Where is the Save button in Lightroom?

Saving files in Lightroom is one of the most misunderstood concepts about the application. Lightroom doesn’t work the way Photoshop does. In Photoshop, you open your image, make edits, and then save the changes.

But there is no Save button or command in Lightroom, per se. You have to adapt to a slightly different concept: Saving changes to your photo’s metadata. Metadata is more than just keywords and photo capture time. Metadata includes the changes that you make to photos in the Develop module—applying Develop presets, adjustments to white balance and tone curve, local corrections, crops, and so on.

Lightroom automatically saves metadata changes to photos in the catalog. So after you make your photos look beautiful and you want to do something with them—export them to share with friends or clients on Facebook or SmugMug, create a slide show, or print a contact sheet from Lightroom, for example—your photos will include those changes.

But if you want your changes to be recognized by another application, such as Adobe Bridge or Camera Raw, then you have to save the changes to the photos themselves, not just to the Lightroom database. The most efficient way to save changes to photos in Lightroom is to instruct Lightroom to automatically save changes to the file’s XMP metadata as you work. Lightroom evangelist Julieanne Kost has a wonderful video demonstrating how to do this. Watch it on Adobe TV: Saving changes to your photos in Lightroom 3 (10:20).

George Jardine also has an excellent video that covers everything you need to know about Lightroom catalogs and metadata. Watch it on Adobe TV, too: The Lightroom catalog (23:21). George produced the video for Lightroom 1, so the UI of the import dialog box that he shows is out of date, but everything else is still accurate. If you’ve ever been confused about catalogs, where Lightroom saves your photos, how previews work, or how to save changes to your photos in Lightroom, you’ll want to watch all 1,401 seconds of the video.

All of this is covered in Lightroom Community Help, too, of course, although the information is scattered across a few topics:

For instructions on exporting photos, see Exporting photos–basic workflow.

29 Responses to Where is the Save button in Lightroom?

  1. william buhles says:

    why not just have a save button?

  2. Lauri H says:

    Yes, a save button would make sense for a lot of use cases. If I’m processing just travel shots, it would be easier to just save & overwrite the original jpegs than export the entire original file set to a new folder (and then manually delete the original folder since duplicating a TB library of travel pics doesn’t really make sense).

    Ideally I’d like to be able to save & replace the original jpeg (and that way be able to use it directly in my photo book software) – if you want to keep the non-destructive editing in all cases, then Lightroom catalog could store a backup copy when replacing the original file.

  3. John says:

    A repetitive 10 minute video full of irrelevent info to the matter at hand to show how to save a photo? “Let’s say I want to tag these photos ‘Memphis'”, she says. Who cares? Worse than a Microsoft help file. Every other editing program has CTR+S or a “Save” button. So, so, so, so easy to add this to a complex program isn’t it?

  4. Bob says:

    I agree with william buhles… why not just have a Save/Save As function? Frankly, the present design seems to assume that keeping photos within Lightroom is a higher priority to the user rather than making them easily available to another application. This is not at all user-friendly, maybe a bit of design arrogance… and a very disappointing impediment to ease-of-use. Please change it.

  5. chris says:

    That’s true… why making things easy while you can make it complicated!

    With iPhoto… it’s a total mess… I even needed to restart my mac!

  6. Kim Stevens says:

    I am just a lowly photographer and all I need to do is push a “save” button. But alas! You do not have a “save” button. Meta that!!

  7. Aart says:

    All my pictures are in RAW. After I edited them I export the pictures to JPEG. My problem is that sometimes the JPEG-picture shows the JPEG file and sometimes not. I can not delete the RAW-file without deleting the rest, except when they are shown as separate files. How can I set my my catalogue to ALWAYS show all the file types in the same folder.

  8. James says:

    It appears that metadata like keywords only get’s saved when you quit the program. Last night under a tough deadline, I worked until 3:00am setting up keywords for thousands of images. Today, checking the news, with Lightroom still open. Safari crashed my machine and I lost all that work. I searched my drive for all lightroom catalog files and nope, nothing there but the catalog I opened before that 8 hours of work. A simple “save” button would have solved this – as I’m used to saving my work as I go. I suppose to do that in Lightroom I need to periodically quit the program!! That’s just stupid. Am I wrong?

    • Andy says:

      You’re wrong. But what I don’t get is why you lost your catalogue and image settings. I had plenty of crashes, Lr and non-Lr related but not once have I ever lost the settings other than the image I was working on. Are you on PC or Mac?

      Basically the catalogue is updated as you go, so what the hell happened is a mystery to me.

  9. What about if you have your fotos on a NAS? Synology DSM 4 has an internal application that builds an own web-based browser / catalog so you can watch your pictures with every device that has an web browser (dlna tv, smart phone, etc, …). When you look at the pictures on the NAS that way your changes from Lightroom are not present at those fotos. If you have, like me, a huge amount of fotos (10.000+) managed by Lightroom, exporting those fotos/directories of fotos manually is not an option. It would cost me a week or so to do that. So the lack of the save-function is for me now a reason to go away from Lightroom. I’m sorry about that, cause all other lightroom library- and editing -functions where for me something I was looking for for a long time.

