Main Question: Can you revert back to the original orientation of a photo in Lightroom?

I've had Lightroom for a while but I didn't use it that much in the last year. I'm trying to get back into it.

I just imported some photos I took recently, in this case I was taking photos of a jigsaw puzzle using a tripod so I could take photos overhead. The arm on the tripod can be turned horizontally.

Diving straight into taking photos resulted in all of them being upside down when viewed on the PC. In the Lightroom Library module you can use the options Rotate Left (CCW) or Rotate Right (CW) or rotate a photo. If you use the grid view you can rotate multiple photos at once.

If I don't close Lightroom I can use the Undo command to revert back to the original orientation of the photo.

But what if Lightroom has been closed. In that case I can't see a way to get back to how the photos were original imported.

Have I missed something somewhere or am I focusing too much on a rather trivial point? Being a bit of a computer geek is maybe making me too into this too much but I thought I might as well ask :)

These are the areas I've looked at:

  • Develop doesn't seem to be able to fully rotate the photo.
    • If it could then it has the history feature
  • Metadata doesn't seem to contain the information
  • Removing a photo from a catalog and adding it again does work but is not a great solution
    • This means you lose anything else on the photo like keywords

Here's some information about what I'm using:

  • Lightroom 5.7.1
  • Nikon D5100 with 18-105 kit lens
  • Windows 8.1
  • Photos imported into Lightroom as Nikon .NEF files
    • Lightroom saves sidecar .XMP files


I added some info to the list above.

Super Coco reminded me that the orientation of a photo is stored in the EXIF data. For some reason Adobe decided not to make that available in Lightroom. I used Jeffrey’s “Metadata Viewer” Lightroom Plugin to view the data. That only works for one photo at a time so I looked at the Phil Harvey's amazing ExifTool library using the Windows binary version.

With ExifTool I was able to export the orientation EXIF data for all the photo I took that day. I got these different values:

  • Horizontal (normal) (4)
  • Rotate 90 CW (3)
  • Rotate 270 CW (24)

After the name is the number of the 31 photos I took for each orientation. I saved the data to a CSV file, rotated an image in Lightroom and closed it, saved the data again. The exported data was identical so it looks like that is the original data.

I next tried a new test which was to export the metadata from Lightroom before and after rotating a photo. This time I found a difference which is the tiff:Orientation attribute of the XMP file. You can modify the data in the XMP files and Lightroom can read in the new settings.


I've tried taking some new photos with the camera in various orientations and with the Nikon 'Auto image rotation' settings ON and OFF.

Basically the camera can give the correct orientation if your camera is horizontal or rotated left or right. I found a webpage Derotating JPEGs with exiftool that gives a possible good position reason for the orientation sensor not working at other angles:

So far, so good. The photos of Dr. Doom appeared on my computer with the correct orientation because my computer looked at the Orientation field of the EXIF data and rotated the image accordingly.

Unfortunately, I happen to take a lot of photographs looking down, with the camera’s image sensor in a nearly horizontal plane. In this position, the orientation device—which presumably uses gravity to figure out which way is up—doesn’t have much to go on, and the value of the Orientation field is kind of a crapshoot. I think it reports the orientation the camera was in just before I pointed it down to take the picture. And that could be any orientation, because I never think about how I’m holding the camera before I’m ready to shoot.

That page is about JPEG and lossy or lossless rotation but I think the key point about the camera facing down is valid when using RAW. I've not tested the idea that it's the last valid orientation that's recorded. On my D5100 it seems to always record 1 (normal horizontal) for any different orientation.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Have you tried the Reset button? \$\endgroup\$
    – jmn
    Apr 2, 2015 at 11:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ I have also wondered several times about exactly the same... But please note that there is an EXIF field named "Orientation" that does encodes the original orientation:impulseadventure.com/photo/exif-orientation.html" \$\endgroup\$
    – Super Coco
    Apr 2, 2015 at 13:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ @user32116 I hadn't but I've tried a few reset buttons I could find (Reset All in Quick Develop of Library module, Reset in Develop module, reset on crop & straighten tool) but none of them worked. Is there another reset button hiding somewhere? Thanks. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kioshiki
    Apr 2, 2015 at 15:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SuperCoco I thought I had heard it was in the EXIF data. I used a plugin (regex.info/blog/lightroom-goodies/metadata-viewer) to view the data and it was there. I'll add some more to the question about that. Thanks. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kioshiki
    Apr 2, 2015 at 16:31

2 Answers 2


Lightroom does not touch the original file.

