Yesterday I ran a bunch of my photos through exiftool in order to change their lens information. (I shoot some lenses on adapters and so the lens names and focal lengths have to be set manually.)

After exiftool was done with the photos I selected them in Lightroom and did Metadata → Read Metadata From File. Great, the lens names are there now! I didn’t realize that doing this would also reset Lightroom’s information about modifications to the files. Now those hundreds of files have lost the edits I’ve made to them!

I have backups both of the Lightroom catalog and of the photo files themselves. How can I use these backups to restore my modifications to the files?

Ideally the new lens metadata would also be kept, although my edits are more important. And in the future, do I just need to make sure I run exiftool before editing photos in Lightroom, or is there a way to reread the file’s metadata while keeping Lightroom’s modification info intact?

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ While I don't know of any way to recover from this, in the future, you can use Lightroom itself to make bulk EXIF metadata changes. Select all the files you want to change and then modify the EXIF data. \$\endgroup\$
    – AJ Henderson
    Commented Jan 20, 2014 at 14:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ @AJHenderson How specifically would I edit the lens and focal-length metadata? \$\endgroup\$
    – bdesham
    Commented Jan 21, 2014 at 2:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'll double check for more specific instructions when I get home, but I believe you can just click on it in the Library view. There might be a trick I'm not remembering since I'm away from my Lightroom PC at the moment, but I don't recall it being that hard. \$\endgroup\$
    – AJ Henderson
    Commented Jan 21, 2014 at 14:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ my bad, it looks like you need a plugin to do it within lightroom for lens data. This site has a number of possible options. \$\endgroup\$
    – AJ Henderson
    Commented Jan 22, 2014 at 3:27

1 Answer 1


To restore only files with lost modifications:

  1. Open your gallery backup in Lightroom
  2. Select those photos and choose File->Export as Catalog. You could also save metadata to files, but that does not include all data (for example, flags are not included, while color labels and stars are).
  3. Open your original catalog again
  4. Delete files you just exported (only from catalog; not from the disk).
  5. Select File->Import from Another Catalog and select catalog from step 2.

In this process, your custom lens information is overwritten, and you have to redo it.

Workflow to avoid this in the future:

  1. Import into Lightroom
  2. Make modifications
  3. Save your modifications to original files/sidecars. In grid view, select all appropriate images, right-click and select Metadata->Save Metadata to Files (alternatively, ctrl+s / cmd+s
  4. Make your modifications with exiftool
  5. Reread metadata to Lightroom.

Do note that not all information is stored in metadata. For example, Pick flags are part of Lightroom library, not metadata. If in step 5 files are imported to a new library, flags are not included (but color labels and stars are).


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