Keyword Tagging

by Wren McMains

(This is one of many pages of tips on Organizing Your Images.)

  • Adding keywords to images makes it easy to find a particular image in the future. The problem is most of us think it takes too much time to add the keywords, so never bother, and therefore, can never take advantage of all the programs that build keyword databases and can help you find the image you're looking for in an instant. (I know, I'm one who has never bother with keywords before.)
  • The truth is that if you add the keywords as a step in downloading, organizing, and backing up your images it will probably only add a couple of minutes to the whole process.
  • Pretty soon a good portion of your images will be keyworded. You don't need to go back and add keywords to old images until find you can't live without them.
  • What's great about keywords is that you define the ones that make sense to you given the images you shoot.
  • One thing to avoid: adding keywords using a program that puts the keywords in their own database, but not in the actual images files themselves. (That's one of the reasons I never bothered with keywords, I knew they were just going into program X's database, and weren't going to help me unless I kept using only that one program the rest of my life.)
  • This is what makes this topic interesting. I haven't found any perfect solution, but I'll tell you what I've learned and make some recommendations. Check back, I'll continue to update this page as I learn more.
  • Adobe Bridge seems nice. I like the way you can define keyword sets (or sub-keywords). For example, if I were into shooting birds I could have the keyword "Birds", and under this I could have a sub-keyword "Herons", and under this I could have keywords for each individual type of heron:

    As you can see, I got a little carried away and added all the herons seen in Florida, along with all the Wrens. (In fact I will have a complete list of all the Florida birds in a format that can just be merged into any keyword list you might have, e-mail me and I'll give you a copy.)
  • The nice thing about Bridge is that it's easy to keyword tag the images. Highlight all the like images, fill in the little check boxes for all the keywords that apply any you're done.
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If the only graphics programs you use are Bridge and Photoshop CS3, there's nothing wrong with using Bridge to apply keywords ... just beware that the keywords and ratings for RAW files are stored in the XMP files; be sure you include them in any backups. Also be aware that FastStone v3.5 doesn't copy and/or move XMP files along with the image, nor does it show them do it's easy to delete them by accident when you delete a folder that looks empty. (I just pointed this out to the author of FastStone and am sure a future version of FastStone will copy/move the XMP files along with the image.)

Check back, I'm going to add sections on editing your keyword list, copying it to other machines, etc. I also need to experiment with Elements and Lightroom ... I'm really not sure what Elements does, it may just keep keywords in it's own database (since I know someone who lost their keywords when they transferred their images to a new machine).

First Update: Well, I just keyword tagged 32 GB of images. What did I learn?

Suggested next choices:

Photoshop   Bridge   FastStone   Qimage   OtherTips   Resources