Return to Digital Photography Articles

Editing Digital Photos - Copying

When to create a copy of original photo for editing?

I nearly always create an edited version (ie. copy of the original image) for any edits that I make to the photo. However, there are a few potential exceptions:

No duplicate of original is necessary:

  • Dust spotting - Whether it is removing dust from a scanned photo or removing sensor dust from a digital photo, I can confidently remove these artifacts without having to create a seperate file.
  • Crop & Straighten - for scanned images
  • EXIF / IPTC modification - (eg. changing shoot date if the camera's date were wrong, adding IPTC captions). Note the one possible problem here is that some EXIF modifications can damage the extended EXIF maker notes.
  • Assigning a color profile

NOTE: The first two items in the list will cause the image content to be resaved. This will introduce some slight image degradation (read my introduction to JPEG compression and effects of resaving JPEG images articles. Many photographers (myself included) don't want to introduce this potential "loss" into our originals and therefore choose to create an edited version instead.

Reasons to create an edited version:

  • RAW image - If the original image is RAW, I create a seperate version for any edits. This is because most editors will not let you resave any changes in the original RAW format again.
  • Cropping for composition (composition-wise, other than crop & straighten for orientation)
  • Color balance (includes auto-levels, contrast, brightness, etc.)
  • Sharpening (unsharp mask / USM)
  • Converting to a color profile
  • Retouches with the clone stamp / healing brush
  • Everything else


Reader's Comments:

Please leave your comments or suggestions below!


Leave a comment or suggestion for this page:

(Never Shown - Optional)