It seems I struck a chord with my rant yesterday, so I will carry on with Part 2 of my adventures with Adobe Lightroom.
First, to answer Bryan’s question from yesterday’s post, yes, your files can be distributed across multiple drives. To demonstrate, I created a new, empty Lightroom Catalog. I imported two folders, one containing some folk art photos (shot in Geneva, Idaho, along Highway 89, of course). The folder of dinos is stored on an external LaCie drive. The other folder, with images of some plush toys Bryan and R brought back from Japan, is saved on the internal hard drive on my Mac. I made adjustments to all the files (vibrance for the dinos, white balance for the plushies).
Looks great, all the images in each folder are in their original folders and referenced in Lightroom’s catalog. Now here’s what happens when I eject the LaCie. The catalog can display the dino thumbnails, but when I try to change the settings, I get this message.
The dino folder name now displays in red. On the other hand, as expected, the plushie images (on the Mac) can still be updated. It would be nice if the error message told the name of the volume to connect, but if you double click on the folder name, a dialog box opens to manually re-establish a link to the drive, thus indicating which drive it is seeking. Since my file naming scheme tells me when the image was made, and my LaCies are labeled with the dates, it’s trivial to plug in the right one.
Just to see what happened, I copied the dino folder to the internal drive, and was able to redirect Lightroom to the new location. The vibrance changes I had made in Lightroom to the dinos persisted in the new folder, which is correct since I copied the .xmp files as well as the NEF files. However, the Lightroom catalog does not retain any information about the folder of dinos on the LaCie, which is the behavior I had expected.
One of the features of Lightroom that most attracted me to the product was the method of hierarchical keywording. What does that mean? If I create a nested list of keywords, like Plants > Tree > Maple, and apply the keyword “Maple” to an image, the other keywords “Plants” and “Tree” are automatically applied to the image as well. Another plus is the fact that Lightroom will auto-complete keywords as I begin to type. I anticipate that these features will be huge time-savers (and error reducers) when I get to the real work ahead. But not quite yet, still more planning ahead.
While I enjoy revisiting my archived images, I really want to do this keywording task once, and do it well, rather than remember an entire category of keywords in mid-stream and have to repeat the survey of all my images. So I want to begin my tagging with a reasonably complete and organized list of keywords to choose from.
The answer to “which keywords” depends in part who is using the catalog and keywords, and for what purposes. If I were selling stock photos, my stock house might supply me with a list of keywords and that would be that. Or, as I learned from Rich, when he uploads keyworded images to his stock house, its interface offers related keyword choices from their controlled vocabulary list. I also discovered a source to buy over 11,000 hierachical keywords, which seems like a simple and rapid solution for some. A Yahoo group on hierarchical keywords or (controlled vocabulary) exists; you must apply for membership to read the archives, if you care to go in-depth on the topic.
In the event, I decided to craft my own list of keywords. I’m the end user–last time I looked around the palace, I didn’t see any minions who need to search my database (where IS my latte boy?). I figure that I can establish a keywording hierarchy that will grow well into my future, so long as I use a robust set of categories and keywords from the outset.
Getting the keyword list into Lightroom
You could enter every keyword into the catalog from Lightroom itself, and then organize them into a nested structure with its drag and drop method. But my location list is already over 150 places, and so far I have only listed my relevant countries, states and provinces. Various Lightroom documents say that you can “import a list of keywords” from a tab-delimited text file. A tab-delimited file is a common export format out of Excel, but what does that original spreadsheet look like to generate a hierarchical keyword list? No help anywhere (hence the rant of yesterday), so I did a little experimentation. I made up a tree of a dozen keywords in the Lightroom interface, then exported it. Still in Lightroom, I deleted all the keywords I had just entered. Then I used Excel to inspect the exported file, and make a new one with different phrases, but following the same structure. If you are following along at home, remember to choose “Save as” and the “Text (tab-delimited)” option for the import file. Then, in the Library module, choose Metadata > Import Keywords…, selecting your tab-delimited import file. Voilà.
One other thing I discovered is that non-standard characters in your keywords (like the é in Québec) will cause Lightroom to seize up, with an ever-so-informative message. We ate dinner last night during a test run and the thing never finished, and I had to relaunch the application. Without the funny characters, like é or §, the file imports in a flash. Why would I want to import a keyword with a funny character in it, besides obsessive spelling in two foreign languages? More on that in Part 3.