As I’ve written about before, in the last few months I’ve been using lots of different tools to work with my digital photographs. For example, I’ve been maintaining my main image library in Aperture, but using Lightroom to create large prints with. With the recent release of the Photoshop CS3 beta and the full release of Lightroom 1.0, I’ve been working with multiple applications even more. And the more I work with all of these applications together, the more that I wish that the incredibly important metadata about these photographs was fully interoperable across the set of applications I use.
Adobe’s applications, most notably Lightroom, Bridge, and Photoshop, are fully interoperable with RAW file metadata. When you rank and keyword images in Lightroom, that information is reflected in Bridge. This is accomplished not through some secret API sauce on Adobe’s part, but instead through XMP metadata. This metadata is either embedded into the image files, or in the case of camera RAW files such as NEFs and CR2s, as side car XMP files.
It takes a lot of time to add metadata to your photographs. This is important stuff that you don’t want to have to perform time and time again. It’s information that should be able to travel with your image data when you hand it off to somebody else. It’s data that needs to be preserved for the future. And, it shouldn’t be locked up in any one application’s silo. It’s just data.
So, given all of that, my number 2 feature request for the next version of Aperture—right behind performance improvements—is full support for XMP in externally referenced files. When a keyword is added to an image in Aperture, it should be written to an XMP sidecar file so that if you open your images in Lightroom or Bridge, all of your metadata is right there. I don’t expect, of course, for Aperture to support Adobe Camera Raw settings. That would be asking for Aperture to emulate exactly how Adobe Camera Raw works. But, for keywords and IPTC metadata, it would be a much appreciated feature addition.