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 George produced the video for Lightroom 1, so the UI of the import dialog box that he shows is out of date, but everything else is still accurate.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.
- About metadata and XMP
- Change catalog settings
- Synchronize Lightroom metadata with Camera Raw and Adobe Bridge
For instructions on exporting photos, see Exporting photos–basic workflow.