Use Worklist Keywords to Help Your Keywording in Lightroom

Eric Scouten

So you want to make sure you’ve identified all of the people you know in your Lightroom catalog, but … you have several thousand photos in your catalog and you don’t want to spend time reviewing photos you’ve already keyworded. How to avoid that?

This is where a technique I call worklist keywords comes in handy. The idea is simple: Use another keyword to keep track of which photos you’ve reviewed for a certain subject area. Here’s how it works:

Getting Started

Worklist Keywords

When I’m embarking on a new keywording effort, I start by building up keywords for the subject matter. (You can also do this on an ad-hoc basis once you’re reviewing the keywords.) As an example, this is the keywords panel from my Lightroom catalog showing the keyword hierarchy for people I know and my family. (Side note: I surround my top-level keyword names — the categories — with «» symbols to ensure that they fall to the bottom of the list. That way, if I add a new keyword and forget to place it into my keywording hierarchy, it shows up at the top of the list. It’s obviously different from the other top-level keywords, which serves as a reminder to find a home for it in the hierarchy.)

Before I start actually applying those keywords, however, I also create the extra keyword to track my keywording progress. I like to organize these under another keyword category I call «worklists». (This is just an organizational tactic I like; adapt it to suit your taste.) What is important here is to give your worklist keywords a tag phrase that is unlikely to occur anywhere else in your metadata. On the Mac, it’s relatively easy to type unusual symbols, so I like to use those in my worklist keyword names.

Creating a New Worklist Keyword

For example, I’ve created a keyword named “§PIK: people I know”. (On U.S. Mac keyboards, the § symbol can by entered by typing Option-6.) I don’t think this keyword is interesting to anybody but me, so I’ve turned off the options for include on export, export parents, and export synonyms in the options for this keyword.

Now that you’ve created your worklist keyword, you’re ready to get started.

Reviewing Your Worklist

Lightroom doesn’t offer the ability to search for photos that don’t have a particular keyword. I expect that we’ll that feature someday, but until we do, this workaround can get the job done.

Filtering for Your Worklist Keyword

In Lightroom’s Find panel, type ! followed by the distinctive phrase for your worklist keyword. The ! is a special shortcut that tells Lightroom to find those photos that don’t match the remainder of that word. Lightroom will immediately narrow your photo library to those photos that don’t match that string. Make sure the Text popup is set to either “Anywhere” (the default) or “Keywords.” Also make sure the Rule popup is set to “Contains” or “Contains All”.

In this screen shot, I have used this technique to filter my library from over 9,000 photos down to the 45 photos I haven’t yet reviewed for people I know.

With this filter in place, you can make short work of reviewing and updating the remaining photos.

Whittle Through the Worklist

Keywording Panel Settings

For this stage of the game, I check a few quick settings in the Library module:

  • Library is in grid view. Thumbnails are just large enough that I can recognize faces.
  • Keywording panel (on the right side) is open.
  • In the keywording panel, the Keyword Tags popup is set to “Enter Keywords” and the Keyword Set popup is set to “Recent Keywords.”

Applying the First Keyword

Pick your first few photos to keyword. Here, I’ve selected two photos of my friend Jack and his daughter Sarah. I type their names in the Keywording panel. After I’ve got them entered, then I start typing §PIK. Notice from the screen shot that Lightroom’s auto-completion picked up on my keyword name, so I don’t have to finish typing.

Now here’s where you can start to really pick up speed. As soon as you apply the worklist keyword, two nice things happen: (1) the photos disappear from the library grid, and (2) the interesting keywords appear in your Recent Keywords list. If, like me, you shoot series of photos with various friends moving in and out of them, you’ll pretty quickly have all the friends who were there on a particular day in the Recents list. Plus, your worklist keyword appears there right away. (You were getting tired of finding that Option-6 or Alt+01-whatever-whatever character, right? 🙂 ) So now you can mouse-click your way through all the photos with your friends in them.

Update: Dan’s comment reminded me of something I had meant to say when I was writing this post: Semantically, applying the worklist keyword means “I’ve scanned this photo for people I know,” not “this photo has people I know.” So you should apply it even to photos that don’t contain people you know, once you’ve verified that. This will keep it off the list for future reviews.

