Mismatched Metadata

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Today’s Question: I have come across several images that have received extensive editing and now are marked with an arrow icon in the upper right corner of the image in the grid view. When I click on this icon I get a message I don’t understand:

“The metadata for this photo has been changed by both Lightroom and another application. Should Lightroom import settings from disk or overwrite disk settings with those from the catalog?”

I assume that this may be the result of editing in Lightroom after editing in Photoshop, but I’m not sure. I’m also at a loss as to what the different outcomes of the choice I’m being asked to make.

Tim’s Quick Answer: The message indicates that changes have been made to the metadata for a photo outside of Lightroom, which in turn means that the embedded metadata for the photo does not match the metadata in the Lightroom catalog. The options presented to you are asking you to choose which metadata you want to keep, and therefore which metadata you want to lose, in order to synchronize the metadata between the image and the catalog.

More Detail: There are a variety of ways the metadata in an image file might get updated so that it no longer matches what Lightroom is expecting based on the information about a photo in the Lightroom catalog. For example, if you browse a photo in Adobe Bridge and add a keyword, that keyword would not be reflected in the Lightroom catalog. As a result, there would be a metadata mismatch.

In general you can avoid these types of mismatches by making sure that everything you do with an image is initiated in Lightroom. If you always make a point of performing all updates in Lightroom, it will also be easier to know which option to select if a metadata mismatch should occur.

The options available to resolve a metadata mismatch in Lightroom involve choosing which metadata you want to keep and which metadata you want to lose. Unfortunately, it isn’t possible to simply merge all of the updates that might have been applied within Lightroom versus outside of Lightroom.

Let’s assume you have a photo of a bird captured in Florida. If you add the keyword “bird” in Lightroom and the keyword “Florida” in Bridge, you will have a metadata mismatch. In Lightroom you’ll see “bird” as a keyword, but not “Florida”. And in Bridge you’ll see “Florida” as a keyword but not “bird”. To resolve the metadata mismatch you will have to choose which of those keywords you want to keep.

Choosing the “Import Settings from Disk” option means that you want to retain the metadata added outside of Lightroom, and bring that metadata into Lightroom. In the process you’ll lose some of the metadata in Lightroom since it will be updated with outside values. If you choose the “Overwrite Settings” option you’ll preserve the metadata in Lightroom and save that information to the image file, replacing the metadata that had been included in that file.

Again, if all of your metadata updates have been applied within Lightroom, you can be reasonably confident that any mismatches are not critical. That, in turn, would mean that you could always choose the “Overwrite Settings” option to resolve the metadata mismatch by prioritizing the information in your Lightroom catalog.