Lightroom and Keywords Part IV - Hierarchical Structure

by Johann Gudbjargarson

In many programs, keyword structure can be a flat, one dimensional list of words that are hard to manage as their numbers grow. In the program that I used previously, I had a keyword list of around 300, and that is not very usable for searching for an example. Lightroom, on the other hand, is capable of organizing your keywords in hierarchical structure. Let's see an example of how that would work. I'll choose the topic "animals":


In a flat one dimensional list, if there was a picture of an Eagle, I would tag the image with Animals, Birds, Eagle and whatever other keywords that are appropriate. The easiest way to tag an image is to write the wanted keywords in the Keyword tag box on the right panel.

In Lightroom, with the above hierarchical structure for keywords defined, we can tag the image with just Eagle and automatically "Bird" and "Animal" are tagged as the program knows the hierarchical structure. With all our images tagged, it is possible to select i.e. "Birds" in the keyword list (Library module on the left panel) and all pictures with that keyword and any "child-keyword will be displayed, i.e. "Eagle" and "Seagull". But if the "lowest" (youngest child) keyword is selected, only pictures with that keyword will be displayed. This is a very powerful feature to manage multiple keywords and is much more flexible than a flat list.

When building up keyword list, simply start tagging images. Given that the first image is of a falcon, then simply enter: Animals, Birds, Falcon in the Keyword Tags box (in the right panel), and they will all show up in the Keyword List on the left panel at one dimensional level. Then you can go to the list on the left panel and drag the "Birds" into "Animals" and "Falcon" into "Birds" to have it in the correct hierarchy. The other option is to enter the keyword string: Falcon>Birds>Animals and the keywords will appear in that hierarchically order in the list on the left so you don't have to drag the keywords back and forth the list.
If a keyword you are typing in the keyword tab box already exists in the list, then the program will suggest endings for the first few letters that are typed, i.e. next time you type the first letters of Falcon: Falc... the program suggests Falcon.

Next week I'll talk about synonyms.


2007-04-27 08:13:47
Question: are hierarchical keywords supported in a standard manner across apps? In other words, how are they represented in the .xmp sidecar file? I'm concerned that they might be a feature that's only available w/lightroom; the only other such is the editing history. Otherwise, all of my data is unencumbered, which is what I want, of course.
2007-04-27 14:31:25
This is a great tip! I hadn't realized that keywords could be nested, but it makes perfect sense.
2007-05-02 22:25:00
Im attempting to create an keyword import for birds. Im concerned about non-alpha numeric characters and any adverse effects within apps or on the web. Read-throated Loon or Clark's Grebe. Is there a convention on how to deal with these characters, especially with pro stock agencies or on the web? Thanks!
2007-05-03 10:28:41
Does there exist a standard Keyword list ? I presume that a list used by stock agencies would be a perfect start... of course you can make one yourself, but if it already exist...
Matt Lew
2007-06-01 02:26:13
Is there a faster way to add keywords? I'm in the process of organising keywords, but it's painstaking dragging them one at a time up and down the keywords pane.
2007-06-05 12:11:36
I have been using nesting keywords with CS2 and my DAM software, Mediadex. I structure the nesting with the colon; example, People: Green, Ed.

Now in CS3 the software creates a keyword set in addition to the single line keyword with the colon structure.

Is there any way to prevent the software from creating the keyword set? I would prefer to stick with my structure.