“Open Copy” for RAW

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Today’s Question: From Adobe Bridge, I open a RAW file and then in Camera Raw, I make various adjustments, then, when finished, I hold down the Option Key (on my Mac) and this opens a copy in Photoshop, leaving the original RAW file, so far as I can tell, untouched. Is this a preferred non-destructive workflow?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Actually, processing a RAW capture with Adobe Camera Raw is always non-destructive, by virtue of not altering the original RAW data file. In other words, the “Open Copy” command in Camera Raw is not necessary for RAW captures.

More Detail: The “Open Copy” option in Adobe Camera Raw is not an option that I find especially helpful. In the context of a RAW capture it really doesn’t have a meaningful effect. For TIFF or JPEG images processed with Camera Raw it doesn’t create an actual duplicate image file, but rather simply “forces” the Save As (rather than Save) command to be initiated even if you choose File > Save from the menu.

Put simply, any photo optimization work that is performed on a RAW capture is going to be non-destructive to that RAW capture, simply because such software can’t save any adjustments back to the original RAW data. Metadata updates can certainly be applied, but adjustments won’t alter the original RAW capture data.

That said, photographers who use Camera Raw to process TIFF or JPEG images might find the Open Copy command helpful. Using this option will help ensure you don’t accidentally use the Save command to replace the original version of the TIFF or JPEG image with your adjustments.

You can access the Open Copy command by holding the Alt key on Windows or the Option key on Macintosh, which will cause the Open button to change to an Open Copy button. Clicking that button (with the Alt/Option key held down) will then open the image, though without actually creating a new image file. Instead, you’ll be prompted with the Save As command when you save the image, even if you choose the Save command rather than Save As from the File menu.