Metadata Compatibility


Today’s Question: Are there any Lightroom ratings that are visible in other software (such as star ratings)? What about color labels and pick flags? Any others that aren’t?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes, as long as you save metadata updates to your source image files the star ratings and color labels will be visible to other software applications that display photo metadata. However, any pick and reject flags you assign will not be available outside of Lightroom Classic, even if you save metadata to your photos.

More Detail: There are two factors involved in making sure that the metadata updates you apply in Lightroom Classic are visible in other software applications. First, you need to make sure you are using metadata fields that are part of an established metadata standard. Second, you need to enable the option to save metadata to your source image files.

When it comes to ratings used to identify favorite (or not-so-favorite photos) in Lightroom Classic, both star ratings and color labels are included in established metadata standards. That means that most (if not all) image-management software would be able to understand the values you have assigned to these metadata fields in Lightroom Classic. However, the pick and reject flags available in Lightroom Classic are not part of a metadata standard, and would therefore not be available to other software applications.

In order for standard metadata updates to be visible to other software applications, you need to make sure that Lightroom is writing those updates to the photos themselves. By default Lightroom only saves metadata updates within the catalog. However, if you turn on the “Automatically write changes into XMP” checkbox on the Metadata tab of the Catalog Settings dialog, standard metadata updates will also be written to the source files in addition to being updated in the Lightroom catalog. Note that in the case of proprietary raw captures the metadata updates are actually written to XMP “sidecar” files rather than the original capture file.

Catalog Backup Retention


Today’s Question: How many versions of your Lightroom Classic catalog do you retain when backing it up?

Tim’s Quick Answer: I generally retain only five backup copies of my Lightroom Classic catalog, including the most recent couple of backups, and backups from about one, three, and six months ago.

More Detail: The whole point of backing up your Lightroom catalog is to provide you with a way to restore from a backup should something go wrong. In general that means recovering from the most recent backup of your catalog. However, in some cases you may need to go back a bit further, which is why I recommend retaining more than just the most recent backup.

For example, if your Lightroom catalog becomes corrupted, it is possible that the most recent backup will also include some of the corruption that caused your catalog to be unusable. In that type of situation you may need to recover from an older backup.

Of course, if you restore from a particularly old backup of your catalog, you’re going to be missing many of the recent photos and metadata updates in that catalog. Therefore, it doesn’t necessarily make a lot of sense to retain especially old catalogs. If you need to go back very far, it might be best to just start with a new empty catalog and re-import all of your photos into that catalog.

So, I tend to retain a couple recent backups, as well as a few older backups of my Lightroom catalog. But I don’t retain especially old catalog backups, as old backups may be more trouble than they are worth.

Note, by the way, that one of the ways I help reduce the impact of a corrupted catalog is by saving metadata updates to my source images. This is enabled by turning on the “Automatically write changes into XMP” checkbox on the Metadata tab of the Catalog Settings dialog in Lightroom Classic. With this option enabled, most of your metadata updates will be written to your source image files, helping to reduce the impact of having to start over with a clean catalog and re-importing your photos.

File Renaming Mess


Today’s Question: By mistake I renamed over 30,000 photos outside of Lightroom [Classic]. What is the best approach to fixing this mess?

Tim’s Quick Answer: This is likely a rather significant problem, as Lightroom Classic can’t resolve the issue with any degree of automation. While I rarely recommend this solution, it might make the most sense to synchronize the affected folders, even though that will mean losing some of the metadata information for the affected photos.

More Detail: Because Lightroom Classic uses a catalog to manage the information about your photos, it important that any tasks related to the management of your photos be initiated within Lightroom. If you rename photos (or folders) outside of Lightroom, then the affected photos will appear as “missing” within Lightroom, because they can’t be found where they are expected.

If you had simply renamed a folder, you could reconnect that folder within Lightroom and all of the photos within the folder would no longer be missing. However, if you have renamed a large number of individual photos outside of Lightroom, those photos will need to be reconnected individually.

In other words, it would require quite a bit of time and patience to reconnect all of the missing photos, because you would want to confirm that you are connecting each individual photo correctly. For example, you might browse the individual photos in Adobe Bridge, compare each photo to the preview within Lightroom Classic, and then use that information to determine how to reconnect the missing photos with the applicable source file on your hard drive.

With such a considerable amount of work to do, it may be best to essentially start over in some respects. If the 30,000 photos that are now missing represent the bulk of the photos you are managing in Lightroom Classic, it might be easiest to create a new catalog and re-import from scratch. Note that this might cause you to lose most metadata updates to your photos, unless you had enabled the option to automatically save metadata updates to the photos themselves.

