Minimizing Derivative Files Exported from Lightroom

Adobe Lightroom Classic

One of the benefits of capturing Raw files and processing them in Lightroom is that I can easily create derivatives of those files as needed. For example, if I need to send some files to a publication as PSD files or if I want to post some of the images to my blog as JPEG files, I can quickly batch export the images from Lightroom. As soon as those files have been received (or posted or whatever), I can then throw away the exported derivatives because I have the original raw files to return to and can therefore quickly export any additional copies of the files at any time. Of course this workflow might not work for everyone, but I find it convenient that  I no longer need to keep track of as many derivative files. One word of caution, however: if you export a number of files and then do additional work (retouch the files in Photoshop, for example) I would keep those retouched files (as well as the original RAW files) – but I would still delete any derivatives created from the retouched files.

And while we’re on the subject, I would strongly encourage photographers to keep their original raw files – because you never know when you might need those high quality originals. Plus, I have found that I have been able to significantly improve the quality of my older images as the technology  improves (which is exactly what happened to me with my window seat images – refining them with Lightroom’s improved processing is enabling me to pull out more detail with less noise than I was able to 10 years ago).

Of course there are photographers who are going to disagree with me, and for their workflow, they may be absolutely correct – they may never need to return to the images that they are making today,  so there might not be a need to keep them. It depends on the type of work that you do.

Adobe Lightroom Classic

Posted on 11-18-2013


  • By Jose - 6:58 AM on November 18, 2013  

    U strongly recommend saving RAW files, which is what I do as well. In a previous video, u discussed converting RAW to DNG and the benefits of doing that. Do u convert all ur RAW files and keep both RAW and DNG files in ur LR catalog or just keep DNG?

  • By Paul Collingridge - 10:41 AM on November 18, 2013  

    Thanks Julieanne – you have summed up my workflow, then I realise that I learned LR from your videos that you made for LR3 at its launch…. they were superb. Interestingly, on Jose’s point, I always convert my RAW files to DNG on import, but until I last checked the “save backup to” option in the Import dialog would save the RAW file to the backup (I’ve not looked at my LR5 backups to see if these are now DNG as well). I think the most confusing part of the derivative debate is why anyone would want to use the “import back into lightroom” option within the export dialog. Your workflow is simple, organised and easy for others to comprehend. THANK YOU for all your great training, tips and warnings.

  • By Christine - 10:49 AM on November 18, 2013  

    I was using LR for about a year before I watched a video that mentioned deleting the exported jpgs when you’re done with them, since you have the raw file and can easily re-export. Since I quit exporting my jpgs except to give to people and started deleting those files, I’ve saved myself a lot of time and space on my computer.

    I don’t even export for my blog or emailing anymore since LR 4 implemented the “e-mail” function and the flickr/zenfolio/facebook plugins make it easy to upload to my favorite sharing site.

    In fact, I recently went through my computer and deleted any exported images I had that were basically duplicates of the raw file.

  • By Victor Carmelo Sciberras - 3:56 PM on November 18, 2013  

    I was just about to ask same question as Jose as I always convert to DNG during import to LR. One question, When I copy to another drive during import the copies are still RAW and not converted to DNG, is there a way to change these copies to DNG during import?

    Thanks and regards, Vic

  • By Eric - 5:32 AM on November 19, 2013  

    About derivatives, it could be nice if we could export 2 or more derivatives of the same file in one export : for instance from one raw, a file for my website in 50ù quality and 600px width and in the same time a copy for printing in 100% quality and width.

    • By Eric - 5:33 AM on November 19, 2013  

      50% and not 50ù, of course !

    • By Julieanne Kost - 9:39 AM on November 19, 2013  

      Yes, that is a strong request. Currently you can set one batch to process and then start another (without waiting for the first batch to finish), but you’re right, it would be nice to be able to set them both up as one command.

  • By Michael Dziak - 9:33 AM on November 19, 2013  

    I shot images of a surgeon friend performing open heart surgery 6 years ago. Even though I had used balanced fill flash they weren’t useable because of the extreme lighting ratios used in surgery suites. I kept them, and when LR 4 came out I re-explored the raw files in the new raw convertor. To my amassment I was able to pull out the washed out detail in the highlights now.
    So I recommend that every so often you re-explore older favorite files with the latest software.
    Ansel Adams did something similar by re-printing his favorite pictures years latter with giving them a new look with different papers and techniques, and a fresh new vision.

  • By Simon Pole - 3:11 PM on November 19, 2013  

    I am fairly new to LR since V5.2, though I did use v 1 and 2 on the path from Raw Shooter which ended us as the base for LR, but was not keen on it, so decided to stick with the PS/Bridge setup, which seemed logical, everything in more less one place, however Adobe added LR to the Single app CC as the photographers deal, so it was a gift and silly not to give it another shot. LR has come a long way since v2 🙂

    One of several things made me think more about using LR, your video on Bridge Vs LR and that searching a fairly significant image collection, a little tricky with Bridge and a lot easier with LR once you have got to grips with it. But I digress. Many of your videos have been very helpful.

    This is a very interesting post and having watched a lot of your videos, my workflow ethos is very similar to yours, almost identical in many respects, being that I do this for fun and not a job, it is interesting to know that even though I have arrived at my workflow by, for want of a better term, trial and error, tweaking and evolving it along the way and arriving at more or less the same workflow as someone so knowledgeable, is encouraging.
    Oops it was supposed to be a short post, but turned into a bit of an animal!

  • By Katarina Schläger - 12:53 AM on November 21, 2013  

    Hi Julieanne!
    Lightroom is new to me, and I have a question. Is there a possibility to work with text layers? Can´t find it anywhere. By the way, I really got a lot of help from your videos. Thank you!

    • By Julieanne Kost - 8:13 AM on November 21, 2013  

      There are several text options in the various Output Modules (including watermarks and Identity plates), but you can’t add text over an image and change blend modes and opacity or add type on a path or clip a photo to type in Lightroom’s Develop module like you can in Photoshop.

  • By Tamas Jutasi - 6:08 AM on November 25, 2013  

    This was the main benefit when I start using Lightroom, I can keep my original RAW files safe and searchable in many ways, and export/use/drop postprocessed files while I have the option to recreate and improove them any time, without that chaos what was before.
    One little question: exporter create exported files with the current date/time in the file-date. Is there an option to use the original shooting date/time for exported files ? It would be great to help sorting this files by date in a web gallery for example.

    • By Julieanne Kost - 9:37 AM on November 25, 2013  

      Because you are creating new files when you export, the new file will have the date exported as the file’s capture time. If, when exporting, you choose to retain all of the metadata in the file, when you view the image info using the Metadata panel in the LIbrary module in LR, you will still be able to see that the capture time and capture dates are different (the original Capture date is retained) and LR will sort by this capture date.