Preventing the Loss of Collections


Today’s Question: I knew about flag status not getting saved in the XMP files, so I periodically mark all my flagged photos with one star. However, I never thought about collections, which I use extensively. Are there any strategies you recommend to safe-guard collections?

Tim’s Quick Answer: I recommend using keywords to identify the collections that photos belong to, so that you can recreate collections easily even if your Lightroom Classic catalog is lost or becomes corrupted.

More Detail: As noted in Tuesday’s (May 7th) Ask Tim Grey eNewsletter, collections only exist within the Lightroom Classic catalog. Therefore, if you lost your catalog and weren’t able to recover from a catalog backup, when you recovered by creating a new catalog you would no longer have the catalogs you had previously created.

This situation can obviously be avoided by making sure you use a good backup workflow to ensure you won’t ever need to create a new empty catalog. But you can also safeguard collections beyond the Lightroom Classic catalog by using keywords to identify the collections that photos belong to.

This is a concept that I playfully refer to as “fake keywords”. The keywords are very much as real as any other keywords, but they are used in a way that is different from the “normal” way keywords are used. I use this type of keyword to identify the status of photos, such as to indicate those I’ve shared to my Instagram feed or photos I’m including in a photo project such as a book.

In this case, for example, you might use a keyword structure of something like “Collection-Calendar 2025” to indicate that the photos with this keyword belong to a collection called “Calendar 2025”. You can assign the keyword to all photos that you’ve added to the “Calendar 2025” collection, and then of course you’ll want to make sure the metadata is saved to the source files on your hard drive so the information will be preserved beyond the Lightroom Classic catalog.

You can select photos and manually save metadata to the files by going to the menu and choosing Metadata > Save Metatata to Files. However, I recommend enabling the option to automatically save metadata to your photos. This can be enabled by turning on the “Automatically write changes into XMP” checkbox on the Metadata tab of the Catalog Settings dialog in Lightroom Classic.

Keep in mind that when you save metadata to the source files in Lightroom Classic, not all information you’ve assigned in Lightroom Classic will be preserved. Metadata such as pick and reject flags, membership in collections, virtual copies, and history states in the Develop module are only saved to the catalog. That’s why when some of this information is important to you, it is a good idea to record the information in a standard metadata field (such as Keywords) that can be saved to the source image files.