Tip – Exporting Original Raw files with changes

If you’ve ever wanted to take a raw file that you work with in Lightroom and send it to some one else to work with, but also include your changes to that file, here’s how. First, it’s worth mentioning that if you just find the original raw file that you worked with in Lightroom and just copy that file you’re not getting your Lightroom Develop changes with it – those are stored in Lightroom’s catalog. You’re just getting the original unedited raw file. But if you go to the File menu and choose Export you’ll get the export dialog and one of the export format options (in addition to JPEG, TIFF, and PSD) is Original File. Choose that option and Lightroom will put your raw file where ever you specify AND it’ll put a .XMP file with the same name in the same place. Just grab both files and send ’em away and the recipient will be able to open your raw file with all of the changes.

PS: (you don’t see PS’s in blog posts often do you) It’s also worth noting that if you use the DNG format that this tip still applies but Lightroom won’t include a .XMP file because all of the changes are stored in your DNG file – not XMPs.

Thanks for tuning in folks. I know it was a slow week here on the site but I had to jump in and teach a seminar for a co-worker this week and it kind of threw a wrench into my plans. We’ll be back to normal next week with videos, and presets, and tips and all that fun stuff. See ya!


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  1. Hey,

    just why are the file sizes so enormous after I export my pictures from Lightroom? My original jpeg is about 3MB – after a few changes in LR the exported images is suddenly between 6 and 9 MB big. Any ideas? Thanks!

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    • It really depends on your export settings. For example: sharpening level, compression level etc.

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  2. One question

    i work with dngs
    whenever i make edits to save the preview of them in DNG
    i have to update previews
    i have to re- export the edited dng?
    How many times can i export an edited dng?

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  3. PLease Help!
    I selected the original file export format and two files were saved but i cannot open the files. What programs are needed to open the files or did I miss a step or two? Thanks!

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  4. Help…
    I have edited some photos in lightroom. When I export in any form lightroom exports the original photos without the corrections/editing. Is there a way to export the edited photos in jpeg, tiff or PS

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  5. One correction on the above remarks: also all snapshots made on my laptop have been transported with the export/import you suggest. So that’s great.

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  6. Thanks. Used this last week. Shot lots of photos on an German holiday and spend some evenings editing on my laptop. When at home, I exported them the way you suggested (using DNG). Import on my pc.
    In develop mode I do not get the full editing history, is there an other solution to remain these?
    The goog thing is in the develop mode I now have two import statuses in my History. The original DNG import on my laptop and the final DNG export/import including modifications. So start and end point, but not the steps between.

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  7. Another related question.

    I use various export plug-ins to upload to my photoblog, Facebook and Istock. Currently, only the Facebook plug-in automatically puts in a metadata filter that I can use in the Library Filter search function. I would love to be able to do the same to my uploads to my photoblog (I use the Pixelpost plugin) and IStock.

    I see in the Library that there now is a Facebook section so my guess is that something in the plug-in sets that up. If anyone could point me in the right direction to be able to add that for other plug-ins, that would be great!

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  8. Here’s a related question:

    I shoot RAW for clients, then export full sized Jpegs into a folder, then burn them on CD for the clients. My hard drive on my laptop has begun to fill up with raw images. I’ve backed them up on my external HD and I want to delete the raw files and just leave the exported Jpegs to save space (but still have quick access on my laptop). When I delete the RAW files, obviously lightroom sees the folders missing. How can I redirect them to the folder containing jpegs? Or is that possible- meaning, do I need to take the folders out of lightroom and reimport the jpeg images?

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  9. I know it was a slow week here on the site . Is an understatement

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  10. Help with my ignorance on this matter, but am I mistaken to think that if I convert my RAW to DNG and utilitize that format then all of my LR data and info as well as metadata would be contained in the DNG file without the XMP sidecar? Then when it is exported, there would only be one file and no XMP. If this is so, could someone tell me the advantage of sticking with RAW and not converting to DNG?

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  11. o/

    I’ve just received my new QSS3707 – High Definition and the software can print raw files, but in my tests, was horrible.

    Now, with this tip i will do well, and explain to my clients!

    thank you, sorry by bad english =)

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  12. How about virtual copies? I’m working with the “automatically write changes to xmp”-option turned on. If I’m correct your export does the same but only once of course.
    Do you know of any possibilty to export virtual copies as well?


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  13. Matt,

    Just a word of thanks for filling in “cold” in San Francisco. Very good seminar. And yes, you are taller than you are on my computer screen!

    All the best.

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  14. This question is not about exporting files (sorry) but exporting the keywording system of bridge into lightroom. I am trying to change my workflow but really love the column of keywords from bridge. Would it be possible to integrate it into lightroom?

