What are the options for your proprietary Camera RAW file workflow if you don’t use the DNG file format with Lightroom?

Lightroom Workshops

What up!

When you’re working with Camera RAW files in Lightroom, any changes you make to an image are documented in the .LRCAT database file. Or with the flip of a Catalog Settings switch, you can choose to store this info in a companion sidecar (.XMP) file for RAW image files.


If you want to  “turn on the switch” and generate your own XMP sidecar files for each RAW file correction made in Lightroom, you can enable a specific Lightroom Catalog Setting.


Modify the Metadata setting in Lightroom’s “Catalog Settings”

MAC -Lightroom Menu > Catalog Settings > Metadata

PC – Edit Menu > Catalog Settings > Metadata

The setting I recommend checking is “Automatically write changes to XMP.

When working on any of the supported proprietary Camera RAW file types such as .CR2, .SRF, .NEF, RW2, etc., checking the box Automatically write changes to XMP, will communicate to the Lightroom application that all info generated like Copyright, Keywords, Develop Module Changes and Snapshots to a sidecar .XMP file instead of the Lightroom application Catalog file (.lrcat).

After the setting is enabled, a look “under the hood” (into an image content folder outside of Lightroom), will show a companon .XMP sidecar file created alongside your RAW files.

Why this might be good?

If your Lightroom catalog were to become corrupt for whatever reason and a backup of the .lrcat does not exist…. You’re in deep trouble without your image corrections and adjustments available.

Now if you have the XMP sidecars all you need to do is re import the images into a new Lightroom catalog and your good to go…. WHEW!

Little caveats to know!

Extensible Metadata Platform File (XMP) Contains metadata that describes an image title, keywords, author and copyright data, and other saved info about development adjustments etc.

What is and is not stored in XMP


EXIF / Copyright / Keywords

Develop Module Changes


Is Not  (these are stored with the application LRCAT file)

Editing History

Disabled Edits

Pick Flag

Virtual Copies

Collections and Stacks

Be aware that without the LRCAT back up,  if a disaster should strike, the biggest possible risk is the loss of the “is not” data which is also not contained in the DNG…..only in the LRCAT file.