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Lightroom-Photoshop Roundtrip Workflow

  • Sample Chapter is provided courtesy of Adobe Press.
  • Date: Nov 19, 2016.

Chapter Description

In this chapter from Adobe Lightroom CC and Photoshop CC for Photographers Classroom in a Book, author Lesa Snider teaches you how to adjust settings in both Lightroom and Photoshop to ensure you’re passing the highest-quality files back and forth between the two programs. You’ll also learn how to send files from Lightroom to Photoshop in a variety of formats, as well as how to reopen a file within Lightroom that you edited in Photoshop. In fact, this may be one of the most important lessons in this book because it covers the mechanics of a typical roundtrip workflow between Lightroom and Photoshop.

Setting up Lightroom and Photoshop for smooth integration

Before you start flinging photos back and forth between Lightroom and Photoshop, there are some settings to adjust in both programs to ensure you’re moving between the two programs at the highest possible quality.

In the next few sections, you’ll learn how to adjust Lightroom’s preferences to control what kind of file it sends to Photoshop. You’ll also adjust Photoshop’s settings so the color space you’re using in Lightroom matches that of Photoshop. Next, you’ll learn how to keep Lightroom and Photoshop’s Camera Raw plug-in in sync, and then you’ll dig into how to send files back and forth between the two programs.

Although these first few sections don’t cover the most exciting topics in this book, this information is crucial for your success in using the programs together. Happily, you have to adjust these settings only once. So let’s dive in and get it done!

Configuring Lightroom’s External Editing preferences

Lightroom’s External Editing preferences determine exactly how files are passed from Lightroom to Photoshop. You can control file format, bit depth, color space—all of which are explained in this section—as well as file naming conventions and how the Photoshop files are displayed back in Lightroom.

And as you’re about to learn, you can set up an additional external editor, which is handy for using different settings for passing files to Photoshop for different uses, or for using an external editing program other than Photoshop.

Setting your primary external editor preferences

Lightroom automatically scours your hard drive for the latest version of Photoshop and picks it as the primary external editor. To control exactly how Lightroom sends files to Photoshop, use these steps:

  1. In Lightroom, choose Edit > Preferences (Windows) or Lightroom > Preferences (Mac OS), and click the External Editing tab.

    The settings in the top section of the resulting dialog determine the properties with which a file opens in Photoshop when you later choose the first menu item in Lightroom’s Photo > Edit In menu. (If you don’t change these settings, their default values are used.)

  2. Choose PSD from the File Format menu to preserve the quality you’ve got in Lightroom, as well as any layers you add in Photoshop.

  3. From the Color Space menu, choose the range of colors you want to work with. If you’re shooting in raw, choose ProPhoto RGB. If you’re shooting in JPEG, choose AdobeRGB instead.

    As you can see in the sidebar “Choosing a color space,” ProPhoto RGB encompasses the widest possible range of colors and protects colors captured by your camera from being clipped or compressed. Since a raw file doesn’t have a conventional color profile until it’s rendered by a pixel editor, such as Photoshop (or by exporting it from Lightroom), choosing ProPhoto RGB here preserves that broad color range when you edit it in Photoshop.

    JPEGs, on the other hand, can’t use the broad color range that raw files do. If you’re shooting in JPEG format, your largest color-range option is AdobeRGB.

  4. From the Bit Depth menu, choose 16 bits/component if you’re shooting in raw format or 8 bits/component if you’re shooting in JPEG format.

    Bit depth refers to how many colors the image itself contains. The goal is to keep as much color detail as you can for as long as you can.

    JPEGs are 8-bit images that can contain over 16 million colors. Raw images, on the other hand, can be 16-bit and contain over 280 trillion colors. So if you’ve got 16-bit files, send them to Photoshop and reduce them to 8-bit only if you need to do something in Photoshop that doesn’t work on 16-bit files (say, running a filter) or when you’re ready to export the image from Lightroom for use elsewhere.

  5. Leave Resolution set to its default value of 240.

    Resolution determines pixel density and thus pixel size when the image is printed. Leave it at 240 ppi, which is a reasonable starting point for a typical inkjet printer, and then adjust the resolution as necessary when you export the edited file from Lightroom.

