Best Practices for Keywords in ON1 Photo RAW 2019 & 2020
Let's say you took a photo trip to the beach. You capture great photos of the waves crashing on the rocks at sunset. However, as sunsets go, the sky is a little ho-hum, there are no clouds. But you say to yourself, no problem when I get home I'll just replace the blah sunset with one of my better ones. Flash forward, you are working on that photo in your computer, and now it's time to find that better sunset photo.
But how do you find it? Most people organize their photos one of two ways; either by date or by subject (or event, location, etc.). If you organize by the date, you have to remember when you shot that sunset, that's pretty hard. If you organize by the subject, you have to remember where you took that better sunset. What if there was a better way to find your photos without adding a ton of effort to your workflow? That's where keywords come in.
Keywords are simple, usually one-word adjectives, that describe what's in a photo. Adding these little bits of info makes finding your photos later much easier. Keywords are part of the metadata standards that just about every photo application and website can understand. That means even if our photos move between apps, your keywords will likely travel with them. Let's talk about how to put keywords to work for you.
Adding keywords to your photos is pretty easy when you download them and do your first round of culling. And this really is the best time to do it. Everything is fresh in your memory, and it only takes a few seconds most the time. If you use the Import dialog to download your photos from your camera, you can add keywords right from the Keywords pane. If you have already downloaded them, just browse to the photos in Browse and adding keywords works the same from the Metadata pane or you can use the Keyword List.
Metadata Pane - This is available in the Import dialog or Browse module. It displays the keywords already assigned to a photo and allows you to add more Keywords.
Keyword List - This is available in the Browse module. Simply drag and drop keywords from this list to add them to photos.
Usually, you can select all the photos from a given shoot and add the same keywords to all of them. When I add keywords, I use the old five W's that journalists where taught: who, what, when, where and why technique. Let's take each of those and talk about them.
- Who - If you are shooting a portrait session this is pretty obvious, it's the name of your subject. If you are shooting an event, it could be the name of the team or organization.
- What - This is probably the most important one. What is the subject of these photos, describe them. Mountain, sunset, river, ocean, red, blue, waves, bird, building, reflection, etc.
- When - You don't need to put in the date or time, this is recorded by the camera. But you should include event names like Christmas or vacation or baseball games, etc.
- Where - This can be critical in finding photos in the future too. I like to organize by geography so I will add keywords for location, city, state, and country. The location could be the name of the park, school or building you are in.
- Why - Why did you take the photos in the first place? Is it a wedding or someone's senior portraits? Is it your client's name or job name?
Here are examples of keywords I would add to these photos:
Who - (no person)
What - Building, Architecture, Sunet, Reflection
When - Evening
Where - Columbia Gorge, Oregon, United States
Why - Gorge Trip with Brian
Who - Jane Doe
What - Female, Teenager, Blonde, Wall, Dramatic, Shadow, Sunglasses
When - Midday
Where - Oregon City, Oregon, United States
Why - Senior
I like to select a big batch of photos and add the same keywords to all of them, rather than agonizing over specific keywords for each photo. For most of us, this will get the job done when we need to find photos in the future. If you make keywording too much work, you will not want to do it. Keep in mind if you are a journalist or stock photographer then the burden of keywording is much more critical on a photo by photo basis.
Now it's easy to add keywords when you download your photos. However, adding keywords to years of photos after the fact is no fun at all. It's the digital equivalent of cleaning your garage. First, let's ask ourselves if we really need to. It may depend on how you organize your photos. If you keep your photos organized by date such as folders for year, month, day, etc. and you don't rename your photos, well you are out of luck. Adding keywords is probably the only way to find photos outside of lots and lots of scrolling. Now, if you organized your photos in folders by client or subject, you might be in much better luck. For example, if you organized by subject (architecture, landscape, portraits, etc.) and then subfolders under those (location, subject name, event, etc.) you can simply search the folder names and come up with excellent results in many cases without every adding keywords. When you search in ON1 Photo RAW, it searches the full path, all the folder names, and file names. This works really well if you are looking for a specific person, job, event or location. Those are the "who, when, where and whys." It doesn't work as well for the "whats" unfortunately. If I'm looking for pictures of sunsets or lighthouses, I have to remember when or where I shot photos that contained those things. Even then, most of us can remember the photo we are looking for and where it was photographed. Let's say I'm looking for that good sunset to replace the sky that we talked about in the opening paragraph. If I remember that I shot a gorgeous sunset at Lake Tahoe, all I have to do is search for Lake Tahoe, and my sunset will be there.
