Lightroom: Add Layers to Lightroom

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I've seen a plugin that adds layers to LR which would save a lot of to-ing and fro-ing to Photoshop. The plugin is actually stand-alon, but also integrates with LR to some extent. It allows many of the layer options found in Photoshop. Not tried it but seems like a cracking idea! :-)

Making LR more of an editor could make Photoshop redundant for pure photographic work
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brian brains

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Andrew Rodney

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Until (and if) Adobe provides this large engineering, there is this useful plug-in:
http://regex.info/blog/lightroom-good...

Don’t forget to read the reality check behind this plug-in you mention:
http://regex.info/blog/2011-04-23/1753
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brian brains

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Yes, it was OnOne I was thinking of. I use OnOne presets in LR and their Phototools plugin for Photoshop. Both are useful but the Photoshop plugin has to switch the color scheme to Win 7 Basic everytime it is called as it can't seem to cope with Aero.

The website says: "With Perfect Layers you can create and edit multi-layered files directly from Lightroom and Aperture, " This is true in the sense that there is a link but it isn't integration within LR does it? As the blog linked in your post points out, if you have Photoshop you don't need this!

Although Adobe own both LR and PS they seem to deliberately keep LR development funding low and leave the team to get on with it in some remote corner. Presumably they're worried that no one would buy PS if too much editing functionality was added to LR?
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John Armstrong-Millar

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I was a bit disappointed with LR4 beta. Nothing much sees to have improved and all the (supposed) new items have been borrowed from Aperture 3. Still it could have been worse you might have tried to add face recognition.
What about Layer support?
Rotating the clone tool areas to allow for more accurate "lining up" of curved shapes.
The ability to change the colour of the little spot for quick collection.. and why only one quick collection?
C'mon guys we are talking version 4 here not 3.7

This reply was created from a merged topic originally titled
Lightroom 4: Layers support.
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Andrew Rodney

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>>Nothing much sees to have improved and all the (supposed) new items have been borrowed from Aperture 3.

You’re either kidding or really haven’t looked very deep! Just the 2012 PV is a huge improvement in raw rendering over PV2010. Just the improvements in highlight recovery alone within PV2012 is huge. Let alone Soft proofing, better smart collection options, DNG improvements etc. Nothing at all like Aperture.

As for Layers, don’t hold your breath. And LR has to render out all additional parametric edits you make from a layered doc (it has to be processed through it’s engine) so you lose the layers. If you follow a logical workflow for processing your raw data, using LR as the tool it is, then pass the rendered data to Photoshop which is a pixel (not parametric) editor, use layers and be done with the Develop module as you should, you’ll be far better off. The two tools are vastly different! You can’t turn a kitchen knife into an effective tool to handle screwing in screws any more than you can use Photoshop’s type tool as a substitute for MS word or InDesign. Use the right tool for the right job instead of hoping all your tools are Swiss Army Knife compromises.
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John Armstrong-Millar

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I take your point. I just don't think that there have been sufficient changes to warrant calling it Version4. Still it's only in Beta so we might see some tweaks before it's launched. A new suite of adjustment tools would have been more interesting than maps. If we have to flip out to PS anytime we need to do anything useful why not use ID or AI for books and proofing. Tools for the job and all that..
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Victor Carmelo Sciberras

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If you have not been asked yet, probably you have already, will LAYERS be a possibility in LT4 or later?

Regards Vic

This reply was created from a merged topic originally titled
Lightroom: want layers.
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brian brains

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There is no reason why Lightroom couldn't be developed to be both a parametric adjustor as it is at the moment plus a bitmap pixel editor with layers. There are plenty of applications now that combine bitmap with vector editing for example.

Such an application would be all a photographer needs since I find much of Photoshop is rarely used when just editing photographic images. Having said that, the link between PS and LR is such that switching an image between the two is painless.

I particularly like how after editing in PS and returning to LR, I can later re-edit that image in PS and still have all my layers and masks from the last edit.
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Andrew Rodney

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>There is no reason why Lightroom couldn't be developed to be both a parametric adjustor as it is at the moment plus a bitmap pixel editor with layers.

