1. Photo & Video
  2. Post-Processing

Next Level Lightroom: Using Photoshop & Lightroom in Tandem


Photographers with a digital workflow based on Adobe Photoshop sometimes hesitate to switch to Lightroom because of anxiety over loss of pixel-level editing. In this tutorial, you'll learn how to get the best of both worlds. I'll show you how Lightroom's flexible workflow augments Photoshop's detailed controls, and how to work on images seamlessly with Lightroom and Photoshop.

Is Photoshop Still Relevant?

I spend a lot of time writing about Lightroom and it's many advantages for photographers. There are certain times, however, when the precision tools of Photoshop can't be matched.

Although Lightroom has certainly grown in the arena of local adjustments, Photoshop is still the king of pixel-peeping detailed correction and retouching. You want the power of Photoshop when you need to remove a tricky stray hair or paint out an errant object in your frame.

A few weeks ago I shared a tutorial on how to make your Lightroom metadata and adjustments available for use in other applications. In this tutorial I go deeper, exploring a more integrated method to send images back and forth between Lightroom and Photoshop.

From Lightroom to Photoshop and Back Again

Sending an image from Lightroom to Photoshop is very easy. When I do this, I'm typically working in the the Develop Module and have been applying corrections to my images.

When I'm ready to send the image to Photoshop for more detailed adjustments, I'll right click on an image and choose Edit in > Adobe Photoshop. Lightroom will also show the version of Photoshop installed at the end of the description.

Edit In Photoshop Lightroom
To send an image to Photoshop, right click an image from the filmstrip or Library view and Choose Edit in > Edit in Adobe Photoshop.

As soon as you do this, you'll see the image open in Photoshop. Go ahead and make any changes that are required in Photoshop. When you're finished, simply save the image by accessing File > Save or CTRL+S on a PC (⌘+S on a Mac). When you do this, you'll see the image updated with changes on your Lightroom filmstrip as a second copy. If you browse to the folder where your images are stored, you'll notice that an edited copy has been saved as a standalone file too.

After the image has been edited in Photoshop, you can go on making any additional changes you want to add in Lightroom. At any time, you can send the file back to Photoshop by following the same process.

You may have heard of Adobe Camera Raw, which is Adobe's software to process the data from RAW camera files date into usable digital images. Camera Raw is frequently updated, and if your Camera Raw versions aren't consistent between Photoshop and Lightroom you may be asked how you wish to render the image - basically the version of Camera Raw that should be used to process the Raw. I choose the Render using Lightroom option maintain compatibility and consistency with my files in Lightroom.

Render from Lightroom to Photoshop
If your Camera Raw versions are different in Lightroom and Photoshop, Lightroom will ask how to render the image when opening it in Lightroom. I typically choose the "Render using Lightroom" option.

Consider using a color label to mark the images that will need additional editing in Photoshop. You can always filter to this label later and send them all to Photoshop.

Image sent back to Photoshop from Lightroom
After I converted the image to black and white in Photoshop, I saved the image. As soon as I saved the image, the edit was saved to the same folder as the original image and appeared in Lightroom on the filmstrip.

This export-import process also works with multiple images: multi-select images by holding Control on your keyboard ( on a Mac) and choosing Edit in Photoshop after selecting several images. All of the photos will open in Photoshop, ready for you to work on them.

Set Your Import and Export Preferences

Now that we've covered how quick and easy it is to send images back and forth between Lightroom and Photoshop, let's set some additional preferences to help customize our workflow.

To open the preferences, go to Photo > Preferences on the menu (Lightroom > Preferences on a Mac) and find the tab labelled external editing.

Lightroom external editing settings edit in section
The top section of the "external editing" settings allow you to tweak the format of the image that Photoshop works with.

By default, the new version of your image is saved as a standalone file. The file format can be "TIFF" or "PSD", while options that change the color space or resolution are important to keep in mind if you're printing or exporting for the web.

Lightroom external editing settings  file naming section
The default setting is to append "-edit.psd" to the file and save it as a standalone file. Lots of other options are available from this dropdown menu.

Another important section of the external editing preferences are the naming settings. Lightroom offers different settings presets from this dropdown that allow you to change how the file is named and saved.

Find Your Balance Point

You don't have to choose a single photo editing program when designing your digital workflow. Although Lightroom is my preferred choice for managing my photo collection and most of the editing process, Photoshop still has an important place in my toolkit. As we've seen in this tutorial, the two can be used in tandem without any sacrifice.

How do you balance the two applications? Have you made a complete switch to Lightroom, or do you use both programs side by side? Maybe you use an alternate program to make your detailed corrections. Feel free to let me know how your workflow works.

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