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Photo Filtering and Searches in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2

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Martin Evening takes a look at how to use the Library module tools to conduct image searches to find specific photos.

Photo filtering and searches

So far we have looked at how to manage images using folders to group the images in the catalog. We then looked at how to rate images and separate the keepers from the rejects, and lastly how to add metadata information, including keywords to describe the image content, thus adding context, meaning, and ultimately more value to the pictures in the catalog. Now let’s look at how to use the Library module tools to conduct image searches to find specific photos.

Filter bar

One of the key new features in Lightroom 2 is the Filter bar (see Figure 4.42), which can be accessed in the Content area whenever you are in the Library Grid view mode. The Filter bar replaces the Find panel and Metadata Browser in Lightroom 1 and combines the best features of these two panels with the search functionality of the old Keywording Tags panel. The Filter bar is now the main place to go for making refined filter selections of photos in the catalog (although you can still use the Filmstrip controls for filtering by rating and labels). The Filter bar has therefore rationalized the filter controls that were previously in Lightroom, in order to make the filtering process more centralized and flexible.


The most important tip of all here is to remember that the 124icon01.jpgkey will toggle the Filter bar visibility on or off. Another important tip is to use 131icon01.jpg131icon02.jpg(Mac) or 131icon03.jpg131icon02.jpg(PC) to toggle the catalog filters on or off. Quite often you will find yourself trying to work out where all your photos have disappeared to, and this is all because you forgot there was a filter active!


Basically we have a new and more streamlined approach to the Library module panels layout. The left panels contain the catalog source controls such as Folders and Collections, and the right panels contain the catalog edit controls, such as the Quick Develop and Keywording panels.

The Filter bar layout

There are three components to the Filter bar: Text, Attribute, and Metadata. These can be used to make a filter search of the entire catalog, or a subset of catalog images. This is an important point to remember, because if you want to conduct a search of the entire catalog, you must remember to go to the Catalog panel and select All Photographs first. This will allow you to carry out a global search. For speedier, targeted searches, make a sub-selection of photos first before using the Filter bar. It is so easy forget this important rule; there are many times where I will go to the Filter bar with the intention of carrying out a global search yet forget that I have a sub-selection of photos active! So if a Filter bar search doesn’t seem to be working properly, check that you have All Photographs selected. If you wish to undo a Filter bar search or toggle a Filter bar search on or off, use the Enable Filters shortcut: 131icon01.jpg131icon02.jpg(Mac) or 131icon03.jpg131icon02.jpg(PC).

Text filter searches

If you click the Text tab in the Filter bar and then click in the search field, you can type in a text term that will filter the photos in the current catalog selection for any terms that match (Figure 4.43). The search target can be limited to the following: Filename, Copy Name, Title, Caption, Keywords, searchable IPTC data, searchable EXIF data, Metadata, or Any Searchable Field (should you wish to search all types of text data). A Filename search is fairly obvious. I often search specifically by Filename using a Contains rule and type what I am looking for in the search field. I use this filter method when clients make their final image selections and send me a list of filenames. All I need to do is make a general selection of the client images and type in the last four digits. This is usually enough to quickly locate the images I am after. I discussed Copy Name more fully in the Metadata panel section earlier. Basically you can use this to search the copy names that have been used for all your virtual copy images. All the other types of searches will enable you to narrow the range of a text search to concentrate on the selected metadata type such as Caption only or Keywords only. If you are unsure of where to search precisely, then the easiest option is to choose Any Searchable Field, but doing so might mean you end up with too many matches to choose from. Therefore, narrowing down the search range can make things easier here. For example, in Figure 4.44 a general search for “ann” could yield any number of matches, probably too many to be really useful. By limiting the search to Metadata only, I was able to restrict the number of filter results.

Search rules

You can limit a filter search further via the Rule menu in the Text filter section (Figure 4.44). You can choose rules such as Contains (where there is a partial match), Contains All (for an exact match), Doesn’t Contain (to exclude files that match the text entered below), Starts With (obviously anything that begins with the phrase entered) and Ends With (for anything that ends with the phrase entered). This further search refinement can again make all the difference in ensuring that you have full control over the filtering process and don’t end up with too many matches.

Combined search rules

If you click the search field icon circled in Figure 4.45, this opens a combined menu for all the Search Target and Search Rules options. You can navigate this single menu to choose the desired settings. Note that if you click the X icon on the right, you can use this to clear a current text filter term and undo the current text filter.

Fine-tuned text searches

You could apply the “Start with” rule when searching, but it is handy to know that you can conduct a search for anything that begins with a specific search term by typing + at the beginning. If I type +cape in the search field, this will display photos with any keywords that begin with cape, such as Cape Point or Cape Town, and exclude keywords like Landscape that don’t begin with cape (Figure 4.46). Inverse searches can be made by typing an exclamation mark before the search term. If I want to search for keyworded photos that were shot on location but not include Jobs, Europe, or USA, I can type Places !Europe !USA !Jobs in the Find panel search field.

