This blog is an updated version on a blog I first published in August 2011.  It concerns the single most important setting in Lightroom.  I often tell people that this is the one setting in Lightroom that you MUST change. Or at very least that you understand the implications of not changing it.

Catalog Settings – metadata tab

The setting I am referring to is “Write Changes to xmp”.  You will find it on the metadata tab within catalog settings.  You will find the catalog settings on the edit menu in Windows or on the Lightroom menu on Mac.

Not set by default

By default Lightroom only stores metadata and develop settings for your images in the Lightroom Catalog (Database). That includes any titles, captions, keywords and copyright information you supply.

Most significantly it means all the information about how to process your images is not stored with your images. So if anything happens to the lightroom catalog you loose all the work you have done in Lightroom.

By changing one setting that information is also written out to the XMP data for each image – a sort of image by image back up!

On the metadata tab ensure that “automatically write changes in to XMP” is set. If you don’t do this the develop settings for you images will ONLY exist in the Lightroom catalog. If this is set those settings are output with the metadata for the image. Thus if anything does happen to your catalog file, the develop settings still exist for each image.

Manually writing XMP

The reason that this setting is off by default is because there is a slight performance hit for having it set.  I have never noticed it as being a significant hit.  But “your mileage may vary” as the saying goes.  If you find switching it off or leaving it off does may a significant improvement to the performance of light room, you have the option to manually write the XMP data when you choose.

To do this highlight the images you wish to save the metadata for and press CTRL-S (Win) CMD-S (Mac).  This will manually output the metadata for the selected images.

Real World Reasons

Let me give you a couple of real world examples of where this one setting has prevented me from losing a lot of work.

Let me state at this point that I regularly backup my catalog, I have multiple copies and backups. A couple of years ago I had spent a day working on several hundred images in Lightroom. I was rushing out to an event at my studio and exited lightroom and closed down my PC.  By the time I’d driven to the studio the portable drive I was using had become corrupt. LR could not open the catalog I had been working on all day. No amount of Adobe recovery could restore it, and although I had backups because I had been rushing to go out on this occasion I had skipped the “backup now” prompt – so none of the backups had any of that day’s work.

Thankfully I had had the option “automatically write changes to XMP” set. All I needed to do was create a new catalog and re-import all the images I had been working on. All the metadata and all the develop settings were imported too!

For the second real world reason watch this YouTube video where I describe in details the steps for recovering a corrupt catalog using XMP data that has been written out via this setting.

Until next time, keep MAKING great images,



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