Today’s Question: If I export a Lightroom edited photo in the RAW format, are the edited changes retained in the exported file?
Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes, in a manner of speaking, the adjustments you apply in Lightroom will be retained if you export a RAW capture in the “Original” RAW capture format. Just keep in mind that the actual adjustment settings will be stored within an XMP “sidecar” file, not within the copy of the RAW capture created as part of this process.
More Detail: When you use the “Original” option from the Image Format popup in the File Settings section of the Export dialog in Lightroom, the selected file (or files) will be copied to the destination you defined in the Export Location section. That means, for example, that JPEG images will be exported as a JPEG copy, and that original RAW captures will be copied in the same original RAW capture format.
Interestingly, for non-RAW captures when you use the “Original” option for exporting the adjustments you’ve applied in Lightroom’s Develop module are not included in the copy of the image created as part of that export process. So, for example, if you apply a conversion from color to black and white for a JPEG capture within your Lightroom catalog, if you export that image using the “Original” option you will create a JPEG image that is in color rather than black and white.
For RAW captures, however, the adjustments are included with the copy of the image file being created during the export process. Because the files being exported are proprietary RAW captures, however, the Develop adjustments are not included within the actual RAW capture. In other words, the RAW capture is a copy of the original capture, but an XMP sidecar file is included along with the copy of the RAW capture, containing the adjustments from Lightroom.
In other words, if you export a JPEG image from Lightroom with the “Original” option, the adjustments from within Lightroom will not be included. However, if you export a RAW capture with the “Original” option, the adjustment settings will be included in an XMP sidecar file.
So, if you then open the exported RAW capture in Photoshop, that image will be opened via Adobe Camera Raw, and the adjustment settings contained within the XMP sidecar file will be used as the basis for the initial settings within Adobe Camera Raw. Of course, you could also discard the XMP sidecar file if you truly want to access the original capture without any adjustments applied.