To further illustrate the points made here, you can use a search term like +cape to search for all terms that start with the word cape and combine this with !USA to also exclude any USA locations that start with the word cape. So you could end up with search results that include Cape Point, but exclude Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Attribute filter searches

The Attribute filter tools are something that I touched on earlier in the previous chapter when discussing the Filmstrip filter controls. The Filter bar offers the exact same set of tools, except they can be accessed directly in the Filter bar alongside the other filter items (Figure 4.47). It is therefore simply a case of it being easier to integrate a refine filter search based on criteria such as the flag status, the star rating, color label, or whether you wish to filter the master images or copy images only. Everything is the same here; you can click the buttons to apply a filter and click the star rating options to specify whether to filter for photos with a star rating that is the same and higher, the same and lower, or the same rating only.

Metadata filter searches

The Metadata section replaces the former Metadata Browser panel and, as I mentioned earlier, integrates the filter functionality of the Keyword List panel (formerly known as the Keyword Tags panel). It used to be the case that you would have to navigate the (potentially complex) hierarchy structure of the Keyword Tags panel to locate a keyword you were looking to filter by, and then go to the Metadata Browser panel to select additional criteria to search with. It was doable providing you didn’t have too many keywords and you knew how and where all the keywords were listed. The Metadata filter section (Figure 4.48) provides customizable columns that you can adapt in an almost infinite number of ways to carry out a filter search.

Metadata filter options

The Metadata section can be adjusted in height by dragging the bar at the bottom up or down. When the metadata panels are expanded in height, they can consume a lot of valuable space in the Grid view Content area, which is a problem if all you are interested in doing is applying a filter using one panel only. This is another reason why it is important to remember the 124icon01.jpg keyboard shortcut, which will toggle hiding and showing the Filter bar. It is unfortunate that the screen animation for this is rather slow compared to the speed with which the side panels and toolbar appear and disappear from the screen, but you can at least conveniently move the Filter bar out the way when it is not needed.

The individual panels can be customized by clicking on the panel name and selecting from one of the many other search criteria that are available (Figure 4.49). Because you are able to customize the layout of the panels, this provides lots of opportunities for you to filter the catalog photos in different ways. Basically, you can use the 162icon01.jpg or the 131icon01.jpg key (Mac), 131icon03.jpg key (PC) to select more than one search term in a single panel. And because you can customize each panel by metadata filter type, you can have more than one panel used to filter by, say, Keyword (or whatever else it is you may wish to duplicate). The default view gives you four panels to work with, but you can customize the layout by clicking the + icon at the top right in each panel (Figure 4.50) to remove or add extra columns (up to eight in total).

Metadata filter categories

The Date categories allow you to progressively filter by date. You can follow the example shown in Figure 4.51 and use a Date list to search first by year date, then expand the year folders to search by month and then by date.

The File Type section can be used to separate images by file format to make it easy for you to quickly filter out images, such as the PSD masters or the raw DNG images. The Keyword category is one that you will probably want to use all the time when searching the catalog.

The Label category (Figure 4.52) is almost the same thing as clicking on a color label swatch in the Filters section of the Filmstrip. The main difference is that the Label filter used here allows you to distinguish between the color of a label and any text associated with that label. To understand what I mean by this, please refer to the section on sorting Color labels coming up on page 187.

Figure 4.53 shows an example of a Filter bar search that achieves the same filter result as the two-step approach described at the beginning of this chapter. The Filter bar search applied here was based on a one-star filter for photographs taken from 2005 to 2007, using the keywords Mallorca or Malta, and a further keyword filter for photos with the keywords Sineu and Valletta.

The Camera section lists photographs by both camera model and serial number. Suppose, for example, you suspected that a fault was developing with one of your camera bodies. Inspecting the images by camera type can let you filter out the images that were shot using that specific camera. The Lens section (Figure 4.54) is great for filtering the library by lens type, which can be really handy when you are searching for, say, shots that were taken with an ultra-wide angle lens. The Shutter Speed section allows you to filter photos according to the shutter speed the photos were shot at. Likewise, the Aperture section lists every aperture setting that has been used, which might be useful for shortlisting pictures shot at the widest lens aperture and therefore with the shallowest depth of focus. With ISO Speed Rating you can quickly filter the high ISO speed shots from all the rest. The last few sections require that you have entered custom metadata in the catalog photos. The Location and Creator categories can be useful if you are in the habit of editing the associated IPTC fields via the Metadata panel. If so, you can quickly select and filter the catalog photos by any of the IPTC metadata items you see here. Location, City, State/Province, and Country all refer to the Location IPTC metadata used to describe where a photo was shot (you may use keywords to do this as well, but only the IPTC data is referenced here). The Creator section lists the photographs by the creator of the photograph. With some camera systems you can configure the camera settings so that the creator name is always embedded at the capture stage for each and every shot. The Copyright Status and Job reference are also more examples of IPTC metadata that has to be entered by the user.

