Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop – Multiple Round-Tripping
May 14, 2013
6 comment

David from Spain commented on my post about the Adobe Lightroom catalog settings and asked a question relating to multiple round-tripping between Lightroom and Photoshop. The basic questions was related to coming back in to Lightroom after making changes in Photoshop, making more adjustments in Lightroom, and then going back in to Photoshop. When prompted by lightroom, he selected Edit Original going back in to Photoshop and effectively lost his changes made to the PSD from within Lightroom when the Autosave XMP option was enabled. In order to get a handle on what was happening, I tried a few experiments. For my first set of tests, the option to automatically save XMP data was enabled.

Lightroom Fanatic - XMP Enabled

Lightroom Fanatic – XMP Enabled

Also, everything was done with LR 3, 4, and 5, and replicated using both Photoshop CS4 and CS5.

Lightroom Fanatic - Original Image

Lightroom Fanatic – Original Image

Initial Import

First, I imported a new raw image in to Lightroom. Because I had Lightroom set up to automatically write changes to XMP, a new XMP file showed up in the folder alongside my image. This initial XMP file contained the EXIF data, as well as my copyright information that Lightroom applied based on my metadata preset.

Lightroom Fanatic - Finder - XMP

Lightroom Fanatic – Finder – XMP

Lightroom Edits On Raw File

From inside Lightroom, I adjusted the exposure and clarity of my image. The timestamp of the XMP file changed, and when I pulled it up, there was new information inside the file that represented the changes I made.

Lightroom Fanatic - Finder - XMP Edited

Lightroom Fanatic – Finder – XMP Edited

Next, I sent the image to Photoshop using the Photo > Edit In command. The exposure and clarity changes that I made in Lightroom were visible in Photoshop. On side note, it appears that if you don’t get prompted when you go from Lightroom to Photoshop, Lightroom effectively defaults to the Edit Copy with Lightroom Adjustments option, which is why my initial exposure and clarity changes were visible in Photoshop. This makes sense, since Lightroom wouldn’t have written changes to my original raw file.

Lightroom Fanatic - Edit a Copy With Lightroom Adjustments

Lightroom Fanatic – Edit a Copy With Lightroom Adjustments

Inside of photoshop, I added some text that read “photoshop1” and saved. This generated a new PSD file with the name “edited” appended to the end of the original file name that got linked to the original image in Lightroom. Switching back over to Lightroom, I had two files visible: my original raw file with the initial Lightroom edits, and the new PSD file that has the adjustments and text made inside of Photoshop.

Lightroom Fanatic - PSD #1

Lightroom Fanatic – PSD #1

So far, so good.

Lightroom Edits To Photoshop File

Next, I made adjustments to both of these files from within Lightroom. For the original image, I adjusted the white balance and, as expected, the XMP file was updated, as well, that reflecting the changes. The PSD file remained unchanged, which was also as expected. Sending the adjusted raw file back over to Photoshop was also as described above; that is, Photoshop opened with the changes made to the raw file visible, and nothing changed in the first PSD was visible here. I made a few adjustments in Photoshop, including adding “photoshop2” text, saved the changes, and a new PSD file was created. At this point, I have the original image with the XMP sidecar, PSD “Edit-1” which included the “photoshop1” text, and this newly created PSD2 “Edit-2” which had the white balance adjustment and “photoshop2” text.

Lightroom Fanatic - PSD #2

Lightroom Fanatic – PSD #2

Focusing on PSD1 (remember, with the “photoshop1” text), I made a white balance change in Lightroom. When I saved the photo inside of Lightroom, I noticed that the timestamp on PSD1 changed, but nothing else did. The XMP is still associated with the raw image, and the 2 PSD files are separate. What was interesting, though, is that while it appeared that Lightroom touched the PSD file when changes were made to it inside of Lightroom, those changes didn’t appear to be readable inside of Photoshop itself. When I opened the PSD1 file from the file system (outside of Lightroom), what opened up was the same PSD1 that I saved above; my Lightroom changes made to the PSD file were not visibile. This, I believe, is what David was seeing. The same thing happens when I sent the PSD file to Photoshop and selected Edit Original on the What to Edit prompt. Lightroom seemed to clear of any changes it made to the PSD file and then send the PSD file to Photoshop because the changes are stored in the catalog, not the PSD. Warning: with the autosave XMP option enabled, Lightroom strips all of the changes off the PSD before it sends the file to Photoshop. So when Edit Original is selected but the user closes Photoshop without saving any changes, Lightroom has already removed its edits from the PSD so any Lightroom changes applied to the PSD file are gone; this has an unintended consequence that is similar to hitting the reset buttonEdit a Copy makes a copy of the adjusted PSD (which I thought was interesting, versus making a copy of the original PSD) but once it opened in Photoshop, the adjustments made to the PSD inside of Lightroom were gone. This is slightly safer than Edit Original because if you go in to Photoshop and click Cancel, the original PSD with Lightroom edits is still intact and you’ve only wiped out the Lightroom adjustments to a copy of the PSD.

