Mixing Lightroom and Lightroom Classic


Today’s Question: With all the buzz about Lightroom (Lr) since it now has a local storage option, I am of course intrigued, although I’m not ready to abandon Lightroom Classic (LrC). I dabbled with Lr on some images already imported into my LrC catalog, but the edits I made with Lr did not appear to be reflected when then I accessed those same images with LrC (I use mostly dng for my raw images and have the “Automatically write changes into XMP” turned on). This begs the question: where are the edits made with Lr stored?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The cloud-focused version of Lightroom stores local metadata updates (including adjustments) in the source file since there isn’t a catalog. In the context of images being managed in Lightroom Classic, that means updates from Lightroom will result in a metadata mismatch in Lightroom Classic.

More Detail: By default, Lightroom Classic stores all metadata updates exclusively in the catalog. If you turn on the “Automatically write changes to XMP” checkbox on the Metadata tab of the Catalog Settings dialog, standard metadata fields as well as Develop adjustments will be saved to the source image file. For proprietary raw captures that means the updates will be saved to an XMP sidecar file so that the raw capture is not modified.

Lightroom (the cloud-focused version) saves metadata updates for local photos (those found via the Local tab) directly in the source image file, which again means an XMP sidecar file for proprietary raw captures.

If you make an update in Lightroom Classic and save metadata updates to the source file, those updates will be reflected in Lightroom (though in my experience it is often necessary to restart Lightroom to actually see the changes).

If you make an update in Lightroom, you won’t initially see the update reflected in Lightroom Classic. Instead, you’ll see an indication of a metadata mismatch, such as by having an icon showing three lines and an upward-pointing arrow at the top-right of the thumbnail for the image. Similarly, the Metadata Status field on the Metadata section of the right panel in the Library module would show “Changed on disk”.

If you want to bring the updates from Lightroom into Lightroom Classic, you would need to click the icon indicating the metadata mismatch (or the button at the right of the Metadata Status field) and choose the option to “Import Settings from Disk”. This would overwrite the settings in the Lightroom Classic catalog with the metadata updates from the file that had been written from Lightroom.

Needless to say, with this situation there is considerable risk of confusion about where the latest updates actually reside, and which updates you actually intended to be the final updates. This is one of the reasons I don’t recommend using a workflow that combines both Lightroom and Lightroom Classic.

If you’re using Lightroom you can certainly use other software such as Adobe Bridge to browse and manage your photos. However, if you’re using Lightroom Classic I don’t recommend using any software outside of Lightroom Classic to manage your photos, and only use third-party tools to edit your photos if you initiate the process from within Lightroom Classic.