If the photos are a relatively small percentage of the total being managed in your Lightroom catalog, you might instead want to synchronize the affected folders. This will cause missing photos to be removed from Lightroom, and new photos to be imported. That would resolve the larger issue here, but would also cause you to potentially lose many of the metadata updates you had applied. You can initiate this process by right-clicking on a folder and choosing “Synchronize Folder” from the popup menu. After the scan is complete in the Synchronize Folder dialog you can click the Synchronize button to have Lightroom process the folder.

Needless to say, today’s question helps demonstrate why it is so important to work within Lightroom when you want to make changes to the overall storage structure for your photos. That said, if you do have a mess in Lightroom, you can learn to get things cleaned up with my “Cleaning Up Your Mess in Lightroom” course available in the GreyLearning library here:

Folder Structure Revision


Today’s Question: If you wanted to move from a date-based folder structure to a location-based structure, would you do that major revision of folder structure from within Lightroom Classic? Is there another practical option?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes, you absolutely should perform that work within Lightroom Classic, not outside of your catalog. This will ensure that the changes are reflected both on your hard drive and within Lightroom.

More Detail: As I’ve said many times, one of the most critical things to keep in mind when using Lightroom Classic as the foundation of your workflow for managing photos, it is critical that all tasks related to your photos be initiated within Lightroom. That includes making changes to your folder structure.

If you want to rename or consolidate folders containing the photos you are managing in Lightroom Classic, you can simply make those changes within Lightroom. For example, if you want to rename a folder, you can right-click on the folder within the Folders list in the left panel of the Library module and choose “Rename” from the popup menu. In the dialog that appears you can then enter a new name and click the Save button.

If you want to consolidate photos from multiple folders into a single folder, you can first rename (if necessary) the primary folder, and then select the photos you want to move and drag-and-drop them to the destination folder. If this process results in one or more empty folders, you can right-click on the empty folder and choose “Remove” from the popup menu.

The key is to keep in mind that the basic folder and file management features are available within Lightroom, so that you can rename folders, move photos, and remove empty folders, in order to refine your overall folder structure. Most importantly, be sure this work is performed within Lightroom Classic, not through your operating system or other software.

And, of course, if you have a bit of a mess on your hands in Lightroom Classic, my popular “Cleaning Up Your Mess in Lightroom” course can help. Note, by the way, that Chapter 3, Lesson 7 in this course demonstrates a process for cleaning up date-based folders, which is the topic of today’s question. You can get more info (with a discount included automatically) by using this link to get started.

Metadata Longevity


Today’s Question: Will future (post-Lightroom) versions of other software recognize and honor the metadata in sidecar (XMP) files for photos that were optimized in the Lightroom Classic Develop module or in Adobe Bridge?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Metadata that is included as part of an existing metadata standard can be preserved and recognized by other software beyond Lightroom Classic. However, most of the adjustment settings would likely be lost in this type of scenario.

More Detail: Many of the metadata fields you might update in Lightroom Classic represent fields from established metadata standards. This includes such things as keywords, star ratings, and other common metadata values.

Other metadata values you can update in Lightroom Classic represent what are essentially Lightroom-specific features. That includes things such as collections, pick and reject flags, and the adjustments you apply within the Develop module.

For the most part, Lightroom-specific metadata values are not saved to your source image files when you choose to save metadata to the actual image file on your hard drive. However, interestingly enough, the adjustments you apply in the Develop module are saved to the files in this case. So, for example, the XMP sidecar file associated with a proprietary raw capture can contain the settings for the adjustments you applied in the Develop module for each photo.

However, some applications are able to extract certain adjustment settings from the metadata based on the Develop module in Lightroom Classic. For example, if you are using a version of Exposure X from Exposure Software, you can migrate some of your Lightroom Develop adjustments (along with other metadata) using their Lightroom to Exposure Migration Tool. You can learn more about this particular option on the Exposure Software website here:

In general, you should assume that only standard metadata fields will be preserved outside of the context of a Lightroom-based workflow. Even then, that metadata will only be preserved with your source images if you have saved metadata to your photos. This is one of the reasons I recommend turning on the “Automatically write changes into XMP” checkbox on the Metadata tab of the Catalog Settings dialog in Lightroom Classic. However, even with this option enabled, it is important to keep in mind that not all metadata will be preserved. In addition, the metadata from the Develop module would likely not be available to other applications beyond Lightroom, Adobe Bridge, and Adobe Camera Raw (via Photoshop).

