Keywording for Stock Photography


Today’s Question: What special considerations (content, workflow, etc.) apply when creating keywords for images that will be submitted to stock agencies such as Getty Images or iStock?

Tim’s Quick Answer: To me, when keywording photos that will be submitted to a stock photography agency, there are several key considerations. First, you want to ensure that the keywords are accurate. You also want to be thorough, in line with the submission guidelines of the agency you’ll submit the photos to. You also want to try to make sure the keywords will help the photo be found by a client who may be interested in using the image.

More Detail: Each stock photography agency has their own guidelines for keywording photos. You’ll typically find that it will be recommended that a photo include at least five keywords (which I consider a very low number) and as many as around fifty keywords (which I think is probably a better target for many images).

The whole point of adding keywords to images that will be featured in a stock photography library is to ensure that customers can actually find a photo that will suit their needs. It is important, however, that the keywords be accurate, so that a photo will only be included in a search result if it is likely to fit the needs of the client.

The first step is to add keywords that describe the actual content of the photo, such as the name of the location where the photo was captured. Next, I recommend adding any keywords that might describe concepts the photo helps illustrate. For example, for a photo of a fast-moving subject incorporating a motion blur effect you could add keywords such as “speed” and “fast”.

I think it can be helpful to imagine all of the various ways a given photo might be used. In other words, consider what sorts of emotions does the photo evoke, and try to keyword based on those concepts. When in doubt, it is generally best to have more keywords rather than fewer when the intent is to submit images to a stock photography agency.

But again, be sure to review the submission guidelines for each stock agency you intend to submit photos to, so you can be sure to follow those guidelines carefully.

Folder Mismatch with Merged Catalog


Today’s Question: When traveling I download daily to a laptop and back up to a solid state external hard drive. At the end of the trip I export everything as a catalog. Back home I copy the catalog files to the home computer hard drive. However, when I “import from another catalog” in Lightroom the resulting folder structure doesn’t match my original folder structure used during the trip. This results in two or three sub-folders which I do not need or want. Is there a way to avoid the sub-folders in the first place?

Tim’s Quick Answer: My recommendation is to use the option to add photos from their current location when using the “Import from Another Catalog” feature in Lightroom Classic. You can then move the folder containing your photos to the master storage location as a separate step. In this case I suspect you are using the Copy option, and defining a lower-level folder as the destination than you need.

More Detail: When you return from a trip where you have used a separate catalog for downloading and managing photos along the way, you’ll want to merge that catalog with your master catalog at home. This typically involves first using the “Export as Catalog” command to export a copy of your traveling catalog as well as copies of all photo the photos in the catalog to an external hard drive. This enables the exported catalog and photos to be available on the computer where your master catalog resides.

You can then connect the external hard drive to the computer where your master catalog resides, and then use the “Import from Another Catalog” command. I recommend keeping this process simple by making use of the option to add the photos at their current location, rather than copying them to a different location.

Then, after the process has completed, the photos imported from your traveling catalog will still be on the external hard drive. You can then drag the folder containing the images on that external drive to the location you use for storing all of your photos, and the folder and all of its contents will be moved. This also ensures that Lightroom knows where the folder has moved to, so none of your photos will go missing in the process.

After completing these tasks, you can retain the traveling catalog and photos as a backup until you’ve had a chance to update your backup.

Note that this overall process is covered in my “Real-World Organizational Workflow” course, which you can find in the GreyLearning library here:

Keyword List Limit


Today’s Question: In [Lightroom Classic for] Windows there is a maximum number of keywords that can be shown either in the Keyword list or the Metadata list. What is the maximum?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The reports I’ve seen indicate that if you have more than 3,270 keywords on the Keyword List in the Windows version of Adobe Lightroom Classic, you won’t be able to scroll down the list beyond that point. This issue does not affect the Macintosh version of Lightroom Classic.

More Detail: I was actually completely unaware of this issue until it was raised in a question during my webinar presentation yesterday on the subject of keywording ( It turns out that if you have a very large list of keywords in your Lightroom Classic catalog on Windows, you can’t scroll past a certain point.

This affects both the Keyword List found on the right panel in the Library module, as well as the same list available as a filter in the Metadata section of the Library Filter bar. Once you exceed the maximum number of keywords (which is apparently 3,270 from what I’ve been able to gather), you won’t be able to scroll on the list past that point.

One solution would be to create a hierarchy so that the top-level of the Keyword List had fewer items on it. For example, you could create a “parent” keyword for every letter of the alphabet, and then add keywords as a “child” of that parent. The parent keywords could then be set to not export, to avoid confusion when exporting photos.