Extending the Concept

You can create multiple worklist keywords similar to this one for different tasks. In my catalog, there are worklists for:

  • copyright registration
  • geocoding status
  • several different keyword lists
  • review status (i.e. is this photo worth displaying somewhere?)

I use a similar approach to ensure that all of my photos have star ratings and color labels.

Filtering for No Rating

To see photos without star ratings, open the filmstrip at the bottom of the catalog window. Look for the >= sign in the Filters area. Set it to “Rating is equal to” (as shown in the screen shot). Select one or more photos and type 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 to give it a star rating. As soon as you do this, the photo(s) disappear from view and you have another set to rate. (I often switch to loupe view in the library module to get a better sense of the quality of the photo when I’m doing this.)

Similarly, you can whittle through all photos without a color label. There isn’t an on-screen shortcut for this, but you can get there by going to the menu bar and selecting Library > Filter by Color Label > No Label. Don’t forget to go back and select Library > Filter by Color Label > Reset this Filter when you’re done.

20 Responses to Use Worklist Keywords to Help Your Keywording in Lightroom

  1. Scot Ballard says:

    I have had the same issue, I would love to see a ‘no keyword’ filter in bridge and Lightroom !!I would also love to see iLife integration with my Lightroom library.

  2. Dan says:

    Great tip. I realised that you can add this “§PIK”-type keyword to ALL photos, not just the ones that contain people you know, for example. Seeing 1027 photos processed in an hour is good for morale!I have to say though, that after processing about 1000 photos, LR 1.2 (Mac) no longer logs my keywords in the Keywording field. I have to manually enter them in the Keyword Tags, which, of course, is completely unhelpful and quitting the app and restarting hasn’t solved it. I will try a restart. Sorry, this isn’t tech support, but I thought I’d share.

  3. Asprine says:

    Thank you for this!Specialy the “!” in the search was very helpfull!!PS you could use a “Digg it” rating under your posts!

  4. Eric says:

    Dan, thanks for the tip. I had meant to say the worklist keyword should be applied once you’ve reviewed every photo, but didn’t. (Updated the text of the post above.)I’m not sure what’s going on with the Keywording field.

  5. Dan says:

    Thanks for your reply. i think I’m up to speed now and it’s going to be really great once I’m caught up.I think what was going on is that you have to press ENTER after you input any keywords with the keyboard. If you enter some by hand, then click a button in the Keyword Sets pane, it will blow out the keywords you typed UNLESS you had previously pressed return, which would “register” them. I’m going back over the 1300 I did last night and catching the ones where I had not pressed return.The procedure for me now is to enter any keywords by hand, press enter, click any in the Recent Keywords, THEN hit the §PIK button. I think it would be great if LR would register your hand-typed keywords if you subsequently clicked a keyword preset. The behaviour seems arbitrary, and not very safe, to me.Thanks again—this is getting me way more organised.

  6. Mark says:

    I am particularly interested in the way you are tracking copyright filing. I have been meaning to set this up via a category, but perhaps it is better to do via keyword?

  7. Eric says:

    Mark, I’m currently using collections for my copyright tracking, but I intend to move those over to keywords as well.After I prepare a copyright submission, I add each registered photo to a collection for that submission. The collections are under a parent collection with the ® symbol in the title.When it’s time to prepare the next submission, I use essentially the same trick (search for !®) to find unregistered photos that need to be registered.FWIW, I use the ® symbol instead of the copyright © symbol, because the search will match the © in the default copyright string that I add when importing photos. ® is unlikely to appear in any of my metadata.

  8. CascadeHush says:

    Thanks for the post, I’m sure if I read it another 3 or 4 times I’ll get it.The lack of ability to do “Not” type searches is indeed a severe and annoying hole in lightrooms functionality. It only takes about 5 minutes of using the program to realise that you need a way do more complex searches.

  9. Chris says:

    very useful trick !Do you know the kind of trick for tracking down pics which are not in a collection ?I which I could select pics without any collections associations. By the way how do you see in which collections is a pic into ?

