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


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! 🙂





  1. Debby says:

    I have been able to do all of the above – no problem; I shoot in raw; now I have set up a 2nd catalog – with all of the same settings as far as I can tell (preferences and catalog settings )… and when I leave Photoshop – Cmd S,
    it does save the new version to my harddrive but it does not show up in Lightroom. I have checked filters, stacks, etc. and none of those appear to be the problem.

    Would you have any ideas ? Your tutorial was so clear and concise – I thought you might have a tip or idea where a setting might be wrong, etc.

  2. Yu Ting says:

    Hey, i’m having a problem. I’m using Lightroom 1.4 but it doesn’t seem to detect the photoshop cs3 i’m using.. any way to fix it?

  3. Pointer Men's Basketball says:

    You you should make changes to the post title How to jump from Lightroom to Photoshop (and back) | Jennifer Farley : Laughing Lion Design Ireland to more generic for your subject you create. I loved the blog post all the same.

  4. Maikop says:

    I’m working with Photoshop CS5 and Lightroom 3. With the older versions I could save my photoshop file and it would transfer to lightroom no problem. Now with the newer versions, I save and it creates a huge separate TIFF file in Lightroom. I DON’T want TIFF files! The only solution I’ve found is to save as a different name, then go find it and re-import it. I really don’t like this. Any solutions?

  5. Rick Herbert says:

    Hi: Note #3 states:

    3. Choose Photo > Edit in Adobe Photoshop CS3 (or CS2 or CS4, if you have that), or use the keyboard shortcut Command-E (PC: Ctrl-E)….I think you meant to say Photo>Edit in Lightroom, not Photoshop. Some might be confused. Anyway, thanks for the tips…really helped!

  6. Deepak says:

    Hi, I’ve cut a photo in photoshop and edited it in adobe lightroom. But after exporting a white background is coming around the photo. What to do. I appreciate ur guidance. Thanku

  7. Karli says:

    I hope you don’t mind a quick question. I’m so frustrated! I just got LR3 and I’m only familiar with CS4… LR is all new to me. (Reading your site and trying to get as much info as I can – thank you so much!) 🙂

    I figured out how to roundtrip from LR to CS4, but when I try to “edit in CS4 with Lightroom adjustments”… it won’t give me the option to save as a jpeg. Jpeg isn’t even offered as a choice in the dropdown menu. If I choose “edit original” or “edit copy” it works fine. I have no idea what to try…can you help? Thank you so much! 🙂

  8. anjeanette says:

    After running a few color changes in lightroom (or even using presets) I import the photos into photoshop- and I notice that all of them have a weird, choppy, filtereized look- as if I had posterized them almost. hard to explain, but long story short it looks like the quality is lower. I import RAW photos from my canon into lightroom, I make color changes or use a preset, I export>TIFF, compression none, 16 bits, either prophotorgb or adobe rgb, 300 ppi>post process photoshop
    the photos look like I did a screen grab from facebook and blew it up, when they looked high quality in lightroom
    help! what am i doing wrong and how can i fix it?
    thank you for any assistance! i ran thru this tutorial and had the same issue

  9. June says:

    I just upgraded to LR5 and I think I changed a setting unknowingly. Now when I choose CMD/E to edit a raw file in Photoshop, I no longer get dialog that gives me option to edit with LR changes. Instead, the raw file as it was imported is opened in Photoshop. How can I get the dialog box back for raw images?

  10. Jordynn says:

    Do you know if, after you have gone back into lightroom, if changing the photo once again (say to black and white) will decrease the image quality?

  11. sofia says:

    Hi. Thanks, very useful! But can we do this with multiple pictures? I work doing timelapse photography and I want to import more than one picture to photoshop and edit them.

  12. Jessica says:

    This Is what I am trying to do but it is not saving for me! It saves in PS but does not show up in LR. I am totally lost!

  13. Anthony Green says:

    After setting all the preferences under external editing in Lightroom CC and under the photo tab I am unable to select edit in photoshop cc

  14. Keith Wilson says:

    Thanks for the clear explanation of the process. Some videos on the relationship between the two Adobe applications seem to show that when Close is selected within Photoshop the application closes and the Lightroom workspace reappears. However, in my experience, I have to manually switch to Lightroom, using the Lr icon on the (PC) taskbar. Your tutorial seems to suggest that this so, but I wanted to check.

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