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For many years I have had the same workflow for saving my photo edits in PS.

1) Open raw file, perform all edits, save as IMG-xxxx.PSD for archival.
2) Rotate a fraction of a degree to level, crop to something pretty for web sharing, save as IMG-xxxx-crop.PSD for archival.
3) I also archive the raw file obviously, but I very rarely reference it in the future unless I decide I want to edit differently for a new render/print.

I save the uncropped version for obvious reasons (in case I ever want to crop differently). I save the cropped version because sometimes cropping is a hard choice, and I want to remember that choice. But the problem is that I'm saving most of the image data in two PSD's, which is pretty wasteful of space. If there was any way to save the crop parameters as a pointer/reference to the uncropped PSD, that would be ideal... the cropped file really shouldn't need to take up space as long as the uncropped file exists too.

I'm doubtful that something exists which can help me, but I figured I'd ask anyway. Any ideas?

  • You might want to consider using Adobe Lightroom Classic for your work flow. You can process and make such changes to RAW files without actually having to create a separate file at all. The edits in Lightroom are non-destructive. When you need an actual file output for the web or print, it's as simple as exporting it in the required format. – Billy Kerr Jan 5 at 14:17
  • @BillyKerr thanks, I'll give it a look soon. It sounds like LR saves edit instructions which take up almost no size. That it precisely what I'd love to have for PS (which as I understand it is still far more powerful and versatile than LR). No idea why they can't add that sort of save method to PS as well. But for simple edits it would still be nice to have the LR option for better space savings I guess. – The111 Jan 6 at 9:26
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Uncheck "Delete Cropped pixels" when cropping.

Then you only need one file, one layer [plus any adjustment layers, of course].
Note: you can perform cropping & straightening in one go with the crop tool.
When you reopen the file, it will be cropped initially. Any time you select the crop tool you can un-crop or re-crop/straighten at will.

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  • Thanks, that is a nice option. Not perfect, but I don't think anything will be for me. I don't like that you rotate the crop mask rather than the image itself... I can't really "think" about how to perform a crop when the whole thing is tilted. – The111 Jan 6 at 9:27
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Found one solution myself, but I'm open to better ones.

1) Save uncropped edit as IMG-xxxx.PSD.
2) Create IMG-xxxx-crop.PSD as a blank file with same dims as source image. Add IMG-xxxx.PSD as a linked image. Perform rotations and crops. Save.

At this point, the file space savings I want haven't been created yet. But with a really weird hack it seems possible to make it work.

3) Reopen both images. In IMG-xxxx.PSD, create an extra layer on top of the background. Color completely with any solid color. Save both images. Suddenly the file size of the cropped image drops to only a few MB. I figured this out via the trick posted here but I am completely stumped as to why that works. It's pretty dumb, if I "hide" the solid color layer and then resave both files, my total storage space requirements literally quadruple (the uncropped file doubles in size, and the cropped file goes from a few MB to the same size as the source... 2+2=4).

The only downside is that when I reopen in the future to play with, I have to copy them into a temp dir where I can hide the solid color layer, resave both files, and then see all the content in each file. It seriously makes no sense that simply toggling the visibility of a single solid color layer can so drastically change the storage requirements.

EDIT: As an example, download this zip file (~1MB). In it are two PSD files totalling ~2MB. Put them in a folder, open them both, and you'll see two white images. In the first file, change the visibility of the white layer to hidden, then resave both files (you'll now see my actual photo, and it will be clear that it's slightly rotated/cropped in the "-cropped" version). Notice that now they total ~7MB instead of 2MB. This is pure insanity. Why?

The especially interesting thing here is that after saving/closing the cropped (linked) version, you can then completely trash the white layer on top of the uncropped (source) version before archiving, which reduces size slightly and also makes it less likely there will ever be any backwards compatibility issues with the source image due to the multiple layers, and the data you care about being buried beneath a bogus layer. This just means whenever you open the linked image in the future, it will need immediate "updating" before it is usable.

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