Searching for Images in Your Lightroom Library

Feb 8, 2018  By William Royce
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A common problem facing all Lightroom users is finding images in your library, after they have been imported. It is not uncommon to have many thousands of images in your library, creating the need to gain access to particular images without laborious scanning through hundreds of pictures. This article will show you how to find images using the Lightroom Library Filter.

First, I offer several recommendations to make your task easier:

  • When importing images, add keywords to each image or batch of similar images. Example: You import 30 car images. In the Import dialog Apply during Import panel, you can enter ‘car’, which then will be automatically added to each image during the import process. After import, you can view each image and add more specific search terms such as ‘black’, or ‘Dodge’, or ‘Chevrolet’, etc. By default, multiple keywords are separated by a comma. This means a name like ‘John Smith’ should not be entered as ‘Smith, John’, rather it should be ‘Smith John’
  • Optionally, during import, you can change the name of the files being imported to at least partially indicate what the image contains. Example: when importing the 30 car images, you can rename them by selecting Custom Name – sequence as a name format. This means the 30 images would be renamed ‘Car-1’, ‘Car-2’, etc., if you enter ‘Car’ as the custom name.
  • Import your images to a folder that has a meaningful name, for example ‘2017 Chicago’
  • If you haven’t already, add keywords to all your images. For images with a common subject, such as ‘bird’, you can highlight multiple images in the Library Grid view and add the common keyword ‘bird’ in the Keywording panel. This may take you a lot of time, but will be worth it in the long run.
  • For all digital images, the camera (or your phone camera) will add a date and time automatically to the metadata, so there is no need to add a date to the list of keywords. For scanned images I recommend you name the image starting with the year you took the picture, for example, ‘1955-Alaska visit’. Once your scanned images are imported, they can be easily sorted by year

In the Lightroom Library Filter bar, which displays at the top of the Grid view, there are three methods you can use for searching your Library: Text, Attribute, & Metadata (figure 1)

Figure 1

Note: If the filter bar is not displayed, select View>Show Filter Bar or push the ‘\’ (backslash) key.

For any search, you must first select a folder in the folders panel. If you select your main folder (Pictures, for example), you will search your entire library. Sub-folders may also be searched individually.

For a text search, click on the word Text in the filter bar. Enterthe text you wish to search for in the right hand search field. Drop-down menus allow you to refine your search, from Any Searchable Field, to File Name, Title, Caption, Keywords, etc. You can also change Contains All to other options including ‘begins with’, ‘ends with’, etc.

The following example shows a search for ‘airplane’ in ‘Any Searchable Field’. In my library pictures folder, this resulted in the Grid view showing all the images that have ‘airplane’ associated with them. You will notice the search will begin as soon as the first letter of the search term is entered. Often this means you will not need to enter an entire word or phrase to find what you are looking for. (figure 2)

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