This is one of the top questions I hear about Lightroom, and with good reason. Lightroom does not work how you might expect, and, in a few crucial ways, it is vastly different from other options on the market, including software like Photoshop.
What do I mean by this? Say that you brighten a photo in Lightroom. You might be surprised to realize that, if you open the photo in any other software, it won’t look any brighter than normal. The actual, underlying file is totally unchanged.
This is a fundamental part of Lightroom, and it’s not a feature you can disable.
So, if Lightroom makes it impossible to actually edit your photos, and the edits are only visible in Lightroom, why would professionals ever use it?
In fact, this system has a lot of benefits.
First, to address the main concern most people have: Yes, there is a way to see your Lightroom edits outside of Lightroom. What is it? You already know the answer — exports.
When you edit a photo in Lightroom, the edits do only show up in Lightroom. However, when you export a photo — which, as I mentioned earlier, is one of the three most important things you can do in Lightroom — all the edits are present in the photo you’ve exported.
So, you can edit a photo all day in Lightroom to look exactly how you want, but you won’t see any of the changes if you open the file outside of Lightroom. The fix is simple: Re-enter Lightroom, right-click, click Export > Export, and export the photo how you want. The exported copy of the photo now has all the edits you just made. It doesn’t replace the original file, which is still sitting happily on your computer. Instead, it creates an entirely new photo, complete with all the export settings you chose (file type, pixel dimensions, compression, file name, and so on).
Why is this better than simply editing the actual, original photo? There are a few reasons, but here’s the big one: This type of editing is non-destructive. You’re never changing anything about your original file at all. (There are only three settings within Lightroom that do affect the original: renaming the photo, moving the photo to a new folder on your hard drive, and deleting the photo from your disk.) Lightroom makes it essentially impossible to accidentally ruin anything beyond repair.
The same cannot be said of, for example, Photoshop. If you open one of your photos in Photoshop, crop it, save the photo, and exit, your photo will be permanently cropped. There are ways around this — specifically, unchecking the “delete cropped pixels” option and saving it as a PSD file — but this isn’t an intuitive fix. It’s far too easy to edit the original photo by mistake. (See Photoshop vs Lightroom for more differences.)
Lightroom is great precisely because you’re never touching the original file. Lightroom is non-destructive editing software, and that is a critical feature for almost every photographer.
Note: If you want to make some adjustments to the photo just let me know. I can do it for you at a very low cost. You can hire me to edit your photo.
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