Returning to Color Version


Today’s Question: I deleted [removed] a RAW (CR2) image from the Lightroom catalog by accident. In Lightroom I had converted it to black & white. When I realized that I shouldn’t have removed it, I re-imported it.

The problem is that the image that appears back in the catalog has no history other than “Import” and it appears as a black & white image. I can’t figure out how to get the colored original back. I’d like to rework it from scratch because I’ve learned so much since I did the conversion years ago.

Tim’s Quick Answer: You can get back to the color version of this photo by simply choosing “Color” from the Treatment setting at the top of the Basic section on the right panel in the Develop module.

More Detail: All of the adjustments you apply in the Develop module in Lightroom are non-destructive. What that means is that making changes to the appearance of a photo in Lightroom won’t actually alter the source file on your hard drive.

That means you can make changes to any of the adjustment settings for the image as desired. In this case, for example, that could simply involve changing the Treatment setting from “Black & White” to “Color”.

In addition, note that you can always click the Reset button at the bottom of the right panel in Lightroom if you want to return to the default settings for interpreting the image in Lightroom. This option provides you with the ability to get a “fresh start” for the image in the Develop module.

With regard to the History in the Develop module, when you initially import a photo the only history that will be shown is the actual import step. However, adjustments applied previously can still be reflected. Adjustment settings from the Develop module can be written into the XMP sidecar file for RAW captures, and directly into the file for other supported image file types. You can save most standard metadata information as well as Develop settings for an image by choosing Metadata > Save Metadata to File while in the Library module. You can also enable an option to always automatically save this information by turning on the “Automatically write changes into XMP” checkbox on the Metadata tab of the Catalog Settings dialog.

It is worth noting that if you had exported a derivative image file, such as by creating a JPEG or TIFF image from your original RAW capture, any adjustments in the Develop module would be applied to the actual pixel values in that JPEG or TIFF image. But in the case of a RAW capture, you can always get back to the original interpretation of the image.