Lightroom Fanatic - Edit a Copy With Lightroom Adjustments

Lightroom Fanatic – Edit a Copy With Lightroom Adjustments

When  Edit Original  is selected when sending the PSD to Photoshop, changes made get saved back to the PSD that is being edited. When Edit Copy is used, a new PSD is saved and linked inside of Lightroom.

The third option, Edit a Copy with Lightroom Adjustments, presents a slightly different issue. In Photoshop, you see all of the changes made up to this point, including the Lightroom adjustments. However, the big problem here is that the new PSD is a flattened-out image. That is, all of the layers created in the previous Photoshop edits are gone. If what you really wanted to do was made an adjustment to one of those layers, you’re out of luck. That’s a big bummer if you expected to be able to maintain multiple layers across multiple round-trips, and the reason David did not use this option.

A Glitch In The Matrix…

All of the above tests were with the option to Automatically write changes into XMP enabled, and I wasn’t able to accurately reproduce David’s issue. So next, I disabled that option and retraced my steps above.

Lightroom Fanatic - Catalog Settings - XMP

Lightroom Fanatic – Catalog Settings – XMP

A recap of the steps:

  1. Raw file edits in Lightroom.
  2. Edit in Photoshop (Edit Copy with Lightroom adjustments); resulting file is “Edit-3”.
  3. Changes in Photoshop (including adding text “xmp off / edit copy with lightroom adjustments”).
  4. Back to lightroom, more Lightroom edits, specifically a vignette.
Lightroom Fanatic - PSD #3

Lightroom Fanatic – PSD #3

Up to this point, everything behaved as it did with the autosave option enabled. The next step was to make the trip back to Photoshop with the Lightroom-adjusted “Edit-3” file. I selected Edit Original option when prompted and, as expected, what I saw in Photoshop did not include the Lightroom adjustments (vignette) that were made; I was effectively editing the PSD as it was the last time I saved it in Photoshop. I made a few more changes inside of Photoshop, including adding a new text layer that read “edited original on Edit-3, no vignette in PS”, saved my file, switched back over to Lightroom and…wait, why was there a vingette on the PSD and the new text that I added? That’s right, the updates I just made in PSD were visible, and the vignette I previously added in Lightroom (which was not visible inside of Photoshop). It’s as if Lightroom remembered what it had done to the PSD before, and re-applied those changes once we got back in to Lightroom.

Lightroom Fanatic - Applied Vignette

Lightroom Fanatic – Applied Vignette

I then noticed that there was a weird little icon thing in the filmstrip for the PSD. Turns out, that’s Lightroom’s way of telling you it’s out of sync with the source file, likely because it was edited in Photoshop and Lightroom never saved the edits that it made, so there was a disconnect.

Lightroom Fanatic - Out of Sync

Lightroom Fanatic – Out of Sync

If you clicked on the icon, you would get a prompt asking if you want to read the metadata back in from the file (which clears our your Lightroom edits), or overwrite the settings in the file (which will save your Lightroom edits to the file).

Lightroom Fanatic - Overwrite Settings

Once I saved the changes to “Edit-3”, I went back in to Photoshop, selecting Edit Original. I added a new text layer that read “back in photoshop”, saved, and switched back over to Lightroom. I now saw a PSD with my 3 text layers visible but that was missing my Lightroom vignette. Double wtf?

Lightroom Fanatic - Photoshop No Vignette

Lightroom Fanatic – Photoshop No Vignette

There’s Something Happening Here…

My best guess is that when the Lightroom adjustments are saved to the PSD (whether automatically or manually via the Command-S), Lightroom relinquishes control over those changes to whatever is stored in the file. It’s like it says “Hey, I saved my changes. If someone else changes the file now outside of Lightroom, I’ll assume the user knows what they are doing and I’ll blindly load in any changes made to the file.” So when I went to Photoshop and saved my changes, Photoshop overwrote the Lightroom adjustments stored in the metadata and Lightroom reads and applies the new metadata. Since that metadata doesn’t include the previous Lightroom edits, they disappear and all I see is what I saw in Photoshop.

