Adobe just made it dramatically easier to use Lightroom to manage large files created with exposure blending, Smart Objects, images enlarged for print, and anything that creates a file larger than the 4GB limit for TIF files.
Until now, if you wanted to use PSB files you’ve had to use workarounds to be able to view large documents in Lighroom (such as the “convert layers to linked PSB” utility built into Lumenzia) or something like Adobe Bridge to view PSB files. That’s no longer the case, as Lightroom v9.2 now has native support for the PSB file format.
The default settings in Photoshop take care of everything. That means:
- PS Preferences / File Handling /Disable Compression of PSD and PSB Files should be unchecked.
- Unlike TIF files (where you can choose compression settings during “save as”), compression for PSB files is either turned off or on via this general Photoshop preference and used for all “save as” operations with PSB files. Lightroom will support PSB files either way, but using compression typically saves about 50%.
- However, if you want Photoshop to save files as fast as possible and don’t care about larger files, disabling is a good option for you. The speed benefit is substantial, with compressed files taking roughly 17X longer to save on my 2018 Macbook Pro’s internal SSD. that means the difference between 12.9. I can save a 2.3GB uncompressed file in 4 seconds, while the 1.3GB compressed version takes 63 seconds.
- If you wish to switch from compressed to uncompressed or vice versa, you must use “save as” after changing the Photoshop preference. Anytime you use the simple “save” option, the image will be resaved with the same compression settings that were in the file when it was opened.
- PS Preferences / File Handling / Maximize PSD and PSB File Compatibility should be set to “always“.
- PS always saves with the same compatibility settings used when the image was originally saved. So if you have a file that was saved without the compatability layer, just make sure this preference is set properly and do a full “save as” to update the file. If your image does not have
PSD vs TIF vs PSB – Which should you use?
All three of these formats are capable of saving your working files with layers, masks, BlendIf, notes, etc. The only important differences are in the maximum size of the image you can save and some limits on creating PSB files noted below.
The PSD format (aka “Photoshop” when using the save as dialog) has no benefits for photographers. It has a 2GB limit, while TIF can be used for files as large as 4GB. The choice here is clear, TIF is always a better choice than PSD.
When it comes to TIF vs the PSB format (aka “Large Document Format” when using the save as dialog), things are a bit more complicated. PSB is clearly a better format, as it can save anything a TIF can, but allows you to save files of effectively unlimited size. If you use Photoshop and Adobe Bridge, PSB is clearly a better choice than TIF. If you use Photoshop and Lightroom, PSB is still a much better format, but due to the limitations below, you may prefer to use PSB only when your files run into the 4GB file size limit. If/when Lightroom allows you to use the “Edit In” and “Export” commands to create new PSB files, exclusive use of the PSB format would be the way to go. For now, TIF offers a simpler workflow and remains perfectly fine for files up to 4GB in size. However, PSB allows you to save files which are dramatically larger. So, PSB is clearly preferable to TIF for large files, but it may not always be worth the effort to create PSB files with the current design of Lightroom.
How to create PSB images from RAW files in Lightroom v9.2
While LR can now be used to view PSB files, it still cannot create them automatically. That means that you cannot use choose PSB for either “Edit In” nor “Export”. Similarly, if you choose to “edit a copy using LR adjustments” on a PSB image, the new image created for Photoshop will be a TIF/PSD (whatever your default is for “edit in”). As a result, you’ll need to send your image from LR to PS the same way you always have, and then you’ll need to use “save as” from Photoshop to create the desired PSB file.
The workflow to create PSB files from your RAW images via Lightroom is pretty simple:
- In Lightroom, right-click your RAW image and choose “Edit In / Edit in Adobe Photoshop 2020” or “Edit In / . This will open the image directly in Photoshop (if you see options to edit original, copy, etc then you are not opening a RAW file). ***
- In Photoshop, click “File / Save As / Large Document Format” and save it into the same folder as the original. As the original folder is the default, the default format should show as “Large Document Format”, and all the options should be correct (ie embed color profile is checked), you should be able to simply click <enter>. To make things even easier, you can use the shortcut <shift><cmd/ctrl>-S to open the “Save as” dialog.
So in summary, instead of clicking <cmd/ctrl>-S to save, simply use <shift><cmd/ctrl>-S followed by <enter> to use the “Save As” dialog to automatically save the new document as a PSB. This is easy and creates no unwanted TIF/PSD files.
While it would be great if LR could export PSB right now, the ability to view and manage then is what’s most critical and this is a very welcome update to LR. It avoids the need for using Bridge or stuffing PSBs as linked Smart Objects in TIF files. Hopefully we’ll have it all in the future.
If you’d like to convert existing TIF/PSD images, please see the workflows listed further below.
*** If you see a popup saying that “This version of Lightroom may require the Camera Raw plug-in version 12.2…”, you may choose the “Open Anyway” option and upgrade your version of Camera RAW as soon as possible (via the CC installer or standalone installation). Do not use the “render using Lightroom” option, or this will immediately create an unwanted TIF/PSD file, even if you do not save the file at all in Photoshop.
