Lightroom: Better handling of exporting and reimporting keyword synonyms

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Currently, keyword synonyms get exported as top-level keywords; if the exported image is reimported into the catalog, those synonyms end up getting added to the catalog as top-level keywords.

Suggestion: If the export option Write Keywords As Lightroom Hierarchy is selected, then export the synonyms hierarchically, so that if they are reimported into the catalog, they get imported as synonyms under their existing parent keyword.

For example, suppose there is the keyword Family > John with synonym Jack. These would get exported into the metadata field XMP:HierarchicalSubject as:

Family|John
Family|John|Jack

When reimported, LR would recognize that Family|John|Jack is a synonym of Family|John in the catalog and not create a new keyword.
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John R. Ellis, Champion

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Posted 6 years ago

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Rob Cole

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Good idea. For the mean time, ExportMaster assures exported keywords will be *exactly* the same as source master. At some point, I will probably move ExportMaster functionality to Exportant, but as things stand today, one should use post-process action from one or the other, but not both simultaneously.
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ImanolZ

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This reply was created from a merged topic originally titled Lightroom: Bug w/keywords in Pano file from original file keywords.

Exported to pano picture at reimported, keywords listed as synonyms are imported as full keywords.

Explained more detailed: I export some pictures to build a pano (not in Photoshop) and when re imported the built Tiff, the keywords that were synonyms in the originals are used as full keywords, and mapped in the keyword list.
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karsten.gieselmann

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This reply was created from a merged topic originally titled Lightroom: Hierarchical keywords appear flat after reimporting image.

As soon as I started to use a set of common keywords applied to my images during import I recognized that LR seems to have a problem to consistently handle hierarchical keywords.

Whenever I use an external application in my workflow (eg HeliconFocus or SNS-HDR) all the keywords assigned to an externally processed image appear on top level in the hierarchical structure after passing them back to LR. It seems that during import LR does not consider its own hierarchical structure.

This behaviour can be easily reproduced in LR by assigning any two-level hierarchy keyword to an image, export to jpg ("Write keywords as LR hierarchy" checked) then reimport the jpg. The assigned keyword and even every single of its synonyms appear as individual entries on top level of the keyword hierarchy.

My expectation would have been that LR recognizes that the keywords attached to the image match with the keyword structure defined in the catalog and does not change anything apart from increasing counters.
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John Chandler

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I have seen several reports of this problem, raised over a number of years, but still no resolution. At the recent Photography Show in Birmingham I asked one of the presenters from the Adobe Stage if he knew of a solution. He didn’t but suggested I put a document together clearly detailing the problem. It was also suggested that I should add it to this post. It is written from my personal point of view but I think it encompasses all the problems I have seen reported in this area and makes a clear way forward, from the users point of view, which could be used by Adobe developers, hopefully, in a new version in the near future.

 

PROBLEM WITH LIGHTROOM KEYWORD LIST PANEL BEING CORRUPTED WHEN EXPORTING FILES

Background

At the end of a project I convert my PSD files to high quality JPEGs before archiving them to an external disk. Lightroom gives me the very useful facility to keep these files in the catalog so that I can still see thumbnails even though the files are off line. Exporting from the library module enables me to select all the files and create all the JPEGs in one go. The problem is that in performing this, my carefully structured Keyword List Panel is corrupted by the process.

In contrast, when I create a PSD file by using the “Edit in” option in the Develop Module the Keyword List Panel Structure is preserved and all the correct keywords are selected for the new file. This is what I would expect to happen when exporting a file but keeping it in the catalog.

 

­The Problem in Detail

In order to create a batch of JPEG files for off line archive whilst still keeping the thumbnails visible in the Lightroom catalog the best way to do this is to use the export facility in the Library Module. To achieve this, along with the relevant settings for the JPEG files, the “add to catalog” box is checked. If the “Write Keywords as Lightroom Hierarchy” box is also checked the process results in the keyword list entries remaining the same as for the original file except in the problem areas below.

Performing the export results in the files being correctly created and keyworded as expected. Unfortunately, this process introduces problems in the Keyword List Panel. These are related to two features.

