When Lightroom CC was announced, I was kind of disappointed to see that Adobe’s Sensei search wasn’t going to be making it over to the Lightroom Classic application. While you can search for things like the camera used, date taken and more, I can’t all of a sudden find all my drink photos by typing in “cocktail.”

But now I can, thanks to a third-party plug-in called Excire Search.

Excire Search evaluates your entire catalog and lets you search by keyword, faces and even by reference image, finding similar images in your Lightroom catalog.

There are two versions of Excire Search — a standard version ($69) and a Pro version ($119), which adds the ability to transfer keywords extracted by the plug-in to your Lightroom catalog, basically auto-assigning your keywords as necessary.

Getting set up with Excire Search

I received the Pro version of Excire Search to review and was told that the initial initialization can take some time. Because of this, it’s recommended that you leave your computer on overnight with Lightroom open. For my catalog of roughly 220,000 images, it took about 2-1/2 days to complete. For reference, it takes about an hour for 10,000 images to be registered in the Excire system.

Initialize Excire Search

The nice thing is that the initialization process can be canceled at any time, and when you pick it up again, it resumes right where it left off. You can also just run the process with your current filmstrip, instead of your entire catalog.

Once your catalog or filmstrip has been fully run through, you can start searching through your images. To do this, go to Library, Plug-in Extras, Excire Search, and you’ll see a boatload of options on how to search through your images.

By default, Excire will give you the 100 most accurate results. But you can change this number to be much higher, up to 5000 results. You can also search through your entire catalog, or just through a specific filmstrip of photos — handy for when you’re looking for something more specific.

Excire will also give you suggested keywords, and display the total number of photos that correspond to those keywords. You can drill down to sub-keywords — for instance, if I want to find all drink photos, I can do that. I can also drill down further, and search for cocktails specifically. And I can even search by dominant color.

Excire Search by Keyword

The results

Your results will appear in a new Lightroom collection, labeled Excire Search. In my testing with both the keyword and example photo search, the results appeared pretty quickly, just taking a matter of seconds.

But the most important part — accuracy in the search results. From what I searched, the results were pretty accurate. There were a few misses, but that’s to be expected with any intelligent search platform. For instance, when I searched for “water” and a dominant color of blue, it returned some results from my theatre photos. But in those photos, there was tons of blue present, and the stage could easily be mistaken for water. Despite a few misses, 90 percent of the time, Excire Search gave me a quick and easy way to find the photos that I was looking for.

Excire Search results
Looks like cocktails to me!

And despite a few misses, nine times out of 10, Excire Search presented me with photos that I was looking for.

Things to note

The biggest thing I found was that Excire did not update the photos in its database automatically. Each time you add photos to your Lightroom catalog, they need to be added to the Excire platform, meaning you need to go back and initialize. It only goes through the new photos, so it’s a much quicker process, but it might be a good idea to do this on a weekly basis so you can stay updated.

Secondly, if you make any edits to your photos (especially if they’re drastically different), it’s a good idea to update your photos. Excire is smart enough to know which photos have changed, and will only re-register those.

If you photograph a lot of timelapses, it might be a good idea to only initialize the top photos in stacks. You can do this through the Lightroom Plug-in Manager.

All in all, I’m impressed with Excire Search. It was able to find some photos I thought were long gone, and allow me to quickly re-organize and apply keywords to those photos so I could more easily find them in the future.

Excire Search has a 15-day free trial available. It retails for $69 (standard) or $119 (pro).