Metadata Viewer Closeup
Especially considering it's only a “Version 1” product, Lightroom offers a lot of things that can be customized. The subject of this post is the list of image metadata shown by the Metadata Panel in Library mode.
The metadata panel can show much more for an image than anyone's likely to want to see at one time — over 100 items, such as its filename, the latitude/longitude where it was taken, the shutter speed, a caption, etc.— the volume of which can quickly overwhelm.
To whittle down the information to a smaller set of items, the metadata panel comes with a number of presets (Default, All, EXIF, IPTC, Minimal, and Quick Describe), each showing a different subset of the possible items. (Perhaps surprisingly, the “All” preset does not show all items — more on this later.)
Because there are so many items the metadata panel might show, chances are small that any of the presets actually shows the list of metadata items you wish to see while hiding the ones that would be clutter to you.
Luckily, you can create your own presets.
Unfortunately, because Lightroom is indeed a 1.0 product, it doesn't actually include a way to create and edit your own presets.
Luckily, I pestered the Adobe engineers enough that they told me how to create metadata-viewer preset configuration files, and kindly gave me permission to share it.
So, I present Jeffrey's Lightroom Metadata-Viewer Preset Builder, a web application with a mouthful of a name that allows you to create your own presets, complete with self-titled headers and line separators.
Obligatory disclaimer: Custom metadata-viewer presets, from this or any source, are not supported by Adobe. There are no guarantees that the presets you build for Lightroom Version 1.0 will be at all useful with later versions of Lightroom. In fact, there are no guarantees that they'll be useful with any version of Lightroom. “Use at your own risk.”
Okay, with that out of the way, here's a bird's-eye view of the application. The main work area is the lower half (the custom list and the menu).
To create your own presets....
Choose from about 100 items
Select a current preset to use as a starting base, or choose from among one of the extras I've included (“None”, “All Supported Fields”, and my own daily-use preset).
Read the instructions, then press the “hide header” button to save more screen real-estate for the preset builder itself.
Create your preset, adding and removing items by checking them in the menu (seen at right), or adding headers and rules with the buttons at the top of the menu.
An example view of your custom preset is shown in the lower-left of the application, with fake metadata filled in from one of my images, just to give a sense of how it'll look in actual use.
In the custom list, you can drag items to reorder them, and you can drag them to the trash (the pink stripe at far the left) to remove them.
Once everything's as you like it, bring back the header by clicking the hide-header button again (which had become a show-header button) and enter a title for your preset. The title you choose here is what Lightroom shows in the drop-down list of presets (as shown at below), so choose a short but descriptive title.
Finally, press the “Generate Preset File” button.
After pressing the generate-preset button, you're presented with a page from which you can download a “.lrtemplate” file. You can also bookmark the page, and share its url with those you'd like to share your preset with; they can then download the same preset, or use yours as a basis from which to build their own. For example, here's the page for my main daily-use preset that includes the metadata items I normally want to see or edit.
Before installing the preset, you must first create a “Metadata Field Lists” directory in Lightroom's application support folder:
- Mac OS X:
- ~/Library/Application Support/Adobe/Lightroom/Metadata Field Lists/
- Windows XP:
- C:\Documents and Settings\username\Application Data\Adobe\Lightroom\Metadata Field Lists\
- Windows Vista:
- C:\Users\username\Application Data\Adobe\Lightroom\Metadata Field Lists\
There's a report that the vista location differs — see this alternate Vista install location.
Preset drop-down where your
preset title appears in Lightroom
(On Windows, you may have to visit the Folder Options dialog to allow the normally-hidden Application Data folder to be seen.)
Finally, drop the .....lrtemplate file you downloaded into the directory you just created, and start (or restart) Lightroom.
The left side of the header in the Library Mode's Metadata Panel likely says “Default” — click it to see your preset among those in the drop-down list.
Here are some cautions about Lightroom's metadata viewer, whether with a custom preset or one of the standard ones:
The preset builder shows a very wide view of the Metadata viewer panel — perhaps wider than most people will want their Lightroom panels to be (since widening the panels takes away from the Grid/Loupe area). So, keep in mind that long data (e.g. lens information, camera make+model) may be too wide to actually fully appear in normal use.
Some items seem almost identical, but are really quite different. For example, both the “File Path” and the “Folder” items display the name of the folder that the file is in, but they differ in how they interact with the mouse: clicking on one brings up the file in Explorer/Finder, while the other switches Lightroom to viewing the images in that same folder (something I find much more useful).
The similarity among some of the items is one reason that the standard “All” preset really doesn't have all the items. It's also one reason that you'll want to take care when building your presets, so you'll get what you think you're getting.
As you move from image to image in your library, the metadata items missing from an image are not shown in the metadata panel unless they're editable.
For example, if the preset includes the copyright field, that field is shown even if the image has no copyright notice embedded in it (thus, letting you add one if you wish). However, if the preset includes the GPS-coordinates field, but the image is not geoencode, it's simply not shown in the viewer.
The metadata viewer simply reports metadata in the file (or in Lightroom's database about the file). For example, Lightroom could potentially compute a value for “Focal Length 35mm” (full-frame-35mm-camera effective focal length), but it reports it only if that Exif field is actually present in the image metadata.
(Actually, in Version 1.0, Lightroom doesn't display this particular field even if it is present in the image; I've submitted this bug to Adobe.)
Lightroom does not generally show metadata from the “Maker's Notes” section of metadata placed by many cameras. For example, Nikon cameras place the distance to the subject, if known, into the Exif “Subject Distance” field of JPG images it creates, but for NEF (raw) images, Nikon puts that data only into the Maker's Notes. Thus, Lightroom does show the subject-distance field for Nikon JPGs that have it, but not for Nikon NEFs that have it.
(On an odd but encouraging note, Lightroom does pick up the Lens information from Nikon raw files.)
You can use my Lightroom Configuration Manager to change the labels in the metadata panel, among other things.
I was very excited when I first got wind of Lightroom's support for custom metadata viewer presets, because the standard presets all had either too few items I wanted, or way too many items I didn't. I asked Adobe for more information with the suggestion that I could build a simple web tool to generate the preset files (implying that if they were easy for the average photographer to generate, Adobe wouldn't have to expend resources supporting a known-but-undocumented feature).
When I finally got technical detail in early February, I was joyful that it supported so much (including free ordering, rules, blank spacers, and headers), but I was also dismayed for the same reasons, because now I had to put my money where my mouth was and build a tool up to the task.
It was a lot of work just getting things to work in a first-class browser like Firefox, not to mention then getting it to work in IE. I hope you'll find that it was worth it.