When the changes are not saved to the PSD, Lightroom seems to keep track of changes made to the PSD file made outside of Lightroom and, when Photoshop saved its changes, Lightroom notices that it has unsaved changes and that the underlying PSD file has changed. The conversation is “Wait a minute, my user made these changes that I never got a chance to save in to the PSD file, and now some crazy other application made changes to the PSD. Well, I’ll have none of it! Remember what the user did and will show those changes to the new PSD in the preview, and notify the user that something happened and give the user the option of applying and saving these changes.”

All Is Not Lost

The biggest problem with all of this is that it’s good to save your metadata in the file. But by doing so, you don’t want to lose the ability to make changes and multiple trips between Lightroom and Photoshop. but there is a solution!

Through some experimenting, we came up with an idea that allowed for the continuous saving of the metadata (either manually or by turning the autosaving back on). Back to the point where you have a PSD that you have adjusted in Lightroom, you now want to go back in to Lightroom. instead of selecting Edit Original, select Edit Copy. This puts you in Photoshop with a copy of the PSD without any of the Lightroom changes applied, but maintaining your layers and all the Photoshop awesomeness. Make your changes, save, and go back in to Lightroom. What you have now are two PSD files. The first one is the previous PSD with the Lightroom edits, and the second one is the PSD with your most recent Photoshop changes but without any of the Lightroom edits. What to do? Well, simply copy and paste the Lightroom adjustments from the first PSD to the second PSD, and viola! The 2nd PSD is the new “master”, and you can optionally delete the first PSD. The downside, of course, is that you now have two files. But it’s a workable solution.

Update: the solution David and I came up with would have worked, but another comment from Dirk was a much better option, and that was before going back in to Photoshop, make a virtual copy of the PSD. Then go in to Photoshop, make your changes, come back in to Lightroom, where you’ll have lost your lightroom changes to the psd, but not from the virtual copy! Now, simply copy/paste the settings from the virtual copy on to the PSD and remove the virtual copy. No extra files! Thanks, Dirk!


Multiple round-tripping between Lightroom and Photoshop while preserving the PSD layers and Lightroom adjustments and allowing Lightroom to autosave metadata changes is possible. Just remember to make a virtual copy of the PSD in lightroom prior to going back to photoshop (using Edit Original to preserve all the layers in the PSD) so that you can copy/paste any Lightroom adjustments you made back on to the edited PSD.

This poses some interesting questions about recovering these files and which programs can read and apply which versions of the metadata from the different file types, but i’ll tackle that in another post.

Have any better solutions? Post a comment!

Thank You!

I wanted to include a thank you to David (Spanish Version) and Dirk for their input, and to pass along links to their sites. Go check out their awesome work!




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There are 6 comments

  • Hi, this is very interesting. Thanks for putting it together. I am somehow working around this using the following rule: “once I edit a picture in Photoshop I do not make any changes anymore in Lightroom”. It is quite a tough line to follow as some LR features are so handy (vignette, clarity, etc..) but sticking to it is rather safe

    • dave says:

      Thanks for the comment, Patrick. It’s definitely possible to round-trip multiple times, I just feel like it takes a conscious effort to keep track of what changes should be done where before the trip back to Lightroom. Even something like cropping is problematic if you want to edit in LR, then photoshop, then crop back in Lightroom for different dimensions or uses. But certainly not touching it after it comes back out of PS is one approach!

      Thanks for commenting!

  • lisa says:

    please- where can i find this other post about “This poses some interesting questions about recovering these files and which programs can read and apply which versions of the metadata from the different file types, but i’ll tackle that in another post.”- great investigative work!- have u consulted w lesa snyder, dave cross,jack davis ben willmore or phlearn about these issues by any chance?

    • dave says:

      Hi, Lisa! Thanks for the comment! I haven’t consulted any of the names you’ve mentioned. The post was all trial-and-error on my part. I’ve still got it on my to-do list to go back and continue the research o n the metadata. I’ll let you know when I get it done.

  • André says:

    Thank you very much for this informative blog post. Everywhere it’s described as easy process and nowhere it seems they mention this issue. I think it should be addressed in lightroom 6 (next to showing focus points which I’m currently solving with a plugin).
    PS CC and LR are meant for each other and not editing after PS anymore isn’t an option for me really. LR has just too many great features as Patrick pointed out, so I’m not as strict 😉

    • dave says:

      Agreed, André. With some of the rumors for what is going to be in LR6, that will be less and less need to go to Photoshop at all! Thanks for reading and commenting!