Keywords and Metadata

Since I don’t have much in the way of interesting visuals to show off this week (damn, I need to get away from my cube so I can shoot more!) I’m going to do a few brief posts about my workflow for those of you who are curious.

I tend to shoot a lot, probably too much really. I tend to get caught up in the moment and bang away a few too many identical frames, because honestly, I just love doing it. I love the act of making photos just as much as seeing the results. But when I go to unload my cards, there are usually many many images. This means a big library, which is difficult to maintain. When I started shooting professionally and the amount of images in my library started to increase, it because imperative that find a better solution to organize everything.

Then I found Adobe Lightroom. As I think I’ve mentioned before, this is my photography software product of the year two years running. When I started looking for a software to organize my photography, I compared Lightroom with Apple’s product, Aperture. In the end, my decision to go with Lightroom came down to three things: price (lightroom was cheaper), speed (lightroom performed better, even on my Mac) and platform (I could run Lightroom at home on my mac and at work on my shitty PC, therefore enhancing workflow). I’m not going to get into a long discussion about Lightroom at the moment but suffice it to say that I love it and couldn’t work as smoothly without it.

So here’s my workflow tip of the day: keyword every photo as you import it. Don’t wait and do it manually after the fact, do it immediately. Lightroom has an option to batch add keywords in the import screen: take advantage of this. Here’s why I do it:

In the past, I’d merrily skip past the import options and then painstakingly add the keywords afterwards. This works pretty well and doesn’t take a whole lot of effort. But as I started shooting more and more, my schedules got tighter, and I’d get distracted and wouldn’t actually go back and do it. The result? 18k photos in my library without keywords. This is a big problem.

Here’s what I do now: for every shoot, I choose at least one or two keywords that apply to everything that I’m importing. Most of the time it’s the person’s name, if it’s a portrait session, or an event name, or a project name. Obviously if you’re shooting more than one person you don’t want to apply everyone’s name in bulk. So I add a general set of keywords that work for all the images, and the do specific keywords later. This way, even if I procrastinate and never make it back to add those specific keywords, I have the ability to at least narrow down my search with some general terms.

Believe me, adding keywords every time I import has been a huge help. This also applies for metadata. Set up some basic information about you that applies to all your photographs – your name, your URL, your location, your contact information etc. Apply this to every photo you take, that way you won’t have to go back in and do it later. There is no better way to make sure that your name stays with a photo than metadata.

Was any of this helpful? I know it seems pretty basic, but it was a bit of an eye opener to me when I figured it out.

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