  6. Don’t close the dialog yet; you’ll use it in the next section.

From this point forward, whenever you select a thumbnail (or several) in Lightroom’s Library module and choose Photo > Edit In > Edit In Adobe Photoshop, or when you press the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+E/Command+E, Lightroom uses these settings.

Setting additional external editor preferences

You can designate one or more additional external editors that also appear in Lightroom’s Photo > Edit In menu. Doing so gives you a choice of editors or a choice of settings for the same editor.

Additional editors can be third-party programs or plug-ins such as Adobe Photoshop Elements, Alien Skin’s Exposure X, ON1 Software, and so on. You can even create additional configurations for Photoshop—each with settings geared toward particular kinds of photos or uses.

For example, you may set up Photoshop as an additional external editor with options suitable for photos destined for the web. The following steps are basically the same as in the previous exercise, but these discuss all the options as they relate to web use:

  1. Click Choose to the right of the Application field in the Additional External Editor section of the dialog.

  2. In the operating system window that opens, navigate to Photoshop’s .exe program file (Windows) or Photoshop’s .app application file (Mac OS). In the resulting dialog, click Use Anyway.

    If the same version of Photoshop you select here is also your primary external editor, Lightroom warns you that you’re already using this version of Photoshop as an editor. Clicking Use Anyway dismisses the warning and allows you to use the same version of Photoshop—with different settings—as both an additional external editor and the primary external editor (both of which are available via a keyboard shortcut).

  3. Choose PSD from the File Format menu.

    As mentioned earlier, this keeps the quality you have in Lightroom and supports any layers you create in Photoshop. You’ll learn how to export a JPEG you can post online in Lesson 9, “Exporting and Showing Off Your Work.”

  4. Choose ProPhoto RGB or AdobeRGB from the Color Space menu.

    As you learned in the sidebar “Choosing a color space,” sRGB is the Internet standard. However, since sRGB is a smaller color space than both ProPhoto RGB and AdobeRGB, you’ll usually get better results if you save the step of reducing colors until you’re ready to export the image from Lightroom. When you do that, Lightroom can take the (potentially) billions of colors you’re working in and convert them to the best 16 million that are available in an 8-bit sRGB file.

  5. Choose 8 bit (JPEG) or 16 bit (raw) from the Bit Depth menu.

    Here again, it’s best to keep maximum data in the photo while you’re passing it back and forth between editors. When you export a copy of the edited photo in JPEG format for web use, Lightroom will reduce it to 8-bit automatically.

  6. Leave Resolution set to its default value.

    When you’re preparing a photo for the web, it’s the pixel dimensions, not the resolution, that determine image size. You can specify pixel dimensions in Lightroom’s Export dialog.

    From this point forward, these settings will be used when you choose Photo > Edit In and the second menu item: Edit in Photoshop.exe/Edit in Adobe Photoshop CC.app (or when you press the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+Alt+E/Command+Option+E).

    Alternatively, you can click the Preset menu and choose Save Current Settings as New Preset. In the dialog that opens, enter a meaningful name for the options you configured, such as PS web, and then click Create.

    If you go this route, the preset you saved appears as a menu item in the second section of Lightroom’s Photo > Edit In menu.

  7. Leave the External Editing Preferences dialog open for the next section of the lesson.

Setting the stacking preference

When you send a file from Lightroom to Photoshop, the PSD that comes back to Lightroom appears next to the original file in the Library module. In some cases, you may also generate copies of the PSD—if, say, you want to create different versions of it.

To reduce the clutter in your library, you may want to turn on Stack With Original to have Lightroom stack your PSD(s) into a pile with the original photo.

Doing so creates a collapsible group, known as a stack, of thumbnails. When you expand a stack, your PSDs are displayed side by side in the Library module in Grid view and in the Filmstrip. This makes related files easy to spot.

However, when a stack is collapsed, only one thumbnail is visible in the grid and the Filmstrip, so you can’t see all of its associated files. Therefore, you may want to leave Stack With Original turned off, and instead rely on the Library module’s Sort menu to keep original photos and their associated PSDs together.

To do that, click the Sort menu in the toolbar at the bottom of the Library module, and choose File Name or Capture Time.

Setting the file naming preference

The Template menu at the bottom of the External Editing Preferences dialog lets you specify how Lightroom names the files you’ve edited in Photoshop. The word “edited” is added automatically, but you can change the naming scheme to whatever you want (files are given the PSD extension automatically).

