If you don’t do this one thing, you will lose all your edits when your lightroom catalog file gets corrupted.
This is the one setting that I always turn on as soon as I install Adobe Photoshop Lightroom (LR) on any computer: Automatically Write Changes into XMP.
I suggest you do the same because it has saved me many times. I really don’t know why Adobe sets this to ‘off’ by default. It should always be turned on! Here’s how to turn on
How To Automatically Write Changes into XMP:
- Start up Adobe Lightroom Classic CC
- PC: Edit > Catalog Settings… | Mac: Lightroom > Catalog Settings…
- Metadata Tab: Ensure that the third checkbox is ticked: “Automatically Write Changes into XMP“.
- Click OK.
- Let Lightroom add .xmp files next to each of your photographs in your library.
How This Setting Will Save You From Having a Bad Day
If that little intro wasn’t enough to convince you, I’ll explain.
By default, Lightroom saves all your adjustments in its catalog file, located somewhere safe on your hard disk. It doesn’t edit your RAW files at all.
That’s one of the beautiful things about the non-destructive RAW editing process. All your data is left intact. But it also means that if your Lightroom catalog file is corrupted, deleted, or just lost in your backups and you can’t find the right one, then all the edits that you’ve done to your RAW files, the selections, the star ratings, they all disappear.
XMP files come into use when you move your RAW files, or when you want to see the edits in a different application.
In the past, Lightroom has crashed, leaving me with a corrupted .lrcat Catalog file, and many thousand files to re-edit. That’s not a situation I ever want to find myself in.
When XMP Files are Really Useful…
Maybe you’re trying to free up space on your main work drive, or maybe you’re just backing up data, and somehow, your RAW files and the associated catalog files get disassociated.
If those XMP files aren’t being saved next to your RAW files, then you may as well forget that you ever retouched/corrected those images because Lightroom will not be able to reference those changes when you open them up in their new location.
When the tick box is on, all the changes and adjustments that you apply to each image in lightroom are saved to small .xmp files that have the same name as your original RAW files. Here’s what they look like in Windows Explorer.
1. Seeing your LR edits in Adobe Camera Raw, and vice versa
If this check box has been off until now, you may have noticed that changes that you make in Lightroom don’t show up in Adobe Camera Raw (ACR).
However, once you turn it on, your edits will always be in sync between Adobe Camera Raw, Photoshop, Lightroom Classic CC, or even if you browse through files in Adobe Bridge. The process is seamless and you don’t have to think about it once it’s turned on. It feels like a magical moment when everything works seamlessly.
And that’s not even the best part!
2. Backing Up, or Moving Files is Now Easy
The best part is that when you copy or move your RAW files (along with the new XMP files) you no longer have to worry about whether you need to save a new Lightroom Catalog file for that particular folder.
Your edits will move along with your RAW files in the form of the ‘.XMP’ sidecar files. They’ll always be available to applications that can read the sidecar files, and will always be updated when you make edits to the picture, automatically syncing across Adobe apps. Isn’t that convenient?
You also don’t have to worry about corrupted Lightroom Catalog files anymore. You’ll essentially have a backup of your catalog split across each folder that you save your RAW files in.
3. Sharing Edits Across the Internet
If you’re working with a retoucher, this comes in handy. You can send them your RAW files to edit. Once all the work is done in Lightroom, all they have to do is send you the .xmp files.
You just copy them into the folder alongside the original RAW files et Voila, you have the retoucher’s edits displayed in Lightroom! Of course, this does not work with Photoshop edits. Only ACR and Lightroom Classic CC
This is a fast and efficient way to work with retouching houses that work remotely. The .xmp files are quite small, so file storage and transmission are easy.
4. One Exception; Performance.
Lightroom Performance can be one exception to this rule… If you’re looking to improve the speed of lightroom’s responses to your edits, you must turn this setting off.
One Small Setting, a Powerful Result
There you have it! A simple settings change in Adobe Lightroom Classic CC, that can dramatically change the way you work, and the safety of your edits. It can also keep your work safe from the specter of database corruption.
Do you have any thoughts to add to this? Please leave a comment below if you do!
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Published: September 6, 2016 | Last Updated: August 15, 2021