Backup Metadata Automatically

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Today’s Question: Can you expand on the last paragraph of the November 29th newsletter?:

<<Note that if you had enabled the option to save metadata out to the actual image files, this process would effectively recover the majority of the metadata that had been included in your Lightroom catalog, including all of the adjustments you had applied to your photos.>>

Tim’s Quick Answer: There is an option in the Catalog Settings dialog in Lightroom that enables you to have metadata updates saved automatically to the actual image files on your hard drive. This can help minimize the risk of data loss in the event the Lightroom catalog becomes corrupted, or if you decide to no longer use Lightroom in your workflow.

More Detail: I recommend turning on the “Automatically write changes into XMP” checkbox in the Catalog Settings dialog in Lightroom. You can find this dialog on the Lightroom menu on the Macintosh version, or on the Edit menu on the Windows version. The checkbox is located on the Metadata tab within the Catalog Settings dialog.

With this option turned on, all standard metadata values (such as star ratings and keywords) will be saved to the actual image files on your hard drive as soon as you apply those updates in Lightroom (or the next time those photos are available if you’re working with photos that are offline). In addition to standard metadata, the settings for your Develop module adjustments are included.

It is important to note that not all updates you apply in Lightroom will be saved to your image files when you enable this option. Features that are essentially Lightroom-specific, with no standard metadata field associated with them, will not be saved to the files. So Pick and Reject flags, membership in Collections, the History states found in the Develop module, and Virtual Copies will not be backed up with this feature.

Note, by the way, that for raw captures the updates will be saved to an XMP sidecar file alongside the original capture. Other supported image formats (such as DNG, JPEG, and TIFF) will have metadata updates saved to the files themselves.

And yes, when you enable this option, Lightroom will go back and save all prior metadata updates for your existing images.

If for any reason you lose your Lightroom catalog, you could create a new catalog and import all of the photos from your hard drive. With the metadata saved to your actual image files, all of that information will then be included in that new Lightroom catalog.

Just note, as indicated above, that features based on Lightroom-specific features would have been lost in this scenario, meaning it would generally be preferred to recover from a backup Lightroom catalog as compared to depending on the saved metadata. But, if you don’t tend to make use of the features that can’t be saved to metadata, this wouldn’t be a significant concern.