Author Topic: How I Moved from Lightroom  (Read 2786 times)

Offline Michael Naylor

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How I Moved from Lightroom
« on: August 11, 2021, 03:31:19 AM »
How I Moved from Lightroom


I too have argued with Kirk many times, but I now realise he was right.  You see the problem isn't with Photo Mechanic, it's from my zealous use of keywords in the first place - egged on by countless youtube experts, bloggers and forum junkies who think they're ever so clever.

I jumped into Lightroom as soon as it was released.  I'd never even heard of keywords before then, so I was eager to begin using them.  Too eager, because neither had I heard of captions, and I've remained oblivious to many of the other tags until quite recently.  Hierarchical keywords appeared to be a gift from above and definitely the way to go.

Over the years things happen. Adobe releases new versions, enhanced features and bug fixes.  I migrated my catalogue into and out of other DAMS, but always went back to Lightroom where I felt more comfortable.  Meanwhile, I began hearing more and more of the Camera Bits' long promised DAM that might appear when it's ready. I begin tidying my Lightroom hierarchical keywords and adding even more to help migrate all of my collections - smart and flat.  I thought I was fully prepared and ready for a smooth transition. Not so. How wrong I was. All attempts failed, because I expected Photo Mechanic Plus to be like Lightroom - which begged the question, why change? But, I'd had enough of Lightroom.

I decided to transition to Photo Mechanic Plus come what may.  I decided to accept whatever it takes.  I decided I didn't want to see over a dozen Adobe background processes running continuously, even when Photoshop and Lightroom were closed. I decided to cancel my Adobe subscription - and I did!  That was OK, because the Lightroom catalogue module continues to work.  You just get a splash screen begging you to return.


But probably eleven. The system I evolved went like this.

1: Regard the Lightroom catalogue to be the Master.

2: Do not add or alter any metadata in Photo Mechanic Plus until the entire process is complete.

This is vitally important.  There can only be one source of truth.  Yes, it's possible to read and write metadata from each app and keep them in sync, but it's too easy to make a mistake or simply forget.

3: Tempting as it may be, there's absolutely no point importing anything into Photo Mechanic Plus at this point, unless you're curious to view the mess you're trying to avoid.

4: In Lightroom, switch off the automatic update XMP option in catalog preferences.

This is because we are going to be making multiple updates to multiple images and there's no point in writing anything to disk until we're done.

5: Flatten all the hierarchical keywords.

What, really? Well that's the conclusion I came up with.  There are 2 ways to do this, but I chose the hard way.  Easy doesn't necessarily mean better.  So by example:

The originals




Then drag the ACT_ tags out of the ACTIVITY hierarchy, so they become flat keywords. Take a look and see how many images are tagged with ACTIVITY. Chances are there'll be less than you thought there should be, or more if you thought there should be none. This is because over time either you or Lightroom has been getting things wrong.

6: Delete the root ACTIVITY hierarchical keyword, because it's no longer needed.

Work through the others

        green bottle

like this.

        OBJ_green bottle

Eventually, all the hierarchical keywords will be gone.

OBJ_green bottle

If you have any keywords that are not prefixed, it's a good idea to assign one.  Some may fit into your existing scheme, otherwise try to group them with a new prefix. I used short prefixes of 4 or 5 characters because they take up less space.  However, you must use more than 2 characters or Search will not work as expected.

Why did I use prefixes with an underscore?

Because I didn't trust myself or Lightroom and it made it clearer to see where I was going. It also allowed me to change my mind about where some keywords should live, or be named, or be simply removed.  Most importantly, it would guarantee being able to spot any keywords Photo Mechanic Plus found which didn't belong, because they wouldn't have a prefix with an underscore.


When you think all the keywords have been prefixed and flattened...

7: Select ALL images in the Lightroom catalogue and write the metadata to disk - and wait.

If Lightroom is behaving, there should be no hierarchical keywords in any of the image files. You need to have lots of patience, lots of time, and take frequent breaks to rest your mouse hand. When all of your keywords are flat, i.e. all the structure is gone...

8: Open Photo Mechanic Plus, create a new catalogue, and Scan to Catalog - and wait.

Throughout the entire process, I made regular of backups to external disk in case I screwed up.

9: Do not add or alter any metadata in Photo Mechanic Plus just yet.

Lightroom is still the Master and there could be more work to do.

10: Open the Photo Mechanic Plus Browse tab and select Metadata (IPTC) -> Keywords.

Scroll down the long list of newly created keywords that Photo Mechanic Plus found.  You'll have your OBJ_ tags and all the other cryptic prefixes you came up with.  There should be no structured keywords.  In my case, there were a few.  There shouldn't be any, but hey, they came from Lightroom.   If there are any keywords, structured or flat, that do not have one of your prefixes...

11: Go back to Lightroom and fix it. Lightroom is still the Master.

If you do need to go back into Lightroom, remember to write the metadata back to disk.  Then you'll need to have Photo Mechanic Plus do a Full Sync again.  Then go back to step 10.


You are now free to uninstall Lightroom. Do not open Lightroom ever again on this Photo Mechanic Plus collection of images if auto write to XMP is turned on.

So, what next?

There are choices.  You could create temporary Collections and Sub-Collections while you decide how many keywords are worth keeping.  You could make better use of the Caption and Event tags and you could certainly move all your people into the Persons Shown tag.  If you haven't already, you could also move all your location keywords over to the proper location tags.   You may decide to use Photo Mechanic Plus's keyword list and/or its Structured Keywords list.  But this is a great opportunity to rethink keywords altogether and use far less.

When you're done.

Use the Find and Replace panel in Photo Mechanic Plus to remove all those nasty prefixes once and for all.


It takes a lot of effort and many hours, days, or even weeks, but it took years to create the mess.  During the process you will have discovered mistakes you'd made and bugs you were not aware of.  For me though, I'm absolutely convinced the reward was well worth the effort.  It was something I only needed to do once.
« Last Edit: August 11, 2021, 09:19:17 AM by Michael Naylor »

Offline phrank

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Re: How I Moved from Lightroom
« Reply #1 on: April 16, 2022, 06:50:42 PM »
thanks for the long post. I’m just moving too from all my DAM (Aperture, Lightroom, Capture One) to one which can handle all in a master calatog. I try to have an open meta data XMP workflow now. I don’t want to rely on any company anymore.