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Lightroom Keyword List - How to Import and Manage

This page discusses some of the issues raised when using a Keyword List in Lightroom

Importing a List with Existing Keywords

When you import a new keyword list, it will not replace your existing keywords currently in use in Lightroom. If you currently have a flat list of keywords that you've assigned to various photos within Lightroom, and you then import a structured keyword hierarchy, it is not going to effect which photos are tagged with which words. If the existing words are replicated in the new list, it won't magically move the existing tags to the new words in the list. It also won't convert your existing flat keyword list into a structure, but rather you will now have your old list with the new list appended on to it, all sorted alphabetically, and it is up to you to assign the new keywords to your photos, or organize your existing flat list into a structure.


Entering a Hierarchical Keyword Structure by Hand

The '' Hierarchical Image Keyword List has its keywords carefully assigned in a hierarchical list structure. When applying a child keyword tag to a photo, the parent keyword tags are also applied. It is also possible to replicate the same hierarchical structure when entering new tags by hand in the 'Keywording' panel. Tags can created with a brand new parent > child structure, and they can also be created as children of existing keyword tags.

To do this, we use one of two delimiter characters, the pipe '|' or the greater-than '>' symbol, depending on which way we want the hierarchy to appear:

In the 'Keywording' window, we change the text in the box to the right of 'Keyword Tags' to 'Enter Keywords'. We can then type in a new hierarchical structure, such as 'Sports | Mind sports | Card Games'. If we had an existing keyword showing in the 'Keywording' window, we can also append a new child to it, by changing 'computer' to 'computer | keyboard'.


Changing a Hierarchical Keyword Structure within Lightroom

If you have put a keyword in the wrong location in your hierarchy, you can move the child-keyword to a new parent. Doing this will update the database for all photos that use that child-keyword. So, if you accidently put 'mouse' under 'colors', moving it under 'computer' will remove the 'colors' keyword from all affected photos and add 'computer' instead.

To do this, click and hold the 'mouse' keyword in the 'Keyword Tags' window, and drop it on the 'computer' keyword.


Exporting all words in a Hierarchical Keyword Structure

What happened to my keyword hierarchy? Here's a common error that many beginners to Lightroom encounter. As you know, the whole point of Hierarchical Keyword Lists is to save you time by adding parent keywords for a child keyword that you select. For example, lets consider the following hierarchy within the list:

[2 - WHAT] > [2-09 FOOD & BEVERAGE] > [BEVERAGE] > Alcoholic Beverage > Beer > Guinness

When a lower-level child keyword is chosen to add to a photo, in this case 'Guinness', all the keywords above it in the hierarchy that are not classed as categories (the ones in the square brackets) will also be applied. So, in this case, if you choose 'Guinness' you'll also get 'Alcoholic Beverage' and 'Beer' without any extra effort on your part.

That's what's supposed to happen, but sometimes, your keyword hierarchies don’t behave that way. When you choose the word 'Guinness', you only get the word 'Guinness' applied to your image, and not the 'Alcoholic Beverage' and 'Beer' that you were expecting. What has gone wrong?

Exporting keywords from Adobe Lightroom

Take a look at the screenshots above. In the first image, I have added 'Guinness' from my Lightroom 'Keyword List'. I then look at my 'Keywording' panel - you can see it in the second image, and you can also see that, sure enough, only the one word is showing as a keyword. How to fix this? The answer is simple: Click the double arrows to the right of 'Enter Keywords', and select from the list that appears the phrase 'Will Export'. The result can be seen in the third image: we now have all the keywords that we were expecting.

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