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  15. Again it comes up that Lightroom doesn’t write XMP files by deault.
    As a digital technician I can’t understand why. Think about how much work is lost if a catalog goes corrupt and can’t be recovered!
    I make a new catalog for each job and always set the catalog preferences to write XMPs. Once in a while I forget, since it isn’t on by default, and then have to go back and turn on the XMP setting.
    If my photographer shoots 5k frames over three days with a crew of twenty and a budget of $125k I am going to do everything I can to make sure the data is safe. When we get home from the shoot I set him up to edit, and he spends a full day editing and color correcting the shoot. Several times we’ve had drives go bad or disconnect during the editing process and it completely killed the LR catalog.
    Since I set LR to write XMP files and back up after each shot (day two shot three, etc) all I had to do was copy the photos to a new HD or grab the backup, make a new catalog and re-import the photos.
    If I hadn’t set LR to write XMPs he would have had to re-edit the whole shoot (remember, that’s 5k images!) and the job would have been late.
    Sends him into a panic every time it happens, but he’s thankfull that I set up a workflow that means a hassle rather than a disaster.

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  16. Dave,
    Setting a Black & White point?
    If you move the black point slider to the right whilst holding down the Alt key you can see which points become black. Similarly with the Exposure slider (+Alt key) for the White point.
    If you’re looking for neutrality you should use the White Balance picker on a light neutral. I recommend including a WhiBal card in one of your shots (http://www.rawworkflow.com/whibal/) for precision. Not really necessary for a general scene with lots of familiar objects in, but if you want precision or its an unusual setting or lighting then you need some familiar or accurate reference to get the White balance correct.
    I bought one just after I did a series of shots in a super-green rainforest. Setting the white balance was impossible because I didn’t have anything in shot that wasn’t green. After that I’ve always used a WhiBal card.

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  17. LR has started a bug when i export
    Whether i export using Export or Export with Preset to Burn full-size Jpgs
    Lr suddenly tries to Export every file in my folder, rather than the one I have choosen and am working on.
    This does not start happening until I have done 10 Exports of Single files – then it suddenly goes into this mode.
    So I tried exporting to SmugMug – and instead of exporting file I have choosen Lr says all 412 files will be exported whether i highlit Update or All

    Anyone else having problem?
    Anyone found solution???



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  18. If you go under Edit>Catalog Settings>Metadata you can choose “Automatically write changes into XMP”. For Raw or DNG files all the adjustments in Lightroom will be automatically saved to the original image file (XMP sidecar file) and you will be able to see the changes in Bridge.

    If you also want to see the Develop changes in a non-raw format then also check off “Include Develop setting in metadata inside JPEG, TIFF, and PSD files”. Just be warned, because Bridge now sees XMP sidecar files attached to these file types they might open up first in Camera Raw plug-in, rather than directly opening up in Photoshop.

    You can also manually save the metadata by hitting Ctrl-S or go to Metadata>Save Metadata to File. It’s satisfying to see this if you have both Lightroom and Bridge open, because almost as soon as you do this, the thumbnail refreshes in Bridge to show you the changes.

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  19. I would love it if someone can figure out a way to set a Black and a White Point in Lightroom.

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  20. Daniel:
    OK, can you tell me what the settings are in the preferences so that when you make a change in metadata (keywords, etc) it continuously updates.
    I always seem to have to go to the menu to update any changes.


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  21. You can also change the settings so Lightroom continiously writes the metadata to the file.

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  22. Nice tip Matt. Do have any feeling on DNG. I’m unsure. If cameras were shooting in DNG it might be nice… Gav

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  23. Is export the only way to get the modifications into a DNG? We convert raw -> dng on import. I guess I assumed that with DNG, the edits would be recorded there as well as in the catalog. If that’s not the case, it’s back to RAW we go — importing is much faster — and then export to DNG for the backup to long term storage.

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  24. It’s probably worth pointing out that the development values stored in the XMP file (or in the DNG file) can only be read by Lightroom or Photoshop. If you are sending the raw file to someone who uses some other imaging software, they will only see the original file.

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  25. Alex, I think you’ll be OK as long as you’ve copied the files in the same file structure (same folder names) AND you back up your catalog regularly.

    My scheme is to run hard drives in pairs. I import onto my primary drive (A) and regularly run a script to mirror those contents onto my backup (B). I also regularly back up my Lightroom catalog onto an external drive (which contains all of my develop settings for the photos on my primary drive.) If Drive A fails, I should be able to tell Lightroom that the files have been moved to Drive B and continue working as normal.

    If my computer dies, I should be able to plug Drive A into a new computer, copy my Lightroom catalog backup onto the new computer, and be good to go.

    Thankfully, I haven’t had to deal with any of that yet.

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  26. Good tip- now that I’ve already made the mistake and just copied my RAW files to an external HD for the past 6 months, is there a way to backup an extra catalog file to my external HD? That way, ideally, the raw files will work if I ever have a crash?

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  27. The photographer that shot my wedding was willing to provide the RAW files when he was done his post processing. Conveniently, he works in Lightroom so he exported with the XMP sidecar files. When the DVD’s arrived, the import went flawlessly.

    I don’t have Lightroom here at work, but isn’t there also the ability to export a selection of files as a catalog? Would that provide similar functionality?

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  28. Isn’t it much simpler to just press Cmd/Ctrl-S ?…

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