Post Production: How to Quickly Separate Photographs from XMP Files

A client recently asked me for my .RAW images to deliver to a photo editor for a family shoot I did in North Texas. The shoot was for an online ad campaign for health insurance, and the deliverables – my .RAW files – sitting fees, etc. were negotiated prior to the shoot.

So, the shoot was over, I’m at my computer – importing images into Lightroom (Lr), going through my typical workflow process; keywording images, organizing them, and so forth. As you likely already know, when you edit images in Lr, you’re not actually modifying the original image. Instead, Lr is saving a ‘copy’ – an edited version – stored in the Lr catalog. Worth discussing are files called .XMP files, which stands for Extensible Metadata Platform. The .XMP file format was created by Adobe and are used to organize large volumes of files into a searchable database.

In the case of camera raw files that have a proprietary file format, XMP isn’t written into the original files. To avoid file corruption, XMP metadata is stored in a separate file called a sidecar file. For all other file formats supported by Lightroom (JPEG, TIFF, PSD, and DNG), XMP metadata is written into the files in the location specified for that data.

An example of .xmp/sidecar files written side-by-side to the original RAW/.CR2 files.

An example of .xmp/sidecar files written side-by-side to the original RAW/.CR2 files.

Now, the (belated) purpose of this entry: Providing that you, at some point (regardless of whether it’s during importing or exporting) add EXIF data to your .RAW images (such as copyright, keywords, location, time, etc., etc.), every image you apply that data to is going to generate an .XMP file (aka ‘sidecar’ file) in the same folder as your images. This is also applicable if you edit RAW files, meaning, .XMP files are generated even for adjusting settings such as cropping and white balance. Regardless if you apply/change/modify EXIF data and/or edit the image, only one .XMP file will generate per original RAW file.

Now lets assume that you’re in a situation like mine. Assuming you knew you needed a copy of your RAW files, you could copy all of your RAW images before importing into Lr, then paste them in their destination, and you’d be done. But I like to keep my workflow consistent, and consistency, for me, means applying EXIF data and staying organized. So, lets assume then that you do things my way. You’ve imported all of your RAW images into Lr, applied additional EXIF data (keywords and such), .XMP files have generated and appear side-by-side to your original RAW files (in my case, .CR2, Canon’s RAW proprietary file format). The question then becomes: How do you export your RAW files without simultaneously exporting your .XMP/sidecar files? The solution to this problem is easy; actually, too easy, but I looked right past it – and it’s an easy mistake to make. Instead of selecting all of your RAW files one by one (which you could do by holding Command and clicking on each individual file), instead save yourself some by following these instructions:

  1. Open the folder containing your RAW and .XMP/sidecare files (likely located on your internal or external hard drive).
  2. Right click anywhere inside the folder
  3. Choose ‘Arrange By’ > ‘Kind’
  4. Voilà – You’re done

And just that quickly, your .XMP files have been immediately arranged separately from your RAW files, making it easy to press ‘Command+A’, highlighting all of your RAW images, copy them, and paste them in the new location. Further, there’s no need to reapply the ‘arrange by’ command (so as to lineup the .XMP files with their restive RAW files).

Anyway, I hope this tip helps some of you out there. It’s definitely a time-saver, and something I’ve repeatedly overlooked in the past. Special thanks to my friend and photographer Thorpe Griner for troubleshooting this issue.

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