When I edit photographs in Photoshop, I have noticed that the final file sizes average between 300mb and 700mb. I try to use smart objects whenever possible, and my files tend to have quite a few layers. I am a bit confused as to why my original 5mb .NEF raw images grow to several hundred megs as I edit them. Is this normal for .psd/.tiff files after edits have been made?

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    I haven't used photoshop in ages, but that seems quite large. Do you mean the size of the files on disk, or do you mean the memory footprint of the file when you're working with it? – mattdm Apr 2 '11 at 13:06
  • The size of the .psd files roughly the image size * number of layers. If you have a lot of layers you will have large files, there's not a lot you can do about that. – Matt Grum Apr 2 '11 at 15:48
  • So if you're using 60-140 layers on average, that makes sense. – mattdm Apr 2 '11 at 16:18
  • Yes, size of the files on disk, and yes, I have quite a few layers – Ed01 Apr 3 '11 at 23:48

This is how big my .psd files are:

I have a lot in the 300-700MB range (mostly around 300MB). Some of these would be larger (probably a couple of gigabytes) but I flatten the layers occasionally to stop the files getting too large.

Is it excessive? I don't think so, if you have plenty of layers. Quite a few of my bigger files are panoramas. One thing I have noticed it that if you turn off "compatibility mode" when saving the files can be quite a bit smaller.

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    It also depends on what bit depth you work in. Working in 16-bit tends to help balloon your file size a bit as well. I would say I have had pretty similar experience to Matt here with Photoshop...400MB to 1GB files is not unheard of, and the more layer you add, the larger the files get. – jrista Apr 2 '11 at 17:38
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    Not being afraid of commitment is a big deal -- even a bit of merging and purging during a session can keep you out of the scratch disk while working on a big image or a complex comp. It helps a lot, too, to remember that PSDs are working files, not image archives -- if you spring out of bed at three o'clock in the morning on a random Tuesday twenty years from now thinking Uncle Fred's teeth were too white in that picture, you can fix a TIFF version (or rework the original RAW file). You don't need to hang onto the PSD forever. – user2719 Apr 2 '11 at 20:08
  • Thanks for the feedback. I do use a lot of layers, the images are big to start with, and I normally edit in 16-bit. I try to be as nondestructive as possible; I used to merge occasionally, but I thought that might be bad form. – Ed01 Apr 3 '11 at 23:50
  • Image is unavailable. – Fake Name Nov 10 '11 at 19:39

I tend to do my edits and then flatten my file, keeping the edited file in TIFF/whatnot (and the raw, of course) in it's ready state. There is no point in wasting space just to keep the layer mask that you might reuse some day. If I want to redo my editing I tend to redo the whole thing anyways.


Keep in mind PSD files are considered "source files", so they're going to be huge however you look at it. Photoshop isn't concerned in the least bit about file size, so it will create 300MB+ files without so much as a warning prompt.

I would argue that if hard drive space is becoming an issue (and hard drive space is cheap these days) your best bet is to have an extra internal drive or external USB drive, or at least a separate partition on your drive for working on PSD files. This way you're not taxing your system disk as heavily, which will extend the life and integrity of your drive.

In my opinion quality is easily ten or twenty times more valuable than disk space if you have it, so I'm willing to let the space be eaten up.

If you want to get fancy, you could use a solid state drive for your system (which would include photoshop's swap space) and a typical hard drive for your storage; resulting in faster editing and plenty of room!

That all said, you always have the option to save to another un-layered format (TIFF/jpg at 100% for example, heck even PDF has a handy lossless ZIP compression option) if you don't need the layers handy. If you keep your original NEF, you can usually recreate whatever changes you need to.

  • Good advice about splitting SSD for system and HDD for storage, I think that's what everyone should do these days, not only for photoshop. – Luka Ramishvili Jul 21 '12 at 7:32

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