1)       Synonyms

If a Keyword in the original Keyword List has a synonym

e.g. Car has the synonym Automobile

then when the file is exported a new keyword for the synonym is added to the keyword list at the top level. So in the example above there would be a new (unwanted and unnecessary) top level keyword Automobile. 

2)       Keywords not included on export

If a keyword in the hierarchy is not checked for “Include on Export” then when the file is exported any keyword hierarchy below the non-exported keyword will be re-entered into the keyword panel at the top level but the original keywords in the panel will not be checked.

e.g. Before export, in the panel we have

    Places                    (This entry does not have the “Include on Export” box checked)

                United Kingdom

[X]                           London 

After the export, the original (and correct) London will not be checked but a new hierarchy will be added to the keyword list at the top level

    Places

                United Kingdom

                                                London

 

    United Kingdom

[X]                           London

 

[X] indicates a tick (check mark) against the entry in the Keyword List Panel.

 

Part Solutions

Abandoning the use of synonyms would solve the first problem but only at the expense of losing a very nice feature. Alternatively, put up with the annoyance of having to tidy up the Keyword List Panel after each export.

If the “Write Keywords as Lightroom Hierarchy” box is left unchecked this solves the keywords not included on export problem. All the keywords will be checked for the new file, as opposed to just the ones at the bottom of the hierarchy in the original, but I can’t see why this would be a problem. Obviously, this would also result in the new file having all the keywords included which may be a problem to some people.

The entry for the above example would now be

[X] Places

[X]           United Kingdom

[X]                           London

 

 

Conclusion

There is a problem with the “add to catalog” feature in the export dialogue in that the Keyword List Panel structure is corrupted. Lightroom should be modified to allow the structure to be maintained, and with exactly the same boxes checked as the parent file. This could be either by modifying the way the feature works at present or by adding a “Preserve Keyword List Panel Structure” check box.

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Alan Harper

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John Chandler

I think your description of Lightroom's behavior is exactly what it is supposed to do.

Lightroom offers a number of options--hierarchical keywords, synonyms (keywords not in the original, but added on export), non-exported keywords, and duplicates (the same keyword in two places in the keyword hierarchy). And, as you note, an image can be added to the catalog after it is exported

Given all this, there will be lots of cases where things are not quite what you would like. This is a consequence of giving you what you would want in other cases.

Here is my suggestion to you on how to handle your cases.

1) Only export images that you intend to hand off to others (post, email, etc).

2) When you finish a project, convert the psd file to a jpg using Photoshop. If you do this, then the final jpg should have the same keywords as the psd file did. (Since Photoshop should preserve keywords).

Other suggestions that make it easier to handle importing files that were exported from Lightroom

3) Don't export the hierarchy, only export individual keywords

4) Make sure you don't have any duplicates in your keyword hierarchy

If you do (3) and (4) then every file will "match up" the keyword with the one in the hierarchy, and the keyword will fall into the hierarchy in the proper place when you import. But at the same time, you aren't burdening anyone that you share the file with by making them follow your hierarchy.

Yes, it is annoying to never have duplicates in your keyword hierarchy. One work around is to create two keywords "Black as a color" and "Black as a family name" and add "Black" as a synonym to both. Then the exported file will have the one-word keyword, regardless of meaning.

5) Create a keyword "Synonyms". Every time you import an image with a synonym in it, just drag the keyword into this category. Then you will never have to see the synonyms. You only have to do this once for each synonym. After the first time, Lightroom will match up the words and put the keyword into the proper place in the hierarchy.

I hope that this helps.

A
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Alan Harper

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One other thought. The keywords you use in your Lightroom catalog are the keywords you want to use to find the photo, while the keywords in an exported image are keywords for other people to find the photo. These may be the same or different, and the various options in Lightroom are supposed to help you make this distinction.
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John Chandler

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Thanks for your comments. I accept that Lightroom may be operating as designed but I can't see any reason that anyone would want their Keyword List Panel changed if the "Add to Catalog Box" is checked when using the export feature to create a new file from one already in the catalog. In practice anyone using this feature isn't really exporting the file as they still want it to remain in the catalog.

I never import keyworded photos so I don't have any problems with genuine imports and am happy with the way export works when I'm really exporting files.