The Aspect Ratio category lets you filter according to whether the photos are landscape, portrait, or square. Treatment refers to whether the photos are in color or have received a grayscale conversion treatment via Lightroom. By this I mean a proper grayscale treatment, where the photo has been treated using the Grayscale panel controls, rather than a photo that has been desaturated to look like a grayscale conversion. And lastly, the Develop Preset category (Figure 4.55) lists all the Develop module presets that have been applied to the images in the catalog, including those that have just had the default settings applied. This is a useful filter for tracking down photos that have had a particular type of treatment, such as a favorite grayscale conversion or split toning technique. Are you looking for inspiration? You could select All Photographs to view the entire catalog and use this filter category to check out how the various Develop presets looked when applied to various images. You could then copy a Develop setting or apply the original preset to another image.

Custom filter settings

We touched on working with the Custom filters in the previous chapter, where I showed how you can save custom filter settings via the Filmstrip. Such custom Filter settings are also accessible via the Filter bar. You can also save more detailed filter settings that make use of Metadata filter terms, which in turn can be accessed via the Filmstrip. In Figure 4.56, I created a filter search for photos that matched the keyword Jobs (to select all client job photos), where the File type was a PSD file (which is what I generally use when editing retouched master images), that had a star rating of two stars or higher. I then clicked the Custom Filters menu to save this as a new preset setting, named it Client select masters, and clicked Create. I was then able to use this custom filter whenever I needed to access a shortlist of all my client retouched master images.

Empty field searches

Let’s go back now to the Text filter section of the Filter bar, where in the Search target section you can choose to search by caption. In the accompanying Rules section you find rules such as Is Empty and Isn’t Empty, and for keyword searches, Are Empty and Aren’t Empty. The purpose of these rules is to let you search for photos where no caption or keywords have been added, or alternatively select only those photos that do have captions titles or keywords (note that when either of these rules is selected, the field search is overridden and the search field box dimmed). Let’s now look at how and why you would want to use an “empty field” search.

No content searches

The idea of using Lightroom to search for nothing may sound strange, but trust me, there is method in such madness. The Is Empty and Are Empty rules can be used to easily filter out photos that have yet to be edited. This offers a quick way to filter the pictures that still need keywording or caption editing.


Color labels are specific to the color label set used. See page 104 in Chapter 3 for information on working with different color label sets.


To summarize, the point of this exercise is to show how you can use an Is Empty search as a general housekeeping tool for quickly isolating photos that haven’t been tagged fully yet with keywords or other metadata.

  1. The Is Empty and Are Empty rules can be applied to keyword or caption searches only. For this example I made a selection of All Photographs and made a Keywords, Are Empty Filter bar text search. This action filtered all the photos in the library that had yet to have keywords added.
  2. Now, you can (if you like) apply a color label that can act as a semipermanent marker for all the photos in the catalog that have empty keyword metadata. To show you what I mean, I chose Edit from the Metadata 124icon02.jpg Color Label Set menu, selected the Review Status preset, and changed the purple label so that instead of saying “To Print” it said “Unedited metadata.” I don’t really need a label to say “print these pictures” and I suppose this makes a better use of this lesser-used label. I then saved this as a new color label set.
  3. With this new label set active, I applied a purple color (Unedited metadata) label to the selected, empty keyword images.
  4. I only suggest the use of color labels as a helpful reminder. Here I am showing the photos that were selected at Step 1 (without the color label) and with the “Keywords are empty” filter in force. I could now add keyword metadata, and as I did so, the photos automatically removed themselves from the filtered selection.

Advanced searches

Let’s finish this section with a complete example of a complex search where several different types of search criteria are combined together to create a precise, targeted selection of the catalog. All the tools you need are located in the Filter bar, and the following step-by-step example will hopefully provide guidance and inspiration to help you get the most out of Lightroom’s search abilities (I have enlarged the Filter bar in these screen shots so that you can see the settings more clearly).

  1. I first selected All Photographs in the Catalog panel, then went to the Filter bar, checked the Text tab, and chose to search by keywords only using the Contain rule. I then typed in the name of one of my clients, Antoni, to initiate a catalog search for photos that were keyworded with the word Antoni. As I began typing in the first few letters, the search started narrowing down the selection of images in the grid to show all the photos where the keywords metadata contained this same sequence of letters. As you can see, the Filter bar search filtered the photos in the grid to show over 1,500 photos that had been shot for this client. This included everything: the raw files as well as the PSD masters. The next task was to whittle this selection down to something more specific.
  2. I clicked the Attribute tab and applied a two-star filter to show only the two-star or higher images. I also clicked the Metadata tab to reveal the Metadata filter options and used a Date panel to search for photos that had been shot in 2007 only. And lastly, I used a File Type panel to search for the Photoshop Document (PSD) File Types. This resulted in a filter selection that showed only the PSD file format photos that had been shot during 2007 that had been rated with two or more stars.
  3. Even so, I still had 34 images to choose from. I used a Keyword panel to select Southern, which is an awards entry category keyword. This now filtered the catalog to show photos taken for the specified client that had been shot during 2007 that had a rating of two stars or more, that were PSD files only, and that also had the keyword Southern > Awards categories > Jobs.

