I have my catalog of jpegs setup in Lightroom. If I want to make an adjustment to a photo in a 3rd party editor (Exposure or Nik) Lightroom asks the following:

  • Edit copy with LR adjustments
  • Edit a copy
  • Edit original

So I select "Edit a copy". Every time I do that I end up having a physical copy created on the disk with the name something like "originalName"-Edit-Edit.jpeg and stacked copies in LR catalog. I really do not like creating a copy every time I want to adjust a photo littering both my hard drive and LR catalog.

What is the proper way of editing jpegs from Lightroom catalog in 3rd party editors like Exposure X2 or Google Nik?

PS: There is a similar question here: Why does Lightroom create a new copy of the image before editing it by another program? but it talks about RAW files, I'm not sure if that is relevant with jpegs.

PPS: Once Lightroom even created a 100 mb PSD file out of 5 Mb jpeg and I am not sure how this happened.

  • \$\begingroup\$ "Edit copy" does exactly what it says - edits a copy (which has to be created). If you don't like it, choose "Edit original". \$\endgroup\$
    – Zenit
    Commented Jun 21, 2017 at 17:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Alex.S But so every time I want to touch up a photo, LR will create a new copy? So I'll end up having 20-50 copies of one photo? \$\endgroup\$
    – ruslaniv
    Commented Jun 22, 2017 at 4:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ related: photo.stackexchange.com/questions/29962/… \$\endgroup\$
    – ruslaniv
    Commented Jun 22, 2017 at 6:29

1 Answer 1


Any adjustments to a picture you make in Lightroom are not directly applied to the image file, but only recorded in the database, a "recipe" if you will, and applied on the fly for display.

If you want to use the image with those adjustments outside of LR, you have to "export" it, at which time, a new file with the chosen settings (file format, size, etc.) and the applied adjustments will be created.

The original file is not touched, which is why this is called a "non-destructive" workflow.

If you want to edit an image in another editor, you can either

  • create such an export file with "baked-in" adjustments (copy with LR adjustments)
  • or edit a copy of the original, so you still keep the original pristine
  • or edit the original file, in which case you obviously loose the original state of it after saving it in your external editor, and any LR adjustments you may have made on it.

You have to choose which course you want to go, you can't seamlessly integrate a destructive tool (ie. one that changes the actual pixels of the JPG file, like PS) in the non-destructive workflow of LR.

It's possible that you can use your external tool as the first editing step, in which case you can say "edit original" (if you don't care that you can't go back in this case).

In other cases, you'll have to let LR make a copy, so the other application can actually see the image as you created it in LR).

  • \$\begingroup\$ Would you suggest doing: step 1 - "create a copy with LR adjustments" and send it to a 3rd party editor and then on subsequent edits do: step 2 - "edit the original" on the very copy created in step one? This way I'll keep the original intact and do not create a lot of copies of the same image. \$\endgroup\$
    – ruslaniv
    Commented Jun 22, 2017 at 4:29
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ That is probably viable if you haven't made adjustments in LR to it in the meantime. \$\endgroup\$
    – ths
    Commented Jun 22, 2017 at 6:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ I guess the (obvious) reason for all this being LR unable to keep track of the changes made to a photo in a 3rd party editor? \$\endgroup\$
    – ruslaniv
    Commented Jun 22, 2017 at 9:18

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