, you can go watch it right now (or, at the very least, I hope you’ll check it out this weekend). If you’re not a KelbyOne member yet, take the 10-day free trial and you can start watching it immediately. 

The post It’s Photo Tip Friday appeared first on Scott Kelby's Photoshop Insider.

How do I use the Import dialog’s Destination panel to put the photos in per-shoot folders?

In the last post, we learned how to automatically place photos into dated folders, but if you need to find photos outside of Lightroom, you may want to store your photos in a year/shoot-named hierarchy instead. This still meets the best practice principles described in the How to organize your photos post. Here’s an example of a year/shoot folder structure:

First, in the Destination panel, look for the parent folder that contains all of your photos. In the “Where should you store your photos?” post, we suggested calling it something like Lightroom Photos.

Inside that Lightroom Photos folder, I’d recommend you have a folder per year. This makes it easy to split your photo archive over multiple drives, or archive some photos offline, as you outgrow your hard drives. For most of the year, this folder will already exist, but it’s January and you may not have a 2017 folder yet. If not, right-click on your Lightroom Photos folder and select Create New Folder (or create it in Windows Explorer/Finder and then select it in the Destination panel, if that’s more comfortable for you).

Select this year’s folder so that it’s highlighted in white. In the Organize pop-up at the top of the Destination panel, select Into one folder. This places the photos into the selected/highlighted year folder. This is a great choice for random photos that don’t need their own shoot subfolder.

But let’s go one stage further. Let’s create a new subfolder to hold the photos you’re importing, because they’re from a specific shoot. At the top of the Destination panel, check the Into Subfolder checkbox, and then enter a name for the shoot. In this example, we’ll call it Marwell Zoo, but you can add the date if you prefer.

Before you click Import, remember to double check that the photos are landing in the right place. Remember we said that Lightroom previews any new folders in italic? This is a useful double check to ensure that you have the right folder selected.


We’ll come back to reorganizing existing photos, but first, we need to learn how to use collections to group photos by topic without duplicating them on the hard drive.

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