Photo Mechanic is a powerful keywording tool; we’ll learn how in two HOW-Tos
Now that we have a plan in place for our keywording strategy (see this post), we can dive in and actually keyword some pictures. This post is the first of two HOW-TOs on keywording in Photo Mechanic. (I’ll look at keywording in other software in future posts.) There are nearly a dozen ways to apply keywords in Photo Mechanic. In this post, we’ll look at the “flat” methods. In Part 2, we’ll tackle hierarchical, or, in Photo Mechanic terms, “structured” keywording.
With a photo selected in Photo Mechanic, simply call the IPTC Editor dialog with the “i” button or the “I” key on your keyboard.
Go to the Keywords field and type in a keyword, then a comma, a space, and another keyword. And so forth. EXCEPT DON’T DO THAT! Remember that we should avoid – if at all possible – typing keywords. We need keywords to be consistent – no typos, no variations, no misspellings. We want to choose keywords.
So, go to the triangle to the right of the keywords field and click. With some luck, you’ll see a flyout with keywords listed, and you can choose one, open the flyout again, choose another, and so on. Your chosen keywords will appear in the Keywords field, neatly separated with commas.
But we’ve probably gotten ahead of ourselves. How do your keywords find their way into that flyout? Read on.
The Edit Keywords dialog
From the flyout, choose “Edit Keywords”. That will open the Edit Keywords dialog. (Photo Mechanic’s legend on the dialog says “IPTC Keywords”, but we’re going to call it “Edit Keywords” because that’s what it does and that’s how we called it.)
The Edit Keywords dialog has two panes. The pane on the right is called the “Master Keywords List”. The keywords in this list are the keywords that appear in the flyout in the IPTC editor. Put keywords in this list, OK the dialog and those keywords will be your flyout keywords.
Don’t read too much into “Master Keywords List”. This isn’t your for-real master list of keywords, your controlled vocabulary that you’ve been working on since your visit to my last post. This list of keywords can’t be much longer than a dozen or two items. This is a topical keyword list. You’ll want to have separate “Master Keywords Lists” for different subjects or situations, like portraits or landscapes, or for certain clients, or even for specific assignments.
That brings us to…..Snapshots
Look below the Master Keywords List. You’ll see editing functions. Their use is obvious. They work the same way in all the Photo Mechanic dialogs that work with lists.
Just below that, you’ll find two – Two! – Snapshot buttons. (Lightning bolt icons) As far as I know, this is the only dialog in Photo Mechanic that has two Snapshot buttons. The one on the right saves and calls Snapshots for the Master Keywords List. So, if you save subsets of your keyword vocabulary as Snapshots here, you can simply switch snapshots to bring up the correct set of keywords for your flyout(s).
At this point, you may be feeling a little uncomfortable about all your work that you’ll be saving as Snapshots. You don’t need to worry.
Option-click (Alt-click on Windows) on any snapshot. (I sometimes have to do this twice. Just a glitch, maybe.) Photo Mechanic will open a file manager window at the folder for Snapshots for whatever dialog you may be using. You’ll see that the Snapshots are stored on disk as .SNAP files. You can copy, backup, migrate or share the .SNAP files to your heart’s content.
You can also simply navigate to the folder in your operating system’s file manager. If a Snapshot flyout gets crowded, you can temporarily move Snapshots and store them elsewhere on your hard drive. (Snapshots can be exported and imported through the settings Import/Export function in Photo Mechanic’s preferences, too.)
And on the left
Take a look at the pane on the left of the dialog, the “Current Keywords List”. This pane will populate with the keywords on the selected image. You can select keywords in the right pane and copy them over to the left pane. Then, when you OK the dialog, those keywords will be applied to the picture you’re working on. In this way, you can apply a bunch of keywords, even from different Snapshots, to a picture, in a heartbeat.
The Snapshot button on the left controls Snapshots for the Current Keywords List. With it, you can make Snapshots of complicated sets of keywords to apply to specific pictures.
Now let’s put this all together
Knowing what we now know, we can work our way back to the beginning to make our flyout list work the way we want it to. But we should go a few steps further to ensure we abide by our controlled vocabulary.
There are Import and Export buttons in the Edit Keywords dialog. These will export your Master Keywords List to a text file, and import a text file into the Master Keywords List (replacing whatever is in it).
If you export and look at the file, you’ll see that it’s just a flat text file with a list of keywords, each on its own line. You can easily make up such a list and import it to the Master Keywords List and, in turn, make that into a Snapshot.