Well there is no reason why Lightroom couldn’t be Illustrator, InDesign and Photoshop all rolled into one huge, expensive application assuming you are willing to wait for engineering to do this (and Adobe was willing to spend the time and money too). Yup, LR Pro that does all of the above, due to ship summer of 2016 at a mere $3000.

Anything is possible.

Now back to reality...
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John Armstrong-Millar

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Well yes but with limited resources it would have been better to have layer support (Adobe Elements) manages this and that's hardly an expensive program. Then we have the Books module??? surely InDesign does this already. I just don't understand the thinking behind the developers. they seem to say if you want layers use PS but if you need to do a book (hey we took the trouble to build that in for you )
The problem here is what we have seen at Apple everything is being "dumbed down" it's only a matter of time before we are shooting everything on camera phones anyway. LR4 is being aimed at the advanced amateur which to be honest probably has more time and money to play with software than working photographers do
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brian brains

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Andrew, you seem very negaive, you don't work for Adobe do you? :-)
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john beardsworth

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Adobe employees have a badge indicating it.

I don't see much of a case for Lightroom having layers. It's not Photoshop for one thing, and how much of layers would you want to have? I imagine you'll want masking, blending modes too, blend-if should be there.... Text layers? Shapes? Layer styles? By the time you've implemented layers on more than a very amateur level you've got a tool that still isn't going to satisfy those used to proper Photoshop style layers. And yet it will still be over the heads of the many Photoshop users out there who remain so frightened of layers they never use them.

Rather than ape Photoshop and become a compositing tool, it's better that Lightroom continues with its style of adjustments - pins, grad filters.
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brian brains

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As a photographer, I find Lightroom lacking when it comes to making localised adjustments and cloning. I thus have to edit in PS to make use of its layers, selection and masking tools. There is no alternative within Lightroom is there? So why so anti layers?

Why would a photographer want shapes, styles, text and so on as you suggest?!
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Andrew Rodney

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>So why so anti layers?

Because there are existing tools that exists that were built to do this, Photoshop (or Elements) and because adding this would be huge engineering and would suck resources from a much smaller engineering team to implement functionality more beneficial for the larger LR audience and it’s core aim.

I suppose if a year ago folks could vote for either, PV2012 or Layers, they would vote for Layers? You’d really prefer to duplicate functionally that already exists in many products and continue with poorer raw rendering processing? Or you’d swap Soft Proofing using metadata edits on Virtual Copies that interface with the Print Module for Layers?

Just about anything could probably be built into LR but at what price?

It is all about resources and building a tool that is designed for a specific task and audience. You want layers, get Elements or Photoshop. You want a word processor, get MS Word or similar.
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john beardsworth

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A very narrow definition of a photographer? Never produced an ad for a trade magazine or another graphic? But I mentioned those as one extreme of a range of layer features, and wherever you choose to place your arbitrary "why would a photographer want x" cut is going to leave your Lightroom layers without key features of layers and a dumbed-down implementation. Lightroom's just not the right tool for compositing.

If you want better localised adjustments and better cloning, just ask for them?
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John Armstrong-Millar

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The problem here folks is that Photoshop was seen as too heavy. So LR was born. Designed from the ground up to be an essential tool for photographers. To ask for a feature that would require a rewrite ( like layers or focus point indication) is regarded as heresy. At the end of the day LR is pretty good at what it does. (that's why we all love it...right?)
It would be great to have better local adjustments a simple rotate control on the clone tool would be fantastic. As for layers all I can say to people that don't understand the need for them have never had to shoot group pictures on a daily basis
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Andrew Rodney

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>It would be great to have better local adjustments a simple rotate control on the clone tool would be fantastic.

Now you’re talking. Probably not huge engineering and something you don’t see at all in Photoshop with parametric edits. I still think that for the foreseeable future, selective cloning in LR will be far less robust than Photoshop which is after all a pixel editor with very precise controls. I’m not asking LR to do the kind of work a high end retoucher could do in PS (cause I own PS and would use that anyway). Take out a row of telephone poles and lines in an image in LR? Crazy. But remove a pole sicking out of one person’s head? OK, I’m game.

