Saving Metadata


Today’s Question: In Monday’s answer you said that adjustment settings in the Develop module in Lightroom might be saved in metadata for the actual image file in addition to the Lightroom catalog. Can you explain that option and how you enable it?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Lightroom includes an option to write many of the metadata values (including adjustment settings) into the metadata for your images, rather than only writing that information to the Lightroom catalog. You can enable this option by turning on the “Automatically write changes into XMP” checkbox on the Metadata tab of the Catalog Settings dialog in Lightroom.

More Detail: By default Lightroom only saves the information you add to your images (such as star ratings, keywords, and adjustment settings) into the Lightroom catalog. I prefer to also save this information with the actual image files on my hard drive, for two basic reasons. First, with this option enabled you can view your metadata in other applications, such as Adobe Bridge. Second, enabling this option provides a real-time backup of the information you’ve added to your photos.

The Catalog Settings option is found on the Lightroom menu with the Macintosh version of Lightroom, and on the Edit menu with the Windows version. On the Metadata tab of the Catalog Settings dialog you’ll find the “Automatically write changes into XMP” checkbox. Turning this option on will cause Lightroom to save most metadata information into the actual image files in the case of non-RAW image formats, and into an XMP “sidecar” file in the case of RAW captures.

It is important to keep in mind that Lightroom-specific features such as pick and reject flags, collections, and virtual copies, can only be saved to the Lightroom catalog and therefore will not be saved to the image files when you enable the checkbox noted above. However, the adjustment settings from the Develop module will be saved when this option is enabled.

If you previously had this option turned off (it is turned off by default), Lightroom will go back and update all existing images once you turn the option on. In other words, all you need to do is turn on the setting and Lightroom will save existing metadata information for the photos you’ve already updated, and will continue updating that information when you make changes to the metadata or adjustment settings for images in the future.