I posted an article recently on the Adobe Photoshop Lightroom’s Preferences Menu. There are some important buttons in that article, but perhaps the most important switch in the whole program lives elsewhere. I know that preference menus are not exciting stuff, but trust me. This one is absolutely worth your time and attention.
I would argue that the most important preference switch in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom lives inside of the Catalog Settings menu. To find these buttons, Windows users go Edit > Catalog Settings > Metadata from the menu bar at the top of the screen. Mac users will find the exact same buttons in the Lightroom > Catalog Settings > Metadata menu.
Future articles will talk about the other two tabs within the Catalog Settings menu. Today’s article is all about the “Automatically write changes into XMP” switch which lives inside of the Metadata tab.
When I teach classes, I call this the “happiness vs. unhappiness switch” and from the factory it is set to unhappiness! The good folks at Adobe make fantastic software, but they don’t always pick the best words for their buttons and knobs. “Automatically write changes into XMP” should have been labeled “Auto-Save.”
If you turn this option ON then all of your metadata, and your develop settings, are automatically written into your images. All of your changes are pressed into your file’s storage area which is called the XMP data block. Think of this as if it were a constant “save my work right now” option!
If you don’t turn this switch on then all of your changes and improvements are stored temporarily inside of your Lightroom Catalog file. Your metadata, and improvements, will not be pressed into your images until you click the elusive “Save Metadata to File” button. By turning the automatically write changes switch on, you never need to find or press this button. Once you switch this on, your work is continuously saved behind the scenes.
Failure to save your changes down to the file level will cause you enormous problems if your Lightroom Catalog ever gets corrupted or deleted. If your Lightroom Catalog file gets destroyed, and you have not pressed your changes down to the file level, then all of your work will be lost!
Not saving your work down to the file level will also cause you great frustration if you try to open your images outside of Lightroom. If you were to open one of your images directly into another program like the Adobe Bridge, Adobe Photoshop, iPhoto, or Apple’s Aperture, without saving your work down to the file level then all of your improvements will be missing! If your metadata, and develop settings, are not written into your image’s XMP block then no other program will see any sign of your hard work.
Please watch this short presentation to learn more about this vital switch.
To truly understand the advantages, and disadvantages, of the “Automatically Write Changes to XMP” preference switch please watch this excellent tutorial from Adobe Evangelist Julieanne Kost.
For more information please check out this article by Lightroom expert Martin Evening. I also recommend watching Adobe Lightroom Evangelist George Jardine’s excellent “Where Are My Pictures?” podcast.