Like every other edit in Lightroom, it keeps edit 'recipes' in the Lightroom database. Any rotation changes you make within Lightroom will be recorded in the Lightroom database, but they will not be made to the original image, so you can easily reset the image in Lightroom to the state it was in import. When you open Lightroom, it will load all the edits within Lightroom to the images, so you will see whatever rotation you did last.

Lightroom honors the EXIF rotation setting, so that it will orient the photos as they were recorded. If you reset from import, it will be reset to this state: the way your camera recorded the image, including any orientation info.

If you do not want LR to honor the orientation info, you can simply turn it off in camera.

Editing my Answer, which may render it incorrect:

After an hour of experimenting, based on the question, I too have discovered that Lightroom does indeed somehow treat rotation information different than any other edit.

In fact, as the original poster stated, rotation edits do not show as edits in the Develop module at all! For this reason, what I stated above, being factually correct, is NOT correct for rotation. Reseting edits does not change or reset the rotation back to import state.

I believe, after much investigation, that Rotation is treated by Lightroom as metadata, not an edit. While EXIF stores rotation data, this section is not exposed in Lightroom for simple editing, unfortunately. I can find no way to reset the rotation information in Lightroom.

  • \$\begingroup\$ What do you mean by 'rest from import'? I want to keep the camera recording the orientation. It's the setting in Lightroom I want to clear. I'm going to do some testing with different images and look for a setting on my camera as well. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kioshiki
    Apr 3, 2015 at 7:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ reset, not rest. In the Develop Module, f you click on the reset button (lower right) it will reset the image to how it was on import, clearing any rotation for example. \$\endgroup\$
    – cmason
    Apr 3, 2015 at 17:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ Sorry, that was a typo and should have been reset. I'm sure I tried that but it didn't work. I saw there are a couple places with rotation options in the Develop module and that would get reset with that button. I don't think it reset the rotation from the Library Module. I'll try again tomorrow when I'm on PC with Lightroom. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kioshiki
    Apr 3, 2015 at 21:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ I just tried this on a photo I'd imported but not rotated yet. I rotated it in Library, close and reopened LR then tried the Reset button in Develop and it doesn't change the rotation. I also tried holding CTRL, ALT or SHIFT while pressing Reset but none of those worked either. As others have suggested and you've mentioned, it must be the EXIF data and LR using that without an option to revert. I'll do some more testing when I can. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kioshiki
    Apr 4, 2015 at 7:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ I've decided to accept this answer. Your first line does basically answer the question title, LR does not touch the RAW file and I now know that the RAW file does contain the orientation in EXIF data. There seems to be no way in LR to easily revert back to the original orientation which was my question in the body text. I just realized the question title and the question in the body are different. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kioshiki
    Apr 5, 2015 at 8:53

If LR rotation command overwrites metadata field you cannot revert to original orientation (in other application this usually happens, generally this simplifies things). To test settings you should use one of metadata viewers and compare results before-after.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I've edited the question to add what I've found about the EXIF orientation data and the XMP files. I think that Lightroom should have the data to do this, it doesn't overwrite the original RAW files so there is a difference. Maybe it could be done with a plugin, I might try that one day if there's no easy way to do it. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kioshiki
    Apr 2, 2015 at 17:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ Lightroom does not change the original file. Lightroom will honor the rotation info in the EXIF, so you can't over-ride the EXIF info. You can rotate in LR and it will remember that setting in LR. \$\endgroup\$
    – cmason
    Apr 2, 2015 at 17:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ That setting is the bit I'm trying to reset or clear. If I did that LR would revert back to showing the photo with the original rotation from the EXIF data. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kioshiki
    Apr 3, 2015 at 7:01

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