Quick Collections

When it comes to combining search results, it is good to familiarize yourself with the Collections features in Lightroom. A selection only offers a temporary way of linking images together in a group, and as soon as you deselect a selection or select a different folder in the library, the selection vanishes. Of course, you can still choose Edit 124icon02.jpg Undo, or use the keyboard shortcut 131icon01.jpg170icon02.jpg(Mac) or 131icon03.jpg170icon02.jpg (PC) to recover a selection, but the main point is that selections offer only a temporary means of grouping images together. If you want to make a picture selection more lasting, you can convert a selection to a Quick Collection by choosing Photo 124icon02.jpg Add to Quick Collection or by pressing the 170icon01.jpg key. Any images that have been added to a Quick Collection will be marked with a filled circle in the top-right corner in both the Library Grid and Filmstrip views. Note that you can have only one Quick Collection at a time but that you can make further selections and keep adding fresh images to the Quick Collection. The other advantage is that a Quick Collection is always remembered even after you quit Lightroom—no saving or naming necessary—and the images remain grouped until you decide to remove them from the Quick Collection.

Quick Collections can be accessed by clicking the Quick Collection item in the Catalog panel (Figure 4.57). You can also choose File 124icon02.jpg Show Quick Collection or press 131icon01.jpg170icon01.jpg (Mac) or 131icon03.jpg170icon01.jpg (PC) to display the Quick Collection images only and choose File 124icon02.jpg Return to Previous Content (press 131icon01.jpg170icon01.jpg or 131icon03.jpg170icon01.jpg again) to return to the previous Library module view.

With Quick Collections you can make selections of photos from separate sources and group them in what is effectively a temporary collection. Quick Collections remain “sticky” for however long you find it useful to keep images grouped this way. If you want to save a Quick Collection as a permanent collection, you can do so by using 131icon01.jpg151icon01.jpg170icon01.jpg(Mac) or 131icon03.jpg151icon01.jpg170icon01.jpg (PC). This will open the Save Quick Collection dialog (Figure 4.58) and let you save as a normal Library Collection. Once you have done this, it is usually good housekeeping practice to clear the Quick Collection, which you can do by selecting File 124icon02.jpg Clear Quick Collection or pressing 131icon01.jpg162icon01.jpg170icon01.jpg(Mac) or 131icon03.jpg162icon01.jpg170icon01.jpg (PC). See Figure 4.59 for an example.



A Quick Collection can be converted into a collection, or you can convert any selection directly into a collection via the Collections panel. Whereas a catalog image can only be assigned to one folder at a time, you can use collections to create multiple instances of the master files. Collections are therefore useful for grouping images together from different folders in ways that are useful or meaningful (Figure 4.60). For example, Figure 4.61 shows a Library collection I made from filtering UK and Travel photos. As you conduct various catalog searches you can save the results as general collections (172icon01.jpg). However, since the Collections panel is now accessible in the Slideshow, Print, and Web modules, you can also save module-linked collections. Figure 4.60 shows examples of the different collection types, which are distinguished by the Collection icon appearance: Slideshow (172icon03.jpg), Print (172icon04.jpg), and Web (172icon02.jpg). The way this works is that you can create a module-specific collection while working in any of the above modules, and have the collection be associated with the module where it was created. Figure 4.62 shows the Create Collection dialog, and Figure 4.63 shows a Slideshow collection being created within the Slideshow module, which then appears in all the other module Collections panels with the Slideshow collection icon (172icon03.jpg).hen you click on a module-specific collection, this selects the collection photos from the catalog (regardless of what filters are applied, what collection type it is, or which module you are in). But if you double-click on a module-specific collection, it selects the photos from the catalog and takes you directly to the module the collection was created in. To give you an example of how you would use this, I double-clicked on the Stockholm trip collection to select the Stockholm trip collection photos and go directly to the Slideshow module. Once there, a single-click on any of the other listed collections allows me to access other collections directly within the Slideshow module. To help organize your collections, you can choose Create Collection Set. This adds a new collection folder (172icon05.jpg) allowing you to create folder groups for your collections (as shown in Figure 4.60). Figure 4.64 explains renaming a collection.

Collections sets

Collections can also be placed into collection sets. These are container folders for managing hierarchies of collections. To add a new collection set, click the + button in the Collections panel header (Figure 4.65), or right-click anywhere in the Collections panel to access the contextual menu. Choose Create Collection Set, name the set, and drag and drop to manage the collections as you wish.

Smart Collections

Smart Collections can be used to establish rules for how photos should be grouped as a collection, and Lightroom will automatically update the photos that should be included in that collection. To do this, you need to again click the + button or use the contextual menu to select Create Smart Collection. This will open the Edit Smart Collection dialog shown in Figure 4.66, where you can set up a series of rules to determine which photos will go into a particular Smart Collection. In this example, I used a Keywords filter to select photos with the keyword Jobs, a Filename filter to select photos with the .psd extension (Photoshop file format images), and lastly a Capture date filter to select images that were captured throughout the year 2008. You will note in the Match section that “all” was used. This means that photos would have to match the combined rules before being added. An “any” match can be used where you want to select photos that match multiple terms, but not exclusively so. You could create a Smart Collection with an “any” match to group photos that had both red labels and yellow labels taken in the date range of 2007–2008.

