Today’s Question: I have been using Lightroom for several years, and have imported about 30,000 photos. In spite of all your training, I have not yet set the catalog option to update the XMP file whenever changes are made. Before I change the catalog setting, I would like to have the XMP data for all the existing photos updated. Is there an easy and controlled way to now update the XMP files for all of my photos? “Easy” means a simple process, and “controlled” means I don’t want to do it on all the photos at the same time, but would rather do it folder by folder.
Tim’s Quick Answer: There is indeed an easy and controlled way to save the metadata for your photos to the image files themselves. You can, for example, select the images in one folder at a time, and then choose the “Save Metadata to Files” command from the Metadata menu while in the Library module.
More Detail: It should be noted that for 30,000 images the process of writing the metadata out to the image files (or the XMP sidecar file in the case of RAW captures) won’t require very much time. Also, if you turn on the “Automatically write changes into XMP” checkbox on the Metadata tab of the Catalog Settings dialog, Lightroom will retroactively update all of your existing images, and that process will happen in the background without a dramatic impact on overall performance.
That said, you can most certainly use an easy and controlled process. You can go folder by folder down the list in the Folders section of the left panel in the Library module so that you are updating a relatively small number of photos at a time. Once you’ve selected a folder, confirm there are no filters set so you are viewing all images in that folder.
Next, choose Edit > Select All from the menu, or press Ctrl+A on Windows or Command+A on Macintosh, so that all of the images in the current folder are selected. Then choose Metadata > Save Metadata to Files from the menu, or press Ctrl+S on Windows or Command+S on Macintosh. You will see a progress bar on the identity plate at the far left of the top panel so you can confirm when the process is complete for the currently selected photos.
You can repeat this process for each folder on the list, until you’ve saved the metadata for all of the images in your catalog. Just keep in mind, by the way, that certain Lightroom-only features are not included as part of this saving of metadata to your images. The options that will be excluded from this process include pick and reject flags, virtual copies, membership in collections, and the history list in the Develop module (the actual settings for your adjustments will be saved, however).