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Catalog Settings

We are now in the home stretch as far as setting Lightroom's preferences. Now we need to visit the all-important Catalog Settings. Return to the General Tab in the Preferences dialog and navigate to and click the Go to Catalog Settings at the bottom (FIGURE 4.9).

Figure 4.9

Figure 4.9 Clicking on Go to Catalog Settings will move you directly to the next General tab in the Catalog Settings dialog.

General Settings

Clicking on Go to Catalog Settings sends you directly to the General tab in the Catalog Settings dialog.

Information: Provides the path to the location, filename, and creation date of the catalog. Clicking on Show is very cool in that it sends you directly to the location of the current catalog Lightroom is using, without your having to self-navigate through the OS to find your catalog file. Go ahead and try it: Click Show and watch it reveal the .lrcat file. It's really speedy.

Backup: Select your preferred way of backing up your catalog (FIGURE 4.10). I use "Once a week, upon starting Lightroom." This option creates a backup of the catalog, providing a security feature as well as some comfort for the user. Having the backup files only uses a small amount of disk space, but it's important: If the main catalog file is accidentally deleted or becomes corrupt for whatever reason, the backup file may help you recover your data. Backup files are stored in the Backups folder inside the catalog folder; or you can choose to save the files to a separate folder in a secure location if you so choose.

Figure 4.10

Figure 4.10 Select your Backup setting to help recover your data.

Optimize: The Relaunch and Optimize button can be helpful after you have imported and removed a number of image files from folders. This feature will optimize the database structure for efficiency. If your catalog is extremely large, it may be a good idea to click this button when things seem to be moving a bit slow on your computer.

File Handling Settings

Now just a few more Preferences for the catalog settings. In the Catalog Settings dialog, click the File Handling tab (FIGURE 4.11).

Figure 4.11

Figure 4.11 The File Handling preferences are important to establish how image previews are use by the application and system resources.

Preview Cache: This establishes how Lightroom renders the preview images within a catalog. The Standard Preview Size is a screen resolution default and specifies the maximum pixel dimension to be used.

Preview Quality: This is similar to JPEG quality, and the default is Medium, which is good, but High allows for an excellent image quality for reviewing images for maximum focus.

Automatically Discard 1:1 Previews: The 1:1 previews are rendered as desired and can make the library preview file large. By stipulating when 1:1 previews are discarded, you have the ability to reduce the size of the pile of previews cached on your system after 30 days. More on this in Chapter 5.

Metadata Settings

Finally, in the Catalog Settings dialog, click the Metadata tab and select all three options (FIGURE 4.12).

Figure 4.12

Figure 4.12 The Catalog Settings dialog for Metadata is a key preference for organizing and using editing components within Lightroom.

The "Offer suggestions from recently entered values" is a great feature! As you start typing a metadata entry that resembles previous information entered, one or more suggestions will appear as you type, like an auto-fill field.

The "Include Develop settings in metadata inside JPG, TIFF, and PSD files" selection is an option to save Develop settings or image adjustments to the XMP sidecar files, thereby making the changes visible in other applications.

The most important one is the last: "Automatically write changes into XMP." Checking this option saves metadata changes directly to the XMP sidecar files (see XMP in the next section), thereby making the Lightroom changes detectable in other applications.

If you choose to not automatically write changes into XMP metadata, you can still select a file within the Library Module and choose Metadata > Save Metadata To File or just hit Command + S (Mac) or Control + S (Windows) anytime in all modes.

Metadata Formats

EXIF: Exchangeable Image File Format

EXIF is one type of metadata contained in all digital cameras files. This metadata is captured by your DSLR when an image is recorded, but it is usually not editable.

Information contained in EXIF metadata includes:

  • The date and time entered into the camera
  • Camera settings
  • Camera model and serial number
  • Aperture
  • Shutter speed
  • Focal length of the lens
  • Metering mode
  • ISO setting
  • The preview thumbnail generated during image capture
  • Cameras with built in GPS systems or units attached to digital cameras can store location information in EXIF

Lightroom uses this information in some cases to isolate all the images based on a camera ISO settings or all the images in the catalog with a specific date and time stamp.

IPTC: The International Press Telecommunications Council

Another metadata format for image files is IPTC. The format was initially developed as a standard for exchanging information between news organizations in the 1970s. In the mid 1990s, Adobe Photoshop's File Info dialog enabled users to insert and edit IPTC metadata in digital image files.

IPTC allows you to add your own descriptive information within an image file, including captions, copyright information, credits, keywords, creation date, or special instructions.

Keywords are another powerful way in which Lightroom can search images. Rather than trying to remember the name of the folder you created way back when, you can embed keywords in the file's metadata when you download your images.

XMP: Extensible Metadata Platform

XMP is a newer kind of XML developed by Adobe in 2001. You can add XMP metadata to many file types, but for images it is generally stored within JPEG and Tiff files. In the case of Raw image files, where it is not possible to store the information in the file, metadata is stored in a separate file called a sidecar file. XMP facilitates the exchange of metadata between Adobe applications.

If you were to open up an XMP file with a text editor, you could peek at the structure of the information fields. An example of this is in the resource appendix, which shows some of the XMP files created by Lightroom in text format. I say some because one XMP file created by Lightroom contains about 7 pages of text instructions per image. I don't think my publisher is too keen on printing all that metadata. But having a look in the resource appendix will drive home the need to keep such info as a so-called sidecar file.

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