Keywords in Lightroom: Everything You Need to Know

Lightroom Keywords

Keywording photos should be an important part of everyone's digital workflow in Lightroom. When keywords are added to images, those same keywords can later be used to search and find images in a Lightroom Catalog much more quickly - especially in a large catalog!

Keywords are basically metadata (or information) in the form of words that you can add to an image file. This keyword metadata is added to your image in Lightroom's Library Module - specifically in the Keywording Panel. To open the Keywording Panel in the Library Module, just press Cmd/Ctrl + 2.

Adobe Lightroom is an amazingly smart and intuitive software program and, once you begin adding keywords to your images there, it will begin learning what type of words you regularly add to images. In addition, It will also recognize specific types of images and populate keywords within the Keyword Suggestion area of the Keywording Panel based on what type of image it is.

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How to Add Keywords in Lightroom

One of the simplest ways to add keywords to your image is to type them into the Keyword Entry Box at the top of the Keywording Panel. Simply highlight the image you want to add keywords to and then type words separated by a comma that describe the photo.

How to Add Tags to Your Photos in Lightroom

There are a few others ways to add keywords as well. You can choose from any of the below options:

  • You can also click on any of the words in the Keywords Suggestion area of the Keywording Panel.
  • Click on a keyword from a Keyword Set you have selected in the Keyword Set area of the Keywording Panel.

  • Click the target box to the left of a keyword in the Keyword List panel. A check mark indicates the selected photo contains that keyword.

  • While in Grid View, drag selected photos to keywords in the Keyword List panel. Or, drag a keyword from the Keyword List panel to the selected photos.

Lightroom Keyword Sets

Whenever possible, adding keywords using a Keyword Set is a great idea. A Keyword Set is a group of up to 9 keywords that are linked together. Choosing a Keyword Set will bring up those 9 keywords targeted to a specific type of photography or photography setting. Once you have created a Keyword Set, adding them is as easy as choosing the Keyword Set and clicking on the ones that apply to your image.

How to Create a Keyword Set

Creating a Keyword Set is simple, following the steps below:

  1. Begin by typing up to 9 keywords in the top box of the Keywording Panel. Each of these words should be centered around a type of photography that you do or a location that you shoot at frequently.

  2. Next, in the Keyword Set area of the Keywording Panel choose Recent Keywords from the dropdown menu. This should immediately populate the 9 keywords you just typed in.

  3. Last, choose "Save Current Settings as new Preset" from the same dropdown menu and give it a name. Click "Create" when finished.

Lightroom Keyword Tags

You should now have a new option in your Keyword Set dropdown menu to choose from.

How to Edit a Keyword Set

This comes in handy if you want to edit one of the default Keyword Sets created by Adobe or edit a keyword set you have already created:

  1. First, just choose a Keyword Set from the Keyword Set dropdown menu.

  2. Next, choose "Edit set" from the same dropdown menu. This will open up a box with the name of the Keyword Set as well as 9 small boxes with words in them.

  3. From here you can change the name of the Keyword Set or any of the keywords in that set. Remember, the maximum number of words you can have in a Keyword Set is nine.

How to edit a keyword set in Lightroom

Adding Keywords to Multiple Photos

Just like you can sync edits in Lightroom, you can also sync keywords to other photos in Lightroom:

How to Select Multiple Photos in Lightroom

  1. In the Library Module, add keywords to the first image in the set that you'd like to sync.

  2. Then hold down the shift key and click on the last image in the set that you would like to sync. You will see the "Sync Metadata" button appear on the right side of the Library Module - click it.

  3. Since I am just wanting to sync the keywords, I only check the Keywords box and then press "Synchronize". Your keywords will then be synced to all of the selected photos you selected.

How to sync Keywords across multiple photos in Lightroom

Another way to quickly add keywords to multiple photos is to use the Painter Tool - which I will discuss next.

