Today’s Question: Two points you have made in your emails have me questioning my workflow. The first is being non-destructive to my original image by using layers in Photoshop for changes such as spot healing. The second is not creating duplicate images in Lightroom in order to down the clutter. With the workflow I am using this doesn’t work out so well. I will begin editing in Lightroom but at some point I will want to move the file to Photoshop to clean it up, resize, or do some procedure that can’t be done in Lightroom. After finishing the Photoshop work on the file it gets saved as an EDIT copy and I end up with two files in my catalog. Is there a means of avoiding this two-file problem and allowing the changes in Photoshop to be a part of the original Lightroom file without destroying the original?
Tim’s Quick Answer: Working in Photoshop with a photo that is being managed by Lightroom requires that an additional copy of that image file be created. However, while it is not possible to apply Photoshop adjustments directly within Lightroom, it is possible to streamline your organizational workflow to avoid additional “clutter” in Lightroom.
More Detail: Within Lightroom the adjustments you apply in the Develop module are applied in a non-destructive way. What that means is that you are storing the information about your adjustments within the Lightroom catalog, and the source image file on your hard drive remains unaltered.
While it is possible to work non-destructively in Photoshop through the use of adjustment layers and image layers, those features require that you open an actual image file within Photoshop. In the context of a Lightroom-based workflow, that means you must create a copy of your original image as part of that process.
So, for example, if you send a RAW capture from Lightroom to Photoshop, a new TIFF or PSD file is created from that original file, with the file type depending on the setting established within the Preferences dialog. By default, however, that new copy of your image is added into a stack with the original. You can then collapse the stack so that you will have less clutter when browsing your photos in Lightroom.
To collapse (or expand) the stack of photos, you can click on the text banner that indicates the number of images in the stack on the thumbnail for the photos that are included in that stack. You can also expand or collapse the stack by right-clicking on any of the images in the stack, choosing “Stacking” from the popup menu, and then selecting the applicable option from the Stacking submenu.
When a stack is expanded, you can also right-click on an image within the stack and choose the “Move to Top of Stack” option from the Stacking submenu to cause the image you right-clicked on to be at the top of the stack. That, in turn, means that the selected image will be the thumbnail representation of the stack when the stack is collapsed.
By stacking images together and keeping the “final” version of the photo at the top of the stack, you can display a single thumbnail for two or more copies of an image, helping to reduce clutter in your Lightroom catalog.