A Computer Darkroom Tutorial

From time to time I'll see a query on the Adobe Lightroom User to User forum that reminds me of just how obscure some important features are. Generally, the queries can be answered with the aid of a screen grab and  a few words of explanation. Unfortunately, replies posted to the forum quickly scroll off the page and get lost to all but those who know the secrets of using the Adobe forum Search Engine. So, I decided to publish a few here for the benefit of everyone.


Tip 1 - Lightroom Community Help

Even the Lightroom Help document can be found wanting at times, but did you know that they are now on-line and regularly updated. Better still, you can post comments and questions to the Help system and get answers that will be added to the Help system for the benefit of everyone. The new system is called "Community Help" and can be accessed from the Lightroom Help menu item "Lightroom Help". Assuming you have an active internet connection you will be taken to a page that looks similar to Figure 1 below.



Figure 1 - Lightroom 2 Community Help


To gain the greatest benefit from the help system you should choose the "Community Help" option shown inside the red boundary in figure 1 above. In figure 2 you will see an example were one of the Lightroom community moderators has added some additional information on renaming photos.



Figure 2 - Adding a comment or raising a query

A similar Community Help system is now available for the entire Adobe Creative Suite. Again, these can be accessed via the application Help menu.

Tip 2 - Customising folder names and adding hierarchical keywords during import

As the title suggests the following is really two tips rolled into one. My reason for rolling two tips into one is that both are related to the Import window. The first tip focuses on customising the name of the folder into which the photos will be imported, and the second on assigning hierarchical keywords to all photos during import. As with many aspects of Lightroom both are undocumented and certainly not intuitive.

  1. To customise a folder name you simply double click the current name with the mouse pointer (double click is required because there is no  context menu) to open the edit field then type your preferred folder name. In the example shown in figure 3 below I have added the words "Construction Materials" after the default folder name (defaults are usually shown in the form of a date).



Figure 3 - Lightroom 2 Import window


The forward slash character (/) is used to inform Lightroom that Construction Materials is a subfolder of the default date folder (figure 4 shows how it appears in the Folder panel of the Library). Had I replaced the default folder name the new folder would have been created as a sub folder of  "Users/ianlyons/Pictures".



Figure 4 - Folder panel


  1. Adding individual keywords to photos during import is relatively straight forward. For example, typing words like London, England, UK, bricks, etc directly into to "Information to Apply: Keywords" field will result in these keywords being assigned to all of the photos being imported. By the way, the "comma" is used as the separator. However, what if you prefer to assign keywords in using a hierarchical structure - how can this be done?

Well, there are two methods. The first only works if we already have an existing keyword list with the appropriate hierarchy. Again, using the example from above, I know that the "London" already exists in my keyword list and is a child of "Minnesota" - OK, so I'm struggling here, but I got to keep the Lightroom team happy. So, simply typing "London" will result in the keyword auto-complete feature activating and offering me the option of selecting same. Had I also included "London" in my keyword list under another parent (e.g. "England") it too would have been listed and I would have had to make the choice. Once selected Lightroom will automatically assign the entire hierarchy for your typed keyword.

The second method is a lot less intuitive than the first, but once learned is extremely powerful. It is also the only way that we can add a completely new parent/child structure to an existing hierarchical keyword list. So, how does it work.

Using the previous example again, but this time neither "London" or "England" are in the keyword list. In fact, the existing keyword list contains no towns, cities, countries. We begin typing London then we add the > symbol to denote that we wish to create a hierarchy. Next, I type "England" followed by another > symbol, then "UK", "Europe" and "PLACES", each separated by the > symbol. The typed text should appear as "London > England > UK > Europe > PLACES", and for good measure we also include "bricks > construction materials > ARCHITECTURE / FEATURES" (see figure 3 above for exact formatting). Now, when we click on the import button the photos along with the globally assigned keywords will be imported into Lightroom. The new keywords complete with their hierarchical structure will be added to the existing list. Figure 5 below shows the structure as it appears in the Library Filter for Metadata.



Figure 5 - Library Filter for Metadata


No doubt you notice that I typed the child keyword first and the top level keyword last and are wondering why. Well, I don't have a definitive answer, but it's most probably due to the way that the auto-complete feature works.

I hope to add more tips and tricks in future, so bookmark this page for future reference.





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