I'm trying to find what would be the easiest way to share editing information across application while keeping the original image.

My needs are pretty basic: I do keywording, toning and white balancing with Lightroom. I'd like to skip the Exporting phase that kinds of doubles the information.

Basically, I'd like to be able to visualize the photos from the OS (OSX here) WITH the modifications made in LR.

Is there any open file format that can comprise editing info (not keywords only, but toning and white balance as well) ?

I'm pretty sure it doesn't exist today, but I'd like to confirm it. Maybe there's some effort somewhere in this direction, maybe there's some project that can at least hold part of the information.

Thanks for sharing your knowledge in that matter.

Thanks for all your answers.

My goal here is not to save space, but to save time on the processing, to reduce my workflow to the simplest possible.

And to me, it means doing the editing action once, keeping the history forever and in a single location.

DNG+XMP is actually not far from that. If I can keep the preview JPG up-to-date with the latest editing changes, I think I pretty much have what I'm looking for.

I can even probably use DNG for a source JPG that has been edited and keep the history and a preview with the editing applied. Not space efficient... but highly manageable IMHO

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ So you'd want the OS to be having to do all of the algorithmic goodness that lightroom takes forever to do even on a single image, and still expect even halfway reasonable performance as a result? Not only would that be unreasonable, I'm not sure it would even be a good idea. Adobe certainly isn't publishing the noise reduction stuff in Lightroom for the public to use, for example. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 15, 2011 at 17:48

3 Answers 3


DNG, with the XMP sidecar, can likely serve as a portable format.

However, you wish to have the file rendered on a browser with the edits. The problem is that when viewing a RAW file, there is a JPEG image embedded in the RAW (and DNG), that is used for image preview. This is what browsers and OSs use to create thumbnails etc of RAW files. Therefore, even if you were to use something like DNG with XMP, most likely the embedded JPEG would be used by the viewer in question.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Maybe the solution is to use DNG and update the embedded preview as edits are made? \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Commented Jul 15, 2011 at 14:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes that would work Matt, both LR and Camera RAW have settings to update the DNG Preview file. \$\endgroup\$
    – cmason
    Commented Jul 17, 2011 at 21:02

There's nothing better on the market at separating image from edits than Lightroom. If I were looking to share image editing instructions, I think I'd consider exporting editing settings as a Lightroom preset, but that's not going to apply to photos you see via the OS. I understand your desire to save space by skipping the export, but disk space is cheap and getting cheaper, so I'd be pretty tempted to just bite the bullet and export the edited photos.

If you've got some other reason for wanting to share these settings, please elaborate, as I'm not 100% certain I'm interpreting your question properly.


If I understand your question properly, I don't believe there is actually a single file format that does what your asking. Even if you use DNG+XMP, or export to TIFF, you are exporting a final image with its metadata...not an original image plus edit actions plus metadata in a single previewable file format.

If you have access to photoshop, you could export your RAW images from LR to PS as smart objects. Once you have a smart object, you can then make non-destructive edits with layer masks, adjustment layers, and other non-linear and non-destructive editing tools. You can save the resulting layered file either as a PSD or a TIFF. I would choose TIFF, as it is an open format, can store metadata, as well as layer information. I am not 100% certain that saving smart objects and adjustment layers to a TIFF file will be entirely portable...I only really use Adobe products myself...but it is probably more portable than a PSD.


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