Photoshop: Why can't Photoshop do everything and keep images in raw format?

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After using Photoshop for a few years, I've always been quite happy with it.
Recently however, I began using Lightroom too.
Although I obviously can't do all of the things with it that I can do with Photoshop, Lightroom does allow me to do all of my adjustments, without ditching the raw file.
Camera Raw does the same, until I export to Photoshop.
Just because Photoshop has additional features, such as layers, masks etc, why can't it be made to utilize them without giving up the raw file?
Can't the changes and adjustments be made as a set of instructions, in a similar way to how Lightroom does it?
Obviously, I'm ignorant of the technical restrictions that prevent it, but knowing why would at least put an end to my misunderstandings and relieve my frustration.


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Posted 5 years ago

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Photo of Chris Cox

Chris Cox

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Because Photoshop doesn't just do simple parametric changes like ACR and Lightroom -- Photoshop is a full image editor, and needs the full image to work on.

ACR and Lightroom are doing very, very simple edits based on changing a few parameters. They can't do the kinds of things Photoshop does, because they are limited to those parametric changes while keeping the RAW file more or less intact.

Another way of thinking about it: ACR and Lightroom give you about 20 sliders that work in a fixed order. Photoshop gives you millions of controls that can be combined in many different orders to create more combinations than you can count.