“Fake” Keywords


Today’s Question: Do you organize at all based on how your images are used? For example, printed or uploaded to Flickr or delivered to a client or included in a webinar? If so, how? Keywords? Collections?

Tim’s Quick Answer: When I feel it is appropriate based on my specific needs, I do organize photos based on how they are put to use. I use special keywords for this purpose, which I refer to as “fake keywords”.

More Detail: Today’s question is somewhat related to the question I addressed in yesterday’s Ask Tim Grey eNewsletter. When it comes to keeping track of special attributes for photos, such as how they are used, I make use of special keywords for this purpose. I refer to these as “fake keywords” because they are keywords used in a way that is different from the more typical approach of identifying subjects within the photo.

For example, I enjoy sharing some of my favorite photos through my Instagram feed (and I encourage you to follow my account, with user name “timgreyphoto”!). I prefer to keep track of which photos I have already shared to Instagram, in part to ensure I don’t accidentally share the same photo twice. For this purpose I add the keyword “InstagramShare” to photos I share on Instagram.

If I also wanted to create a collection that included these photos, I would actually create a smart collection rather than a “normal” collection. A smart collection is essentially a saved search result, so in this example I would specify criteria for the smart collection so that photos with the “InstagramShare” keyword would be included in the smart collection automatically.

I don’t happen to identify photos as having been printed, but that is certainly something else you could accomplish with a “fake” keyword. In short, I recommend adding a special keyword to any photo for which you would like to preserve a particular status for. Even better, those “fake” keywords can help preserve information that would be lost if you were to lose your Lightroom catalog. That is because features such as collections, pick and reject flags, and other Lightroom-specific features, are not saved to the metadata for your photos even if you have enabled the option to have metadata saved automatically to your source image files.

Folders or Collections?


Today’s Question: Do you do more of your work from the Folder component rather than the Collection component [in Lightroom Classic]?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes, I consider folders to be my primary organizational tool within Lightroom Classic. I reserve the use of collections for special projects, and in fact often use special keywords to effectively take the place of collections.

More Detail: There is no question that collections in Lightroom can be very helpful for organizing photos for a wide variety of ways that go beyond the utility of folders. For example, at a very basic level, a given photo is only stored in a single folder on your hard drive, but can be referenced in any number of collections based on various projects or other organizational needs.

However, it is also important to keep in mind that collections in Lightroom are only managed within your Lightroom catalog, and are not saved to the metadata for your photos. That means that if your Lightroom catalog were to become corrupted or otherwise lost, the collections you are using to manage your photos would also be lost.

Obviously this is a reason to maintain a good workflow for backing up your catalog. But I also prefer to take an approach that helps reduce my dependence upon collections.

Therefore, I tend to use collections for temporarily organizing photos for various projects. Along the way (or at least at the conclusion of the project) I will use a special keyword to identify the photos that would otherwise be included in a collection.

For example, if I created a collection to manage photos I wanted to feature in a book about the Palouse, I might add a keyword such as “BOOK-Palouse” to the photos within that collection. By using this approach, even if I lost my Lightroom catalog (and therefore the collection containing the photos for the book) I would not have actually lost anything. The keyword “BOOK-Palouse” would still be included within my photos (since I enable the option to automatically save metadata to my photos), and therefore I could easily locate and identify the photos that had previously been included in a collection.

So, I tend to use collections somewhat sparingly. And when I do use a collection to manage photos for a particular project, I use special keywords to preserve the details about which collections a given photo is intended to be included in.

Preserving Capture Date


Today’s Question: One of my biggest issues is file naming and organizing in such a way that I will be able to recover the actual date of capture in case the actual original shooting date is lost. How do recommend accomplishing this with Lightroom [Classic]?

Tim’s Quick Answer: While it is not likely that you would lose all capture date and time information from the metadata for your photos, you can preserve that information in Lightroom Classic by renaming your photos with a structure that includes the date of capture.

More Detail: There are a wide variety of options available for renaming your photos in Lightroom Classic. One of the more flexible options is to use a template for batch-renaming photos, either during import or later in your workflow.

It can be a good idea to retain the original filename from the camera, especially if there is any chance you have referenced or shared (such as with a client) the original filename. Therefore, in the context of today’s question, I would recommend adding the capture date to the beginning of the filename, while retaining the original filename as part of the overall name.

