• I have a NAS (network attached storage) where I keep most of my photos stored
  • My entire network drive is added to my LR catalog
  • I have a PC with limited storage capacity.


let say I want to work on photos stored in a folder called mytrip on my network storage.

  1. I copy mytrip from my network drive to my local drive in LR. I do this because my network is slow and editing is painful.

  2. I edit and assign ratings and colors to these photos, which is located locally.

  3. After I am done, I delete this folder on my local computer in LR to free up space. When I do this, all the metadata and edits are gone.


How can I copy my Light Room edits and metadata (ratings, colors, comments, etc) from the photos on my local drive to the same photos on my network drive?


3 Answers 3


You should go in Lightroom menu Edit->Catalog Settings, Metadata tab and check on "Automatically write changes into XMP"

This will activate creation XMP files for any of your edited, rated, commented image. Then (before you erase the files from local disk) you copy those XMP files to the NAS, in to the same directory where the same (original) files are stored. And after this you are free to erase your images from local storage. All the settings on the images will be saved in those XMP files

  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't have LR in front of me so I can't check, but if Camera_n00b then shows the NAS folder (with the photos and XMP files) in LR, do they have to reload the settings from XMP manually or does LR do this automatically? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 5, 2020 at 9:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SaaruLindestøkke, AFAIK Lightroom (if configured to use XMP) will load the settings automatically \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 5, 2020 at 9:39
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ This solves my problem. Thank you. I love the file based approach because it makes backing up and copying so much easier \$\endgroup\$
    – Tinker
    Commented Mar 6, 2020 at 5:24

The best way is to export the folder as a catalogue... this is how LR was intended to be used.

If you copied the images over and they still exist on the network drive, and you didn't create virtual copies; then you could deselect all of the export options. LR will then create only the catalogue file (.lrcat) for those images; wherever you tell it to... I would store it with the images on the network drive (and backups of course). If you created virtual copies/edits you will want to export the previews as well (.lrdata file). To re-access those edits/copies you open the new catalogue file in LR... the catalogue file contains everything from LR, except the original files and preview/virtual images.

If you are working only with raw files, then you can have the edits written to individual .xmp sidecar files instead. But some things do not come across in .xmp files.


I can think of two options which might help you out.

Smart previews

I haven't tried this myself, but from the description of smart previews it seems that functionality is made for your scenario. The steps would roughly look like this:

  1. In LR select the files on your NAS which you want to edit. In your case that would be the mytrip photos on your NAS. Then click Library > Previews > Build Smart Previews.
  2. After the smart previews are made, disconnect your NAS. LR will now switch to using the local smart previews.
  3. Assign the ratings and color labels.
  4. Delete the smart previews: in Library or Develop module, click Library > Previews > Discard Smart Previews.

If I understand the functionality correctly your LR catalog will link the ratings and color labels to the files on the NAS. Deleting the smart previews will not have any effect on that.

Locate missing folder

Using the [locate missing folder] functionality in LR your can relink your photos from local to NAS. These would be roughly the steps:

  1. Copy mytrip from NAS to local drive outside of LR (i.e. in Windows Explorer or Mac Finder)
  2. Import the local mytrip folder to LR.
  3. Assign the ratings and color labels.
  4. Outside of LR delete the local mytrip folder. LR will show that the folder is missing.
  5. Right click on the folder in LR and choose Find Missing Folder from the context menu.
  6. Select the mytrip folder on the NAS. In the catalog this relinks the ratings and color labels to the photos on the NAS.

Obviously I would test this out with a few photos first, before doing it with a batch to prevent loss of data.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Would the downvoter care to explain their downvote? Thanks! \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 6, 2020 at 14:22

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