Saving Metadata


Today’s Question: In yesterday’s answer you made reference to saving metadata to the photos in Lightroom. Can you explain how to do that?

Tim’s Quick Answer: There are two ways in Lightroom to save standard metadata for your photos out to the actual image files. You can enable an automatic option within the Catalog Settings dialog, or you can manually save metadata for selected photos using the Metadata > Save Metadata to Files command on the menu.

More Detail: By default Lightroom only saves metadata updates into the catalog, without saving that information to the actual image files on your hard drive. My preference is to also save the data to the image files themselves. This enables me to browse most of my metadata using other applications (such as Adobe Bridge), and also provides a form of backup for my important metadata.

It is important to keep in mind that employing one of these options in Lightroom will not preserve all of the information you might add to your photos. Only metadata values that are part of an established standard will be saved. That includes the most common metadata values, such as keywords and star ratings. It excludes, however, pick and reject flags, membership in collections, virtual copies, the history list in the Develop module, and some other Lightroom-specific features. That said, this does provide a potentially significant benefit for your standard metadata values.

You can enable the automatic saving of metadata to the image files with an option in the Catalog Settings dialog, which can be found on the Lightroom menu on the Macintosh version of Lightroom and the Edit menu on the Windows version. On the Metadata tab of the Catalog Settings dialog simply turn on the “Automatically write changes into XMP” checkbox. Note that Lightroom will then go back and write updates for all existing updates for your photos.

Alternatively, you can also save metadata updates manually. Simply select the photos you want to update within the Grid view, and then choose Metadata > Save Metadata to Files from the menu.

For proprietary RAW captures, the metadata will actually be saved in an XMP “sidecar” file associated with the original RAW capture, rather than the actual RAW file on your hard drive. For other supported image formats the metadata updates will be saved to the actual source image file.