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Old February 27th, 2007, 03:02 AM
Tim Armes Tim Armes is offline
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Default Lightroom: Keywording vs Collections

Hi all,

Various DAM tools have the concept of both keywords and "Collections" (although each tool has its own name for collections; iMatch, for example, calls them categories). Some tools implements Collections significantly better than others.

With the release of Lightroom, these two organisational tools have been introduced to many people who haven't as of yet embraced the possibilites of Digital Asset Management. To help those who remain confused, I thought I'd try to to explain my take on the differences, with respect the Lightroom's approach.

When should you be using keywords in preference to Collections? The choice isn't necessarily clear-cut, however a well organised library will probably use both keywords and collections. Each method had its own advantages, and the choice of whether to add a new keyword or to create a new collection should be based upon the future use of the word in question. Here are some of the main differences between the two:
  • Keywords may be exported as XMP metadata when exporting a file.
  • Keywords may be stored as XMP metadata in (or in a sidecar file of) the original file. If the database becomes corrupted, your keywords are still intact.
  • Each keyword may have a list of synonyms that are exported with it.
  • Keywords may be used as search criteria from within the "Find" panel
  • There are many more ways of applying keywords to a file than there are of placing images in collections. They may be typed into the right-hand keyword pane, applied from the keyword templates, applied using the keyword stamper, or dragged and dropped from the left-hand panel. Keywording is rapid.
  • Collections on the other hand are like virtual folders. As such, they have their own image ordering; this maybe useful for for a slideshow, where you want to control the order of the photos when showing a wedding to the client. Also, the image flags (flagged, unflagged and rejected) are local to each collection.
In both cases, it's possible to create a hierarchical structure.

From the above it would seem that keywording offers many more advantages than the Collections structure, and for many they may prove the most convenient method of cataloguing photos. There are various tutorials on-line that show keywords being used in a hierarchical structure to organise photos by person and place. Something like this:

> People
> Mike
> Bob
> Phil
> Location
> China
> Ukraine
> Disney Land
Is this a good use of keywords? The same structure could be done using collections. Let's look in more detail.

The advantage: It's easy to find photos of people by typing them into the Find Panel. With collections, you'd need to find the "Bob" collection to locate all the photos of him, which may take more time (all bit it only a little more, if the collections are well organised).

The disadvantages:

1) Are "People" or "Location" useful keywords? Is one ever likely to search for photos using the word "Location"? Probably not. If we don't want to pollute the keywording with these parent names, you need to turn off exportation of the parents for each and every sub-keyword that's added to the category. This would be painstaking.

2) Will the photos ever be supplied to a third party, such as a stock agency? If so, then personal keywords such as these will need to be removed. "Bob" is meaningless to anyone who doesn't know who Bob is. You could turn off the exportation of this particular keyword, but again this would be a fairly painstaking approach to the problem.

3) The resulting search can't be ordered, which may have proved useful for creating slideshows at a later date.

Given the above, it's for each person to consider the fors and againsts for each method, and to use the tool in the way that's best for them. I would however recommend the following approach:

1) Use collections to group photos that intrinsically belong together, creating sub-collections as needed. Examples include photos of friends and family, all black and white images, photos for a particular client, all photos submitted to a stock collection, all finished fine art prints, etc.

2) Don't create collections for information that's already provided by the metadata. For example, the IPTC metadata already allows you to store the country, state and location in which a photos was taken, and is conveniently extracted by the metadata browser. Sometimes the difference can be subtle; for example, it would be reasonable to have a collection called "Trips" sub divided into difference excursions, but having a collection called "Locations" and would be reinventing the wheel. In the case of "Trips", you may clearly want to distinguish your first trip to Europe from your second - it isn't the location that you're cataloguing, it's the trip itself.

3) Use keywords to describe the impersonal aspects of an image. For example, use "cat" but not "freddy". Basically, use the words that you'd expect an outsider to use to find your image. Stock photographers and journalists will understand this approach well. Since the keywords are exported with the photo as part of the metadata, this makes the photos easy to find and index by those that'll be using the photo at a later date.

4) Use lots of keywords. The richer your database, the easier it will be to find photos at a later date.

5) Use the hierarchical keywording to increase your efficiency, not to slow it down. For example, you may have a structure such as this:

> Animal
> Mammal
> Cat
> Dog
> Fish
> Shark
Now when you type "cat", the implied keywords "Mammal" and "Animal" will be exported automatically. Usefully, you'll see these parent keywords appear in the implied keywords pane.

6) Wherever possible, try to avoid having the same keyword in several places. If there's only one "cat", Lightroom will find it when you type it into the keyword pane. If there are several, it will only choose one of them, and it may not be the most appropriate. Sometimes this division isn't possible, especially if the word has multiple meanings; for example, keeping an eye on the implied keywords pane as you add new keywords to an image will ensure that you don't add the implied keyword "tubing" instead of "tabacco" when you type in "pipe". Where this problem oocurs, you'll need to find the correct version of the keyword and drag it to your image.

7) Make good use of synonyms. One obvious way to do this may be to add the plural form to each keyword.

8) Think to the future. If you're not selling stock today then the choice of keywording or using collections may seem less important. If one day you decide to try selling your photos through a stock agency then you'll be glad to have correctly keyworded images.

Remember that due to the database, keywords can be modified or corrected at any time, and that the changes will be applied to all the affected photographs. To ease the pain of organising and adding synonyms to your photos you may consider the following:

1) Have a top level category called "Organised" (or "Organized" if you so prefer). Set it to not be exported with the photo, so that your photos aren't all exported with that word.