Saving and reading metadata

Another pain point for newcomers to Lightroom has been the question of the best way to save images. In our very first computer lesson we all learned how important it is to always save your work before you close down a program. Some Lightroom users have been confused by the fact that there is no “save” menu item and left wondering if they would lose all their work after they quit Lightroom. Of course you realize soon after using the program that all work is saved automatically. Even if Lightroom suffers a crash or there is a power failure, you should never lose any of your data.

It is important to remember that as you carry out any kind of work in Lightroom—whether you are adjusting the Develop settings, applying a color label or star rating, or editing keywords or other metadata—these edits are initially all stored in a central Lightroom catalog on your hard disk. For simplicity’s sake we can summarize these by grouping them under the term “metadata edits.” Whenever you alter a photo in Lightroom, you are not recording anything in the actual image file. Lightroom is built around the principle that the imported images are the master negatives: Lightroom records the changes made as metadata information and these edit changes are initially stored at a central location in the Lightroom catalog. This is why Lightroom is so much faster at searching images compared to a browser program like Bridge. You can add, search, and read metadata information much more quickly, because the metadata information is stored in an easy-to-access database. However, it is possible to have the metadata information stored in both the database and the individual picture files. In the case of JPEG, TIFF, PSD, or DNG images, there is a dedicated XMP space within the file’s header that can be used to store the metadata. While with proprietary raw files, it has to be stored separately in what is known as an XMP sidecar file.

If you work on an image in the Lightroom catalog using another program such as Photoshop or Bridge and you make any changes to the metadata, these edit changes will always be made to the file itself. When such an image is opened up via Lightroom again we can find ourselves having to decide whether the “truth is in the database” (the Lightroom catalog database) or the “truth is in the file.”

Saving metadata to the file

For all the time that you are working in Lightroom it should not really matter if the metadata information is stored only in the central database. Of course it feels kind of risky to trust everything to a single database file, but that is why there is a built-in database backup feature in Lightroom as well as a diagnostics and a self-repair function (see Figure 4.67) to help keep your database file protected. Plus I highly recommend that you back up your data regularly anyway. Despite all that, it is still important to save the metadata edits to the files so that the “truth is in both the database and the file.” By doing this you can maintain better compatibility between the work you do in Lightroom and the work you do using external programs.

So what is the best way to save metadata to the files? If you go to the File menu and choose Catalog Settings, you will see the dialog shown in Figure 4.68, where there is an option called “Automatically write changes into XMP.” In the previous version of this book I recommended you keep this option switched off because it could slow down the Lightroom program. However, since the version 1.3 update, it has been OK to leave this switched on because Lightroom will now only automatically write to the files’ XMP space when it is convenient to do so, without affecting the program’s performance. Checking this option will ensure that all the files in the Lightroom catalog will eventually get updated. However, if you want to be sure that a file’s XMP space gets updated right away or you have “Automatically write changes into XMP” switched off, then you can use the Metadata 124icon02.jpg Save Metadata to Files command (or Photo 124icon02.jpg Save Metadata to Files, if working in the Develop module). This forces an immediate export of the metadata information from the Lightroom internal catalog to the image file’s XMP space. In practice I’d recommended using the 131icon01.jpg181icon01.jpg(Mac), 131icon03.jpg181icon01.jpg(PC) shortcut anyway every time you wish to export and update the metadata to a photo or a group of selected photos.

Tracking metadata changes

In order to keep track of which files have been updated and which have not, Lightroom does offer some visual clues. If you go to the View menu and open the View Options dialog, there is a check box in the Cell Icons section called Unsaved Metadata. When this is checked you may see a “calculating metadata” icon (177icon01.jpg) in the top-right corner of the grid cells as Lightroom scans the photos in the catalog, checking to see if the metadata is in need of an update. You will also see this when Lightroom is in the process of saving or reading metadata from a file. If the metadata in the catalog and the file are in sync, the icon will disappear. If there is a “metadata status conflict” you will see either a down arrow (Figure 4.69) or an up arrow (Figure 4.70). The down arrow indicates that the metadata information embedded in the photo’s XMP space is now out of date compared to the current Lightroom catalog file and that now would be a good time to choose Metadata 124icon02.jpg Save Metadata to File (131icon01.jpg181icon01.jpg[Mac], 131icon03.jpg181icon01.jpg [PC]). Figure 4.71 shows the Library View Options dialog with the Unsaved Metadata option circled.

In the Metadata panel (Figure 4.72) is an item called Metadata Status, which will say “Has been changed” if anything has been done to edit the photo metadata settings since the last time the metadata was saved to the file. This is basically telling you the same thing as the metadata status icon that appears in the Library grid cells.

Choosing Save Metadata to File will make the metadata status icon in the Library grid cells disappear, but if you are uncertain what to do you can click the icon in the grid to open the dialog shown in Figure 4.73. This dialog asks if you want to save the changes to disk (better described as “do you wish to confirm saving the metadata changes to the photo’s XMP space?”).