Although I wasn’t aware of this limitation, it turns out that it has been a problem for a number of years, so naturally there is concern that there may be a fundamental issue preventing a fix.

Hierarchical Keywords


Today’s Question: What are your thoughts about whether or not to use hierarchical keywords? It seems like they could greatly automate a workflow.

Tim’s Quick Answer: I don’t consider hierarchical keywords to be a critical component of a workflow for organizing photos, but in certain situations they can certainly be very helpful.

More Detail: Hierarchical keywording is actually a subject I’ll address in today’s GreyLearning Webinar presentation on “Keywording Strategies and Workflow”. A hierarchical keyword is a keyword that exists within a defined hierarchy.

For example, a Bald Eagle is an Eagle, an Eagle is a Raptor, and a Raptor is a Bird. Based on this relationship, when we are talking about a Bald Eagle we also know we are talking about a Bird. If you define a keyword hierarchy where a Bald Eagle is defined as being a Bird, you can simply add “Bald Eagle” as a keyword and “Bird” will be related by association.

In the example above, “Bird” would not actually be added as a keyword to the image when you add “Bald Eagle” as a keyword. However, in software such as Lightroom Classic, after adding “Bald Eagle” as a keyword, a search for “Bird” would include the bald eagle photo in the search results.

This example demonstrates the potential workflow advantage of hierarchical keywords. Instead of adding multiple keywords from a given hierarchy to a photo, you can simply add the “lowest” keyword in that hierarchy. So you could add “Bald Eagle” as a keyword to a photo, and the photo would be searchable based on related terms Eagle, Raptor, Bird, and Animal.

That said, creating hierarchical keywords can be rather time-consuming. In addition, hierarchical keywords can result in a somewhat cluttered keyword list, since many of your keywords may now have a relatively large number of “parent” terms associated with them.

For my own workflow I have reached the conclusion that hierarchical keywords do not provide adequate value to justify the additional work and clutter that is involved. That said, for photographers who submit photos to stock photography agencies, hierarchical keywords can represent a considerable advantage. This is especially true since software such as Lightroom Classic enables you to include the “parent” keywords in the hierarchy based on the keywords you actually added to a photo, even if those parent keywords were never added to the metadata for the photo.

So, on balance I don’t personally feel it is worthwhile to make use of hierarchical keywords. However, some photographers can certainly achieve great benefits from their use.

Best Adjustment for Sharpening (and Detail)


Today’s Question: In your recent webinar “Lightroom Classic: New Features and Workflow Tips” you discuss the Texture, Clarity and Dehaze sliders in the Basic Section. I was wondering how these compare with the Sharpening sliders in the Detail section. I often photograph birds and do some sharpening of the feathers. Do these adjustments do the same thing or should one use both?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Texture and Sharpening are the most similar among these adjustment controls (Dehaze, Clarity, Texture, and Sharpening), but I still recommend using both Texture (as appropriate) and Sharpening for slightly different purposes.

More Detail: As noted in my recent webinar presentation (, the Dehaze, Clarity, and Texture adjustments (as well as Sharpening) serve a very similar purpose.

Each of these adjustments is primarily focused on enhancing overall detail in a photo. The key difference is scale. Dehaze is focused on enhancing detail at the largest scale, Clarity is somewhere in the middle, and Texture is focused on the smallest details in a photo (such as fine feather detail for bird photos).

Sharpening is slightly unique in that you can adjust the scale to some extent with the Radius slider. That potentially puts Sharpening somewhere in between Texture and Clarity in terms of the overall scale.

The emphasis of Sharpening compared to Texture is slightly different. Sharpening is intended to compensate for less than optimal sharpness, caused by shortcomings of the lens, among other issues. In effect, the Sharpening controls are intended to help you get the image back to the sharpest starting point, as if no focus had been lost in the process of capturing the photo.

Texture is a little different in that it is aimed at helping you emphasize fine details and textures in the photo. This will typically go beyond what is possible with sharpening when it comes to the added contrast for those fine details.

In addition, the Dehaze, Clarity, and Texture controls are a little more “intelligent” in the background, focusing on specific ranges of contrast enhancement and detail size within the photo. So, for example, Texture will help enhance fine details, but won’t reduce the appearance of atmospheric haze in a photo. Conversely, Dehaze will help cut through haze, but won’t enhance details at the smallest scale in a photo.

I recommend applying at least a small amount of sharpening to every photo, early in your workflow. I then recommend using the three detail enhancement adjustments (Dehaze, Clarity, and Texture) as appropriate to the specific photo you are working on along with your specific goals for that photo.