If you decide to add keywords to your archive, don't do it all once. First, consider your organization and make sure that a little housekeeping and folder renaming could go a long way. Second, don't try to do it all at once. Set a goal to do one folder a day, or each time you launch the app for example. Again, if you make keywording a chore, you won't want to do it, and then you won't have its benefits in the future.
Find Using Keywords
Okay, now you have added all those essential keywords, let's show you how you can find photos in your archive with them. First, in order to search across folders, which is really important for keywords, you need to make sure your folders are set as Cataloged Folders. Cataloged Folders keep an eye on all the photos inside them. They index all the metadata, like keywords, and make them searchable. Most of us keep our photos in one or two master folders (or drives) with subfolders to organize them. To make the master folders or drives Cataloged Folders just drag and drop them on the plus (+) icon in the Cataloged Folder section of Folders pane. You can also click on the plus and then navigate to where you keep your photos.
Cataloged Folders - Make where you keep your photos cataloged folders so you can search by keyword.
Now there are a couple ways to search through your photos looking for keywords. The easiest way is to use the text search field in the Filter pane (or simply type control or command + f). Just type in what you are looking for. This searches your keywords as well as the folder path names and a bunch of other metadata fields all at once. Make sure you have the "Search Cataloged Folders" option enabled, or it will only look in the folder you are currently browsing.
If you want to search specifically for a keyword, you can roll down the Advanced section in the Filters pane and select Keyword from the field type, then start to type in the keyword. It will give you a list of the available matching keywords to pick from. This is handy if you need to combine multiple keywords or other metadata fields in a complex search. Click on the add button to combine search terms. If you are searching in nested keywords, it will find all the keywords below the keyword you are searching for. For example, if you search for Animal, it will find photos with the keywords Animal > Dog and Animal > Cat for you too.
Easy Search - Use the text search box to search for keywords, file path and most other text-based metadata. Make sure you have Search Cataloged Folders ON.
Advanced Search - If you need to look for only keywords, or create a complex search, roll down Advanced and select the Keyword field type.
Last but not least, you can double-click on a keyword in the Keyword List pane to find all the photos with that matching keyword.
Care and Feeding of Your Keyword List
As you add keywords to your photos, they will also appear in the Keyword List pane. This is a master list of all the keywords you have ever used. It gets filled with keywords you add as well as any that come from existing photos. Here is where you can delete unused keywords, change, and consolidate keywords and starting with ON1 Photo RAW 2019.5, organize them into a nested hierarchy.
- Delete - Right-click on a keyword and selected Delete Keyword. This will remove the keyword from the list as well as find and remove the keyword from all available photos.
- Edit - Right-click on a keyword and select Edit Keyword. Here you can correct spelling mistakes. If you want to merge two keywords together you can by editing one to match the other. This will update the list and all the files too.
- Organize - You can drag and drop keywords inside of other keywords to nest them, just like folders. This way you can create a hierarchy like country> State > City for example.
- Assign Keywords - Just drag and drop a keyword from the list to any photo or selection of photos to add it.
- Remove a Keywords - Select the photos you want to remove a keyword from, find the keyword in the list and click on the circle to remove it.
Note: This article doesn't replace the user guide for details on how to use the Keyword List, you can learn all the details there.
If you have a lot of Keyword List changes to make, you can export the keyword list and edit it in a text editor, then re-import it. This is great for fixing capitalization issues. When you import a keyword list, it will update the exact keyword matches as well as add anything new. It will NOT remove keyword you delete or move keyword hierarchy.
Special considerations when moving from another application
If you are moving to ON1 Photo RAW from another photo management application, you need to make sure that your keywords will come along. If you are coming from Adobe Lightroom, the easiest thing to do is use the built-in Migration Assistant. This will move not only your photos, all their metadata including keywords but also your collections and editing settings. If you are moving from another application, you need to either embed your metadata to your photos or have the app create XMP compatible sidecar files. Applications like Apple Aperture, Adobe Bridge, Lightroom, and CameraBits PhotoMechanic can do this for you. When you then browse or catalog those photos, ON1 Photo RAW will pick-up the keywords and add them automatically.
Special considerations when upgrading from an older version of Photo RAW
If you are upgrading from an earlier version of ON1 Photo RAW, all keywords were stored in lowercase. When you upgrade to Photo RAW 2019.5 or higher, they will remain in lowercase. You can change the case by exporting the keyword list and using a text editor (I like TextWrangler) to bulk capitalize each line, then re-import the file to fix them.
If you were a user of Adobe Lightroom and you used hierarchical keywords in it, You can recover the keyword hierarchy by using the "Read Metadata from Photo" command which will update the keywords from the XMP sidecar created by Lightroom.
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