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A digital image is composed of a grid of different colored pixels. When you perform an adjustment in Photoshop, any kind of adjustment - besides cropping and rotating - all you're doing is changing the colors of specific pixels. Granted, some edits perform incredibly sophisticated color alterations. But still, changing the colors of pixels is all that's really happening. Once those colors are altered, that's it. Sure, you can undo or use Photoshop's History palette, but these offer a limited ability to backtrack through your edits. For this reason, Photoshop is considered a destructive editor.
As you edit, the previous state of your images is destroyed, and you may not be able to get back to it if you need to. One of the great advantages of RAW files is that working with them is a nondestructive process. It is impossible for Photoshop to alter the original RAW file, so you can undo or alter an edit at anytime. Here is how it works. I am going to switch back to Bridge. As you recall, this is an image that we have cropped. You probably did this yourself following along. We cropped the image, and at the bottom of the Camera Raw dialog box, when we were finished, we hit the Done button.
When we did that, Photoshop, Camera Raw wrote out an extra little file. So here's my original file, Crop1.CR2. And now, sitting right next to it, created today is Crop1.xmp. XMP is a variation of XML; it's something that Adobe came up with. I am going to open this up in a TextEditor, and you'll see that XMP file is just a little text file. That's all it is. It's a text file containing a description of the edits that I want to apply to this image.
Now, you may think, well, what are all these doing here? All you did was crop it. That's true. There is an entry for every Camera Raw edit that I could have made, and a lot of them are just simply set at the default values. So what I have now is a set of original image data, which is this RAW file, and a list of edits that I want applied to that image data. Now, anytime I open the file in Camera Raw, Camera Raw automatically goes and looks for a corresponding XMP file. If it finds one, then it loads those settings.
If I now change the crop and hit Done, that XMP file is altered to show a different crop. When I open the image again, there is my new crop. So my crops are never destructive; they never completely alter the image. I can go back at anytime and edit them and alter them. This is true of every edit that I make in Camera Raw. It's a completely nondestructive editing system. This is tremendously powerful, for a number of different reasons. One, it means that while I'm working on image, I don't have to worry about "Now, I might need to go back and change that Saturation setting, or something." I can at any time.
"Oh! I don't like the crop. I want to do it differently." I can at any time. It becomes even more important later when I am coming back to the image, say, when I'm getting ready to print it, and I find that what I thought were originally good settings turned out not to work out so well on paper. Let's take a look at these workflow buttons that we glanced over earlier. These let me control what happens to the image when I leave Camera Raw. As you saw earlier, if you hit done, then the Camera Raw dialog box closes, but also Camera Raw updates the XMP file to hold all of the edits that you might have made.
The idea here is that I go and I make a bunch of edits to this image in Camera Raw. I hit Done. I don't have to wait for anything; I can go right on to the next image in Bridge. I am going to open up another image. If I make some changes to this image - here I'll goose the saturation real far - if I hit Cancel, Camera Raw closes, and no alterations are made to the XMP file. In other words, when I go back to this image, it doesn't have the saturation boost. If I hit Open Image, Camera Raw will close, the XMP file will be updated, and the image will be converted into a document and opened in Photoshop.
So now I am in Photoshop, as you can see up here, with all my normal Photoshop tools, and I am looking at the image processed according to how I can figure my settings in Camera Raw. If I look up here at the file name, you'll see that I am working on Crop2.CR2, which was the name of the original raw file. But let's say I make a change to this image of some kind and I go to Save it. If I go up here to File and choose Save, normally just choosing Save on an edited image would write over the original file. When it's a RAW file though, Photoshop gives you a Save dialog box.
You cannot write over an original RAW file with Photoshop. So now I can go ahead and choose a format. You are going to want to use Photoshop or TIFF format for saving these - never JPEG, because JPEG degrades your image. It's a lossy compressor. Obviously, if you need to output a JPEG file at some point, to e-mail this to someone or post on the web, that's fine. But for our work files, we stay in a lossless format, like Photoshop or TIFF. Give it a name. Hit Save. From that point on, I would then edit the Photoshop file for additional edits, not the RAW files.
So I will end up with multiple images. Let's just do that right now, actually. I am going to hit Save As, which is same as Save, and I am working with the RAW file, Photoshop. Save this back into the folder where the RAW file was. And now you'll see I have the RAW version of the image and the Photoshop version of the image. If I want to continue to make Photoshop edits, I will work on this file. Finally, there is this Save Image button. If I click this, I get this dialog box.
This lets me update the XMP file, just like all the other buttons do, but rather than opening it in Photoshop, it just writes it out to the file in any of these formats. The idea here is batch processing. You can actually open up multiple images in Camera Raw, simultaneously. So, I am going to take these three RAW files and double-click on them, and now you see I get this Filmstrip view over here. I can edit these different images, and then when I am all done, select them all, which you can do with the Select All button, hit Save Images and tell Camera Raw to write out a Photoshop file for each of them.
Then I can go to lunch while it processes all my images. That should be plainly obvious; nondestructive editing gives you tremendous flexibility in the way that you work. Photoshop also has some nondestructive editing features, which we will look at in detail later.
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