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Lightroom Preset Compatibility: XMP or LRTemplate Confusion?

Lightroom preset compatibility

Over the last couple of years, Adobe has made some enormous changes to its flagship post-processing software. In short, some of these changes can be slightly…confusing. As someone who uses Adobe Lightroom a lot (and I do mean A LOT), perhaps one of the most confusing changes to Lightroom to come down the pike was Adobe’s choice to change the format of its develop presets from .lrtemplate to .xmp. This has led to quite a bit of head-scratching from hobbyists and professional photogs alike over Lightroom preset compatibility.

Today, once and for all (until Adobe changes things), we’re going to speak plainly about what you need to know when it comes to your development presets in Lightroom. You’re going to learn which presets work with which versions of Lightroom. You’ll learn which ones don’t work, and in the process, gain a better understanding of how presets function in all realms of Lightroom.

Making the jump to XMP

In April 2018, Adobe released Lightroom Classic v7.3.

With Lightroom v7.3, we discovered for the first time that the file designation for develop presets changed from ‘.lrtemplate’ to ‘.xmp’. This brought along some awesome benefits, with the most brilliant being that our Lightroom develop presets could now be used with Adobe Camera RAW (ACR).

Lightroom Preset Compatibility: XMP or LRTemplate Confusion?

Unfortunately, this switch gave birth to a whole litter of questions over how the older .lrtemplate presets would function after the switch to the .xmp format.

For people like me that engineers develop presets as part of their living, tiny beads of sweat congregated on our foreheads once the announcement dropped from Adobe.

Adding to the anguish, around the same time, Adobe experienced somewhat of an identity crisis with the naming of their Lightroom platforms. Lightroom Classic CC? Lightroom CC? Lightroom Desktop? It was difficult to keep track.

Lightroom Preset Compatibility: XMP or LRTemplate Confusion?

This left many users (myself included) questioning what version of Lightroom we were running. This, in part, compounded the confusion over what develop presets would function with what versions of Lightroom.

Lightroom Preset Compatibility: XMP or LRTemplate Confusion?
By Alex Knight/Unsplash

Why XMP?

Many users wondered why Adobe would change the file format of the develop presets in Lightroom. The reason stems from another one of the big changes to come along with Lightroom v7.3, which was the introduction of Adobe’s ‘Creative Profiles’.

Lightroom preset compatibility with creative profiles

Creative Profiles are a way for Lightroom users to add base-line adjustments (think in-camera profiles) that do not interfere with their other edits in Lightroom and ACR.

Yep, you guessed it, these Creative Profiles are in .xmp format.

So really, the general reasoning behind Adobe’s switch from .lrtemplate to .xmp file format was aimed at accomplishing universal Lightroom preset compatibility, sync ability, and Creative Profile functionality across Lightroom Classic, Lightroom CC, Lightroom Mobile, and ACR.

A question of compatibility

With the Lightroom v7.3 build, all of the users presets that were in the old .lrtemplate format automatically converted to the fresh .xmp format upon updating Lightroom (Lightroom Classic that is). This meant all of the Lightroom presets in the preset library were now usable in ACR and could be synced for use with Lightroom CC and Lightroom Mobile.

Lightroom preset compatibility with Lightroom Mobile

It also meant virtually all of us were completely befuddled as to what to do next with our presets.

Would our .lrtemplate presets still work with the newest version of Lightroom? Are .xmp presets compatible with previous Lightroom builds? What if I’m still running the pre-cloud versions of Lightroom?

Yes, it can all be extremely frustrating.

To help out, I’ve broken down which versions of Lightroom and ACR are compatible with which develop preset file formats.

We’ll also have a look at how each handles your development presets.

Pre-v.7.3 Lightroom builds

After Adobe launched the inclusive Creative Cloud ecosystem for its image processing applications in 2017, all standalone versions of Lightroom ended production. This meant that after Lightroom 6, the program was re-birthed as the Cloud-centric Lightroom Classic CC, now known simply as Lightroom Classic.

In short, you can no longer buy Lightroom, only rent it for a monthly subscription fee.

Lightroom Preset Compatibility: XMP or LRTemplate Confusion?

For these builds, there is no backward compatibility for .xmp format presets. This means all presets that aren’t in the new format, will not work with this version of Lightroom.

Lightroom v7.3, ACR 10.3 and later

No matter your opinion on the switch from .lrtemplate to .xmp format for Lightroom develop presets, there’s no denying that the cross-platform functionality is quite convenient. Being able to use your Lightroom presets in ACR is awesome. What’s even better is that Adobe will automatically update all of your .lrtemplate formatted presets to the new .xmp format once you have updated your build of Lightroom Classic to v7.3 or later.

This allows you to continue to enjoy your presets in all their glory after updating to the new format.

Unfortunately, once your presets are updated to .xmp format…there is no going back.

Lightroom Preset Compatibility: XMP or LRTemplate Confusion?

Consider the .lrtemplate to .xmp conversion process as the “point of no return” for your presets.

In the face of this finality, it is strongly recommended that you save all of your presets that are in .lrtemplate format in a separate location (preferably an external drive) other than the native Lightroom Develop Presets folder. This will allow you to maintain the fullest Lightroom preset compatibility just in case you should ever wish to revert to a pre-v7.3 build of Lightroom.

What’s the endgame?

Even now, some long-time users of Lightroom still feel a bit frustrated when it comes to the compatibility of develop presets with older versions of Lightroom. With the enormous changes to their favorite image processing software, the confusion (and at times overt contempt) over what works and what doesn’t is completely understandable.

It’s obvious by now that the new .xmp format for presets is here to stay. It is also equally obvious that the trepidation of Lightroom preset compatibility still lingers for many users.

Looking to the bright side, with each new development feature introduced to Lightroom Classic, the processing power available in our develop presets grows exponentially. As time passes, hopefully, the long-term benefits of all these changes will far outweigh any initial challenges we may have encountered in the beginning.

I hope this has eased your Lightroom preset compatibility. If you have any other thoughts, or ideas around this, please share them with us in the comments section.

Interested in Lightroom Presets? Try some of our great sets available:

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Adam Welch
Adam Welch

is a full-time photomaker, author and adventurer. Find him over at aphotographist.com
and check out his brand new video eCourse on Adobe Lightroom Classic!

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