Note that you can watch the full recording of my recent presentation on “Lightroom Classic: New Features and Workflow Tips” on my Tim Grey TV channel on YouTube here:

Dry Bag for Cold Weather


Today’s Question: Quick note to add to your cold-weather advice. Humidity may be a major problem when coming inside from the cold. If you’re going from say 20 outside to 70 inside, condensation may be a major problem. I think the best way to deal with humidity is to have a dry bag and put the camera in it before moving from outside to inside. Let the bag warm up before opening and you’ll be safe from condensation. If you repeatedly go from outside to inside and back, it’s easy to cause problems even internally with a camera. The dry bag will eliminate that problem. You might also want to remove the battery and memory cards before putting them in the bag so you’ll have access to them immediately.

Tim’s Quick Answer: I completely agree that when you’re done with cold-weather photography and ready to head indoors, putting your camera into a dry bag before going indoors can help prevent issues with condensation.

More Detail: Today’s follow-up “question” is really just a bit of additional advice from a reader in response to an answer I recently shared about cold-weather photography tips.

As noted in my previous answer, condensation isn’t generally a problem in the cold, because cold air can’t retain high amounts of humidity. However, going from a cold environment to an indoor environment that is warm and potentially humid can be risky for your camera and other electronics.

The issue here is similar to what many photographers have faced when going from an air-conditioned environment outdoors into the heat and humidity. The camera will have gotten somewhat cold indoors, and therefore the humid air will form condensation all over (and inside) the camera as soon as you step outside.

Similarly, going from a cold environment outdoors to a warm and more humid environment indoors can quickly lead to significant condensation, which can cause problems for your camera. In this scenario it isn’t critical to warm up the camera quickly, so you can simply put the camera into a dry bag while still outdoors, and close up that bag. Bring the bag indoors, and let the bag (and contents) get up to room temperature before opening the bag, and you won’t have an issue with condensation.

Safe to Upgrade Operating System?


Today’s Question: Are there still issues between the Adobe software applications and MacOS Catalina and I should continue to hold off on the update?

Tim’s Quick Answer: At this point I wouldn’t have any significant concerns about upgrading to MacOS Catalina (version 10.15) and the latest versions of the Adobe Creative Cloud applications. But I also wouldn’t feel any sense of urgency. Whenever is a convenient time for you to update should be perfectly fine based on the latest updates.

More Detail: As may readers may have heard, there were some rather significant problems with the initial upgrade to MacOS Catalina, as well as with iOS 13 for iPhones and iPads.

I have upgraded my computer to MacOS Catalina, and also updated my iPhone and iPad Mini to the latest version of iOS 13. There were some issues early on, especially with iOS 13. A handful of early issues affected Photoshop and Lightroom Classic, along with other applications, and in some cases core features of iPhones in particular. Fortunately, it seems that the latest updates have stabilized everything.

I would say at this point it is reasonably safe to update, but I also wouldn’t be in a hurry.

I updated pretty soon after the updates were available, mostly because I want to keep up with the latest changes. With the most recent updates to MacOS Catalina and iOS, I no longer have any regrets about having updated. And I’ve not had any issues that are creating any problems since the most recent updates. But I also wouldn’t say there are any changes that I feel are dramatically improving my experience with my computer or iOS devices, so I don’t think there is any need to rush to upgrade.

So, if you’re not in any particular hurry to upgrade (such as to take advantage of some new features), I would still suggest that it isn’t a bad idea to hold off a little longer. But I would also say that there’s no real reason in my mind that you shouldn’t upgrade if you’re ready for that step.

CMYK Workflow


Today’s Question: As a follow-up [to the question about converting photos to the CMYK color space], because I’ve bumped into this with several online printing services: Let’s say I decide to do the CMYK conversion and get the ICC and black and white point information from the printer. What, then, are the steps? And how confident can I be that the results will be what I intend? It won’t look right on my monitor, will it?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Once you have an ICC profile and specific configuration details from the printer, you can first convert to the profile and then set the black and white points for the image. The result won’t be too far removed from the original image, but you should be able to high confidence that the print will be accurate.

More Detail: Before you even get started converting a photo to the CMYK color space, you’ll want to make sure you have calibrated your monitor display. This will ensure that what you’re seeing is an accurate representation of the actual image file. Then, you’ll want to optimize the photo to perfection based on that calibrated display.

Next, you’ll want to get details on the correct way to prepare your photo for the specific output. For example, many printers use a workflow that revolves around the sRGB color space. In some cases, such as with offset press printing that is common for books, the printer may request that you convert the images to CMYK. I suggest asking if they can accept RGB images instead. If they insist on CMYK but can’t provide a custom profile, I’d suggest finding a different printer if possible.

