How to jump from Lightroom to Photoshop (and back again)

*This post was updated in July 2016 to reflects changes in Lightroom CC and Photoshop CC*

Lightroom is a superb tool for photographers – it is the business when it comes to organising your photos, processing them and for presenting them – either as a slideshow or as printed pieces. However there are times when you’ll still want to just Photoshop your image or parts of your image so this tutorial is about how to jump from Lightroom to Photoshop and then back again. They are tightly integrated so the good news is that it’s really easy.

Setting Preferences

1. Let’s say that you are already in Lightroom and have made the changes that you want and now you want to jump into Photoshop. First set up the editor preferences – you only need to do this once. Choose Lightroom > Preferences (Mac) or Edit > Preferences (Windows) and then click on the External Editing tab.

1 - External Editor Setup in Lightroom
If you have either Photoshop or Photoshop Elements installed on your computer, Lightroom will automatically detect that and set Photoshop as your default external editor (see highlighted red circle above), but you can also specify some options for how the files are sent over to Photoshop.

The top of the dialog box shows options for choosing the file format of photos sent to Photoshop – either TIFF or PSD. Choosing TIFF also lets you pick a compression method (None or ZIP) which means that your image file size won’t be so big (if you pick ZIP).

The options for colour space are ProPhoto RGB, sRGB and Adobe RGB(1998). If you’re using RAW, then ProPhoto RGB is the best option and recommend by Adobe. If your camera is set to shoot JPEG or TIFF, however, you will need to choose one of the other two colour spaces because the camera is embedding one of those profiles in your camera. (Take a look in the camera manual to see which one).

2. Click the red circle in the top left corner of the preference box (Mac) or Click OK (Windows) to close preferences.

Once you’ve set your preferences from now on, you’ll only need to do the following steps to jump into Photoshop from Lightroom.

From Lightroom To Photoshop

3. Choose Photo > Edit in Adobe Photoshop CC (or whichever version of Photoshop you have), or use the keyboard shortcut Command-E (Mac) or Ctrl+E (Windows).

3 - File Open In Lightroom

Your image now opens in Photoshop and you can edit to your hearts content.

From Photoshop Back To Lightroom

5. Now let’s say you’ve made some changes in Photoshop and you want to get back to Lightroom with your newly improved picture. Choose File > Save.

DO NOT choose Save As. If you change the name of the file it won’t pick up the changes in Lightroom and your workflow is broken.

Now click back into Lightroom and you will see your changed file and the original file in your Lightroom Library.

2 - File Saved In Lightroom

And that’s it! Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

I hope you found this Lightroom and Photoshop tutorial useful. I would be really grateful if you would share it. Thank you! 🙂




Jennifer Farley

Jennifer Farley is an illustrator, designer, author and design teacher based in Ireland. She has been teaching design for over 14 years and helps people learn Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom,Illustrator and graphic design skills to improve their job prospects and their business.

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