Here is a topic many photographers dread. However, with today’s workflow tools, it is really easy to add keywords to our photographs. I use Apple’s Aperture 3 so I know it best. Adobe’s Lightroom also does this plus there are other tools geared towards this work, too.
Easiest way to add keywords is when you import or ingest (ie., bring the photos from your camera or memory cards onto your computer for processing) your photos. I add captions, keywords, copyright and location information at import. Here’s an article on how it’s done in Aperture: Always Add Keywords on Imports.
For me keywording is a two step process. The captions and keywords I add on import are general. Here’s an example. After a whole day spent in the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World, the keyword list would be like this: travel, vacation, orlando, florida, walt disney world, magic kingdom, themepark. The caption is also very general. If you have a more specific subject, your keywords and captions can be such.
In the second step, I use Aperture’s batch tool to append more specific keywords. Say I took 50 photos of Space Mountain in Tommorrowland. I would add the keywords tomorrowland, neon, ride, roller coaster, space mountain, thrill, white and so on. With the batch tool I can add those to all 50 photos at one time. Yes, this step takes time but saves a lot more time for me later when I need to see all my Space Mountain photos or if I want to find all my photos with neon lighting. I do the same for captions and this is when I really work on them by adding details to the general caption done at import.
Let me note here that before I do the second step, I have already gone through and rejected those photos that are out of focus, bad exposure, bad composition or are photos that don’t make my standards, etc. Cutting down on the time it takes to do the second step.
I do the same for all my photos and my flickr photostream is one place that benefits. I only have to tweak a few things before uploading to flickr as the keywords are turned into tags and the captions are already there. I do need to add a title which is the Headline field in Aperture. Aperture already has the technical metadata which includes camera model, lens used, shutter speed, aperture, ISO, exposure compensation and other details. I use FlickrExport for Aperture (highly recommended) which lets me select flickr groups to add the photos to during the uploading process.
Here’s a bonus link for Aperture 3 users about the Keyword HUD (Heads Up Display): Keyword Control Bar in Aperture 3. I’ll be setting this up soon for my most used keyword categories like Walt Disney World, Hockey and Nature. Should save me even more time. 🙂