If you import a large-ish list, you can then select some keywords from it in the right pane, copy them to the left pane in the dialog (which you may have to clear for the occasion), then clear the right pane and copy the keywords back. Make a Snapshot. You’ve just made a ready-to-use keywords set for your flyout out. It’s a subset of the list you started with. That list you started with would be…. your controlled vocabulary! So, the flyout list you just made conforms to your controlled vocabulary!
Format your list
It’s quite likely that your controlled vocabulary will be in the form of a hierarchical keyword list. Such a list, if it’s formatted for Photo Mechanic, will be formatted with tabs and the occasional bracket. It’s logical that you would have to use a text editor to edit (a copy of) the list to match the simple format of the Edit Keywords dialog. But wait! You can automate some of the text-editing work and Photo Mechanic will automate most of the rest.
Open your hierarchical list in a text editor. Don’t worry about the tabs. Photo Mechanic will take care of those. You’ll see some keywords in curly brackets. Those are synonyms in the hierarchical list. You can use the Find and Replace function in your text editor to remove the brakets. First, zap the left curly bracket. The do the right one. Poof! That’s done.
I would go ahead and save the file and import it into the dialog at this point. Now, in your Master Keywords List pane, you might see some items in regular brackets. Those are categories, or labels. They show in the Structured Keywords dialog, but they aren’t applied to images. You might want to turn them into keywords, or you might want to delete them. Either way, it’s easy to do using the edit function in the Master Keywords pane.
You might see duplicate items in your list. If so, Multi-select the entire list and copy it over to the left pane. Zap! The dupes are gone. Clear the right-hand pane, multi-select everything in the left pane and copy back to the right. Now you have a perfectly clean list, ready to work with.
(I demonstrate all this in the video version of this post. It might be easier to follow watching, instead of reading.)
Apply with the Stationery Pad
Now, open your Stationery Pad. (CMD+I/CTL+I, or use Image > Stationery Pad from the main menu) In the keywords field, you’ll see that you have the same tools that you have in the IPTC editor. That means you can apply anything you can do with the flyout or Edit Keywords to a Stationery template.
Adding keywords to a template and then applying the template is pretty straightforward. But what if you want to work with keywords on a batch of pictures after you’re done with your other metadata work?
Click “Clear” to clear your Stationery pad. Now tick the tickbox next to the keywords field. That will turn the Keywords field “on” and every other field “off” Now you can apply keywords to selected pictures without affecting any other fields.
Notice the little plus sign by the keywords field. There’s a tickbox next to it. This little gizmo turns append on and off for the keywords field. Usually, when you work with keywords, you’ll want to append. You’ll want to be able to add keywords to any that already exist in the Keywords field. Generally, you want to make sure the append tickbox is ticked.
But if you want a do-over, you can clear the keywords field on images by simply leaving it blank in the Stationery pad, and overwriting whatever might be in the field on the pictures. In which case, unticking the append tickbox will do the trick.
And yet another powerful method
What if you just want to apply some keywords to a bunch of selected images directly, without fussing with the Stationery pad at all?
CMD+K/CTL+K will open something called the Keywords Panel. (You can also find this panel in the Image menu.) The Keywords Panel looks sort of like the Edit Keywords dialog, except it is arranged vertically instead of horizontally. The top of the panel is a pane that looks like the Master Keywords List pane in the Edit Keywords dialog. It will, in fact, display the selected Master Keywords List. There is the same editing functionality. And a Snapshot button. This Snapshot button accesses the same set of Snapshots that the one in Edit Keywords does.
So, you just choose the subset of your controlled vocabulary that you want and you’re good to go in this panel.
Multi-select keywords from the top pane and they will appear in the “Applying:” field at the bottom. “Apply to selected photos” does just that. (You can also type directly in the “Applying:” field. But don’t 🙂 )
There is also a setting pulldown that allows you to choose between append and overwrite behavior for this panel.
These are the “flat” methods for applying keywords in Photo Mechanic. I doubt any given user will use all of them, and I suspect that most readers of this blog will be more interested in the fancier and more powerful Structured Keywords functionality. But most of us will pick and choose one or two of these methods to use when the situation seems right.
Next time, we’ll fire up the Structured Keywords panel, load it with our controlled vocabulary, and have at it.
A few posts along, we’ll explore keywording in Adobe Lightroom. In the meantime, please reach out in the comments.