I’ve mentioned my Catalog Dashboard before, and even shown how you can import and export smart collections using one aspect of it, but there was one section of the “dashboard” I haven’t fully covered. That’s the section I have based on the photo’s own metadata.

If you need a refresher on collections in general be sure to check out my post on Mastering Collections, but in short a smart collection is basically just a saved search based on criteria of your choosing (within what is offered by Lightroom Classic). Smart collections are a powerful way to leverage that database of information you are building about your photos each time you import new ones and work on existing ones.

Create The Collection Set

To keep things tidy, and if you haven’t made one previously, I recommend creating a parent collection set to hold this set of smart collections. Go to Library > New Collection Set (or click the + sign on the Collections panel, and choose Collection Set) to open the Create Collection Set dialog box and give it a meaningful name. You can even put it in an existing collection set if you wish.

Create the First Smart Collection

While I have a few smart collections that I find helpful, you may not find them as helpful, or perhaps you have ideas for others (please leave them in the comments if you do), but hopefully this will give you a place to start. There’s no right or wrong, only what you find useful in your workflow.

To create your smart collections within the collection set you just created, right-click that parent collection set and choose Create Smart Collection from the contextual menu. This will open the Create Smart Collection dialog with your collection set already marked as the location for it to go once created.

My first suggestion is a smart collection for Has Metadata Conflicts. This is a situation where Lightroom Classic detects something has changed in a given photo’s metadata outside of Lightroom, and it is giving you a heads up about it.

In my experience, this is almost always a non-event or false alarm. It would be a LOT more helpful if Lightroom told us exactly what piece of information was different in the photo’s own metadata than what is in the catalog so we could make an informed decision, but it doesn’t do this. Let’s set up the rule, and then talk about how to resolve it.

In the Create Smart Collection dialog box, set the rule to Metadata Status is Conflict detected. You can find Metadata Status under Other Metadata.

That’s all there is to it. Just one rule, so you can leave the Match set to all of the following rules, and by default, since we didn’t specify a location this smart collection searches the entire catalog.

As soon as you click Create the smart collection goes to work and gathers up any photos that meet the rule(s) you configured. In my case, it found 300 photos that have a metadata conflict.

Dealing with metadata conflicts

Ok, this is Lightroom Classic’s way of saying it believes there is something new in the photo’s own XMP metadata space that is not in the catalog. We don’t know what exactly, just that it thinks something has changed in the photo’s own metadata. Any photos meeting this criteria will display a thumbnail badge as shown here.

The easiest solution to this problem is to just ignore the badge. If you know you have not done any work to the photo’s metadata outside of Lightroom Classic, and by work I mean edited keywords, titles, captions, etc., then who cares if Lightroom thinks something has changed? All that matters to a Lightroom Classic user is what is in the catalog about that photo, because if you export a copy from Lightroom Classic it will apply the metadata stored in the catalog (based on your Export dialog settings). So option one is to shrug and move on.

Ok, if that badge is just driving you crazy you can get rid of it, but you need to make a choice, and the wording in the dialog that is about to appear is a little obtuse. So, let’s go ahead and click that metadata conflict badge.

“The metadata for this photo has been changed by both Lightroom and another application. Should Lightroom import settings from disk or overwrite disk settings with those from the catalog?” And you can choose to Import Settings from Disk, Cancel, or Overwrite Settings.

I wonder how much head scratching that dialog box has inspired over the years?

Ok, so let’s continue to assume that you have not done any metadata work to your photos outside of Lightroom Classic, but you may have done all kind of work to that photo inside of Lightroom Classic, so the safest option (aside from ignore) is to choose Overwrite Settings, which thankfully is the default (highlighted) option. If you choose Overwrite Settings it tells Lightroom Classic to dump what it has about that photo into that photo’s XMP metadata space and overwrite whatever (unknown) change it thinks it detected. Basically this should just result in that badge going away and nothing else happening. Behind the scenes Lightroom has just written to that photo’s XMP metadata, so a sidecar file may appear in the folder.

