I've found a couple of questions that are directly related to or mention destructive editing:

The first mostly explains what I want to ask but it doesn't quite answer my exact question. I think I know the answer already but I would like to see if anyone can confirm this. I've only recently started out with Photoshop Elements and I'm always very careful about keeping the original files safe so it would be nice to get confirmation.

The title sums up my question, are there any features in the Organizer that will change the RAW file (in my case a Nikon .NEF file)? So far I cannot find any, when you edit with the Elements Editor it saves metadata in a .XMP file along side the .NEF file and captions, tags, etc appear to be save in the Organizer catalog.

As far as I can see there is nothing that will modify the RAW file. Once I have save the file in the Editor, say as a .PSD, then any changes I make would be destructive to that file in less I manually choose to create separate version of files.


1 Answer 1


The raw file is called that for a reason - because it represents the raw data off the sensor, so no program should really modify it. Any non-destructive raw edits are generally saved in sidecar files or a database. I think Elements has that option to store in either an XMP file or a database.

I think the DNG file format allows for writing edits to the end of the file itself, rather than a sidecar.

So your original NEF is untouched. The XMP file contains all the raw edit information. If you delete the XMP file and reopen the NEF file, Elements will once again show it as it was originally. Elements will never do anything destructive to the NEF file.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Yep, one of things I miss with my switch from Pentax to Nikon is the DNG format and embedded edits. While not frequent, having the edits in the file was nice when I needed to send it to someone else for final processing. \$\endgroup\$
    – Joanne C
    Mar 31, 2013 at 13:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks. I thought it might be but its good to get some confirmation. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kioshiki
    Mar 31, 2013 at 20:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ John, I think I like the idea of the sidecar files as it means the original files are totally untouched but I see your point about having the extra files to deal with. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kioshiki
    Mar 31, 2013 at 20:44
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @Kioshiki I imagine the original contents of the image are embedded in the DNG and not touched. Changes are probably appended after the original content, so still non-destructive. Sidecar files are probably necessary mainly because of all the different (and largely proprietary) raw formats which have to be reverse-engineered, which would make writing back to them dangerouse for Adobe and other 3rd parties \$\endgroup\$
    – MikeW
    Mar 31, 2013 at 20:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ In other words if Adobe could reliably and safely write edits at the end of the NEF file, they probably would give that option. \$\endgroup\$
    – MikeW
    Mar 31, 2013 at 20:51

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