Sharing Adjustments Between Camera Raw and Lightroom Classic


Today’s Question: Is there a way to ‘share’ Camera Raw edits, especially masking edits, between Lightroom Classic and Photoshop? When I open an image from Lightroom Classic into Photoshop (right click, open as smart object) it comes in with all the existing edits but Camera Raw has been reset. Similarly, when I save a Photoshop image it comes in as a fresh image into Lightroom Classic.

Tim’s Quick Answer: While Lightroom Classic and Camera Raw use the same adjustments, and those adjustments are therefore interchangeable, in the context of a workflow that includes both Lightroom Classic and Photoshop you would generally be using one or the other without the ability to see a full history in both applications.

More Detail: As I’ve noted in the past, Camera Raw in Photoshop and the Develop module in Lightroom Classic are essentially the same thing. They provide the same interchangeable adjustments, but with a different approach to workflow. This generally means you would be choosing between one workflow or the other in the context of processing a raw capture.

To illustrate the concept of interchangeability, if you were to process a raw capture using Camera Raw you could later import the raw capture into Lightroom Classic and your original adjustments from Camera Raw would appear thanks to the settings preserved in the associated XMP sidecar file.

Similarly, if you applied adjustments to a raw capture in Lightroom Classic and then exported the raw capture using the “Original” option for the file format, you could then open that raw capture via Camera Raw in Photoshop and all your adjustments from Lightroom Classic would appear in Camera Raw.

However, while you can send images from Lightroom Classic to Photoshop, there isn’t support for a full roundtrip workflow for a raw capture. Instead, when you send an image to Photoshop from Lightroom Classic you’re creating a new derivative image, which means that image will no longer retain the previous editing history.

You could then use the Camera Raw filter in Photoshop to apply the same adjustments you would otherwise find in Lightroom Classic or Camera Raw, but once the image gets back to Lightroom Classic you once again won’t preserve the original history for that derivative image, but instead would be creating a new history from that point forward.

Of course, if you’re using Lightroom Classic to manage your photos, you really shouldn’t be opening a raw capture directly in Photoshop to begin with, as doing so will result in adjustments that aren’t reflected at all in Lightroom Classic for the raw captures.

In general, my recommendation is to use Lightroom Classic to optimize your raw captures as close to perfection as possible. When there are features you need to take advantage of in Photoshop, you can then send that raw capture to Photoshop to create a derivative Photoshop PSD or TIFF file that you can optimize in any way you’d like using Photoshop. When you’re done, you can save and close the image, and it will appear alongside the original in Lightroom Classic.

Admittedly, it would be great if we could bounce back and forth between Lightroom Classic and Photoshop without having to create a derivative image in the process, so that the workflow was much more seamless. However, that is impossible based on the very different approach to image processing used by Lightroom Classic and Photoshop.