Micael Widell

How to add Metadata for Manual Lenses in Lightroom

/ photography

As my love for photography has increased over time, so has my love for manual focus lenses. Lenses such as the Samyang 135mm f2 provide unsurpassed sharpness and image quality, at a price much lower than its autofocus counterparts. Often you also save weight and size when switching to a manual lens. I switched my Sigma 35mm f1.4 ART for a Voigtländer Ultron 35mm f1.7, and got a lens that was just a fraction of the weight and size, while maintaining comparable image quality and low light performance. Not to mention the joy when using manual lenses – the fact that you are forced to pause for 2-3 seconds whenever you take a photo, forcing you to consider the composition for a moment, often with better photos as a result.

A major annoyance with manual lenses, is that most of them lack a chip (even if that is starting to change with lenses such as the Samyang XP 85mm f1.2). Lack of chip means that you will get no EXIF metadata from the lens into your camera. When you try to search Lightroom for your photos taken with that manual lens, you will not be able to. When you post a photo taken with the lens to 500px or Flickr, nobody will be able to see what lens you used.

Luckily, there is a pretty simple workaround for this: The Lightroom plugin LensTagger. This plugin will make it possible for you to select a bunch of photos in Lightroom and specify what lens was used. This information is then written into the EXIF data in the RAW file.

To get started with LensTagger, watch the instructional video above, or simply continue reading here. First, download and install the latest version of LensTagger and ExifTool. LensTagger runs ExifTool in the background to perform the actual metadata writing to the files, so without ExifTool you cannot use LensTagger. It doesn't matter in what order you install them.

Before you attempt to run LensTagger it is imperative that you select all the photos you want to use LensTagger on, right-click, and perform Metadata -> Save Metadata to File. This will make sure that all metadata pertaining to the files, including all the editing you have done to the files in Lightroom, such as changing exposure, white balance, saturation etc, is saved to .XMP files along with the RAW files on disk.

Lightroom normally keeps all metadata about photos, such as EXIF information about camera and lens, but also all information about edits you have made, in the Catalog. But Lenstagger is only able to write information to the original RAW-files, and not to Lightroom's Catalog. So we need to write the lens metadata to the RAW files with Lenstagger, and then read it back into lightroom using the Metadata -> Read Metadata from File command. If we wouldn't have saved the metadata to XMP files in the previous step, Lightroom would just read whatever metadata is in the RAW files, and overwrite it's internal metadata in the catalog. The result would be that any editing you had done to the images in Lightroom would be lost. But since we wrote all that into XMP files, Lightroom will read the data from there when reading everything back into the catalog. I understand if this feels really confusing or complicated, it did to me in the beginning as well. Try watching the video, and maybe that explanation will help you better than this text.

When you have selected the photos you want to use LensTagger on, and done "Save Metadata to File", it is time to fire up the LensTagger plugin. Find it in Library -> Plugin Extras -> Lenstagger.

In Lenstagger, provide the lens name, focal length, and any other information you have to provide. A good tip on where to find the "official" name for a lens, is to look in Adobe's own lens database used for profile corrections. Adobe have established consistent naming conventions, and their lens database is very extensive. You can find the lens database online. Do not forget to press "Update command", to update the exiftool command that is to be run, with your entered information. Then just perform the action by pressing "Run Command."

As we discussed earlier, after running LensTagger, you need to right click on your selected photos in Lightroom, and perform Metadata -> Read metadata from File, so that Lightroom's catalog gets updated with the new lens metadata that Lenstagger has put into the RAW files. If you would have missed the step to save metadata to file before running the Lenstagger, now any edits you had done to the photos in Lightroom would be lost, as that information was not to be found in the RAW file or any accompanying XMP file.

That's basically it! Now you have a way to tag your photos from manual lenses with proper lens information, so that you can easier find them, and so that sites like 500px and Flickr can know what lens and focal length you used in your photos.

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