It boils down to using the right tool for the job. You can use a Kitchen Knife as a screwdriver. Occasionally. Maybe with one screw. If you are a carpenter, you’re going to use that high quality electric drill to do the job. And you are not going to use that tool to cut your steak. Trying to make LR into Photoshop is as folly as trying to make Photoshop into InDesign or Premier. Given the time and money, probably possible. Would be hugely expense for all users, hugely complicated to use.
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brian brains

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>If you want better localised adjustments and better cloning, just ask for them?<

Please can I have better local adjustments... and more controllable cloning please?

I really didn't think it would be such a big ask to add layers in LR nor did I realise the feelings it would generate. I use Lightroom to import and process my raw files and to organise them. They invariably require further work and so I edit them in PS. Lightroom isn't some sort of holy cow that mustn't be touched for heaven's sake. It's a tool and I maybe naievly thought that taking some code from PS and adding it to LR wouldn't be a big thing. Turning Lightroom into a better featured image processor and editor isn't heresy nor, I suspect, as difficult as some suggest.
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john beardsworth

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"...the feelings it would generate"? No emotions here, just disagreement with the suggestion. As for "heresy", again no - just an explanation that pixel editors and parametric editors are different kinds of tools.
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brian brains

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>just an explanation that pixel editors and parametric editors are different kinds of tools.

I fully understand that but don't accept that that precludes having both in the one application. As I said before vector and bitmap editing exist side by side in many applications don't they.

Well it seems there's no likelyhood of my wishlist becoming true anytime soon then.
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john beardsworth

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But if what you really want is improvements to local adjustments (even more than in LR4) and particularly more flexible cloning, there's probably a consensus.
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TK

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There is no inconsolable difference between "pixel editing" and "parametric editing".

Here's how to turn Photoshop into a parametric editor: Record all users input (mouse movements and clicks). Replay all user input as needed (rendering always starts from an original that never changes). Allow user input recordings to be deleted. Allow the parameters for the tools that receive these recordings to be changed. Voilà, non-destructive image editing in Photoshop. But the pixels get pushed, you say? Only for the rendering of the output. As you can always remove user input sequences, you can always go back to the original.

Here's how Lightroom is destructive just as Photoshop is: For instance, when you clone one area over another, the target pixels get destroyed. Ouch! But don't fear as we are only modifying a working copy that is used to accumulate changes so that we obtain the final rendering. We never change the original source, so we can always go back to it and/or use only part of the changes we apply to it (on the working copy). Same as above.

So, please, let us lay to rest this myth of some things being possible for a pixel editor vs a parametric editor. Surely, there is a performance challenge. Generating final renderings by replaying user-input on original sources takes the longer, the more complicated changes you allow. But, for instance, it would be quicker to replay one long clone brush stroke than fifty healing spots, all aligned as pearls on a string to mimic the long clone brush stroke.

Conceptually, Lightroom already uses layers. One can think of its image pipeline as using a curves adjustment layer, followed by a HSL adjustement layer, ..., followed by adjustment brush layers, ..., followed by a sharpening adjustement layer. The LR UI just does not expose the layers to the users. And that's reasonable, AFAIC. I don't see Lightroom becoming a compositing tool, the watershed to Photoshop has to be somewhere and compositing is where Photoshop rules. Hence, Lightroom does not require layers and can try to allow image adjustments without using a layer metaphor.

Adjustment brushes, for example, can be thought of using layer masks (containing the brush strokes) and layers with the working image copied but with all brush settings applied. But all the complexity of creating a layer, creating a layer mask, changing the layer and then brushing the mask to show parts of the new layer on the working copy is hidden to the user. I feel that Lightroom should continue to hide complexity this way.

In summary, no layers for Lightroom but not because there is an inconsolable difference between pixel pushing and parametric editing, but because the complexity of layers is kept in Photoshop land. By the same token, of course, this means that better retouching support is possible and should be implemented rather sooner than later.
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TK

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You write "In Photoshop, you're directly altering pixel values., but this is wrong for adjustment layers.

Andrew, do yourself a favour and start PS, and create a background image with differently coloured brush strokes. Then stack a B&W adjustment layer on top of it. Now stack a curves layer on top and make it create a very high contrast. By manipulating the B&W adjustment layer alone, you can now make brush strokes appear and disappear, because the curves adjustment layer will respond to the new pixels that the B&W has "created". Nothing ever gets destroyed. Your original brush strokes are always untouched. There is only transformation (as in LR), never destruction.

