Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Raw File Shuffle

Text And Photography By George Jardine Published in Photography Software Technique
The Raw File Shuffle
Fig. 5

That's what happens when you use the "Render using Lightroom" option. On the other hand, if you choose the "Open Anyway" option, you're back to the original behavior that we saw in the first example. The "Open Anyway" option gives you the same behavior that you'll get if Lightroom and Camera Raw are in sync—with Photoshop doing the rendering into the phantom TIFF file (Fig. 5).

The reason you have a choice when the two are out of sync is because if you haven't kept your Camera Raw plug-in up to date, then you may be making adjustments to your raw files in Lightroom that your Camera Raw plug-in doesn't have controls for yet, like the new Lens Correction controls or the new Detail controls. If your version of Camera Raw doesn't have the exact version of processing code as Lightroom, you could be creating settings in Lightroom that Camera Raw won't understand. And even though the "Open Anyway" option is the default, if you do see the Compatibility Dialog, it generally pays to stop for a moment and think about what settings you've applied to your photo before making a decision because, depending upon those settings, Camera Raw may not give you exactly what you see in Lightroom. And if you do see the Compatibility Dialog, it means it's time for an update.

Remember, the path that you go down when you choose the "Open Anyway" option is the same one that you'll go down automatically when both programs are in sync. The phantom TIFF file is opened into Photoshop, and you can make your edits. Then if you don't save that new file when you close it in Photoshop, the file simply disappears. It never even shows up for the party in Lightroom unless you save it when you're done in Photoshop.

And, finally, what happens when you try to use the Edit in Photoshop command starting with a virtual copy? Well, virtual copies are no different than any other type of file in Lightroom. You can create a virtual copy from a raw file or from an RGB file. Virtual copies are just pointers to real files, so the workflow is exactly the same.

Fig. 6

If you make a virtual copy from a raw file and choose the Edit in Photoshop command, Lightroom first looks to see if your Camera Raw plug-in is up to date (as always); if it is, it simply hands the raw data, plus the virtual copies' adjustments, off to Photoshop for rendering into RGB. If the plug-in isn't up to date, you get the Compatibility Dialog again, asking who should render the RGB file. After that, the workflow is identical (Fig. 6).

Those are the mechanics of taking a raw file round-trip, from Lightroom to Photoshop and back, and they're fairly easy to learn. What isn't as easy is developing a full understanding of how and when to use the flexibility of Lightroom's nondestructive corrections versus when it's time to take advantage of Photoshop's editing capability down to the pixel level. And once you've gone round-trip the first time, it becomes even more interesting because, once you have an RGB file in your catalog that has been edited in Photoshop, you can add even more nondestructive Lightroom changes on top of that.
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