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’

Author: Scott Kelby

Scott is the President of KelbyOne, an online educational community for photographers, Photoshop and Lightroom users. He's editor and publisher of Photoshop User Magazine, Editor of "Lightroom magazine"; Conference Technical Chair for the Photoshop World Conference & Expo, and the author of a string of bestselling Photoshop, Lightroom, and photography books. You can learn more about Scott at

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  1. amazing post with good explanation about how to import keywords into lightroom, thank you for this post it was quite helpful for me.

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  2. I have a fairly complex Keyword array with multiple nested layers e.g. Europe>UK>London>Central>Buckingham Palace.

    The issue I have is that when I type in “Buckingham Palace” it ignores the nested keywords and just posts to “Buckingham Palace”

    Is there way, do you know, to force LR to include the nested keywords?


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      • In the Keywording panel, click the Keyword Tags drop-down menu and choose Will Export. Do you see the parent keywords listed now?

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        • No, this doesn’t seem to work as I anticipated I have a screenshot but I’m not sure how to share it here. I want to type the last level in and get the full hierarchy but, as you will see from the screenshot if I find a way to share it, it doesn’t do that.

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  3. I notice you seem to be posting a lot about keywords for someone who doesn’t like keywording! 😉

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  4. Does anyone know how to remove or spell-correct existing keywords?

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    • Craig, Right click on the keyword, a menu will pop up. Select Edit Keyword Tag to modify and delete to remove.

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      • Maybe Scott can try that on massachu*S*etts 🙂

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  5. Do keywords “belong” to the overall program or to the individual catalog that they are imported to?

    Post a Reply
    • The catalog. You’d have to import the list into any other catalogs.

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  6. Hello Scott,

    Thank you very much for your post. That is really a good and easy way to get keywords into Lightroom, when you start from scratch or if you want to add a new branch to your keyword list. Unfortunately, as far as I know, you are not able to update existing keywords this way. If you already have keywords in Lightroom and import another list, there is no matching algorithm and it can get quite messy. Do you have any recommendations how to do a complete update of an existing keyword list?

    Thank you,

    Post a Reply
    • Hi Thyra:
      Unfortunately, I don’t know of a way. You can add to your current list like this, but it doesn’t do any de-duping on import or anything like that (well, as far as I know).

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