The up arrow shown in Figure 4.70 indicates that the metadata information embedded in the image file’s XMP space is out of sync and more recent than the current Lightroom catalog file. This will most likely occur when you have edited a Lightroom catalog file in Camera Raw and the externally edited image has a more recently modified XMP than the Lightroom catalog. To resolve this choose Metadata 124icon02.jpg Read Metadata from file.

The other possibility is that a Lightroom catalog photo may have been modified in Lightroom (without saving the metadata to the file) and also been edited by an external program, resulting in two possible “truths” for the file. Is the truth now in the Lightroom catalog, or is the truth in the externally edited file XMP metadata? If you see the icon shown in Figure 4.74, click to open the dialog in Figure 4.75 where you can either choose Import Settings from Disk if you think the external settings are right, or choose Overwrite Settings if you think the Lightroom catalog settings are the most up to date.

XMP read/write options

Let’s now take a closer look at what this XMP settings business is all about. The XMP space is the hidden space in a document such as a JPEG, TIFF, PSD, or DNG file that is used to write the metadata settings to. In the case of proprietary raw files it would be unsafe for Lightroom to write to the internal file header, so .xmp sidecar files are used instead to store the XMP metadata. The XMP metadata includes everything that is applied in Lightroom, such as the IPTC information, keywords, file ratings, flags, and color labels, as well as the Develop settings that are applied via Quick Develop or the Develop module.

In the Metadata section of the Catalog Settings (Figure 4.68), the “Include Develop settings in metadata inside JPEG, TIFF and PSD files” option lets Lightroom distinguish between writing the Develop settings metadata to the XMP space for all files including JPEGs, TIFFs, and PSDs, or to raw and DNG files only. This is a preference that predetermines what gets written to the XMP space when you make an explicit command to save the file metadata out to a file. The ability to save Develop settings with the file can be a mixed blessing. If you are sharing images that are exported from Lightroom as individual images (or as an exported catalog) with another Lightroom user, you will most definitely want to share the Develop settings for all the images that are in the catalog. But if you are sharing files from Lightroom with Bridge CS3 or later, this can lead to some unexpected file behavior when you open non-raw files via Bridge. Basically what will happen is that raw and DNG images that have had their Develop settings modified via Lightroom will open via Camera Raw in Bridge exactly as you expect to see them, since Bridge is able to read the settings that were created in Lightroom. However, where you have non-raw files such as JPEGs, TIFFs, or PSDs that have been edited using the Develop settings in Lightroom, and the Develop settings have been written to the file’s XMP space, Bridge may now consider such files to be like raw files and open them up via Camera Raw rather than open them directly in Photoshop. That’s what I mean by mixed blessings. If you want Lightroom to retain the ability to modify the XMP space of non-raw files for data such as file ratings, keywords, and labels but exclude storing the Develop settings, you should uncheck the “Include Develop settings in metadata inside JPEG, TIFF and PSD files” option. Do this and the Lightroom Develop settings for non-raw files will only get written to the catalog and they won’t get exported to the files when you choose Save Metadata. But raw and DNG files will be handled as expected. On the plus side, you will never be faced with the confusion of seeing your non-raw images such as JPEGs unexpectedly default to open via Camera Raw when you try to open them up in Photoshop CS3 or later. The downside is that if you modify a non-raw image in Lightroom using Develop, these changes will only be seen in Lightroom and not by Bridge. For these reasons, my advice is to turn off “Include Develop settings in metadata inside JPEG, TIFF and PSD files.” To help explain the settings and how they affect image files after being modified in Lightroom, I have summarized how these options affect the way different file formats will be handled. Please note that these steps do assume that you are using Photoshop CS3 with Bridge CS3 (or later) and have updated Camera Raw to version 4.1 or later.

  1. If a photo in Lightroom is modified using the settings shown here with “Automatically write changes into XMP” and “Include Develop settings in metadata inside JPEG, TIFF and PSD files” switched on, then all the adjustments that are made to the image will automatically be saved to the Lightroom catalog and also saved to the original image file. In the case of proprietary raw files, the XMP metadata will be written to an XMP sidecar file and when opened via Bridge, will (as you would expect) open via the Camera Raw dialog with the same Develop settings that were applied in Lightroom. In the case of DNG files, the XMP metadata will be written internally to the file and these too will open in Camera Raw. In the case of JPEG, TIFF, and PSD files, because you are including the Lightroom Develop settings in the export to the XMP space, they will default to opening in Bridge via the Adobe Camera Raw dialog.
  2. If the “Automatically write changes into XMP” option is disabled, the metadata edits will now only be saved to the Lightroom catalog. If you were to open a JPEG, TIFF, or PSD image from Bridge that had been edited in Lightroom, it will open directly in Photoshop and not open via the Camera Raw dialog. But at the same time, any image ratings, metadata keywords, or other information that have been entered while working in Lightroom will not be visible to Bridge or any other external editing program (this assumes that you are not manually saving the metadata to the file, as described in the following paragraph).