If you choose Import Settings from Disk, it tells Lightroom Classic to overwrite the information stored in the catalog with the information stored in the photo’s own XMP metadata. The problem with this choice is that it is an all or nothing dump. Meaning if you had previously edited that photo in Lightroom Classic you will discover that those edits may disappear (assuming you had not previously written those edits to the photo’s XMP metadata). You would only make this choice if you had previously configured Lightroom Classic to write to the photo’s XMP metadata AND you knowingly edited that metadata in another application outside of Lightroom Classic (such as Bridge) AND you wanted to import those outside edits into Lightroom Classic (not a typical workflow).

So, you can see why I suggested that you can just ignore. 🙂

Other Smart Collection Ideas

I have a Missing Copyright Info smart collection in there that I have written about before.

Another thing I keep an eye on is how many photos have been flagged as rejects. This is a simple rule that states Pick Flag is Rejected. Now, you can’t (easily) delete a photo from a smart collection, so all I do is use that smart collection as a reminder to see what has been flagged (and not yet deleted), and then I just click on All Photographs in the Catalog panel and use the Photo > Delete Rejected Photos command when I need to flush them out.

Out of curiosity I have a “GPS is Coordinates” rule in a smart collection that shows how many photos will appear on the map.

And my other two keep track of recently imported photos (last 30 days) that either have edits or don’t have edits. The rule looks like this:

With the only difference being that the has edits rule is set to True and the doesn’t have edits is set to False.

Hope that is helpful. I’d love to hear any suggestions/ideas for other smart collections to add to this set. Thanks!



  1. Complete Catalog Dashboard – Healthy Life Energy 14 February, 2021 at 12:54 Reply

    […] The final group is a variety of smart collections that monitor certain bits of information about each photo stored in its metadata. The first time I mentioned my catalog dashboard was in a tip on tracking the Copyright Status field. Over time I’ve added smart collections for color labels, Depth Map, Metadata Conflicts, and Rejected Photos. […]

  2. Alec Dann 18 December, 2019 at 23:55 Reply

    I use smart collections all the time.

    My first use is for projects based on a concept or a theme (ie, not subject or location).

    I add a keyword for the project to each relevant photo.

    Next I create a collection set for the project.

    Inside that, I create a smart collection where keyword -> Contains all -> [project name]. I name that “[project name] All”.

    I copy Project All and edit it, adding another criterion to filter for 3 stars or more. I may create multiple smart collections for different star levels corresponding to my workflow but you get the idea.

    Finally I create a standard collecitonr called Selects (thanks, Scott) where I can put my final selection.

    This process gives me a workflow that carries me from through all the stages of making picks and selections, working images and flagging my final, ready-to-show work.

    The same process can be used for travel (keyword = country or trip name) or for teaching (lkeyword = “demo panorama merge”).

    Smart Collections are a game changer for me. Couldn’t live without them.

  3. Lucille van Ommering 18 December, 2019 at 18:32 Reply

    Still doesn’t respond to the “what if” question of “what if” I edited and saved in PS, brought it back into LR, and edited it in LR. Will the most recent edits in LR be preserved when printing, and does the “conflict” icon refer to the latest changes in LR (which I can see in the edit history) or the latest saved PS file. Should I export the latest LR changes as a separate file to distinguish from the PS saved image?

    • Rob Sylvan 19 December, 2019 at 10:21 Reply

      Your question has nothing to do with metadata conflicts. If you send a copy to Photoshop with Lightroom edits, then edit in Photoshop and save, close, and return to Lightroom, that copy has all the original Lightroom edits plus all of the Photoshop edits (it is now a rendered PSD or TIF file). If you decide to edit that PSD/TIF copy more in Lightroom, then that copy still has all the edits it started with plus whatever new edits you apply in Lightroom. If you choose to print that copy, of course it has everything you’ve done to it up to that point. No need to export first. Nothing to do with metadata conflicts.

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