What is Non-Destructive Editing? Why is it important?
Most photo editing programs today are destructive, however, a few programs like Adobe Lightroom or Apple Aperture are different. Normaly whatever changes you make are permanent, and if you decide you don't like what you've done then that is too bad. You can get around this by making duplicate copies of your images before editing to ensure that you have the original image. But that takes up tons of disc space on your computer, and if you do want to re-edit you have to start over. This is why non-destructive editors are so amazing. Nothing is permanent. You can always go back and change what you have done. Even big things like cropping are easily changed at any time. It is not even like history in photoshop where you can go to a different time in the editing process. In non-destructive editors you can just go in and change whatever it is that you don't like. For example, if I start by cropping an image and then I go through and make color and tonal enhancements, but then I realize that I don't like the crop. Normally, I would have to go back to the step before cropping and the re-crop, and then I would have to redo the color and tonal edits. However, in a non-destructive editor I can just go in and change my crop without losing my color and tonal editing.
Now this begs the question: How do these editors do this? Well, the don't actually change the image at all. Instead, they make their own notes about what edits you have performed. Then, they store these parameters in a file embedded in the image, or in their own database. This means that the edits won't necessarily be visible outside of the program. But this also means that the original images from your camera are safe. If you want to show your edits outside of the program that you are using, then you simply use the software's export function to apply your changes and create a new and separate file.
In the end, non-destructive editors make editing easier and painless, while keeping you original image safe and your hard drive clear.
- Graceson Aufderheide