How to Use Keyword Sets In Lightroom Classic

by Andrew S. Gibson
How to Use Keyword Sets In Lightroom Classic

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In the previous lessons we looked at why you would want to use keywords in Lightroom, some tips for creating keyword lists and then some methods for adding keywords to photos in Lightroom. There are links to those lessons below. If you’re new to keywording today’s lesson will make much more sense if you read them first.

How to use Keyword sets in Lightroom

You’ll find Keyword sets at the bottom of the Keywording panel in the Library module. Keyword sets help you organize your keywords in manageable groups and avoid problems caused by using them inconsistently.

A Keyword set is a group of up to nine keywords. The keywords don’t have to be related, but for organizational purposes it helps if they are.

Click on any keyword from a Keyword set to add it to the currently selected photo or photos.

Keyword Sets Lightroom

Lightroom already includes several Keyword sets (you’ll find them in the Keyword Set menu) – Outdoor Photography, Portrait Photography and Wedding Photography. These are just to get you started, you can delete them if they are no use to you.

To delete a Keyword set, start by selecting it from the Keyword Set menu. Then go to the menu again and select the Delete preset option.

Lightroom also has another built-in Keyword set called Recent keywords. This shows the nine most recently used keywords and can’t be deleted.

Keyword Sets Lightroom

A practical example using Keyword sets

If you did the exercise at the end of How To Create Keyword Lists In Lightroom Classic you should have a list of keywords ready to add to your photos. One of the reasons that I asked you to wait before putting that list into use is to give you chance to read this lesson and start thinking about organizing your keywords into sets.

Let me give you an example of how Keyword sets are useful. You might like to add keywords to your photos to describe the predominant colors. Ideally, you want to keep your list of color keywords as simple as possible.

If you have a lot of photos with the color blue in them it’s a good idea to add the general keyword ‘blue’ rather than more specific keywords like ‘azure’, ‘indigo’, ’ ultramarine’ and so on. The reason is fairly obvious. A search for the keyword ‘blue’ would not turn up photos that were tagged with keywords like ‘azure’ or ‘indigo’ (unless they were also tagged with ‘blue’).

This brings us back to the concept of using a controlled vocabulary (see lesson two again) to prevent search errors caused by adding keywords in an erratic or poorly thought out way.

Using the example of colors, it could be helpful to group them in Keyword sets. I can come up with two sets of photography related color keywords:

Keyword set 1


Keyword set 2

sepia toned
black and white

There is a possible exception to this. An artist or graphic designer may want to use more accurate keywords to describe colors. If this is you, Keyword sets still help as you can create a Keyword set with the nine most common names of blue colors. For arguments sake, let’s say they are:

royal blue
navy blue
prussian blue

Again, you are using a controlled vocabulary, just one you have adapted to your needs.

How to create a Keyword set

You also use the Keyword Set menu to create your own keyword sets. Here’s how you do it.

1. Go to the Keyword Set menu and select Edit Set.

Keyword Sets Lightroom

2. The Edit Keyword Set window appears. It’s likely to be already populated with keywords. Replace those with the keywords you want to use in your set.

Keyword Sets Lightroom

3. Go to the Preset menu at the top of the Edit Keyword Set window and select Save Current Settings as New Preset. Give the new Keyword set a name and click Create.

Keyword Sets Lightroom

4. Click the Change button in the Edit Keyword Set window

Keyword Sets Lightroom

The same keyword can appear in as many Keyword sets as you like.

Keyword set shortcuts

There are a couple of keyboard shortcuts that make adding keywords from Keyword sets to your photos much faster.

Shortcut #1: Alt + ‘0’ (zero). Cycles through the Keyword sets listed in the Keywording panel.

Shortcut #2: Alt + number (1-9). Hold down the Alt key while the Keywording panel is open. You’ll see numbers appear next to the keywords in the current Keyword set. While still holding the Alt key down, press the number to add that keyword to the currently selected photo or photos.

Keyword Sets Lightroom

The second shortcut explains why Keyword sets are limited to nine keywords. It’s to enable keyboard shortcuts so you can add keywords without using the mouse. If your keyboard has a numeric keypad this is a fast way of adding keywords.

Note: The Alt key is labeled as the Option key on some Mac keyboards .

Exporting and importing Keyword sets

Once you have created some Keyword sets that you find useful you might like to share them with other photographers. Alternatively, another photographer might have shared some Keyword sets with you. Or you might have bought some from a website. Wouldn’t it be useful to be able to import and export Keyword sets? Yes it would! It’s easy once you know how to do it.

Start by navigating to the folder on your computer’s hard drive where Lightroom stores Keyword sets.

Mac: Macintosh HD > Users > (your username) > Library > Application Support > Adobe > Lightroom > Keyword Sets

PC: C > Docs/Settings > (your name) > Application Data (may be hidden) > Adobe > Lightroom > Keyword Sets

Here you will see all the Keyword sets you’ve created. Each Keyword set is saved as a .lrtemplate file. You can copy these files and give them to somebody else. You can also add files given to you by somebody else to this folder. Restart Lightroom and they will show up in the Keywords panel.

Keyword Sets Lightroom

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