For the past 15 years or so I’ve been helping people organize, backup and print their photographs. And the one thing that has been a challenge for almost everyone (including me!) is keywording. It’s just not a lot of fun (for most people) to go through thousands (or hundreds of thousands) of images and videos and assign appropriate keywords to them. But keywording images and videos can pay huge dividends in the long run because having a collection with good keywords means that you can more easily find images for personal projects, client work and stock photography licensing.
Face recognition inside of Lightroom and other programs has helped quite a bit, but it’s far from perfect. And of course, not every photo has a recognizable person in it, so we have been faced with a problem in need of a solution. Until now.
The solution I’m referring to is a Lightroom Classic CC plug-in called Excire Search. And it does more than just automatically create keywords.
What it Does
Excire Search works via a Lightroom plug-in to “initialize” or look through your image collection one image at a time so that it can then use the image information to both create keywords and allow for creative searches by keyword or even via a sample image uploaded from your computer. It can initialize 10,000-20,000 images per hour (according to the software’s developer), but it depends on your system and whether you have already created Smart Previews. I didn’t time the process exactly, but Excire Search Pro initialized just over 400,000 images in my catalog on a MacBook Pro over a period of 4-6 days (I stopped the process a few times to take my computer with me, and I had very few Smart Previews in my catalog before starting the process). While it was initializing, I was still able to work on my computer and inside Lightroom. You can run a new initialization at any time, and it will quickly recognize which photos have already been initialized.
In case you’d like a quick look at how good the automatic keywording can be, I was very impressed by what the software came up with for one of my photos that included hot air balloons (click on the image to see the keywords much larger):
Installing the Excire Search Plug-in, setting preferences and starting the initialization process takes just a few minutes, but it can be a bit confusing. After downloading the plug-in (it’s available for Mac and Windows), I would recommend viewing the following videos for step-by-step instructions. I’ve also included a screen shot of the main settings below:
Caption: I chose to use the Fast initialization option because of the size of my catalog, but you might choose to uncheck that box if you make a lot of edits (especially if you convert a lot of images to black and white without first making Virtual Copies). Because I don’t use many stacks (stacks are very useful if you shoot a lot of panoramas in sections or multi-image HDRs), I unchecked the third box. And because I have generated a lot of Smart Previews over the years, I chose to “Prefer” them when initializing because the makers of the application say that can speed up the initialization process.
As you can see in the above video, searching by example photo is like magic! You just choose an image from your library (or an external image), then navigate to Library>Plug-in Extras>Search by Example Photo (or choose one of the other two Search by Example Photo options). Choosing Search by Example Photo with Previous will use the Previous Settings, such as how many results to display and whether to reference the example photo’s content or color. You can also search by Keyword or for Faces. In case you are wondering what “Update Photos” means (it’s the last item on the list under Excire Search), if you make large color or density changes (or convert images to black and white), you may want to choose the photos on which you made those edits and select “Update Photos.” The Excire Search engine will then look at those photos again and create new keywords.
The Faces dialog box is so incredible to me. You can choose from a wide variety of different criteria, including the number of faces, an age range, male/female, and even whether or not people are smiling. I’ve included a screen shot below, and in my testing, it was extremely good at showing me images that closely matched what I requested (click on the image below to see the dialog box much larger). That being said, it was better at distinguishing between male and female faces for adults compared with children, which is very understandable (even the iPhone X’s face detection is less accurate with children’s faces compared with adult faces).
Pricing, Language and Availability (Plus a Special Offer for Our Readers)
Excire Search is available in two configurations: Excire Search (US $69) and Excire Search Pro (US $119). The plug-ins are identical except for the fact that Excire Search Pro draws from a larger group of keywords (about 500 vs. 125), and it also offers the ability to transfer keywords (individually or in bulk) that it creates into the Keyword List inside of a Lightroom catalog. For my workflow, the ability to transfer keywords is essential, so I am using Excire Search Pro.
Currently, the software is available in English and German. If you’d like to test out Excire Search or Excire Search Pro, visit this page for a free, fully functional 15 day trial. Also, if you decide to purchase Excire Search Pro, the company created a special 10% discount code for my readers: Just enter “AndrewPro10” (no quotes) at checkout.
I also noticed this text from the company’s site re: giving back: “A small portion of every purchased Excire Search download will be held in a special fund for support to a variety of nonprofits in the United States market. We’ll be developing our own Giving Back Advisory Board who will help us decide each year on a different charity needing more support.”
It’s difficult to express how happy I am with Excire Search Pro. It was like someone out there was listening to my prayers. (turns out it was a lot of very smart engineers!). I was told that the company is always doing research and working on how they can improve the software, and I look forward to seeing how it develops over time.
One of the best things about the internet and blogs is that I can reference other articles about Excire Search that I found useful. One review of Excire search that’s at the top of my list is by Bryan Esler that appeared on the excellent photo website: photofocus.com. You can read his review here. I’ve also had the honor of having a number of my articles published on the site over the years. There’s also a comprehensive article by the people who make Excire Search on the topic of speed and accuracy with different technologies that automatically generate keywords. You can find that article here.
If you’d like to test out Excire Search or Excire Search Pro, visit this page for a free, fully functional 15 day trial. And if you like it and decide to purchase the plug-in, there’s a special 10% discount code for our readers: Just enter “AndrewPro10” (no quotes) at checkout.
(Full Disclosure: Apart from being provided a license code for Excire Search Pro, I was not compensated in any way for writing this article. Please note that this article may contain affiliate links to the Excire Search website, which means that I may be compensated if a purchase is made after clicking through or by using a promo code. If you would prefer not to use my links, just visit your favorite search engine and type in: “Excire Search.”