Jumping from Lightroom to Photoshop: Which is better – TIFF or PSD?

This is a question I get asked a lot at my seminars, so I thought I’d tackle it here today.

Where to make this choice

In Lightroom’s Preferences; just click the External Editing tab and you’ll see a pop-up File Format menu near the top right.

So, which do you choose? TIFF or PSD?

For me, this is an easy choice: Both TIFF files and PSD files (Photoshop’s native file format) are “Lossless” — so whichever you choose there is no loss of quality due to file compression (like you’d get with JPEG files), so the quality factor is the same.

However, TIFFs are MUCH larger in file size than PSD files, without giving Photographers any advantage whatsoever. In fact, the only reason I would ever use a TIFF file is if I am sharing my image with a graphic designer who is using a graphics program that doesn’t accept PSD files. This means that they’re not using any Adobe product since all Adobe apps accept PSD files, so they are using some weird, probably outdated application because nearly all graphics programs accept PSDs. In short, it would be really rare to find a designer these days who can’t take PSDs. If I ran into that rare instance, I’d just open the image in Photoshop and save it as a TIFF file. Boom, done.

So, for me, this is an easy choice. I would choose (and recommend) sending your images over to Photoshop as PSDs. You get much, much smaller file sizes with no real downside. 🙂

Hope you found that helpful.


P.S. There are just a few spots left in both my Paris and China travel photography hands-on workshops, but once they’re gone — they’re gone. All the info’s over on my blog today (here’s the link)



  1. Jeff B 7 January, 2020 at 13:50 Reply

    After “Edit in Photoshop” from LR, my 20MB NEF files were bloated 5x to 122MB as TIFF files. The edits were not extensive…but required since some fixes couldn’t be handled in LR. I tried your approach of changing the LR option from TIFF to PSD. But after a test with just a few random mouse click edits in PS, I find that the saved PSD file is also 122MB. Any other ideas why or work-arounds?? Thanks!

  2. Matt 8 December, 2019 at 17:28 Reply

    Does working on a tiff/psd file impose limits* on what can be done in post to an image in LR or the quality of the output? Is the benefit to working with raw files in LR primarily workflow, or is there a benefit in terms of image quality, too?

    If I apply a plug-in, from Nik (or anyone else) then create a 16bit tiff/psd with the output from that plug-in and send it to Lightroom (LR) and then proceed to do more edits in LR, will that impact or limit what I can do while editing the image?

    *In terms of post processing flexibility, range of adjustments, quality of results, etc., when changing things like color temp, exposure, curves, highlights and shadows, lens corrections, etc. are the results going to be the same (or at least comparable) when working on a tiff or psd file as when working with an “original” RAW file?

    • Rob Sylvan 9 December, 2019 at 09:35 Reply

      1. No difference in image quality between TIF and PSD. Raw is the optimal original format to shoot in and edit in Lightroom, but if you need to use another editor to do the job, then both TIF and PSD are up to the job, but do all of your raw edits first.
      2. Once you render into TIF/PSD you can’t do all of the same edits you can do with raw, but otherwise there’s no difference between TIF and PSD.
      3. No, because you are comparing apples and oranges (TIF/PSD vs raw), and that is not a fair comparison.

  3. David Rizzico 12 March, 2019 at 01:20 Reply

    Thanks for the tip Scott, just curious about the other settings in that panel, are there settings better then the default, like sRGB vs all the other possible settings?

  4. marc labro 12 March, 2019 at 01:04 Reply

    For your information, i have installed fast picture viewer codec pack to see psd thumbnails in explorer

    not free but interesting software for viewing images

  5. Countervail 11 March, 2019 at 08:56 Reply

    One benefit for me is that at least Amazon Drive allows unlimited image backup. And to them, TIFF is an image format and PSD is not. TIFFs can also be compressed and ZIP can help with file size.

    • Tracey Smith 11 March, 2019 at 12:50 Reply

      Amazon Drive has been so slooowww to upload… I have to upload overnight just for 100 images whether jpg backup and worse tiff files. Do you find Amazon Drive to be slow? What am I missing. I want to use it but I end up using Google Photos instead.

      • Colin Hayden 26 March, 2019 at 19:21 Reply

        I found the photo backup to be suuuper slow when using the website to upload. When I installed the Amazon Photos app onto my Mac things went much faster. It was able to upload multiple files at once to maximize bandwidth.

  6. Steve Kalman 11 March, 2019 at 05:30 Reply

    There’s a warning dialogue in LR saying that it is important to set “Maximize Compatibility” on in PS. It’s in Preferences -> File Handling.

    No big deal, but do you have any idea why this is not a problem already automatically resolved by Adobe?

    • Rob Sylvan 11 March, 2019 at 08:08 Reply

      I suppose because it would require Lightroom to have the ability to correctly render layered PSD files (meaning it would have to do what Photoshop already does, and keep updated with all new Photoshop features) to create its own composite layer. While I am sure it would be technically possible for Adobe to do this, I imagine it would require significant resources for very small gain (when people can simply check a box instead). Just my best guess.

      • Tiny 11 March, 2019 at 08:50 Reply

        It is technically called “Photoshop Lightroom” though in reality the only similarity is in the camera RAW plugin.

          • Belton Zeigler 11 March, 2019 at 14:34

            My native Windowsfolder shows a thumbnail of tiff files but only a standard icon for PSD. It makes it very hard to use PSD. Am I missing something?

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