Lightroom Classic includes a file renaming template that consists of the capture data along with the original filename. So, to get started you could select the photos you want to rename. Then, in the Library module, go to the menu and choose Library > Rename Photos. In the dialog that appears, you can choose “Date – Filename” from the File Naming popup menu. Note that you can also choose “Edit” from this popup if you want to make changes to the file naming template.

After selecting the desired template, you can click the OK button to have the selected photos renamed based on the selected template. Note that the “Date” option in this case relates to the date of capture for each individual photo, which Lightroom will extract from the metadata for each image.

Import as DNG?


Today’s Question: Do you import [into Lightroom Classic] as DNG? Some photographers recommend saving RAW files in a separate folder on the hard drive and then importing as DNG into Lightroom. I’d like to know your thoughts.

Tim’s Quick Answer: No, I do not convert my raw captures to the Adobe DNG format during import into Lightroom Classic. I prefer to retain the original raw captures, for a variety of reasons.

More Detail: I have certainly heard many photographers recommend converting proprietary raw captures to the Adobe DNG format, but I do not generally recommend this approach.

Part of the reason I prefer to retain the original raw capture format is that I prefer to preserve the original capture just as it came out of the camera. In some cases, for example, there are proprietary details included with the raw capture that you would not be able to take advantage of if you converted the capture to the Adobe DNG format.

As I’ve mentioned in previous editions of the Ask Tim Grey eNewsletter, I also prefer to have my metadata updates stored separate from the original capture. When you save metadata to the source image in Lightroom Classic, that metadata is stored in a different location depending on whether you’re working with a proprietary raw capture or an Adobe DNG file.

For proprietary raw captures, metadata updates will be stored in an XMP “sidecar” file saved alongside the raw capture. For DNG images, that metadata updates will be saved directly within the DNG file. While saving metadata directly in the source image can certainly be convenient, it can also cause incremental backups of your photos to take more time.

To be fair, the Adobe DNG file format employs lossless compression that will cause no loss of pixel detail for your photos, and that can help reduce file size by around 20%. In theory, the fact that there is open documentation for the Adobe DNG file format means there is less reason to worry about a lack of future support for DNG images compared to proprietary raw captures. In reality, I don’t consider this a legitimate concern, especially considering that most raw-processing software applications today employed reverse-engineering to provide support for proprietary formats.

So, on balance, I prefer to retain my original raw captures. And as long as I’m going to do that, I don’t see a reason to save those raw captures in one place, and then convert to Adobe DNG for purposes of a Lightroom-based workflow.

Moving Photos to an External Drive


Today’s Question: How hard/easy would it be to move my photos from my laptop hard drive to a larger external hard drive using Lightroom Classic?

Tim’s Quick Answer: It is very easy to move photos from an internal drive to an external drive, as long as you perform that work within Lightroom Classic rather than using other software or your computer’s operating system.

More Detail: Moving photos (or folders containing photos) is quite easy within Lightroom Classic. When it comes to migrating to a new hard drive, you will need to create a new folder on the destination drive from within Lightroom, so that the drive itself is available in Lightroom.

With the new hard drive connected you will first want to create a “master” folder on that drive to be used for photo storage. To get started, click on the “plus” (+) button to the right of the Folders heading on the left panel in the Library module, and choose “Add Folder” (not “Add Subfolder”) from the popup menu.

In the dialog that appears, navigate to the hard drive that you want to move photos to (the external hard drive in this example). Then click the New Folder button at the bottom-left of the dialog. Type a name (such as “Photos”) for the new folder, and click the Create button. Then click the Choose button. The new folder will be created on the hard drive you selected, and that folder will be visible under a heading for the hard drive in the Folders list of the left panel.

The folder you just created can then be used as a destination folder for moving photos from the internal hard drive to the external hard drive. You could, for example, select all folders on the external hard drive by clicking on the first folder on the list and then holding the Shift key and clicking on the last folder. You can then drag-and-drop the selected folders to the new folder you created on the destination hard drive. Note that you will need to confirm that you want to actually move the folders and photos on the hard drive in a dialog that will be presented by Lightroom.

I recommend, however, that you move folders in relatively small batches. This is because I have found that sometimes things go wrong when moving a large number of folders, which can create some confusion within Lightroom. So I generally select small groups of folders at a time, and drag and drop them to the desired destination folder. I also recommend, by the way, that you flatten any folders that include subfolders, helping to streamline the process of selecting and moving multiple folders at a time.

You can see the process of migrating to a new hard drive in detail in Chapter 7, Lesson 3, of my “Cleaning Up Your Mess in Lightroom” video course. For a 25% discount on this course, use this link to get started (and to learn more about the course):