Round-trip Editing

Many Photoshop plugins either also work directly in Lightroom or have a version specifically for Lightroom. For example, Nik Software, OnOne Software, and Topaz Labs all do this in one fashion or another.

Let’s say I use a noise reduction plugin, then a sharpening plugin, then a color effects / HDR plugin, then a black & white plugin, and finally a framing plugin, and all this completes the look of my image. It may seem a bit contrived, but it’s not that uncommon.

So, if I do this in Lightroom, a new TIFF file is added to my catalog as a result of each plugin use. To use the next plugin, I should use the TIFF from the previous plugin as my starting point for the next plugin. Plugin, TIFF file, plugin, TIFF file, and so on. If I use five plugins, I’ll have six files for one image, including the original RAW file.

What a waste.

If I choose to Edit in Photoshop from Lightroom, I can use a hundred plugins and still only have one new file added to Lightroom. And, if I do it right with Smart Objects and use PSD as my Photoshop round-trip file format, I can even re-edit the image and the plugin settings after saving the file. Sure, I don’t have to keep all the intermediate files that the Lightroom round-trip plugin usage creates, so disk space isn’t the root problem. The workflow is clumsy and time-consuming.

Perhaps I’m missing something, but it seems that Lightroom’s round-trip editing behavior is a pain in the neck. I love Lightroom and use it 95% of the time, but I don’t mess with Lightroom round-trip plugins for the other 5%. Am I just realizing this long after everyone else?