I have Lightroom set to save metadata to sidecar files and also set to NOT edit JPEG files. But for some reason it does modify JPEG files in my library. Recently I made a simple edit to these files (WB adjustment) and one by one, I can see Lightroom is destroying my original files. I quit LR, restarted and reopened and the process continued.

Here is one of the beautiful photos, loaded from my MASTERS folder.

I was able to restore some photos from backup, but some of the changes went unnoticed and now my backups include these messed up files. My prior pre-unrequested-Lightroom-touching files are lost forever.

Is it possible to UNDO the changes that Lightroom has made to my original files?

enter image description here

  • 1
    Did you export this from Lightroom to post here, or copy it directly from outside of Lightroom?
    – mattdm
    May 27, 2016 at 20:47
  • This photo is from inside my library, the originals folder May 28, 2016 at 14:06
  • Are you by any chance exporting over your originals at some point in your process? Otherwise, there is no reason Lightroom would change anything. Check the file timestamp in the file-system to see when it was modified last.
    – Itai
    Jun 27, 2016 at 3:24
  • I am not exporting to the masters folder, for sure. I have export presets and this never happens. Jun 27, 2016 at 18:15

2 Answers 2


Sure you can undo the changes. There are a few possibilities.

The basic concept is that Lightroom (and other Adobe Camera Raw in Photoshop or Elements) does Lossless edits. I am not saying Photoshop or Elements does lossless edits, I am saying that Adobe Camera Raw in those programs do... This means that your original image (JPG or raw) is never modified, the original is pristinely preserved. ACR and Lightroom Never modifies the original image, it merely saves the list of your edits. You only see the edits because you are viewing in Lightroom, which applies the edits to your view every time you see it in Lightroom.

Three choices:

In the case of JPG, if you simply look at your original file with another editor or viewer, it will not know how to apply Lightrooms techniques, it does not know how to find or apply those edits, so you will only access the original image. If you want another program to see your edits, then Lightroom MUST output a new JPG version with the edits, which any other program can see then (and which cannot be removed from that second version then - but the original is still unmodified). So assuming you are discussing the original image file (instead of an new JPG outputted from Lightroom), just use another image viewer or editor to access the original, less edits.

Or, if your edits are saved in sidecar XMP files, you can simple remove or delete those sidecar XMP files, and then even Lightroom cannot apply those edits any more. The edits are gone, and all that remains is the unedited original file (lossless edits).

Or (even if edits are saved internally instead of sidecar), the image is still unedited (it is always unedited), it only contains the list of edits somewhere. So just have Lightroom restore the edit list to be no edits, an empty edit list. However, depending on what your Lightroom Default settings are, this would simply be applying Defaults to remove previous settings (but you still get whatever the default have been set up).

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    This information is outdated. Lightroom no longer preserves "pristine originals". This is documented here forums.adobe.com/message/8777565#8777565 If anyone else is saddened by this change and considers it a bug, please see adobe.com/products/wishform.html May 28, 2016 at 14:11
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    No, merely Semantics. That reference only states that JPG cannot use external XMP files for edit lists. May be true, I don't know, don't care. But ACR is still Lossless Edits, the edits only go into an edit list (stored someplace else in the JPG file). Lightroom does show those edits at any access, but other programs do not know how to, and probably don't care to. They can only show the original pristine image. Also ACR offers option to restore defaults, which deletes the change list even in Lightroom.
    – WayneF
    May 28, 2016 at 19:47
  • There's a small chance that some (probably hardware) glitch caused the JPEG to become corrupt while Lightroom was writing to the files. @Full Decent, did you try looking with another viewer?
    – mattdm
    Jun 26, 2016 at 21:55
  • @mattdm yes, it is corrupted in other viewers as well. Jun 27, 2016 at 18:17

As your picture doesn't contain an XMP information, it'd be difficult to restore its original shape.
(If this is just a JPEG file and not an export from the Photoshop native format, it'd be impossible to restore it even with the records what's happened as some changes /e.g. the green hue/ are most probably irreversible.)

Have you searched the Recycle Bin folder? If it doesn't contain the undamaged files, try a file recovery tool like Recuva.
Try to apply it on the hard disk partition that contained the good files as well as to your SDHC/CF card. If you haven't overwritten them with new photos, you might find them there. Or some of them, at least.

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