Today’s Question: After I do my post-processing in Lightroom [Classic], should I then import those photos into my Pictures folder on Windows or is that a redundant process taking up space on my hard drive?
Tim’s Quick Answer: No, as far as I’m concerned there is no need to export additional copies of your photos from Lightroom Classic after processing, provided you’re backing up your photos and your Lightroom catalog regularly.
More Detail: Lightroom Classic provides a non-destructive workflow for processing your images. Among other things, that means that when you apply adjustments in the Develop module, you’re not actually modifying the source capture. Instead you’re essentially just creating metadata in the form of the adjustment settings you’ve applied. Lightroom will update the preview for your photos based on those adjustments, but the underlying source captures are not modified.
In part because of this workflow, I know many photographers prefer to export copies of their final processed images, to preserve their adjustments and to provide a backup of those photos. However, I don’t consider this step necessary, and doing so would certainly consume additional hard drive space.
Instead, I recommend making sure to keep your photos and your Lightroom catalog backed up, so that you’ll help ensure you are preserving all of the information about your photos (including adjustments), along with the photos themselves.
Naturally, if you want to share your photos outside of Lightroom you may want to export them. And down the road if you decided to stop using Lightroom (or if Lightroom were discontinued for some reason), you’d want to export new copies of your photos in order to preserve the adjustments as part of those exported copies. But in the context of a normal workflow that revolves around Lightroom Classic, I don’t recommend exporting copies of all processed photos unless you have a specific reason to do so.