Saving XMP files in Lightroom

Today I want to share a quick setting in Lightroom that you may not be aware of but can be a pretty important button. When you are working in Lightroom you can opt to have it automatically create a sidecar XMP file for you as you work. If you aren’t aware of what the XMP files are in Lightroom they are basically these little text files for each RAW image that contain all of the adjustments of the photo. So if I were to open up the photo later on in Photoshop or if I move the RAW photos to another folder I will still be able to open the RAW file while keeping all of the changes that I made to that image.

You can have Lightroom automatically create this sidecar XMP file as you work on the files. This option can be found under the Lightroom Menu –> Catalog Settings –> MetaData –> Automatically write changes to XMP.

lightroom XMP file settings

I do prefer to have this check on so that XMP files are automatically created as I work but there are pros and cons to this.

Advantages to automatically saving the XMP files in Lightroom

  • These files are tiny, so having a backup of your adjustments for each image takes up a small amount of space. Compared to backing up your entire catalog file this can save a lot of space.
  • It’s quick if you are moving files around a lot. I work on a work drive and then move my RAW files once done to a NAS server. Having the sidecar files makes it easy to transfer files around while keeping my adjustments.
  • Sometimes Lightroom catalogs (just like anything) can crash so having the XMP files is a good backup just in case.
  • Disadvantages to automatically saving the XMP files in Lightroom

  • Every change you make does write to this small file, therefore slightly decreasing the performance of Lightroom and placing more wear on your hard drive.
  • XMP does not save all of the data. It only saves the settings in the develop module therefore you loose the develop history.
  • XMP also does not save Lightroom attributes. So anything that you flagged or which collections the image belongs in will not be saved.
  • It really depends on your workflow and backup process to see if this is a good option to have turned on or not.

    Also note that when you do set this to automatically create an XMP file it will only do that moving forward. For any past shoots you would have to create the XMP files manually.
    If you don’t want to have this set to automatically create an XMP file you always can have them created manually. Once you are done editing a series of images just select them all and click the Command then S buttons to “save” the files.

    What do you think about automatically saving your XMP files? What do you currently do for your Lightroom workflow? Leave a Facebook comment below or share your thoughts on our Facebook page.

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    Author: Mark

    Mark is a fine art wedding and portrait photographer from Northern California. He has been passionate about photography since childhood and started his studio 12 years ago to bring a fresh style of photography to the wedding and portrait world.

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