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XMP Sidecar File Handling in Lightroom Non-Functional with DNG Files — inconsistent with Photoshop / Adobe Camera Raw Handling

Background info: Hooray! Adobe Camera Raw Now Has Option to Always Use Sidecar XMP files with DNG

Update: my suggestion to use Sync Settings was incorrect. Using Sync Settings in Lightroom will wipe out existing develop settings; I’ve had to restore from a backup. My sincere apologies for my mistake to anyone who used this erroneous tip. See details further below. Do NOT use Photo ===> Develop Settings ===> Sync Settings.


I am familiar with Adobe Lightroom performance and have consulted for many clients about it, but I am NOT a Lightroom user because it would add considerable space and processing time overhead not to mention a huge waste of my own time for no benefit to my workflow.

Consider carefully whether Lightroom actually solves real issues for you, or is perhaps mainly a make-work situation, more effort and trouble than it’s worth. For example, if you shoot relatively few images, say for printing, Lightroom is not only a waste of time but anti-functional, since all such work really ought to be done in Photoshop with layers and such. In my own case, I constantly use (and require) layers and need all sorts of other Photoshop-only features—LR is not just pointless, but would be a huge waste of my time.

Lightroom note: I strongly recommend Import with leaving files in place and NOT copying or moving files and NOT converting to DNG. See my workflow tips in Making Sharp Images for the general principles. See also:

Adobe Camera Raw
Reader Question: Convert to DNG for Sony’s Space-Wasting 14-bit Uncompressed RAW Files?

Adobe Lightroom and metadata

Christopher C writes:

Thanks so much for pointing out the option for always using sidecar XMP files for DNG with Adobe Camera Raw in Photoshop. That’s a very important feature addition, and I’ve now set that in Photoshop preferences.

A number of years ago, I used the Adobe DNG converter to convert tens of thousands of older raw files to DNG, and only later learned from Jeff Schewe the implication that I was then condemned to having Chronosync re-write the bloody things every time I made some small change.

There doesn’t yet seem to be any comparable feature update in Lightroom. Are you aware of a way of batch generating XMP files for all the DNG files in a Lightroom catalog?

DIGLLOYD: configuring Lightroom appropriately maintains settings in XMP, via Automatically write changes into XMP. Unfortunately, XMP sidecar files do not work for DNG files, which Lightroom insists upon rewriting—brain-dead.

Writing development settings and metadata into sidecar XMP files

Normally, LR otherwise only stores metadata and develop settings within the catalog. But it can be configured to save changes to sidecar XMP files, but NOT for DNG files, a compelling reason to avoid using DNG:

Configuring Lightroom use use sidecar XMP files and to NOT modify proprietary raw files

Select desired files, then metadata and develop settings can be saved to files as follows, but NOT for DNG files, a compelling reason to avoid using DNG:

Save metadata to files in Lightroom: whacks (rewrites) DNG files

Locking DNG files to prevent them from being rewritten reveals the brain-dead behavior of Lightroom when handling DNG; Lightroom insists upon the ludicrous requirement of rewriting DNG files in their entirety, rather than using sidecar files. This is different from every other type of raw file. Also, having to lock the files prevents them from being moved to a different folder.

Save metadata to files in Lightroom: fails with locked DNG files

Thanks to reader Sebastian B, who prompted me to look into things, the result of this is the stuff above.

1. Regarding Lightroom behavior with the "Automatically write changes into XMP" option: Changes are always written to the catalog, but with that option enabled, LR will in addition create sidecar XMP files for all proprietary raw files but, crucially, start the same insane behavior on DNGs as in Photoshop (up until now)—namely writing the XMP data into the DNG file. I had hoped that now that Photoshop is finally cured of this madness, Lightroom would be too, but apparently it is not.

2. You are mistaking the "Sync" dialog for a metadata sync dialog. This dialog actually syncs development settings (regardless of whether you're in the Develop or Library module). The procedure you're recommending for retroactively writing settings to XMP sidecar files would quite simply make all photos in your entire library have identical develop settings, which I think would be no less than disastrous if not quickly undone. So I'd urge you to retract that recommendation. ;-)

I believe the correct solution would be to Select All and then use Metadata → Save Metadata to Files—that is, if the Lightroom didn't still have the mad sidecar file strategy with DNGs.

So actually I recommend you recommend nothing here, since there (still) seems to be no proper solution for Lightroom. (I'm still on pre-CC Lightroom and merely going by your screenshots of the catalog settings dialog, which looks like it's always looked.)

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