For the purposes of this lesson, stick with the default file naming scheme. However, if you want to change it later on, click the menu at the bottom of the External Editing Preferences dialog, and choose Template > Edit to open the same Filename Template Editor you learned about in the Lesson 1 section “Renaming your photos.”

The next section teaches you about the changes you need to make to Photoshop to make it play nicely with Lightroom.

Configuring Photoshop’s Color settings

Now that Lightroom’s settings are configured, you can turn your attention to Photoshop. In this section, you’ll learn how to make Photoshop’s color space match the one you told Lightroom to use when it sends a file to Photoshop. And in order for layered PSDs to be visible in Lightroom, there’s a special option to turn on. Here’s how to do all of that:

  1. In Photoshop, choose Edit > Color Settings.

  2. In the Working Spaces section, choose ProPhoto RGB or AdobeRGB from the RGB menu. The choice you make here should match the choice you made earlier in Lightroom’s External Editing preferences.

  3. In the Color Management Policies section, choose Preserve Embedded Profiles from the RGB menu.

  4. Turn on Missing Profiles: Ask When Opening, and leave the other options turned off.

    With these settings, the files you send from Lightroom to Photoshop should open in the correct color space. And if Photoshop encounters a file that doesn’t have an embedded profile, you get a dialog asking how you’d like to proceed. In that case, choose Assign Working RGB, and click OK.

  5. Click OK in the Color Settings dialog to close it.

Now let’s take a look at how to create Photoshop files that Lightroom can preview.

Configuring Photoshop’s Maximize Compatibility preference

If you followed the advice of this book and told Lightroom to send files to Photoshop in PSD format, there’s one more Photoshop setting to adjust.

Lightroom doesn’t understand the concept of layers, so in order for layered PSDs to be visible in Lightroom, Photoshop needs to embed a flattened layer into each document. This flattened layer is what you see in Lightroom.

  1. In Photoshop, choose Edit > Preferences > File Handling (Windows) or Photoshop > Preferences > File Handling (Mac OS).

  2. In the File Handling Preferences dialog, choose Always from the Maximize PSD and PSB File Compatibility menu.

  3. Click OK to close the dialog.

Once you do this, you’ll be able to see your PSDs in Lightroom.

The next section teaches you how to keep your version of Lightroom synced with Photoshop’s Camera Raw plug-in.

Keeping Lightroom and Camera Raw in sync

Lightroom, at its heart, is a raw converter whose job is to convert the data in a raw file into an image that can be viewed and edited onscreen. Photoshop has a raw converter too: a plug-in named Camera Raw. Camera Raw and Lightroom use the same raw conversion engine, and when Adobe updates one, it usually updates the other with a matching version.

This is important because when you send a raw photo from Lightroom to Photoshop, Photoshop uses Camera Raw to render the raw data into pixels you can see and work with onscreen. If you don’t have matching versions of Lightroom and Camera Raw, you may encounter a mismatch warning in Lightroom and you may have content issues as you pass the file back and forth. For more on this topic, see the sidebar “Encountering a Lightroom–Camera Raw mismatch.”

To check which versions of the Lightroom and Camera Raw are installed on your computer, follow these steps:

  1. In Lightroom, choose Help > About Lightroom (Windows) or Lightroom > About Lightroom (Mac OS). A screen opens that shows your version of Lightroom. It also reports the version of Camera Raw that’s fully compatible with your version of Lightroom. Click the screen to close it.

  2. In Photoshop, choose Help > About Photoshop (Windows) or Photoshop > About Photoshop (Mac OS). Your version of Photoshop appears on the screen that opens. Close the screen by clicking it.

  3. Also in Photoshop, choose Help > About Plug-Ins > Camera Raw (Windows) or Photoshop > About Plug-In > Camera Raw (Mac OS). Your version of the Camera Raw plug-in is reported on the screen that opens. Click the screen to close it.

If you subscribe to Adobe Creative Cloud, you can use the Adobe Creative Cloud app to update your software. If you’re not a subscriber, choose Help > Updates in Lightroom or Photoshop (CS6 or earlier) instead.

When you update Photoshop, you get the latest version of Camera Raw too. If by some fluke, that doesn’t happen, you may need to search Adobe.com for the latest version of Camera Raw and install it manually.

3. Sending a raw file from Lightroom to Photoshop | Next Section Previous Section

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