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Conversion on Photo Editing  


Active Member
Joined: 2 years ago
Posts: 18
May 6, 2019 12:40 EDT PM  

I dabble in photography, so wanted to mention that in show 760 discussion about replacement for Aperture software...

There are two very different kinds of photo editing which are often confused.  It is further complicated because some apps do both, some only do one kind of the other.

It's called different things too - but the key feature is called "non-destructive editing".

Traditionally, pixel-level editing apps like Photoshop modify the original image when making changes.  If you want to preserve the original source photo, you either have to save the edits as a copy, or make sure you make a copy of the original first.

(There is a whole photography discussion thing of whether taking a lossy compression like JPEG, decompressing it, and saving it again, even with any edits, introduces degradation of the image since the compression/decompression/recompression algorithms of different apps may not all be the same capability or using the same quality parameters.)

Traditionally, Photoshop (and it's clones, like Gimp, Pixelmator, and many others) was a bit-level, destructive editor while Lightroom (and it's clones, like Capture One, others was a non-destructive editor.

Many apps now have blended both capabilities.  e.g. Photoshop can do both destructive and non-destructive edits.  

Apple supplied Photos app, I believe, also does both kinds of edits or primarily non-destructive (TBH, I don't use it much so am not sure at this point).

I do know that Gimp does not support non-destructive editing, so that could be an issue.


The easiest way to understand the difference is changing things like the exposure, color balance, and tint is non-destructive. No matter how much you move the sliders to improve (or destroy) your photo, even when you have saved it, you can always re-open the photo and select "revert to original".

What its cool now is that even previously destructive edits - like using AI to remove objects from the background, can often also be non-destructive.

Professional photographers, or anyone that shoots in RAW format, particularly needs a photo editor (or more properly, a photo management system) where non-destructive edits can be applied in bulk using commercial or their own favorite pre-sets.

The analogy here is the "filter packs" for Instagram that many people are familiar with.

Technically, non-destructive editing works by the app keeping a total history of every change made to the photo (and the data needed for it) in a separate proprietary "change list" and the ability to play the changes backward (undo) or forward at any time.

Another way to think of it is whether you are doing corrective edits (just fixing a photo that is too dark or too light or has the wrong color) or whether you want to do fully creative artistic editing or even arbitrary graphic design/collage creations, etc.

Non-destructive apps like Lightroom are geared to high volume corrective edits and album/library management, creative editing apps like Photoshop can do amazing things and you might spend hours on a single photo.

There is a place for both types of apps and many different ones to choose from.

Dave Hamilton
Joined: 22 years ago
Posts: 552
May 7, 2019 5:56 EDT PM  

Thanks @doitforme-solutions. This is a fantastic distinction that @johnfbraun and I completely missed in the discussion. We'll circle back to it in an upcoming episode, for sure. So smart, man. Thank you!

Erik Wessel-Berg
New Member
Joined: 4 years ago
Posts: 1
May 8, 2019 5:01 EDT PM  

Asset Management, which @doitforme-solutions mentions, was also something Scott (in MGG 760) was looking for. I’m also a former Aperture user, and I love(d) it for both editing photos and managing my collection with projects, albums, smart albums, keywords, and other metadata.

Apart from Photos, none of the applications you touched on handle Asset Management. If you want both editing and organizing, you need to look elsewhere. Some ohe most popular are:

All of these are excellent solutions and have free trials. They also handle non-destructive editing. See which one fits you the best.

One thing to be aware of is how they handle your Aperture Library. Both Lightroom and Capture One Pro can import Aperture Libraries – transferring photo edits (with some limitations), projects, albums, star ratings, keywords, and IPTC-metadata. You don't want to loose years of edits.

When Apple announced the end of Aperture, I tried using Lightroom for a year. I just couldn’t get used to the workflow, so I ended up transferring my Aperture Libraries to Capture One Pro where I’ve been for three years now. In my subjective opinion, Capture One Pro has one of the best RAW-converters out there,

The last thing Scott mentioned was syncing to iPad/iPhone. Except for Photos, Lightroom is the only one of the apps which has this integrated via Adobe Cloud.

To sum up, I’d suggest Photos for most people. Throw in some extensions to really make it powerful (Luminar, Pixelmator, Affinity Photo, Acorn and more). If you want even more editing options and controls have a look at Lightroom/Capture One Pro/DxO/Luminar.