Limitations of PSB (and TIF/PSD) files in Lightroom v9.2
There are a few more minor limitations you should know. I say minor because very few people will be affected by these. However, while LR now supports any file size for PSB, it does not support the same full 300,000 pixel dimensions that Photoshop does. So files that surpass any of the following limits will create an error when you try to sync or import them (nothing is wrong with the image, you just won’t be able to view it in LR once it exceeds these limits):
- 65,000 pixels on the longest side (linear dimension).
- That sounds like enough for a massive 18 foot wide print at 300dpi. But as you’ll see under the next limit, that would only work if you print it a little over 2 feet tall… So this probably isn’t the limit you need to worry about.
- This is nothing new, the same limits always applied to TIF files in Lightroom.
- For comparison, Photoshop can save PSB files as large as 300,000 pixels wide/tall.
- 512 megapixels (total pixels).
- For example, this would allow you to make a 63×94″ (a little over 5 x 7.5 feet) print at 300dpi. That is less than 30,000 pixels on the long side and should give you a good idea that this total pixel limit is more likely something you’ll run into than the longest-side limit.
- This is based on the pixel dimensions of the overall image. The details of of the layers do not matter.
- Considering you’d almost certainly view such a print from much further away, there are enough pixels here for a larger print if you don’t increase the dpi to 300 (which is fine for many large prints, especially if you’re going to have a pro lab resize and print for you). Certainly some people are still going to run into this limit, but it won’t be an issue for most photographers.
- This is nothing new, the same limits always applied to TIF files in Lightroom (even though a single layer TIF file with larger dimensions can be saved within the 4GB file size limit for TIFs). It’s just a limit of the underlying image processing (regardless of file forma). I would assume increasing those limits is probably a very big task for Adobe.
- Cannot use cloud sync. Given the massive size of these images, that wouldn’t be a great workflow for most people. Maybe in a few years when the typical internet connection is much faster.
If you run into these limits, it seems that the error message either says “the file is too big” (during import) or “there was an error working with the photo” (during sync), so it is important to know these limits to understand what happened if you run into them after updating images in Photoshop.
While it would be nice if Lightroom would support such massive files, it has never supported such large pixel dimensions with TIF or PSD files either. In fact, these are limits in the underlying engine and have always applied to ACR in Photoshop as well. You cannot use an image with >536.9 million pixels with the Adobe Camera RAW filter. If you create an image 53,687 x 10,000 pixels wide, you can edit it with ACR. But increase that width by one more pixel and you’ll see the following error when you go to Filter / Camera RAW Filter:
If you’re one of the rare people making such massive images for panoramas, gargantuan prints, etc; the solution remains to use Adobe Bridge or another viewer.
If you want to use Adobe Bridge, you’ll need to do a couple of things:
- Go to Preferences / Thumbnails and change “do not process files larger than” from the default 1000MB (that’s 1GB) to something much larger. Probably 100,000MB is a good choice if you are working with files too large for Lightroom.
- You may then need to right-click the image and choose “generate high quality thumbnail” (which is an option only shown when available, right under the “batch rename” option).
- Be patient, it takes a while for these large thumbnails to render and it isn’t always clear that Bridge is processing in the background.
Adobe Bridge will let you browse images with larger dimensions, but you still won’t be able to use ACR on files with that many pixels. There is no other workaround to open images with larger pixel dimensions in either Lightroom or ACR in any file format. But you can save files of any size within those pixel limits when using PSB (well, technically 4 “exabytes” is the limit of a PSB file, but it’s probably safe to assume you won’t own a hard drive with 4 million terabytes of free space anytime soon).
How to convert existing images to PSB
The simplest solution for converting TIF/PSD files is:
- In Lightroom, right-click “Edit In / Edit in Adobe Photoshop 2020 / Edit Original”. Do not use the option to edit a copy, as this will make another TIF or PSD that you’ll need to delete later.
- In Photoshop, click “File / Save As / Large Document Format” and save it into the same folder as the original. If prompted, choose “maximize compatibility” (this is required to see PSB images with Lightroom).
- Close the image in Photoshop.
- In Lightroom, right-click the folder where you just saved the image and choose “Synchronize folder”
- In Lightroom, you may now optionally delete the original TIF/PSD since you now have the same image as a PSB file.
If you have been using Lumenzia’s “convert layers to linked PSB” utility and wish to merge the files into a single document:
- Open the image
- Click again on that same Lumenzia menu option to “convert layers to linked PSB” or click “SmartObj” in the Basics panel. Choose the option to “extract” the Smart Object contents back into the parent document. Once you do that, you may now save the parent document as a PSB using the steps above.
- Alternatively with the newest version of Photoshop CC, you may also right-click the Smart Object and choose “convert to layers”. However, note that the native utility in Photoshop will not re-import any paths and channels inside the Smart Object (but the Lumenzia options will re-import any paths/channels).
- Once you have finished converting to a new single PSB, you may delete the original TIF/PSB pair. Be sure to close and re-open your new PSB to confirm you imported everything properly before deleting the originals.