Losing Metadata


Today’s Question: I add metadata to my photos in Adobe Bridge then import the photos into Lightroom and place them on the map [in the Map module, to add GPS location information to metadata for the photos]. Later I may go back and add more keywords in Bridge. When I bring up those particular photos in Lightroom, the icon comes up on the photo for  “Import Settings from Disk” which I do. But that causes the map icon to disappear on those photos and I have to place them on the map again. I wonder what is causing the map icon to disappear and whether those photos are really being removed from the Lightroom map?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The workflow you’re using is causing the metadata from Adobe Bridge to replace the metadata in Lightroom, causing you to lose all of the metadata that was only added in Lightroom. Put simply, I recommend only adding keywords or metadata from within Lightroom once you’ve imported photos into Lightroom.

More Detail: By default, Lightroom only stores metadata for your photos in the Lightroom catalog. Therefore, when you update metadata using Adobe Bridge for a photo that is already in the Lightroom catalog, there is a mismatch. Lightroom is only looking at the catalog, while Bridge is updating the XMP sidecar file for your RAW captures (or the actual image file in the case of other file types).

There are two possible solutions to avoid this mismatch situation, but I really only recommend the first option.

The first option is to avoid the mismatch altogether by using Lightroom as the exclusive tool for updating any metadata for your photos once those images have been imported into your Lightroom catalog. This is the approach I recommend, as it helps ensure you will avoid a wide variety of potential challenges related to the organization of your photos. Taking this a step further, I recommend that all work related to your photos should start within Lightroom. If you always treat Lightroom as the foundation of your workflow, you’ll avoid many of the challenges photographers run into, such as missing images, missing folders, metadata mismatches, and more.

The second approach is to have Lightroom automatically update the metadata for the files actually stored on the hard drive. With this approach the Lightroom catalog will still be updated to reflect all changes. However, in addition, Lightroom will write the updates to the XMP sidecar file for your RAW captures (or to the actual image file for other file types). This will not eliminate the metadata mismatch, but it will help ensure you don’t lose the GPS location information when you update your images in Lightroom based on what you changed in Bridge.

While I prefer to turn on the option to automatically update the XMP sidecar file for RAW captures (which can be found on the Metadata tab of the Catalog Settings dialog in Lightroom), I still very highly recommend that you only update metadata within Lightroom for images that are being managed by Lightroom.

So, stop updating metadata in Adobe Bridge after you’ve imported photos into Lightroom, and your workflow will function much more smoothly.