With adjustment layers, there won't ever be any data loss due to direct pixel manipulation as you described. Why is that? Because PS (just like LR) "creates" pixels (as you call it) when producing the result of an adjustment layer. If it didn't how could a change at the bottom most layer ripple up through further adjustment layers? If the curves adjustment layer in the example I mentioned above deemed a pixel value to become pure black in one instance, how can it transform it to white, even though you only changed the mapping from colours to gray values in the adjustment level below? The reason is that the curves adjustment layer works on pixels that the B&W adjustment layer "created". You could say "re-created" based on new parameters. This is no different to what happens in the image pipeline of LR.

We can avoid references to the image pipeline altogether, though. Just explain to me how the user experience you can have in PS with adjustment layers only is any different to what the user experience in LR is. Only when you take an image outside PS (or make a destructive step like flattening layers), you commit to certain adjustment layer values, just like when you commit to certain edit parameters when you export an image from LR.

Surely flattening layers (or other destructive operations) makes the editing destructive but that is completely besides the point. I never claimed that all of PS is non-destructive (it isn't by any stretch of imagination). You are insinuating that I don't understand that "print, flatten, save as a different color space etc" implies an application of the layers to the underlying data. Of course, I understand that and at this point of course the non-destructive train that adjustment layers provide stops. But the very same is true for LR. Only as long you stay within LR, the non-destructive train is running. Export an image, and there is destructive pixel baking just like with "save as" (or similar) in PS. Obviously, the "destructive pixel baking" does not refer to the raw original. Just like the original brush strokes you made in you PS background layer will never be altered. Think about this Andrew: You'll be saving transformed versions of the original brush stroke pixels when you do a "Save for Web" for example. But PS will never destroy your original brush stroke pixels and any stacked adjustment layers will always be fluid in how they respond to the untouched brush stroke pixels. "Destructive pixel baking" as I used it above only refers to the exported image since you cannot take it and revisit any editing choices you made. Same for PS and LR.
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Dorin Nicolaescu-Musteață, Champion

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Adjustment layers? I thought this thread is about real, pixel layers...

Aren't Lightroom's local corrections the same as Photoshop's adjustment layers? Except they are not called so and don't look like that.
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TK

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Dorin, regarding your first question: Yes, the thread is about layers, but as some (like Andrew) are arguing that PS and LR are fundamentally different (and layers hence have no place in LR), I used adjustment layers as a vehicle to illustrate what the real essence of non-destructive editing is (and that hence things that are often considered to be reserved to "pixel pushing" applications, like retouching, could very well be a part of LR without breaking its non-destructive paradigm).

Regarding your second question: Many LR adjustments (including global ones) are like PS adjustment layers, sometimes combined with implicit layer masks (in particular when local corrections are concerned). Note that there is a one-to-one correspondence between the "layer on/off"-eye symbol for a PS adjustment layer and the "on/off" switch for an LR panel. The similarities are really in one's face, but Andrew appears to remain unconvinced.
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Andrew Rodney

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>>Note that there is a one-to-one correspondence between the "layer on/off"-eye symbol for a PS adjustment layer and the "on/off" switch for an LR panel.

It appears that way because you fail to understand the difference between a pixel edit and a parametric edit that THEN requires rendering to create pixels. This has nothing to do with destructive or non destructive editing and more to do with the processing workflow, path and engine. Photoshop doesn't render pixels, they are already pixel based. LR and ACR have to take instructions and build pixels.

What do you think happens under the hood in LR when you take your raw data (have you even seen with non demosaiced image data looks like?) a set of instructions and export (setting the rendering) to build, create, compose NEW RGB pixels.

The once amazing "Layers" product that started this thread doesn't do anything differently than Photoshop but it isn't at all working within the LR engine. So you might as well just use Photoshop or any pixel editor that supports layers. The product mentioned first renders the pixels just as if you exported an image in LR to a size and color space from raw data, opened them in PS and added layers. The LR engine is completely out of picture when this plug-in, like all the others that have no access to the LR parametric rendering engine start working. They can't deal with the LR engine, don't understand the parametric instructions etc. The processes are different (and to round trip this discussion, one is destructive).
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TK

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FYI, I've written my own RAW converter once. Just to play with some ideas.

