I'm going through all my photos and one thing I'm doing is adding keywords so I don't need the file name to describe the photo.

I don't understand if they should be structured in any sort of way. I was simply typing in a few, like, "china taishan".

When I click to add one from the suggestion box, Lightroom adds a comma. So, if I click the suggestions for the next photo it will say "china, taishan". It appears to know the comma isn't a keyword.

Is there a convention I should use? I want to maintain a platform-agnostic approach so that my photos are easily transferable to other software in the future.

Update: I discovered that Lightroom was treating "china taishan" as a single keyword but I didn't know this because it truncates the suggestion to make it appear like a single word. Removed related wording from the post.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I have avoided keywords up to now, exactly because I am unclear on what their effects are and how much they are interchangeable. Looking forward to the answers! \$\endgroup\$
    – Aganju
    Commented Dec 16, 2016 at 12:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ Have you read the helpx.adobe.com article "How to use keywords in Lightroom?" I'm having a problem distinguishing what it is you're actually asking other than general help on how to use keywords. Is there a specific problem you're trying to solve? \$\endgroup\$
    – inkista
    Commented Dec 19, 2016 at 0:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ Helpful link for Lightroom (thanks!), but more as a future reference. The main question from my post is "Is there a convention I should use?" As stated, I'd like to avoid Lightroom-specific functionality. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 20, 2016 at 2:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm not a photographer, or in the business at all. I would imagine that the business has best practices or a common pattern for keywording. Do people separate keywords with spaces? Or Dashes? Commas? Or does it not matter at all? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 20, 2016 at 2:21

1 Answer 1


A comma is probably the most common delimiter. Lightroom recognizes it by default. It can also treat a period (.) or slash (/) the same way but this is optional which suggests that it is less standard.

A space is not usually a delimiter since people can use names such as 'John Smith' as keywords. Do not use a vertical bar (|) either since that is usually considered a hierarchy separator.

Speaking of which, you can structure keyword as a hierarchy which shows as a tree in Lightroom but is flattened when Metadata is exported. For example, I have locations as [continent]|[country]|[city], so for example, asia|thailand|bangkok. In Lightroom it looks like a neatly organized tree:

|-> thailand
    |->  bangkok

That makes it easy to find photos of Asia, Thailand or Bangkok without having to explicitly add all three keywords. When adding bangkok, Lightroom automatically knows what the parent keywords are.

  • \$\begingroup\$ are there any or operator? for example, you used asia thaiand tree... mine would be: asia or middle east -> X or Y -> ... even city name typo changed so there are lot of options... \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 15, 2017 at 14:21

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