All of your Lightroom development settings might be in your exported images. That's right, all of your adjustments, spot healings, tone curve adjustments, sharpening, etc. might all be in your exported files for all the world to see.
I recently had one of those truly WTF moments. I was working with a development library, reading and writing the various EXIF values of an image through code. I dropped one of my exported JPEG images on the program, and lo and behold, there was the XMP data of all my edits, even though I don't use XMP sidecar files.
What Is XMP?
XMP stands for Extensible Metadata Platform, a standard "for the creation, processing, and interchange of standardized and custom metadata for digital documents and data sets," as per Wikipedia.
The XMP file format is XML, which means that it is plain text. Human readable, formatted, plain text. This XMP information can be included inside TIFF, JPEG, PNG, GIF, PDF, and WEBP files or simply included as a separate sidecar file.
Lightroom, Photoshop, and other programs can read this information and apply those edits to an image. It's basically the same information that is inside a DNG file.
How Did It Get There?
The information was included in my export because I selected "All Metadata" in my export preset. Yes, this was a mistake on my part, but an understandable one. When you look at Lightroom's Metadata panel, you don't see development edits or adjustments. I wanted all the EXIF and IPTC information included, so I chose "All Metadata" when exporting the images.
The default export setting for metadata when creating an export preset depends on what preset you have selected, but if no preset is chosen when clicking "add," it usually defaults to "Copyright Only."
The Lightroom Export Dialog Metadata section includes the following options for what you want to include:
- Copyright Only
- Copyright & Contact Info Only
- All Except Camera Raw Info
- All Except Camera & Camera Raw Info
- All Metadata
The first two, "Copyright Only" and "Copyright & Contact Info Only," are self-explanatory. "All Except Camera Raw Info" and "All Except Camera & Camera Raw Info" would exclude the camera model and camera model/XMP, respectively. "All Metadata" includes everything, which is where I made a mistake.
The "Camera Raw Info" is the XMP information. I had assumed this meant the default EXIF information from the raw file, such as camera, lens, shutter speed, aperture, etc. In the words of Ron White: "I was wrong." I think Adobe should make this a bit more clear in the export dialog, as it's not exactly obvious.
Should You Really Care?
Most people may not care if anyone sees what they did to edit an image. Others may see it as a trade secret. Little things like what split toning you used or the fact that you added linear or circular gradients to the image may not be something you want to divulge to the whole world.
With the right software, you can even extract the XMP data to a file. I'm not sure if that data is in the correct format for use as a sidecar file, but it does make it easier to view. In the tests I did, there were a couple of differences in the format, but it was still readable to discern what edits were made to the image.
If you already have images that may have XMP data included in them and don't want it in there, there are various metadata stripper programs out there if you do a search. It is possible to strip the information from the file without having to re-export the photo.
I strive to learn new things every day, but this was not one of those things that I expected to surprise me! Is this just common knowledge, or have I helped you learn something today? Let me know in the comments!