I initially wrote that I'd stop my attempts at explaining my point of view here, but that was before I saw your latest post in which you asked some question. I hope the answer will help to consolidate the discussion.
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Andrew Rodney

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>Here's how Lightroom is destructive just as Photoshop is: For instance, when you clone one area over another, the target pixels get destroyed. Ouch!

That, like much of your post is incorrect and shows a huge misunderstanding of the processing. There are no pixels affected until you render the data (original, be it raw or existing rendered data plus instruction of edit used to create new set of pixels). The area you see in the preview is simply what will, I repeat will result only if you render the data to a new iteration. It is not destructive, it has no effect on pixels that as yet have been rendered.
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TK

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Andrew, I posted a reply to your inappropriate criticism below.

P.S.: I looked at the "non destructive imaging" document you linked to. Where does it contradict anything I wrote? It even explains that Photoshop's adjustment layers are an example of non-destructive editing, just as I used the term "adjustment layer" when I talked about conceptual layers in the LR rendering pipeline.
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brian brains

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I look forward to LR4. I did take a quick look a couple of months ago but as it wouldn't use my existing catalog without re-importing everything, decided to wait for the final release. Reading the link TK, shows there is a demand for better retouching tools so will download the latest beta for another peep. -:)
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dan

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Here's my 2 cents worth. I personally do not desire layers, per se' in LR. However I do desire a more robust targeted adjustment tool and the ability to retain PS layers. Let me explain:

1) I applaud the improvements to the targeted adjustment tool in LR4. Especailly the ability to target sharpening, noise and WB. What is now needed is some more options on the brush used for targeting to simulate some of things one can do with PS Layer Masks. e.g., something for "refine edge", perhaps a way to draw a line around the target area rather than painting with a brush, and something like the magic wand.

2 I posted this elsewhere but here it is again. If I edit in LR, then go to PS and add a layer for some reason the new PSD or TIFF file shows up in LR. If I just right click it and go right back to PS, my layers are still intact. However instead if I edit in LR then right click it to go back to PS my layers are all flattened. I'd like LR to not flatten out my PS layers but rather just add a new layer for the 2nd set of LR adjustments so that when I return to PS my original layers are still there.

Thanks
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brian brains

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I've been caught out by that too Dan. When you return to LR from PS, the file retains its layers as it is now a photoshop bitmap file. But if you make adjustments to it in LR, it has to create a further flattened copy for its adjustments to work on.

If you then elect to edit it further in PS you will be exporting a LR file not the PSD version with layers. You can always elect to "edit a copy" which will retain the layers but will loose those last LR adjustments.

For other reasons too, I think the workflow should be such that bitmap editing is the final stage.
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TK

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Andrew, you write "There are no pixels affected until you render the data". That is incorrect, since obviously the preview is an image made of pixels as well.

The preview, i.e., the image you see in the Develop module, is the result of a sequential application of changes to a working copy. The initial working copy is a copy of the original (e.g., demosaiced RAW image), or a smaller version of it.

Of course, when you export an image in LR then the rendering starts afresh with a certain target size, etc. But obviously the preview is just another form of rendering (in LR3 the preview sometimes omits noise reduction but that doesn't change the overall principle).

The term "destructive" is somewhat inappropriate in discussions like these because even pixel editors like Photoshop are not "destructive" in the true sense of the word when you don't save over your original but always keep inventing new names for your image versions. Assuming you do that, the only remaining difference to parametric editing then is that a parametric editor can replay edit actions, should you decide to change parameters, remove some earlier edit actions, etc. That's where you non-parametric editor gets stuck. You can revert to an older version of your image, but you cannot replay the edits that followed with different settings or replay a subset of them only. Since a parametric editor can replay all edits, it does not need to keep intermediate copies; it just keeps starting from the original, replaying all edits.

Andrew, there is no "huge misunderstanding of the processing" on my behalf. I challenge you to get an ACR programmer to state that what I have written is wrong. I'm a software engineer and I know how this stuff can be programmed.

Please be more cautious with your judgment.