    In this example, the “Include Develop settings in metadata inside JPEG, TIFF and PSD files” option is still switched on, so if you did want the metadata edits to be saved to the files’ XMP metadata space, you would have to do so manually using a Save Metadata command (131icon01.jpg181icon01.jpg[Mac], 131icon03.jpg181icon01.jpg [PC]). But in doing so, the problem with a Save Metadata command is that you would again be saving all the Lightroom settings to the files’ metadata space (including the Develop settings) and we are back to the same scenario as in Step 1 where non-raw files may default to opening via Camera Raw, which is perhaps not what the customer wanted!

  3. Now let’s look at what happens when “Include Develop settings in metadata inside JPEG, TIFF and PSD files” is disabled and “Automatically write changes into XMP” is switched on. Any edits made in Lightroom will automatically get saved to the Lightroom catalog as well as to the files’ XMP metadata space—all the settings, that is, except for the Develop settings, which will be saved to the proprietary raw and DNG files, but not to the JPEG, TIFF, or PSD files.

    In this scenario, all metadata information will be saved to all types of files (with the exception of the Develop settings not being written to JPEG, TIFF, or PSD files that have been edited in Lightroom). Proprietary raw and DNG files that have been edited in Lightroom will preserve their appearance when viewed in Bridge, and will open as expected via the Bridge Camera Raw dialog. But with JPEG, TIFF, or PSD files the Develop settings won’t be transferred and because of this they will open from Bridge directly into Photoshop without opening via the Camera Raw dialog. The downside is that such images may not always look the same in other programs as they did in Lightroom. It all depends on whether you want to use the Develop module to modify the JPEG, TIFF, or PSD images as you would do with the raw images. Overall this is probably the most useful configuration to use, because it preserves the informational metadata in non-raw files that have been modified in Lightroom and avoids non-raw files opening up via the Camera Raw dialog.

Where is the truth?

The main point to learn here is that the most up-to-date or “truthful” settings can reside in the Lightroom catalog or in the files themselves. If you only work in Lightroom, the answer is simple: The truth will always be in the catalog. But if you adopt a more complicated workflow where the files’ Develop settings and other metadata can be edited externally, the truth will sometimes be in the file. To summarize, the “Automatically write changes to XMP,” “Save Metadata to Files,” and “Read Metadata to Files” options allow you to precisely control how the metadata is updated between the Lightroom catalog and the image files.

Synchronizing IPTC metadata settings

You will often want to apply or synchronize metadata settings from one photo to other photos in the catalog. To do this, make a selection of images and click the Sync Metadata button, which opens the Synchronize Metadata dialog (Figure 4.76). The check box options in this dialog can help you select which items you want to synchronize. You can then click the Synchronize button to synchronize the metadata information in the most selected image with all the others in the selection. You can also select an image and press 131icon01.jpg151icon01.jpg162icon01.jpg183icon02.jpg (Mac) or 131icon03.jpg151icon01.jpg162icon01.jpg183icon02.jpg(PC) to use the “Copy Metadata settings” command and then use 131icon01.jpg151icon01.jpg162icon01.jpg183icon01.jpg(Mac) or 131icon03.jpg151icon01.jpg162icon01.jpg183icon01.jpg (PC) to paste those settings to another selected image or group of images.

Synchronizing folders

Some folder synchronization will happen automatically in Lightroom. For example, if you import a folder of images and later change the name of that folder at the system level, the name change will be updated in the Lightroom Folders panel. Likewise, if you edit a folder name in Lightroom, the system folder name should update too.

When it comes to synchronizing the folder contents, this will require an explicit Lightroom command to check and compare the folder contents in Lightroom with the items in the system folder it refers to. What often happens is that you may import a folder at the start of a project and as you continue working with that folder between Lightroom and Bridge (or in the Finder/Explorer), new subfolders get added, files may get moved into these subfolders, and some photos may get deleted and new ones added. All this can lead to a situation where the Folder view in Lightroom is no longer an accurate representation of what is in the real system folder.

The Synchronize Folder command is located in the Library menu and can be used to interrogate the system folder that the Lightroom folder refers to. Figure 4.77 shows the Synchronize Folder dialog, which as you can see, provides initial information about what differences there are between the two, such as whether there are any new photos to import, whether any photos in the Lightroom catalog are missing their master images, and whether any metadata updates have been applied externally that need to be read to update the Lightroom database.

If you check the Import New Photos option in the Synchronize Folder dialog, you can choose to simply import and update the catalog. The default settings for Synchronize Folder will automatically import the files to the same folder they are in currently without showing the Import dialog and without modifying the filename, Develop settings, metadata, or keywords. However, you can also choose “Show import dialog before importing,” which will open the Import Photos dialog shown in Figure 4.78. The main reason for choosing to show the Import Photos dialog when synchronizing a folder is so that you can adjust any of these settings as you carry out an import and update the Lightroom catalog. Note that if you have removed any photos from the folder at the system level, Synchronize Folder will also remove these files from the catalog, thereby keeping the Lightroom catalog completely updated for new additions as well as any photos that are no longer located in the original system folder.

