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How to Save XMP files in Lightroom – Why you need this important Lightroom trick

Photo workflow Tip: Lightroom default setting XMP – Saving files: Many photographers, including us at Mountain Moments, use Lightroom.

An important basic setting, perhaps the most important setting in Lightroom is only used by a few photographers. For years this is no problem, but then when suddenly the software refuses the service, a PC change is pending, something at the hardware is defective, an operating system makes problems or whatever.

At the latest then you will find out that the following basic setting in Lightroom can ensure the survival of your photos: Swap XMP files and save them externally.

If you have not yet dealt with how all your image edits are saved, the name XMP file probably doesn’t mean anything to you.

XMP files store all your changes to an image in a small external file that only needs a few kilobytes of disk space. Sure, Lightroom itself does that in the catalogue, but the data is only readable for Lightroom and only in your catalogue as a whole.

An XMP file, on the other hand, is saved as a separate file for each image and is therefore easier to retrieve and use. XMP files can also be read and used by many other programs.

In this article you will learn what an XMP file is and why it makes sense for you as a photographer.

Update #4: XMP files in Lightroom Classsic CC and Lightroom CC – info near the end of the text.

Instructions Lightroom Basic Setting: How to Save XMP Files

Why the XMP files are not automatically saved by Lightroom is a mystery to us and can only be explained by the increased usability of the relatively slow program, and of course the fact that Adobe wants to retain its users. Which is ok for Adobe, but we need do adjust this four our convenience.

The most important Lightroom setting: Learn how to save XMP files in Lightroom – Edit – Catalog Settings – Auto write changes into XMP – OK

Storing the XMP files externally is very easy, and only needs to be done once per installation of Lightroom and takes less than 10 seconds:

  • In the menu bar, go to “Edit” and click on “Catalog settings”.
  • Select the third tab “Metadata” in the appearing control panel.
  • Point: Select “Save changes automatically in XMP”.
  • Click on “OK

Eh Voila, it’s done. All your image data and settings for images in the Lightroom catalog are now also stored externally in your respective image folder as XMP files. Probably the most important Lightroom default setting to save XMP files, you have successfully mastered.

This won’t bring you any advantages yet, but the next software or hardware change and a computer problem will come as sure as the Amen in the Church. When the time comes, you’ll be eternally grateful and won’t have to spend days importing non-functioning Lightroom catalogues.

Double mated also holds better here and expands your safe and meaningful workflow. Your Mountain Moments Team wishes you happy photography.

Would you like to learn more about basic knowledge and best practices of simple image processing? Take a look at our current outdoor photography workshops, and learn with fun and in nature.

UPDATE #3: Save XMP File in Lightroom Classic CC

As almost already integrated in the product name, the current Lightroom Classic CC also offers the option of storing XMP files and thus the edits of a raw file externally.

Where you can find the setting: Also in Lightroom Classic CC you will find the magic tick under “Edit – Catalog Settings – Metadata”.

UPDATE #4: XMP File in Lightroom CC

As of November 2018, we are not aware of any possibility to externally manage XMP files in Lightroom CC. If you know a solution to backup XMP files externally, please share your knowledge with us and all other photographers dealing with this problem. Thank you.

9 replies
  1. Rob says:

    This works, but it doesn’t generate XMP files for previously edited folders. How can we jumpstart that to get the XPM files for work we’ve already processed.

    • Marius says:

      Rob, has been quite some time, since we had to do this. But, as far as i remember, go to every folder and reload it in your LR. Staying in your LR and clicking folder by folder shold do the trick.
      When i remember correctly, this also went automatically, when we did this some time. But not always for some unknown reason. Clicking throgh folders, then wait few minutes should do the trick.

      • Janet Rathbun says:

        I updated the catalog settings to automatically write xmp files. I did see that Lightroom automatically started to create the xmp files but then stopped before all were created. Did you ever hear of this happening? If so, what do I do so the rest will be created. I tried clicking on the folder in LR but that did not work

        • Marius says:

          Also had that 2-3 times. What i did was just reopen LR again, maybe a third time, click the folders and at some point it worked properly. LR will only do this with the pictures that it finds in its catalogue.

  2. Elise says:

    How do you get the xmp files back to LR afterwards?
    I have the external xmp-files (from earlier using darktable) and now I want to get xmp data into Lightroom where I have already moved all my original photos but LR won’t automatically import the xmp.

    • Marius says:

      Hey Elise,
      LR will use the xmp files without you doing anything on a fresh LR. In case you have a working LR catalogue already there might be an interference. Maybe just reload the folder with pictures into LR, that should do the trick. Also, maybe just wait an hour or so having LR running might be all you need to do.

  3. Ken says:

    I want LR to make the .xmp files but I do not want to see them on my laptop when I export the .jpg files I have processed. How do I get rid of them but still have them?

    • Marius says:

      well, you either have them or not ;) you maybe need to learn to work with your standard file explorer, they can do that.


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