Discarding Source Photos


Today’s Question: After merging several images to make an HDR [high dynamic range image] or panorama in Lightroom Classic is it necessary or advisable to keep all the source images?

Tim’s Quick Answer: If you’re confident that the assembled high dynamic range (HDR) or panoramic image is of excellent quality, you could delete the source captures that were used to create the final image. My personal preference, however, is to retain those original captures just in case they are ever needed.

More Detail: Today’s question is really more of a philosophical question in my mind. In other words, are you comfortable deleting the source raw captures once you’ve created a “final” derivative image based on those captures?

When you assemble an HDR or panoramic image in Lightroom Classic, the result in an Adobe DNG file that retains great flexibility for continuing to refine the appearance of the image. However, if the image exhibits visual artifacts from the blending of exposures, those issues can be tricky to resolve. In other words, in some cases you may want to go back to the original raw captures and re-assemble the HDR or panoramic image.

If you carefully scrutinize the resulting image, you may of course be comfortable deleting the original raw captures that were used to create the composite image. After all, the whole point in this type of scenario is generally to have the finished composite image, and you would likely not need to ever return to the original raw captures.

I simply prefer to retain the original captures, just in case they are ever needed.

The same concept could apply to a TIFF or Photoshop PSD file you create by sending a source raw capture from Lightroom Classic to Photoshop. Once you’ve created that new finished image, you could potentially delete the original raw capture. But in that scenario I also prefer to retain the original captures.

I wouldn’t fault any photographer who deletes the original raw captures after assembling a finished composite image, as long as they’ve confirmed that finished image is of optimal quality. That’s just not something I’m personally comfortable doing myself. So I retain the “extra” copies of my photos in these types of situations, even though there is a very good chance I’ll never actually need those captures.