Key Wording Workflow in Adobe Lightroom

Posted on 6 Aug, 2014 by Scott Jones
Adobe Lightroom Key Words Keyword Sets

One of the main challenges of motor sports photography is managing the large number of images created each weekend. Your workflow (the process that begins with capturing images, continues through cataloging and editing those images, and ends with delivering them to their destinations) can make or break the hours, days or even weeks after an event.

After a race weekend, you have thousands of images all jumbled together. How do you find ONLY the images of Valentino Rossi and ALL of the images of Valentino Rossi?

Keywords are the answer

One of the best things about digital photography is the ability to assign keywords to images so that you can find images with certain qualities easily. No more searching through boxes of transparencies or page after page of contact sheets, hoping you haven’t missed a given rider, team, sponsor etc.

There are several software options for cataloging digital images. I like Adobe Lightroom because it provides good image editing tools in addition to its cataloging functions. I can do most, perhaps 80-90%, of the required image editing within Lightroom, and thus reduce the amount of time I have to roundtrip an image to Photoshop.

Keywording images is a vital part to my business. I need to be able to find images of a given rider, team, or sponsor quickly and easily, and keywords allow me to do this.

The difficulty is how to take two or three thousand images from a race weekend and efficiently and accurately assign keywords to all of them.

The method I’m about to share has taken me years to refine, but by now it works great, and I’m usually done keywording a day’s sessions within an hour of starting the process back in the media center.

In fact I have many races’s worth of images that I have not keyworded because it took me some time to develop this system. Most of my racing catalogs from 2008-20010 have not yet been keyworded. Until 2011 I simply did not have an effective way to do this on a race weekend, so keywording got left for later, which means that it never got done.

Because catalogs are opened and searched over and over again as the years go by, improperly keyworded images remain a problem until you fix it once and for all. To be able to find the images you want when you want them, complete keywording is essential. Each time you search through a catalog that has NOT been keyworded correctly and completely, you’re wasting time and probably missing images you need to find.

Ok, so, what do I do?

Having an efficient system and applying the discipline to get those keywords attached to each image as early as possible saves time and money over the years: Each time you complete a properly keyworded catalog you benefit from the initial time investment.

Lightroom has several features that assist with this part of my workflow. The first piece of the puzzle is the ability to define sets of keywords:


Keyword Sets are collections of keywords, up to 9 of them, that show up in a panel when the Keyword Set is selected in the Library Module of Lightroom. These sets allow you to define which keywords you wish to apply to a given photo subject. My sets for motor sports are organized by rider:


I have Keyword Sets for each MotoGP rider and sets for certain Moto2 and Moto3 riders. I swap them in and out of Lightroom depending on which images I’m working on in order to keep the lists of Keywords Sets manageable. (I used to keep all three classes together in one collection of keyword sets and the menu of sets got so long it was unmanageable.)

I store these collections of Keyword Sets on Dropbox so they are available wherever I land. I just have to make sure this Dropbox folder contains the most current versions of the various collections:

Adobe Lightroom Keyword Sets Archive

Sets allow me not only to make sure I get the rider’s number right, but also his team and sponsors. I can enter this information once, or update it whenever a change is required, but I don’t have to remember what brand of helmet or leathers a given rider wears. I can also add whatever customer tags I wish as long as I don’t bump up against the nine-word limit.

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  • bobheathcote 2014-08-06

    You really have done an amazing job here with this article and how you are pushing your blog forward like this. And I am so jealous of the First in Flight photo! But I digress, You should check out Photo Mechanic for keywording. It could seriously change your life. That program has been designed from the ground up by photographers like you who have done this for longer than both of us. And the support is second to none. They actually answer the phone and answer any question you have. they may even change the code just for you. I do not do as much editorial as I used to but this was a lifesaver as I was doing different events every weekend. I still use it daily for reviewing photos at 100% as it is the fastest at doing that with RAW files. Keep up the good work!

  • Scott Jones 2014-08-06

    Thanks for the comment and compliments, Bob, both are appreciated.

    Photo Mechanic has been on my radar for some time as I see it at work in the Media Center. It seems to offer much faster previews than Lightroom, which always strikes me as amazing when I see it going. I’m definitely in a trench as far as my own workflow goes, though. I’ve just found a few vids on YouTube that might convince me to switch. We’ll see…

  • bobheathcote 2014-08-06

    It is definitely an off-season thing to dive into. Have fun!

  • Scott Jones 2014-08-06

    Bob, thanks again for the nudge toward Photo Mechanic. I’ve just spent some quality time on their website and watching videos of how other photographers use PM. It has a lot going for it. I really like how much control over IPTC info you have in import, And the speed of the previews is remarkable.

    I can see how it would make a really handy workflow step, before importing in Lightroom. The preview speed would allow me to run quickly through the images to pick those I wanted to process for the first set of deadlines. I could then bring everything, IPTC info applied, into LR for editing the actual images.

    I am curious, though, was there a specific method of filtering images to apply keywords by rider as I do in the above post? If there is, I missed it, about would really love to know if PM has a faster solution to this challenge.

    Thanks again!

  • v4honda 2014-08-08

    Instead of QuickKeys check out TextExpander it’s a great time saver

    Note I am not affiliated to them, I am just a happy customer of a product that works well

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