Lightroom Classic: Keywording Issues - Created or misapplied keywords

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  • Updated 1 year ago
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Since upgrading to LR Classic CC beginning with 7.5, I have spent a good deal of time
working with the program and have noticed that in accordance with the many posts on the
forum, it is probably the most buggy version of LR ever, at least since LR 3.

I have had a lot of time to use LR 7.5 this past month as I returned from Alaska
photographing brown bears, Mexico photographing Aztec and Maya ruins, and the UK
photographing beautiful models.  Needless to say, thousands of images from various
cameras, including Canon, Sony, and a couple of custom hybird rigs, plus scanned 35mm transparancies from old Canon film cameras.

The experience has been puzzling, brutal, exciting, frustrating, and sometimes downright

This post is to describe the odd behaviors associated with keywords and controlled
vocabularies in LR 7.5.  I will note that I have seen this behavior in LR 6 and prior
versions, but not to the degree or frequency as I now encounter.  Here's the background:

I have a large controlled vocabulary, all of it hierarchical, some of it acquired free,
some purchased, and some constructed from public domain sources.  (The Wikipedia is a
terrific place to glean lists of things, like states, districts, or provinces of foreign
countries, or national parks and preserves.)

The behavior I have seen rather consistently with LR 7.5 is the 'creation' during the
keywording process (i.e., applying keywords from keyword presets or keyword suggestions)
of keywords which do not exist but are similiar to those that do exist.

Example, there is a keyword hierarchy like so:

    Countries of the World < Europe < United Kingdom < Scotland < Glasgow

This keyword exists in a keyword preset for a model based in the UK whom I work with
regularly.  More often than not, when I select that keyword from the preset, along with
the other eight (8) keywords, what LR 7.5 will create is this hierarchial keyword:

    Zoological Gardens of the World < Europe < United Kingdom < Scotland < Glasgow

The problem is that this keyword tree never existed!  LR 7.5 created it.

There was and is a keyword hierarchical list as so:

    Zoological Gardens of the World < Europe < United Kingdom < Scotland

however those keywords in that hierarchy do not go down to the town or city level—they
stop at the country.  LR actually adds this additional level, 'Glasgow' to the list under
Zoological Gardens of the World.

Sometimes, if the last word in the tree exists somewhere else, LR will apply that keyword
to the image.  So her images gets tagged with the existing keyword:

    Countries of the World < North America < United States < Connecticut < Scotland

And before someone jumps in and claims that the keyword preset was created incorrectly, I
always check the dropdown when entering a keyword into a preset to ensure that the correct
one is selected.  Besides, if the keyword preset was incorrect, then this error should
ALWAYS occur, except it does not, albeit these errors occur much more frequently under LR
7.5 than in previous versions.  Pretty much all the time during every session.

Of course, I always delete the incorrectly created keyword by selecting the actual keyword
in the tree, but LR 7.5 will recreate it again, either in the same session or after a
catalog optimization and restart. If I go the further step and delete the incorrectly
chosen keyword; e.g., Scotland, Connecticut (as I do not plan on visiting that fair town
to do any photography in this lifetime), LR 7.5 will go ahead and recreate the damned
thing later if I am using the keyword preset, OR, and this is important, if I use another
keyword preset which also happens to share the same keyword.  (I work with several models
from Glasgow, Scotland or Gloucester, West Midlands, and this behavior will occur with
these as well, as there is a Gloucester in the United States.)

These 'ghost' keywords are a real PITA, and chasing them down and deleting them time and
again adds a lot of time to my keywording workflow.
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Posted 1 year ago

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Photo of Alan Harper

Alan Harper

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Hi Dmeephd

This is not to diminish your problem, which sounds very frustrating, but I gave up on having duplicated keywords in different hierarchies a long time ago. Of course, applying this rule now to your well-sorted photos would be another real PITA.

The reason I don't use duplicated keywords is because when I export a photo and then import it, Lightroom (correctly) doesn't know where to put the keyword, so it creates yet another keyword at the highest level, and lets me sort it out.

My solution would be to make all your keywords unique:

Countries of the world < Europe < United Kingdom < Scotland
Zoological Gardens of the world < Europe ZG < United Kingdom ZG < Scotland ZG
Botanical Gardens of the world < Europe BG < United Kingdom BG < Scotland BG

If you use synonyms (Scotland for Scotland BG and for Scotland ZG), then when you export the photo it will have a keyword that your customer can use, and if you reimport that photo it will (in this case) nest into the Countries of the world hierarchy.

My other thought is that you are using too many hierarchies. Does it really help you find things to nest Scotland under Europe? Do you really want to find all your photos in Europe, as opposed to various countries in Europe -- which you can do by command-clicking in the keywords column? And doesn't georeferencing really fix that problem anyway?

(If you are using hierarchical keywords to export keywords for clients, you can use synonyms as easily as hierarchies. Just make Europe and United Kingdom synonyms of Scotland.)

None of this is to take away from the bug you report. But in my experience it is often more productive to work around a bug, rather than wait for a developer to fix your particular edge case (especially if the consequences to other edge cases might be a little unclear).
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Don't worry, Alan, I certainly not waiting for Adobe developers to fix this problem—if it is a problem with LR—I should live so long!  LOL  (And you did not diminish my problem.  It is a PITA, but not a deal breaker.)

Actually, your workaround regarding synonyms sounds interesting; it might be more effective than making each keyword unique given the sheer size of my controlled vocabulary.

Can you give an example?
Photo of Paul


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Adobe's handling of keywords across all their products is terrible.  It has been a persistent thorn for years and years and they seem to be deaf to user's complaints.

I gave up and looked for another solution and found an excellent one - Daminion.  Windows only though
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Alan Harper

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Well, I think I did.

Scotland ZG: Europe, Great Britain, Zoological Garden
Edinburgh ZG: Europe, Great Britain, Zoological Garden, Edinburgh, Cities of the world

It could be useful (but really, really fiddly) to export your keywords as a text table, and edit them there. The syntax for hierarchies and synonyms is pretty straightforward.
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LOL.  I figured it out about 30 secs after hitting the 'Submit' button.  Now I've got to see just how many keywords there are and see if I could grab an Intern to perform the scut work.
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Yeah, I've seen that product, but I've got a MacPro.  Sigh, except I do not miss Windoze at all.  I think a lot of these issues we see consistently point back to their use of SQLlite instead of a relational database with fourth- or fifth-level referential integrity. 
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John R. Ellis, Champion

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It's good to record these issues, in case someone else comes along with similar problems. 

Unfortunately, unless tens or hundreds of customers have similar symptoms, it's very unlikely Adobe will pay much attention unless you can provide a precise step-by-step recipe for reproducing the problem, preferably starting from a new catalog or providing (via Dropbox or similar) copies of the relevant files (catalog, photos, text files).   

Even then, when it comes to keywords, it's less likely a bug will get fixed (based on 8 years of experience in this forum).  Recently, a senior LR product manager expressed public antipathy to keywords, and LR CC's support for keywords is minimal, to put it politely.  

Nevertheless, Adobe has clear made some effort with LR 7 to fix some number of longstanding bugs, so if you can produce a recipe for reproducing the problem, there's a non-zero probability it might get fixed in the next year.