2) Add new keywords to images using your preferred method. They will be added to the top level.

3) From time to time, go through all the new keywords in the top level of your hierarchy and place them into the correct place in the "Organised" hierarchy, and add any synonyms to them.

This approach will mean that you can first concentrate on keywording your images, and then polish up the details at a later date. The disadvantage is that the keywords pane will show Organised > before every keyword. You may prefer to call this something a little less blatent, such as "O".


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Old February 27th, 2007, 11:00 AM
Ken Tanaka Ken Tanaka is offline
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Thank you for preparing this, Tim.

Lightroom's keywording and collections system represented one reason I converted from iView Media Pro. It's so much easier to use and to see Lightroom's system.

In brief, here's how I use Lightroom's keywords and collections.

I assign Keywords to portray characteristics intrinsic to an image's subject. Using a nested hierarchy of keyword specificity, as Tim discussed, makes for a much easier list to manage and makes searching much more powerful.

I use Collections to aggregate images for particular usages, themes, or just ad hoc lists. Collections can be altered at will without having any effect on images' intrinsic characteristics, as portrayed by their keywords.

There are probably no "wrong" ways to use these features, aside from not using them at all. Consistency and discipline are really the most important and powerful traits you could bring to categorizing your images.
- Ken Tanaka -
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Old February 27th, 2007, 12:26 PM
Michael Fontana Michael Fontana is offline
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Tim, you've my handshake too, for settings this up.

Beeing a "old" iVMP-user, with a keyword-system, that worked pretty good with that tool, I' ve been wondering how to apply it with LR.

Ken, as you' re in the same boat; how do you deal with keywording and multiple libraries?
I might go the DAMbook-route with "buckets", in size of 50 GB, including the images files and LR's library.

50 GB is the size of a Blue-Ray-disc; so when these burners are more affordable; I just burn the 50 GB-Buckets, (imaging 2007_A, imaging 2007_B, etc) beeing stored actually on harddisks, to the new media.

The downside of this approach is obviously to deal with multiple libraries, if someone will slowly reduce the use of iVMP.
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Old February 27th, 2007, 04:56 PM
Asher Kelman Asher Kelman is offline
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What sets of herarchies do you like and from where?

Also are you migrating everything from iview to Lightroom?

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Old February 27th, 2007, 09:33 PM
Ken Tanaka Ken Tanaka is offline
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Michael: I've been using a single Lightroom library, so I've not faced matters of synchronizing categorical data. As I write this my library contains approximately 18,000 entries which span almost 3 years. So far Lightroom doesn't even seem to be breathing hard. In 2-3 years it will probably make sense for me to segment the library. By that time I expect that Adobe will have refined Lightroom to easily enable categorical data structures to be shared by multiple libraries. I'm counting on the ongoing competitive pressure of Aperture to insure this expectation becomes a reality.

Asher: My conversion from iView MP to Lightroom was accomplished purely with the b. s. & t. method. While immobilized with a bad cold last October I decided to devote my time to learning Lightroom. Approximately one week later my entire iView MP library (approx. 6,000 images at the time) was catalogued in the Lightroom beta data base. Converting from the last beta to version 1.0 has taken me a few days to tidy but all's smooth now.

Regarding keywording, beyond what I've already suggested and what Tim noted I can't offer much more guidance. I suggest that you should first closely consider how you expect to need to access your images before constructing your keywording system. Lightroom's system is extremely open and flexible, much more so than that of iView MP in my opinion. Remedying a bad initial decision won't present a death march.
- Ken Tanaka -
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Old February 28th, 2007, 12:15 AM
Michael Fontana Michael Fontana is offline
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Originally Posted by Asher Kelman View Post
What sets of herarchies do you like and from where?
Asher, as architecure, design and art make 99% of my shots, in iVMP I used (example)
> art
>sculpture, etc

This can be applied in LR as well. BTW: In user/Library/Application Support/iView/Plugins
one might find all the keywords, that one has applied with iVMP.

Originally Posted by Asher Kelman
Also are you migrating everything from iview to Lightroom? Asher
Probably, I leave the old stuff in the iVMP-archive; but for 2007 +, the intention is to use LR ...

I really want to avoid to run double street.. therefore a clean separation between the jobs of these two apps is required.
At the moment, playing with a 2nd LR-library trying to figure this out
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Old June 18th, 2007, 10:31 AM
Ranjan Sharma Ranjan Sharma is offline
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Thanks Tim,
reading your post helped me understanding & moving a step forward with my 1st DAM project though I still remain confused should I use multiple libraries or keep all in one. Will it not slow down the LR browsing later?
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Old June 18th, 2007, 10:43 AM
Peter Krogh Peter Krogh is offline
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This will change to a significant degree with Lightroom 1.1. If you have not started doing this kind of work, then I'd hold off a bit.

There should be some pretty easy ways to export iView Catalog Set hierarchies to Lightroom once 1.1 hits.

Collections will still be somewhat problematic in LR 1.1, since this data won't be written to the file, which creates problems in making the data portable between users, machines and applications.

Peter Krogh
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Old June 18th, 2007, 12:14 PM
Michael Fontana Michael Fontana is offline
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That's interesting
and filling a gap; as pictures, edited by other imaging apps , might be "imported" easely in that iVMP-way:

Peter, can you explain this a little bit further?

What do you think about having a special "masterlibrary" with little previews only, as DAM?


Last edited by Michael Fontana; June 18th, 2007 at 01:04 PM.
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