Keywords, Keywords, and More Keywords

by Micah Walter

I recently came across a cool add-on for Aperture. David Riecks, who currently chairs the SAA Imaging Technology Standards Committee, has a small but very useful product called Controlled Vocabulary. The keyword dictionary is available for Aperture users as well as Lightroom, iView Media Pro and a list of many other popular image management applications. For $69.99 you get over 11,000 keywords organized in a hierarchal structure and a 1 year subscription of updates. David was nice enough to send me an evaluation copy and I have finally gotten around to taking it for a test drive, so let's have a look.

Installing the Controlled Vocabulary is as simple as hitting the Import button in the HUD and pointing to the aperture.txt file found in the downloaded folder from Controlled Vocabulary. It may take several minutes to load the list of over 10,000 words, and as stated in David's install instructions "resist the temptation to use the Force Quit option" during this import process. Once you have loaded the keywords you are off an running. The keywords will be appended to your current keyword list. Once you have added the list, it might be a good idea to click the "lock" button in the Keywords HUD. This will prevent the accidental addition of other keywords and will maintain your "controlled" list.

David has some really great advice on keywording images on his website. He also has a pretty good tutorial for Aperture users on how to use the Keyword HUD and metadata inspector. Keywording can become an art for some, so be sure to check out David's advice.

Up until now, I have been one of those people who basically just types out the keywords for an image as I go. I usually just look at my picture and type a list out by hand. Now that I have a controlled vocabulary, I will be able to search for terms and add them from the HUD. It is a different way of working, but I have a feeling that in the long run using a controlled vocabulary will make finding my images much easier. I can always add a few special keywords to the list if I need to, but for the most part, I plan to stick to the list.

If you have ever worked with a stock agency you will know how important keywording can be. Many agencies use their own controlled vocabulary, so it will be interesting to see how David's list matches up with places like iStockPhoto who ask their photographers to go through a process called disambiguation for each photo they submit.

For more information on David's keyword list, check out his website at


2007-07-17 08:59:12
PAY for someone to TYPE stuff for me?

No thanks. I'll do it myself, thanks. Keep JUST what I need, not the other 10,000 words I won't use & as such don't want cluttering up my work space.

Is this for real? There's nothing special or different here about Aperture. The HUD has always been there. You've always had that option. The only thing this post tells me is that I should pay someone else $70 for the rights to public words.

Yeah right.

2007-07-17 11:59:28
I rarely type in keywords. I select the photos in the browser as has something in common and then I drag the keyword from the HUD to one photo and it is added to all of those as are selected. In that way I add keywords to many photos at the same time. Fast and simple.

I have one solution for Apertures lack of negative search. Lets say you want to see all photos family member you have take in July. If you have a keyword Family it is easy to make a smart album. If you want to get all July photos except with family members, you cant do that easy. My solution:
A. Make a keyword NoFamily. I use Keyword Controls (Window/Keyword Controls) and made my own buttons. I make NoFamily as a button.
B. Create a smart album with all photos from July. Select all photos in the album (command-A). Drag the keyword NoFamily to them (so even the Family photos gets NoFamily).
B. Change the selection of the smart album by checking the Family keyword. Now you see all photos with the family from July.
C. Select all of the photos. Shift-click (hold down shift-key on the keyboard and click with the mouse) on the button NoFamily and the keyword NoFamily disappear from all the Family photos.
D. Now I change the smart album; check the NoFamily keyword and uncheck the Family keyword. Now you got all photos except those with the family.

2007-07-17 16:28:32
Negative search is possible, and not too laborious:

The trick is to use IPTC keywords, hijack IPTC metadata for your own use, or create your own custom negative metadata.

2007-07-17 17:16:43
A really useful item would be a script that allowed me to speak the keywords while the HUD was active, have it list the words and let me confirm before commitiing.
Matthew Brown
2007-07-20 01:21:09
I never add keywords by hand; I drag and drop them all from the keyword HUD. I think it's the only way to keep up any kind of consistent keywording.

I'm not sure that someone else's controlled vocabulary is useful FOR ME, but I can see it being useful for others (e.g. stock agencies, as the article describes, and any other application where multiple photographers have to keyword consistently).

Anyone else have the experience that the keyword HUD gets slower as you have more entries? I have about a thousand keywords, and it does feel a bit sluggish now where it didn't before.