Color Label Mismatch


Today’s Question: I migrated all my files from my old iMac to my new Studio Mac. In Lightroom Classic I opened my old catalog and while I have all my photos and star ratings, the color labels have disappeared. Instead, for those photos that had color labels, in the grid view there is a white square in the lower right of the frame. What did I do wrong?

Tim’s Quick Answer: This is simply an indication that the color label definitions don’t match those that were used to assign color labels to the affected image. All you need to do is update the color label definitions in Lightroom Classic to get the original colors back.

More Detail: While the color labels you can assign to images with various photo-management software applications are simple in concept, they aren’t quite as simple as they appear. When you assign a color label you aren’t actually assigning a color, but rather text in metadata.

The software looks at the text in the Label field in metadata, and compares that to the color label definitions, displaying the applicable color. In some cases, it is possible to alter the definitions used for the text associated with each color label, which can lead to confusion if there is a mismatch. Photos that have text in the Label field that don’t match a color label definition will appear with a white color label.

The first step in this case is to determine which color label definitions had been used previously. While browsing some of the photos that show a white color label go to the Library Filter in the grid view display within the Library module. On the Metadata tab browse the Label column, selecting the option from the popup on a column header if it isn’t currently displayed.

The Label column will then display all metadata values for the Label field for the photos you are currently browsing. The default definitions for Lightroom Classic are quite straightforward, being Red, Yellow, Green, Blue, and Purple. In Adobe Bridge the defaults are less meaningful, being Select, Second, Approved, Review, and To Do.

My assumption is that you’ll see an indication of one of these two color label sets when browsing the Label column on the Library Filter bar. Or you may recall that you had previously used a different definition. In any event, in Lightroom Classic you can go to the menu and choose Metadata > Color Label Set > Edit to bring up a dialog where you can select a Preset for the color labels or enter your own custom values to match what had been used previously.

For example, perhaps on your previous computer you had set Lightroom Classic to use the Bridge Default preset, but on the new computer the setting is at the default of Lightroom Default. Once you update the color label definitions in Lightroom Classic the applicable colors you were expecting based on the color labels you had previously applied will be magically restored.