Merging Lightroom Catalogues Deleted/Removed Keywords!!!

Some scary sh!t happened today! After merging one LightRoom catalogue into another I noticed MASSES of my keywords were erased/stripped from the LightRoom key-wording box.

A little background…

I have meticulously key-worded EVERY one of my 190,000+ images over the last 7 years. Over the last two weeks I have merged every client job into a single catalogue. Just now, I needed to find a photo, I typed in “fire” and was perplexed as to why the desired image wouldn’t pop up. I searched “yangpyeong”, the location I took the photo, and there it was. That’s when I noticed a LOT of keywords were missing, 16 out of 18 to be exact.

Here’s what happened

  • I dragged my “-PendingJobs.lrcat” into “GSP Entirety.lrcat” to merge the two catalogues. (There were no options presented in the dialogue regarding how to handle keywords on import)
  • It seems ONLY “-PendingJobs.lrcat” (the incoming catalogue) had keywords deleted/stripped. I can’t find any logic/pattern behind which keywords were preserved and which were deleted.
  • Even though the LightRoom key wording box showed the keywords as missing, via Photo Mechanic I was able to verify that the keywords did still exist in the XMP sidecar file.
  • Switching to a 1:1 preview or zooming in while in Grid View caused the XMP sidecar file keywords to be overwritten with the LightRoom stripped keyword version. (Scary!!!) Switching into Develop also overwrote the keywords.
After zooming, editing or even rendering a preview LightRoom overwrites XMP side car data with stripped data.
  • Even in grid view I noticed LightRoom rendering small previews of each image which resulted in keyword data being overwritten with the stripped version.

Thank goodness I have always written modifications to .XMP sidecar files, didn’t delete my “-PendingJobs.lrcat” after merging and keep a Time Machine backup of my LR catalogues. But I’m still vulnerable because I just moved my backup/redundancy solution to a RAID 5 setup so I no longer have a mirrored backup of the original XMP data. (Creating an XMP backup now as I write!)

Original catalogue with all keywords showing up.
Merged catalogue showing just 4 of 12 keywords.

My Solution / Work Around

  1. QUIT LIGHTROOM IMMEDIATELY TO AVOID PERMANENT KEYWORD LOSS!!!
  2. Backup all you XMP files. I used ChronoSync for this and it took an hour to back up 2 gigs of XMP only.
  3. Open the original un-merged catalogue (if you still have it). Confirm the keywords there are accurate. Select all images and, [Metadata > Save Metadata to File]. *Note this will overwrite any meta data changes you may have made outside of LR! If you don’t have the original file then you will have to proceed to the next step with fingers crossed.
  4. Open the merged LightRoom catalogue and immediately open LR catalogue settings and and un-check “Automatically write changes into XMP” [LightRoom Classic > Catalogue Settings… > Metadata > Automatically write changes into XMP]
  5. Select just the images that were merged if possible or all images if no other option and go [Metadata > Read Metadata from File] *Note this will overwrite any metadata changes you may have made in LR that were not saved!

Has this happened to you?

I’m curious if this was user error, bad luck or a major bug in the software. Please let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

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