Photoshop : Destructive VS Non destructive editing

We’ve all heard of it, destructive and non- destructive. What it means exactly still confuses some people, so lets get to the bottom of it.

Destructive Editing.

When someone hears destructive editing they get scared and wonder why would I want to “destroy” my photo? But the term destructive editing doesn’t mean you are destroying your image. It simply means that whatever changes you make to the photo, like contrast or brightness and etc, saves permanently to the original file. Once you save that file there’s no undoing to go back. Photoshop is a destructive editing software, but you can do some non-destructive editing on there with some of Photoshop’s tools.

Non-Destructive Editing.

With non destructive editing you are essentially making your edits to a copy of the original photo. With a non-destructive work flow you can easily make multiple edits of the same image if you are indecisive on what you want the end product to look like. If you are absolutely sure of what you want you can go ahead and have a destructive workflow, or you can keep it safe and go the non destructive route.

So if Photoshop is a destructive editing software, how can you make non destructive edits? Simple. There are actually multiple different ways to achieve this, so whichever sticks out to you is fine.

Adjustments layers: Applies adjustments to an image without permanently changing pixel values on a separate layer.

Transforming the image to a Smart object enables non destructive scaling, rotating and warping techniques.

Smart filters applied to smart objects make your filters non destructive.

Retouching on a separate layer rather than your original to use the Clone stamp, healing brush and spot healing tools.

Masking lets you mask out the effects without losing pixel information, which you can always go back into your mask and change it.

I took a photo of my sister’s guitar and thought ” I wonder what this will look like in black and white?” So I took it into Photoshop and began. Now there are many ways to edit a photo, and like we just talked about there is a destructive and non destructive way to make this edit. In the first picture you see I made a non destructive edit by adding an adjustment layer to my photo to turn it into black and white. I can save this image as a Photoshop file and later decide that I want to delete that and bring back its original color. In the photo right below I made a destructive edit. Once that file is saved there’s no going back, it’s black and white forever.


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