  10. Glen says:

    I think many people are missing the point, if you are looking for a SAVE button simply press EXPORT it does basically the same thing. I like not having to save photos when I edit them, I simply edit my photos and shut down my computer… then come back later and continue editing. 🙂

    • Djago says:

      Export isn’t basically the same. It duplicate the photo you’re exporting. And you can like not having to save as it is right now but ALSO the ability to save changes (look at Picasa doing this; you can have the actions and you can save, and when you do it creates a folder with the originals in it).

  11. Michael says:

    Save button would make it easier. One disagreement so far. Too hard Adobe?
    Glad I didn’t pay full price.

  12. Andy says:

    Sheesh: you lot are really missing the point aren’t you? If you want to edit and save files then use photoshop. The whole point of Lightroom is it’s NON-DESTRUCTIVE EDITING. Yes that’s right it doesn’t screw with your pictures per-se. Make a cock-up, or get a client asking if you can do an edit months or years down the line, say make a B+W photo colour and you can do it. Try making your saved B+W jpeg image colour again that you saved and only have one copy of- go on try it. Like a photo but want to do two crops? Easy- just create a virtual copy. Want a black and white and colour image? Easy- do a virtual copy. Guess what? You only have two files on your PC, not four!

  13. Z says:

    Not having a Save/Save As function/button is just a way of complicating an otherwise simple task, which, of course, is stupid. Please add a Save/Save As feature or watch customers move away.

    I bought Lightroom and just installed it and I’m disappointed in it. Also, why make the layout so dark? I don’t like the dark grey. Please give us the ability to lighten up the program screen a bit.

  14. Donnie says:

    Why does every program designer have to come up with something different? It should be easy to just put a save or save as button like every other program has. Make it better, not so complicated that you must read instructions just to save!!

  15. Ernie says:

    I spent 3 hours modifying recent photos, closed LR4, and assumed that I would see my catalog and changes when I reopened LR4 the next day. Bad assumption. All my changes were missing. Why?

  16. DMc says:

    This is a pain, and NO it does not automatically save when you “simply hit the export button.” When I click and drag enhanced photos to my desktop ALL changes are gonbe gone gone. What the hell?

  17. bab says:

    I like to save different versions of photos, perhaps cropped differently, or coloured differently. This implies a “Save-As” functionality. Perhaps I don’t have enough experience to know first off when I’m happy with an image, I like to give some photos a couple kicks at the can – how do I do this when I can’t Save-As and then look at them side-by-side.

  18. Phil says:

    “Lightroom automatically saves metadata changes to photos in the catalog. ”

    So if I spend half an hour making edits, then decide to scrap them, how do I undo all those edits? Sit there and hit control-Z a million times? If today’s edits that that I want to undo were on top of yesterday’s edits that I want to keep, how would I know when to stop hitting control-Z? So far, Lightroom seems like a design disaster.

    • Phil,

      You could simply open your History panel and click on the History state of the edit that you previously liked. This ISN’T something you can do in PS, unless you saved lots of Adjustment Layers and layer sets in a bloated PSD/TIF file.

  19. Snake says:

    Why not have the POSSIBILITY of saving if that’s what a user wants? If it’s important to emphasize the non-destructive idea of LR, throw in a box saying “YES, I DO UNDERSTAND THAT THIS OVERWRITES THE ORIGINAL FILE”.

    The lack of a Save button is the one and only reason I’ve decided to let go of the otherwise brilliant Lightroom. Example: I like having my photos tick by as my Windows screensaver and using Lightroom means they are shown in their original state of being uncropped, unrotated, un-WB-corrected and so on.

  20. Jay Sigal says:

    Ya know …this is a lot of discussion which is wasted time that could be easily remedied with the inclusion of a simple freaking SAVE/SAVE AS button for those of us lame of mind enough to not want to be so gd bothered with all the pseudo philosophical reasons why this illogical methodology for keeping our work exists/persists.

    Put in a freaking SAVE/SAVE AS button and for the rest of you that want to sit around and discuss the merits of the way it is will leave more time on the streets for the rest of us to be out practicing photography. I’ve spent the past 20 minutes reading all this crap and STILL have no idea how to save the past hour’s worth of work before I shut down LR.

    And I am ok with being thought of as stupid or whatever label you want to paste on me. The fact remains that all this talk VERY CLEARLY demonstrates this is a problematic quirk of the software. If there are this many people asking the simple question of HOW DO I SAVE MY WORK, there is clearly something wrong wrong wrong with the basic design. Creativity should NOT come into play when one desires to do something as simple as saving an image and the work they have invested in the editing of that image, period!

    I would love to hear just how many in this forum actually disagree with me, and if so, WHY!

    End of rant!

  21. Chris says:

    In After Effects you have ( Save Projects as: ) so I can come back and continue working on my project at any time even after five month. Why can’t I save my project no mather what.

  22. Ebb Bayarsaikhan says:

    Please, make at least the possibility of a save button, it’s not that hard and obviously people want it.