Adding Keywords in Lightroom Using the Painter Tool

The Painter Tool is another fun way to add keywords to one or multiple photos in Lightroom:

How Do You Keyword a Picture in Lightroom

In the Grid view, click the Painter tool icon in the toolbar. If the Painter Tool is not in the toolbar, you can choose to have the Painter Tool appear in the Toolbar Menu at the far-right of the toolbar.

When the Painter tool is enabled, the pointer becomes a painter icon and the Painter icon is no longer visible in the toolbar. If necessary, choose Keywords from the Paint menu in the toolbar. It is possible to use the Painter Tool to paint other characteristics besides keywords so just make sure that keywords is selected.

Type the keyword or keywords you want to add or remove in the toolbar field.

How to Apply Keywords with the Painter Tool:

  • To apply keywords to a single photo, click the photo using the Painter tool.
  • To apply keywords to multiple photos, click and drag across the photos in the Grid View.
  • To remove added keywords, press Alt (Windows) or Option (Mac OS) to change the Painter Tool to an eraser. Click the photo again, or click and drag across multiple photos, with the eraser.

To disable the Painter, click the circular well in the toolbar. When disabled, the Painter icon will again be visible in the toolbar.

Using Keyword Sets and the Painter Tool Together

You can also quickly assign keywords using the Painter Tool and Keyword Sets together.

How Do I Add Multiple Words to a Photo in Lightroom

  • In the Library module, select one or more photos. Ctrl/Cmd+click to select multiple photos. Then, click the Painter Tool and press the Shift key. A keyword assignment dialog box is displayed. Select a keyword set from the pop up menu.
  • Select one or more keywords from the keyword set. Choose Select All if all the words apply. If needed, you can choose a different Keyword Set and add additional keywords from that set.
  • Hover the Painter tool pointer over the selected photos and click them. The keywords you selected are assigned to the photos. You can also assign the keywords to multiple photos by clicking and dragging across multiple photos.

Creating Lightroom Keyword Hierarchies

Creating keyword hierarchies is a way to organize your keywords and add multiple keywords (keywords within keywords) to your photo at the same time. This is an advanced way to use keywords. Basically, this involves placing keywords within keywords. Then, when the lowest keyword in the hierarchy is added to an image, the other keywords above it are also added.

One instance of when you might want to use keyword hierarchies is with images where you want to include multiple location keywords. For example, if you shot an image in San Diego, you may want to add "San Diego" as a keyword. You could also create a keyword hierarchy, lets say United States>California>San Diego (you could go even further). Then when you add San Diego as a keyword, those other words that also apply to the image will automatically be added as well.

Lightroom Keyword Hierarchy

ONE NOTE: If you look in the keyword panel to check this, by default you will only see San Diego. That doesn't mean other other words haven't been added. They are just not visible.

You can create a keyword hierarchy by creating a new keyword that you want to hold your other keywords to reside in.  For example, I created a new keyword "Location".  I created this new keyword by finding the Keyword List panel in the Library Module (located on the right-hand side). Clicking the "+" will open a dialog box to help you create a new Keyword. 

Lightroom Keyword List

With that keyword highlighted, click on the "+" again and add the keyword "United States".  It will give you the option to put this keyword inside the keyword you have highlighted. Then you can highlight "United States" and click the "+" again to add all the places within the United States you desire to add. You can always add to this over time.  

Lightroom Keyword Tags

I previously mentioned that Lightroom keyword hierarchies are a more advanced keywording technique. This is not because they are hard. But, this technique does require some additional time to set up - something only more advanced users who depend heavily on finding images with keywords or are using keywords to help their images be found online would be willing to do.


Confidently adding keywords to your digital images in Lightroom will make finding your images at a later date very simple. If you are currently struggling with this, take a few extra minutes to add keywords to your images each time you import your photos into Lightroom. You will thank me later! 

Do you have any questions or comments about Using Lightroom Keywords?  Leave us a comment below - we would love to hear from you!  And PLEASE SHARE this post using the social sharing buttons (We really appreciate it)!

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