For those of you who have been editing your photos for some time now should be aware of these terms. However, they are often unknown or confusing to people who are new. So what is destructive and non destructive editing? Let’s see if I can explain it in this mini tutorial.
Destructive – as you work on your photos you do things in a way that makes it impossible to go back and change anything. If you make a mistake, then you have to start again.
Non Destructive – everything you do on your images can be undone. Nothing is permanent, so if you do make a mistake you can go back and change it.
It is very easy in Photoshop to work in a destructive way. If you avoid using layers, or continue to flatten your images you start to make it so you can’t undo a previous mistake or process. There are those that think this is fine, and I see people others this way, but it should be avoided.
All the processing is done in the one layer. While you can go back into your history to undo things, there is only so far you can go back. If you save the image with the idea of working on it again later, you will have lost all the history. While you continue the work and if you find you missed something in the earlier session it may be impossible to change it. The only option could be starting over again.
Working Non Destructively
There is a way to work so that you can protect or change anything you have done, which is to do your images in a non destructive way. In Photoshop this means working in layers and every adjustment you do is done in a different layer.
While not much editing has been done to the image you can see what was done by looking at the layers. You can turn them on and off to see if they work. If you realise you have forgotten to do something you can go back to it the later and fix the problem.
This program by Adobe is by nature a non destructive editing platform. Everything that is done in it can be undone. It is a great program in this respect.
There you have it, a quick description for what these terms mean. If you have other terms you would like explained, let me know and I will do my best to give you an explanation.