  10. Eric says:

    As far as I know, there isn’t a mechanism for finding photos that aren’t in any collection.You could use the same special-character trick that I described in the post for collections. (Either place all of your collections under a top-level collection with an odd character in the name, or add that character to the name of each of your collections.)Unfortunately, we don’t have the same checkbox behavior on collections that we do on keywords. I’ll relay that suggestion to the team.

  11. Asprine says:

    @Dan,You might want to check if your still selecting your photos in the grid.I was keywording and by habit started selecting the photos in the bottom slide and pushing the apply keyword buttons, but that doesn’t work!That way it only gives the first photo you selected the keywords, it skips all the rest of the photos that where selected.You can only keyword multiple photos via the grid selection. (hope they fix that soon, your bound to make mistakes this way)So hide that bottom slideshow when keywording, just to be save!

  12. DD says:

    Hi Eric,Quick question partly relevant to this discussion: I need to add three keywording areas to an XML template. I have added ‘com.adobe.additionalCategories’and ‘com.adobe.supplementalCategories’ but can’t seem to add any more. Is there another additional category status i.e. additionalcategory2??Many thanks – D

  13. Eric says:

    @DD: Why do you need these keywords to be distinct from the normal keywords? Is there something you can’t accomplish via keyword hierarchies?

  14. DD says:

    Hi Eric, well, I need them for a stock agency. They need three distinct keyword areas: Essential, Main and Comprehensive keywords, and these need to be able to be parsed as such at their end either via the embedded IPTC/metadata or via an Excel spreadsheet.

  15. Eric says:

    @DD: OK. I get it. (I recently started submitting to Alamy myself, and this list looks familiar. 😉 )I can think of two ways to approach this:(1) Your “comprehensive” keywords would be actual keywords, and use the other two categories fields that you’ve identified for the Essential and Main keywords.(2) Pick another XMP field to use (abuse?) that’s not likely to be used otherwise. If you don’t do assignment work, perhaps Job Identifier might work.I’ll bring this up internally to see if we can better support this stock agency workflow in a future version of Lightroom.

  16. DD says:

    Eric,You are King. So let’s move on to PhotoShelter and Getty’s keywording..just kidding!Thanks and thanks again- D

  17. Speaking of keywording. When I am in Library mode and I have my images fit the screen, I’d like to be able to select a bunch of images in the thumbnail bar at the bottom, type in a bunch of keywords and have the keywords apply to all of the selected, but this doesn’t happen (I’m using v1.3.1 in Leopard 10.5.1). I would expect to be able to do this. Batch keywording does work if the top viewer is in thumbnail mode and if the images are selected there. Is this a bug?

  18. Somewhat related, I have been choosing shots for a calendar with the theme that each month’s photo should come from the photos shot in that month. Filtering was easy by specifying start and end dates. But the problem was I wanted to choose from all shots from the last five years – I couldn’t find an easy way to view all photos taken in January of any year.I got around this by considering each year in turn, but it would have been much nicer to be able to logically combine date filters – is this possible?[Kendall, It’s not the most straightforward procedure but if you open the Metadata Browser in the Library and expand the date category, it’s possible to CMD(CTRL) click on the month of January for multiple years. -TH]

  19. pelón says:

    Selecting pics without a keyword or not in a collection:Not mentioned here is a basic trick from my iView days. In the Library in Grid view in the left panel click on the keyword you are not interested in (Command-click through multiple keywords). Command-A to select all. View all of your photos in the library. Edit>Invert Selection. Now you can drop these in your quick collection and work through them. Same with collections. Command click through all your collections. Select all. View entire library. Invert Selection. Save in a new collection called “uncollected”, or however you choose to keep track of them. Use this trick in combination with the find command for even finer control.[Thanks for the comment Pelon. -TH]

  20. Poseidon says:

    Eric, Thank you for this great tip!I just wonder how to sort the keyword hierarchy – in LR 2.2, Windows, german, all specialkeys as such «» symbols are put at the top of the list, I found no symbol which goes to the bottom. (OK, ZZZ_… is possible, but not really cool 😉 )apart from that, really useful.[I’ve been experimenting more with this lately and I haven’t found any character that sorts to the bottom in WIndows on English either. You may just have to live with sorting to the top. -Eric]