“Scan for Metadata updates” works identically to the “Read metadata from files” option in the Library module Metadata menu (see page 178). For example, if you edit the metadata in any of the catalog images in an external program such as Bridge or another program where the metadata edits you make are saved back to the file’s XMP header space (or saved to an XMP sidecar file), you can use Synchronize Folder to sync any metadata changes to the Lightroom catalog.

Sorting images

You have the option of sorting images in Lightroom by Capture Time, Added Order, Edit Time, Edit Count (for sorting Edit versions of master images in the order they were created), Rating, Pick, Label Text, Label Color, File Name, File Extension, File Type, or Aspect Ratio. You can set the sort order by selecting the View menu and highlighting an item in the Sort submenu. An easier method is to click the Sort menu in the toolbar. Next to the Sort menu is the Sort Direction button, which allows you to quickly toggle between ordering the images in ascending or descending sort order (Figure 4.79). For example, if you come back from a shoot with several cards full of images, there is a high probability that the order in which you import the photos may not match the order in which they were shot. If the files are renamed at the time of import, you may want to correct this later by re-sorting the capture files by Capture Time and then reapplying a batch rename by selecting Library 124icon02.jpg Rename Photos. The descending sort order can be particularly useful when you are shooting in tethered mode and you want the most recent images to always appear at the top of the image selection in the content area. Figure 4.80 shows the Sort menu.

Sort functions

If you are viewing a folder, a filtered folder view, or a collection, you can manually sort the image order by dragging and dropping photos either in the Grid view or via the Filmstrip. Sorting the photos manually will default the sort order menu to a User Order sort setting, and the User Order sort will remain in force after you exit a particular Folder or Collection view. But as soon as you switch to any other sort order menu option, such as Capture Time, the previous User Order sorting will be lost.

The Sort menu also resolves some of the possible contradictions in the way color labels are identified in Bridge and Lightroom. Instead of having a single sort option of sorting by color labels, there are two options: Sort by Label Color and sort by Label Text. And the reason for this is as follows:

  1. In Lightroom, the default color label set uses the following text descriptions alongside each label: Red, Yellow, Green, Blue, Purple (to access the dialog shown here, go to the Library module Metadata menu 124icon02.jpg Color Label Set 124icon02.jpg Edit). OK, this is not a particularly imaginative approach, but the label text that is used here neatly matches the label text descriptions that were used in Bridge CS2 (as included with the CS2 Creative Suite). Note that the Lightroom dialog shown here says, “If you wish to maintain compatibility with labels in Adobe Bridge, use the same names in both applications.” So far, so good. If you follow this advice, Lightroom can be compatible with the CS2 version of Bridge because both programs use identical color label text descriptions.
  2. However, in Bridge CS3, as included with the CS3 Creative Suite, the text naming was changed to a new default setting. Shown here is how the default label text appears in the Bridge CS3 program’s Labels preferences. If you install Bridge CS3 and use the default settings in this and Lightroom, the label text descriptions will differ. This has led to problems such as white labels appearing in Bridge CS3 where Bridge CS3 is unable to read Lightroom’s color label metadata correctly. In these specific instances, Bridge CS3 can “see” that a color label has been applied, but it does not know how to interpret the metadata correctly. Bridge CS3 can read the color label text descriptions and display them in the Bridge Metadata File Properties section, but it does not read and apply the label color part.
  3. Lightroom faces a similar problem in knowing how to manage mismatched color labels where the label color and label description text differ. But at least in Lightroom, you can use the Custom Label filter (highlighted here in the Filter bar) to filter photos that have a color label but the text descriptions don’t match the current color label set.
  4. If you were to choose a color label set in Lightroom such as the Review Status set shown here, the problem will persist between Lightroom and Bridge CS3 because the descriptive terms used in both programs will be different. Furthermore, Bridge updates have not necessarily managed to resolve this conflict and the message remains the same. If you want to be absolutely consistent between applications when applying color labels, then make sure the label text used in both programs matches.

The sort by label text solution

If you edit a photo’s color label setting in Bridge and then use the Lightroom Library module Metadata 124icon02.jpg Read Metadata from File command, a similar conflict will occur. But instead of showing a white label, Lightroom will not display any color labels in the Grid or Filmstrip views. However, if you go to the Metadata panel (Figure 4.81), you will notice that the Metadata panel displays the color label text data rather than the actual color of the label. This means that although in Lightroom you won’t necessarily be able to see the color labels that were applied in Bridge, you still have a means to filter and sort them using the color label text metadata (or the Custom Label option referred to in Step 3). Therefore, the Sort by Label Color option allows you to sort photos by color labels that have been applied in Lightroom, and the Sort by Label Text option allows you to sort photos that have had text labels applied in Lightroom. In addition, you can sort photos where the labels have been applied via Bridge (because Lightroom is only able to read the label text part correctly).

On the subject of label colors and label color text, you might want to return to page 104 in Chapter 3, which discusses working with specific color label sets. It is important to note that the Color Label filters will only select the color label photos that were edited with a particular set.

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