Derivatives in Lightroom

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Today’s Question: One thing that I wish Lightroom would do is manage variants of files that I work in Photoshop to take advantage of it’s sharpening and editing capabilities. For example, the original Photoshop file might be a TIFF that I create in the ProPhoto RGB color space with the intent of printing it. But then I might want another in the sRGB color space at a lower resolution to enter in a contest. Lightroom would track the first file but the second one, created with Save As, wouldn’t be tracked unless I have Lightroom sync the folder.

What’s the most efficient way to keep the Lightroom catalog current when Save As is required?

Tim’s Quick Answer: This is one of the reasons I strongly recommend not using the “Save As” command when working with an image you have sent to Photoshop from Lightroom. I would either send the source image to Photoshop separately for each derivative image you need to create, or leverage the Export command when that suits your specific needs (such as when creating a JPEG image).

More Detail: When you use the Save As command in Photoshop after sending a source image to Photoshop from Lightroom, in most cases the resulting derivative image file will not be included in your Lightroom catalog. Only the initial derivative saved with the “Save” (not “Save As”) command will be included in your catalog.

There are several ways you could work around this, including the “Synchronize Folder” command available when you right-click on an existing folder within Lightroom.

For images you need (or want) to work on in Photoshop for any reason, I recommend using the “Edit In” command in Lightroom (found on the Photo menu) for each derivative image you want to create. I also generally use the original source image for creating each of these derivatives. So, for example, you could send the original image to Photoshop for the TIFF you want to create for printing, and then use the “Edit In” command a second time to create a JPEG for other purposes.

In many typical scenarios for sharing images, you might also simply use the Export command to create your derivative image, adding the resulting image file into your Lightroom catalog as part of the process. Within the Export dialog you can configure the output settings as needed, such as by choosing the JPEG image file format with the option selected to convert that image to the sRGB color space. You can also then turn on the “Add to This Catalog” checkbox in the Export dialog, so that the derivative image you are creating (and presumably saving in the same folder as the master image) will be added to the Lightroom catalog as part of the export process.

You might also consider simply not saving the derivative images at all in most cases. With very few exceptions, when I am creating output in any form, I will initiate the process with my “master” image. That might be the original capture included in my Lightroom catalog, or it might be a TIFF or PSD image I’ve created using Photoshop. In either case, that “master” image is generally the starting point for any output I want to create. In other words, in most cases I don’t need to retain all of the various derivatives I might create within my workflow, since I will usually start the process of sharing a photo by using the master image file rather than a derivative copy.