As far as I am aware there is no way of using "Edit in" to perform a batch operation in Photoshop (in the way you can in Bridge) so this would be more time consuming than my current solution which is to delete the new top level keywords created as a result of my synonyms.

Once again, thanks for your comments but I still feel my suggested change is necessary.
  
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Alan Harper

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Ah, well I use Lightroom differently. When I export a photo for posting on the web, I want to get rid of my private keywords, add synonyms, etc., and add a watermark. Then I add that photo back to my catalog and use a plugin to publish the photo to Flickr. So, most of the time when I export a photo, I want to change the keywords and re-import to the catalog.

Again, and addressing Louis' comment below, the way I think about it is: if I want to duplicate a photo in Lightroom, I make a virtual copy. I use Photoshop to duplicate and make derivative files. In my opinion, Lightroom and Photoshop use different models, and I am perfectly happy with them as they are. And my recommendation to both of you is to use Photoshop to achieve your goals rather than hoping Adobe will change Lightroom's behavior. But then, I am a CC subscriber and Photoshop is free once I am paying for Lightroom.

And, just to circle back, we have gone a long way from John Ellis' original comment that synonyms should be exported in the hierarchy next to their parent keyword.
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Louis Sherwin

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There is a simpler way to handle this that I suggested quite a long time ago. Lightroom: Add an option to always export complete keyword hierarchy  I think this would pretty much solve the problem. If Export were allowed to include the complete  hierarchy when you want to round trip the derivative files back into the catalog then the whole problem goes away.

Adobe in their infinite wisdom continues to ignore this simple and useful fix.

This is one of many things that could be done to make keyword management easier.

-louie
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John Chandler

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I'd be happy with any solution that allows me to round trip a file with my Keyword List Panel structure intact.
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Alan Harper

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John, perhaps I am confused. (If I am, just let me know and I'll delete this post).

You said
In order to create a batch of JPEG files for off line archive whilst still keeping the thumbnails visible in the Lightroom catalog the best way to do this is to use the export facility in the Library Module. To achieve this, along with the relevant settings for the JPEG files, the “add to catalog” box is checked. If the “Write Keywords as Lightroom Hierarchy” box is also checked the process results in the keyword list entries remaining the same as for the original file except in the problem areas below.
I am suggesting that you go into Photoshop, open your psd file and save it as a jpg. If you are writing keywords to the metadata in Lightroom (an assumption I failed to mention earlier), then Photoshop should save the jpg with the same keywords as the psd. You then can import the image in Lightroom, and after that, take the image off-line. If you have a bunch of files you need to do this with, and if they are organized in folders, then it is straightforward to batch this process in PS.

Export in Lightroom is not designed to achieve your goals. You might agree with Louis that it should be designed this way, but it currently is not.

I hope that this helps.

A
(Edited)
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John Chandler

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Thanks Alan I think you're failing to understand what I want to do. The point is that I want to process a batch of files which sometimes could be in the hundreds. From Lightroom I can only do one at a time in Photoshop. I can run a batch of files in Photoshop via Bridge but then I have to import them to Lightroom which brings us back to the screwed up Keyword List Panel.

In reality I don't want to export the JPEGs. I just want to create them in a batch and the "Add to Catalog" feature achieves exactly what I want apart from the Keyword List Panel problem. I can't see why Adobe created the "Add to Catalog" feature if it's not for this purpose.
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Louis Sherwin

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I concur heartily, since Export has the feature of add back to catalog it should do so without trashing your keyword hierarchy.  This is a valid use case and I cannot for the life of me figure out why Adobe won't simply add that as an option. 

-louie
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Alan Harper

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Sorry, John, you are probably quite frustrated with my answers, but I'm still pretty sure that what I suggested will solve your problem. As for batch processing in Photoshop, that is another can of worms, and needlessly complicated in my mind, but it can be done. Signing off.
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Bruce Carey

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I agree this needs to be addressed by Adobe. If you do any kind of exporting to a different Lightroom catalog the current situation of creating new top level keywords out of any synonyms renders the use of synonyms useless. Manually correcting this would be prohibitively time consuming. It would be faster to just create new keywords, instead of synonyms, and put them in their preferred place in the hierarchy and just assign them to each photo accordingly.