10 Things I Would Tell New Lightroom Users: #4

Happy Monday, everybody, and we’re here with #4 of my 10-part series. Just a friendly reminder: if you missed, didn’t read or forgot my official disclaimer for this series posted at the beginning of #1, please give it a quick read, so we all stay on the same page. OK, here’s #4:


Skip Adding Keywords To Your Images For Now (and maybe forever)

OK, longtime Lightroom users — put down your torches and pitchforks — this is advice for NEW users only. I know we were all originally taught to invest our time adding global and specific keywords (search terms) to all the photos we import, but many of us have realized (yours truly included) this can be a colossal waste of time for most users.

Yes, if you’re selling stock photography, or if you’re a journalist, keywording is an absolute must, and if you have a client base that might call up and ask, “Send me all your photos of brides, and they need to all be in vertical orientation, and I only need ones where the bride is holding a bouquet, and the bouquet has to be pink roses,” then you’ll want to keyword like a pro.

However, if you use Collections as the basis of your organization (and I highly recommend  that you do) then ask yourself this question:

“When was the last time I couldn’t find the photos I needed by just going to my Collections panel?”

For example, if I need to find my photos from a family trip I took to Italy two years ago, I’d go to my Collections panel, look under my Travel Collection Set, and scroll down to Italy. If I went to Italy twice, I’d see two collections: one called “Italy 2012″ and one named “Italy 2014.” How hard is that? It’s a no-brainer, right? So, if you’re not having problems getting your hands on the pho­tos you need in just a few seconds using Collections with simple descriptive names (like Italy 2012), you might be able to skip all the keywording stuff altogether (like I do).

I talk to so many new users who are frustrated and confused with the whole Keywording process, and what I find most interesting is that after talking with them, many don’t have any use whatsoever for keywording, and they don’t do searches using keywords, but they read somewhere that they’re “supposed to do it.” This is why I recommend to NEW users to skip this extra, tedious step at least for now, since they have bigger fish to fry (learning the Develop Module, backing up their images, working with the Library module, and so on). If at some point they realize they just can’t find their images (they didn’t use Collections to organize their images), they can always go back and do it now (hey, they saved countless hours so far by not keywording, so they’re still way ahead of the game).

The name of this game is saving time all year long
I’ve talked to long-time users who brag about being able to find any image in their library in less than 10-seconds. They could easily find a bridal photo, in vertical orientation, holding a bouquet of pink roses in 10-seconds flat, and it would take me a good three or four minutes at least. The problem is, that might happen to me (or the average user) once or twice a year — once or twice where we need a very specific photo, and we’d spend three or four minutes finding it (maybe more). So, about 8 minutes a year of searching to find that very specific image.

Now, how many minutes did the keyworder spend adding global and specific keywords to the 20,000 or more images they import into Lightroom per year, just for that 10-second moment of glory when they can find that needle in a haystack instantly? A whole lot more than 8 minutes per year, I can tell you that, I don’t care how fast and organized they are or how many keyword sets they’ve built (which all take time by the way). Yes, there are people who really need keywording. I’ve also met folks who just enjoy the process of keywording, and that’s perfectly 100% fine. If it makes you happy, then there’s nothing I can say to those folks but “go for it!” But for the rest of us, it’s a tedious, extra-step that will give us back lots of time and give us less frustration if we just skip it altogether. Nothing is for everyone. Not even shooting in RAW (that’s it — he crossed the line! Load your weapons!) 😉

One last thing
If you: (a) have been keywording all along and you love it, by all means keep doing it. (b) If you’re an engineer of any kind, you should be keywording no matter what. It’s in your DNA, so you get a free pass on this one. (c) If you’re having a hard time finding images using Collections with simple names, I hate to say it but keywording may not be your biggest issue. (wink). 😉

NOTE: I’m up in Nashville today for the PPA’s “Imaging USA” show. I’ll be teaching a live free session on Sports Photography in Canon’s booth on the show floor today at 1:45 pm. If you’re at the show, I hope you’ll stop by and say howdy! 

Hope you all have an awesome Monday and hope to see you here tomorrow for Part 5.