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.

The post Should I use flat or hierarchical keywords? appeared first on The Lightroom Queen.

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 Lightroom.app.
  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 Lightroom.app. 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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