Pass raw files from Lightroom to Photoshop Lightroom and Photoshop

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Passing raw files from Lightroom to Photoshop

Lightroom excels at processing raw files, but if there are additional edits that you want to make to those files that are better done in Photoshop, like content retouching, this workflow shows you the seamless way to do it. This is the most important workflow to study, because the others are pretty much variations on this one. By the way, this workflow assumes that your versions of Lightroom and Camera Raw match up. So here, I have a raw file that I brought into my Lightroom library and the question is where to start, in Lightroom or Photoshop? Many photographers feel that it makes most sense to first do as much photo optimizing as you can in Lightroom, focusing on the big photo qualities: tones, colors, and composition.

Lightroom's intuitive, non-destructive, batch friendly processing controls and it's excellent asset manager in the library make it the ideal place to optimize raw photos, especially if you shoot a lot of photos. So to represent that, I'm going to go ahead and choose some settings to optimize tone and color in this image. There is nothing special about the particular settings that I choose, this of course isn't about settings or techniques, it's about workflow. Now let's assume, although it's not really true, that I feel there is nothing else critical to accomplish in Lightroom. That's when I'll pass the file onto Photoshop for edits that I either can't do in Lightroom or that I think will be more efficient or get me a better result in Photoshop.

One argument for holding off on going to Photoshop until you're done in Lightroom is to avoid the complications that you can run into moving back and forth between the programs, some of which you'll see in this course. Anyway my rationale for taking this photo to Photoshop is to hide some of the extraneous items in the photo, like this wire for example. And that's a task that's custom made for Photoshop's Content-Aware healing brush tools. So here we go with the actual integration workflow. I'll select a photo either down here in the film strip, or if I'm in the library, in the grid, and I'll choose Photo and Edit In. Or I'll more likely just press the keyboard shortcut that you see here, Cmd+E or Ctrl+E. You also can access this same menu item by right-clicking on the photo thumbnail and choosing from the contextual menu that pops up.

That choice launches Photoshop and opens the image. Since this was a raw file, you may be wondering how it can open directly into Photoshop like this, Photoshop recognizes pixels but not raw data right? Well, it turns out that Camera Raw, behind the scenes, rendered this pixel-based file from the raw file. It just did that out of sight, and that's fine, because I didn't need to see the Camera Raw window, I'd already used the same controls that are in Camera Raw back in Lightroom's Develop module, which is virtually the same as Camera Raw when the two pieces of software match up.

So I said this is a pixel based file. Well, don't be confused by the fact that the document tab still says it's a DNG file, which is a raw file. That's just because the file hasn't been saved since being rendered here as a non-raw file. The image exists right now just in memory, so if I were to close it without saving, it would be gone, and of course I won't to see it yet in my Lightroom library. This image opened with the settings that I specified for a TIFF in Lightroom's external editing preferences in an earlier movie. So down at the bottom of the document window in the information area, if I click this arrow and choose document profile, you can see that this file is in the Adobe RGB color space, and if I click and hold there, that it is 240 pixels per inch in resolution, and here that it is 8 bits per channel in bit depth.

All the parameters that I chose for a pixel-based file back in Lightroom's external editing preferences. Now this is important. Notice that this raw file looks pretty good, I'd say. It looks like it's been optimized. And that's because all the optimization adjustments that I made the raw source file back in Lightroom have been carried over to this pixel-based version of the image. That's cool because it means I can have Lightroom adjustments as well as Photoshop adjustments in the same finished image. The reason that I brought the file over to Photoshop was, obviously, to make some changes here, so let's do that.

I'm going to zoom in a little on the file, I'll double-click the hand, tool and then I'm going to get the spot healing brush here in the tool box, I'll make sure that in the options bar the Content Aware and Sample All Layers options are enabled, I'll go over to the layers panel, I'll make a new layer on top of the photo layer, the background layer. I'll call it the heal layer, and with that layer selected, I'll move into the image and over this wire that I want to remove from this scene. I want my brush to be just a little bigger than the wire, so I'll use the bracket keys on my keyboard, near the P key, to get the brush size just right, and then I'll click and drag over the wire, and notice that Photoshop is doing a great job of removing the wire even over those patterned areas of the buildings, and it should do the same over these clouds.

Let's see if I can get it all in one go. So that's just the result that I wanted and it was quick and easy to do in Photoshop. Now let's say I finished all the adjustments that I want to do in Photoshop, the next step is to save. So I'll go up to the File menu and I'll choose Save. I won't choose Save As, either in this movie or throughout this course, because if I were to choose Save As, it would be too risky to maybe save in a different location, or save with a different name by mistake, and I can't do that or the link back to Lightroom may break, so I'll choose File > Save.

That caused a few important things to happen. First you can see that the file name on the document changed. Now it says it's a TIFF, reflecting that it really is a pixel-based file not a raw file. And the file naming convention that I chose back in Lightroom's external editing preferences in an earlier movie was automatically applied, adding the word 'edit' and a sequential edit number to the end of the base file name. And the file was saved to the same folder as the raw source file from which it was created. And finally and importantly, Lightroom automatically added the saved file to my catalog. And we can see that by closing the file here in Photoshop and switching back to Lightroom.

Here in the Lightroom Develop module, if you look at the film strip, you see that there are now two files where there was only one when I started this. The file that's currently selected is the TIFF file that I just saved from Photoshop. This TIFF file incorporates both the edits that I made in Photoshop, removing that wire, and the edits that I made earlier in Lightroom doing the optimization. But there is one thing about those Lightroom adjustments, they are no longer editable in this TIFF file. You can see that if you look over in the basic panel, where all the sliders are now back to their defaults of zero rather than at the settings where I placed them in Lightroom. And if were to try to reset for example nothing happens. There is just no history to reset back to except for my failed attempt just now to reset the settings.

So that is what happens with the TIFF file that's rendered from the raw data when I use this workflow. I have another file here too, I have the original raw source file. I'll select that and you can see that this file has my Lightroom adjustments and in fact those adjustments are editable, so I could tweak any of these sliders over here to change the look of this raw source file. However, this file doesn't have the Photoshop edits, because in Photoshop I wasn't editing the raw file, I was editing the non-raw file that was rendered for me from the raw file.

So that's the basic Photoshop to Lightroom workflow when you start with a raw file in Lightroom, make some adjustments there, and take it into Photoshop for further editing. That was a lot of information, so let's quickly recap. You start this workflow with a raw file and add some adjustments in Lightroom. Then you choose Edit in Photoshop to pass the file from Lightroom to Photoshop. En route, Camera Raw renders the raw file into a pixel-based image and it embeds your Lightroom adjustments in that pixel-based image. At this point the pixel-based image is just in memory.

In Photoshop, you add some Photoshop adjustments, and then you save in Photoshop. That creates a TIFF or a PSD, depending on your external editing preferences in Lightroom, and that TIFF or PSD includes both your Lightroom and your Photoshop adjustments. The TIFF or PSD is automatically named according to your Lightroom preferences, and the TIFF or PSD is automatically added back to your Lightroom catalog, ready for you to view and manage there, alongside the original raw source file. And that's your basic Lightroom to Photoshop integration workflow.

Passing raw files from Lightroom to Photoshop
Video duration: 8m 17s 2h 36m Intermediate


Passing raw files from Lightroom to Photoshop provides you with in-depth training on Photography. Taught by Jan Kabili as part of the Using Lightroom and Photoshop Together

Photoshop Lightroom
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