Today’s Question: Your answer to the question about canceling a subscription to Lightroom Classic was reassuring. But are there additional steps you recommend ensuring I’ll always have access to the metadata for my images even if Lightroom Classic were no longer available?
Tim’s Quick Answer: The main thing I recommend doing to help ensure you aren’t completely dependent on the Lightroom Classic catalog in the long term is to enable the option to automatically save standard metadata to the source images. It can also be helpful to minimize your use of features that can only be saved within the catalog.
More Detail: By default, if you lost your Lightroom Classic catalog without any backup to recover from, you would lose all the updates you had applied to your source images. That is because all updates are only saved to the catalog by default. But you can change this option.
I recommend turning on the “Automatically write changes into XMP” checkbox found on the Metadata tab of the Catalog Settings dialog. You can bring up the Catalog Settings dialog by going to the menu and choosing Edit > Catalog Settings on Windows or Lightroom Classic > Catalog Settings on Macintosh.
It is important to keep in mind, however, that enabling this option will only preserve metadata included in existing metadata standards, such as star ratings, keywords, color labels, and more. Interestingly, the adjustment settings from the Develop module will also be included. Features that are specific to Lightroom Classic, such as collections, virtual copies, pick and reject flags, and more, will not be included.
Because some features are only preserved within the catalog, I recommend first and foremost that you maintain a good backup workflow to provide a recovery option if your catalog becomes corrupted or otherwise lost. In addition, you may want to minimize your use of some of the features that are only preserved in the catalog.
For example, I only use the reject flag as a temporary way to mark photos for deletion during my image-review workflow, and I don’t use pick flags. Part of my reasoning for taking this approach is that if I ever lost my Lightroom Classic catalog I would lose those metadata values, and so I don’t want to be overly dependent on them.