Round Trip to Photoshop

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Today’s Question: What is your recommended workflow for sending photos from Lightroom to Photoshop and back? Specifically, I’m looking for an efficient way to edit in Photoshop without the file being flattened upon return to Lightroom. I currently do this with Save As in Photoshop and then I have to synchronize the catalog back in Lightroom. This sometimes leads to metadata mismatch. Is there a more seamless way to do this?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The key to a seamless round trip workflow from Lightroom to Photoshop is to use the “Save” (not “Save As”) command when you’re finished working in Photoshop. Then, when you send a layered image from Lightroom back to Photoshop, choose the “Edit Original” option.

More Detail: When you want to use Photoshop to work on a photo that is being managed in Lightroom, it is important to use the correct workflow to ensure you are able to retain layers in the image and avoid confusion in Lightroom.

When you first send a photo from Lightroom to Photoshop, you can simply select the image and go to the menu and choose Photo > Edit In > Edit In Adobe Photoshop. If the image is a raw capture, it will be opened in Photoshop directly without any additional steps. If it is a different image type (such as a JPEG) then you will be asked how you want to edit the image. Generally at this point you would want to choose “Edit a Copy with Lightroom Adjustments”, but note that when you later re-send a layered image to Photoshop you won’t want to use this option.

After performing any work you’d like to apply to the image in Photoshop, save the changes by choosing File > Save (not “Save As”) from the menu. You can then close the image and return to Lightroom, where you’ll see a TIFF or PSD version of the photo (depending on the setting you have established in Preferences).

The next time you want to send a layered image to Photoshop, you can once again choose Photo > Edit In > Edit In Adobe Photoshop from the menu. In this scenario, however, you’ll want to choose the “Edit Original” option in the Edit Photo dialog. While the TIFF or PSD is a derivative copy that you probably wouldn’t normally think as the “original” version of your photo, the “Edit Original” option will cause the selected image to be opened, rather than having yet another copy created for editing.

By opening the TIFF or PSD image with the “Edit Original” option, any layers you had previously added to the image in Photoshop will be there when you open the image again. When you’re finished working in Photoshop, once again choose the Save (not “Save As”) command and close the image. The preview for that image will then be updated in Lightroom.

By following this approach, you’ll ensure that you are able to successfully send an image from Lightroom to Photoshop anytime you need to perform work that goes beyond what is available for optimizing photos in Lightroom.