Metadata Mismatch Mistake

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Today’s Question: I get a message about metadata confusion in Lightroom when I work on the image in both Lightroom and Photoshop without closing and reopening the image. I don’t know which choice to check, Import Settings from Disk, or Overwrite Settings. Would you please explain these two choices and the benefits of each?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The solution here is actually to never open an image directly from Photoshop or otherwise update the metadata outside of Lightroom. If you ensure that all tasks related to your images are initiated within Lightroom, you won’t experience this data mismatch in the first place. Resolving the issue for images that have already been impacted requires making a decision about which updates to keep versus discard.

More Detail: If you update metadata for an image outside of Lightroom, the result will be a mismatch between the metadata stored with the image and the metadata in your Lightroom catalog. Even opening a RAW capture directly in Photoshop will cause adjustment metadata to be updated. Updates made outside of Lightroom will not be reflected in your Lightroom catalog, causing a mismatch and potential confusion, as well as the risk of lost data.

For example, let’s assume you add a keyword in Lightroom. If you have enabled the option to automatically save metadata out to the actual files on your hard drive (or you have manually saved that metadata) then you can see the updates in other software. So, for example, the new keyword you added would be visible if you browse the image with Adobe Bridge.

However, if you add a keyword with Adobe Bridge, that keyword will not be visible within Lightroom, because Bridge can’t add the keyword to your Lightroom catalog. Lightroom can recognize when the metadata in your catalog doesn’t match the metadata in the image file on your hard drive, and alert you of this mismatch.

To resolve the issue for images that were processed outside of Lightroom, you’ll need to decide which updates to keep and which updates to discard. For example, if you added “Bridge” as a keyword from Adobe Bridge and you added “Lightroom” as a keyword from within Lightroom, you can’t retain both keywords. You’ll need to choose whether to keep the metadata from the file on your hard drive (“Bridge” in this example) or to keep the metadata within Lightroom (“Lightroom” as a keyword in this case). In this example, one of the two keywords will be lost when you choose an option.

If you choose the “Import Settings from Disk” option in the metadata mismatch dialog, then the Lightroom catalog will be updated with all of the metadata contained in the image on your hard drive, overwriting the metadata for that image in the Lightroom catalog. If you choose the “Overwrite Settings” option, the metadata from your Lightroom catalog will be saved to the image file on the hard drive, overwriting the metadata that was there. In either case, of course, the metadata mismatch will no longer exist.

As noted above, the real solution is to avoid this problem in the first place. Once you start using Lightroom to manage your photos, it is critical that you initiate all tasks related to your photos from within Lightroom. This will ensure that your Lightroom catalog always remains up-to-date.