When you have a CMYK profile, you can install that profile by copying it to the appropriate folder for your operating system. You can then convert the image to that profile in Photoshop by choosing Edit > Convert to Profile from the menu. Select the CMYK profile from the Profile popup in the Destination Space section of the Convert to Profile dialog. I recommend using the Adobe ACE option for the Engine setting, and the Relative Colorimetric option for Intent. Make sure the “Use Black Point Compensation” and “Use Dithering” checkboxes are turned on. Click OK to apply the change.

Next you can set the black and white point values as specified by your printer. For this I recommend applying a Levels adjustment. At the bottom of the Levels adjustment you will see an Output Levels heading. Set the values for black (on the left) and white (on the right) as recommended by the printer.

With the image converted to the appropriate CMYK profile and the black and white point values set as recommended by the printer, you can save a copy of the image and send it to the printer, with a high degree of confidence that the print should look very similar to your source image.

Note that you can learn much more about color management with my video course “Color Management for Photographers”, which you can find (with a discount) on the GreyLearning website here:

Photography in Freezing Conditions


Today’s Question: We are heading from sunny, warm Miami to Anchorage for the week of Christmas and New Year. I have several spare batteries, a half dozen memory cards, and regular camera gear. I have read various articles about camera care in freezing conditions. I was wondering what steps you took. Is it OK to switch lenses? Will moisture get into the sensor? Should I ‘bag’ the camera when returning to the car after we stop for roadside landscapes? Any tips will be appreciated.

Tim’s Quick Answer: The key consideration when photographing in very cold conditions is to try to prevent the camera from getting too cold. In general moisture won’t be a problem other than the moisture you might introduce yourself, such as from snow that has melted on your clothing.

More Detail: When photographing in extreme cold, the top thing I recommend is to try to prevent the camera from getting too cold. Cold weather can greatly reduce the amount of life you’ll get out of your batteries, and also has the potential to damage the LCD display and other delicate components.

Cold weather typically brings low levels of atmospheric humidity, and so condensation is generally not a concern. However, you’ll want to be careful about other sources of moisture that could be harmful to the camera, such as when you get snow on your gloves and that snow melts, potentially causing water to get into the camera.

When the weather is cold enough that I use hand warmers (and foot warmers), I will also use a hand warmer as a camera warmer. For example, a hand warmer can be placed into the section of your camera bag where you keep the camera. When your camera is not in the bag, whenever it is not in use I recommend pulling it into your coat, or otherwise trying to protect it from the elements and keep it as warm as possible.

Changing lenses in the cold generally doesn’t introduce additional risks beyond what you would normally face when changing lenses, such as getting dust on the sensor. However, I would try to either change lenses inside a vehicle or building, or at least minimize the time taken for changing lenses, again to prevent the camera from getting too cold.

Upon returning to the vehicle, I also make sure to dry off the camera if it has gotten wet at all, and so along with my other supplies, in cold weather it is a good idea to carry a towel for this purpose.

Monitor Refresh Rate


Today’s Question: I’m looking for two new monitors for my home system, is there any advantage in purchasing a monitor with a refresh rate over 60Hz? Would I be better off concentrating on other aspects of monitor performance?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Unless you will be using your monitor display advanced gaming, I would not prioritize a refresh rate over 60 Hz. Instead I would focus on display resolution, color gamut, and dynamic range (contrast ratio).

More Detail: The refresh rate was a more important consideration for older CRT monitors that it is for today’s LCD displays, where flicker isn’t a concern. Therefore, the only reason you would want to opt for a faster refresh rate is so that you could in effect play “faster” video. What I mean by faster video is video with a very high frame rate, which typically means things like playing advanced video games.

So if you are focused on your photographic workflow, perhaps with a little bit of video editing as well, I wouldn’t worry about finding a display with a particularly fast refresh rate. Instead, I would focus on factors that more directly affect a photography workflow, such as display resolution, color gamut, and dynamic range (expressed as a contrast ratio).

Display resolution is a bit subjective, since it affects the relative size of objects on the screen. While extremely high-resolution displays with 4K resolution can present stunningly crisp details, such a display can also cause interface elements to be extremely small. I tend to prefer a display with a resolution of around 2560×1440. This is largely a matter of preference, however, so it is best to see a display set at various resolutions before you make a final decision.

For color gamut, if at all possible, I recommend opting for a display that supports the full Adobe RGB color space. And for contrast ratio (dynamic range) I recommend looking for a display with a value of 1000:1 or higher.