Laura Macky Photography

Journey of a body on this earth

To Flatten or Not to Flatten (2 images)


One of the things I’m a proponent of is not to flatten my photoshop files.  Those of you who watched my latest video might remember me talking about that.  I literally cringe when I watch youtube tutorials and they say “ok, now flatten the image”.  That’s like saying…okay, I’m going to throw all that work away now and never go back.

I might be working on an image and then stop for whatever reason…maybe a phone call comes or I go out to dinner and then I come back to it and say “what was I thinking?” and need to revise it.  If the changes I want to make go back farther than my history panel allows, then I won’t be able to make the changes unless my file is created with layers.  Also, if I’ve saved the file and come back, there won’t be any history. Photoshop only remembers history for a file that is opened.

Here’s a redo of a hummingbird photo I took last year.  I made a painterly version out of it and it was so easy because my original hummingbird photo (shown at the end) was saved with all its layers in tact.

Rufous Painting

Rufous Painting

Should you wish to purchase this image, please click here.

Rufous Hummingbird



Author: lauramacky

Journey of a Body on this Earth

53 thoughts on “To Flatten or Not to Flatten (2 images)

  1. Man are you good!!! I have NO idea what it means to flatten your work, so I guess I don’t do it. Your hummer the way you expressed her is breathtaking. Your skills just keep on getting better and better. ❤

  2. I was in a hurry and quickly going through my reader. This stopped me immediately. You might have made me a Photoshop convert here.

  3. Very nice photo, Laura. 🙂 The effect is positively ethereal! I’m glad you have a system for preserving your work. For me, I save multiple copies for comparison later.

  4. i always save the Photoshop file on detailed projects…. 95% of them just sit on my external hard drive, but really happy when i can find the work again if i need it!

    • Isn’t that great when you find it again and see that you can revise it and don’t have to remember what you did? I sometimes open old files for that reason…to find out what I did. Thank you for the comment eebrinker. 🙂

  5. some projects i work on for years, so save in compatibility mode. think I’m going to go back to Photoshop elements, though… more handy interface and the pro version just seems to waste a lot of time.

  6. Excellent point, Laura. I’m in complete agreement. There may be reasons to flatten the layers of an image but that should be a separate copy. Generally, my view is that one should, at a minimum, keep the original RAW file and the processed Master file (all layers intact) and in the original image size.

    • I’m happy to know I’m not the only one who is anal about being nondestructive. I do agree too that sometimes I combine layers in an image for one reason or another and then I make a group so I can turn that on and off. Great info here about keeping the original RAW and PSD in the original size. Oy, do I know that one! Thank you for your insightful comment. 🙂

  7. I adore these little birds, they are everywhere in Las Vegas. It’s much cooler now and you still hear that distinctive chirp they make. Fabulous photo, they are so difficult to get a solid photo of.

    • Oh me toooo John. The Rufous have gone south to you for the winter. We still have Anna’s Hummingbirds though. I love the sound of the Rufous wing flapping too…it’s different than the Anna’s sound. Thanks about the photo. Enjoy the little chirps!!

  8. I never, ever discard my layers by flattening! I save a copy in jpg form but can always go back. to the psd.

  9. Beautiful photo. I save my layered files as a tiff and flattened image as a hi-rez and low-rez jpeg

    • Thank you Michael. Seems like a lot of people have good workflow practices. I appreciate your comment! I use tiff too in some instances like an intermediary step if I’m creating an HDR. I save the HDR in tiff and then upload into PS.

  10. WOW Laura, this beauty looks amazing 😀

  11. Soft edges in the final product are perfect!

  12. Really wonderful rufous hummingbird in both versions, Laura. 🙂

  13. I love the second image that you created out of the hummingbird! The painterly effect really makes the photo something different than the standard up close bird photo. It looks to be flying out of a fog or a mist. Very beautiful, although I think for the time being I am going to stick with Lightshop. Someday, I hope to be able to produce an image like that 🙂

    • Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I really appreciate the vote of confidence for the painting effect. I really do love making these kinds of things and hope to get better at it.

  14. lightroom saves everything.

  15. Never “flatten” under any circumstances. Top Shot.

  16. It’s been way too long since I last visited WordPress. I have enjoyed viewing what you have done since the last time I viewed your blog. I have to say you are most definitely growing as a photographer and getting much better. It’s amazing to see how much better your work is. I am a bit envious that I have not had the time this past half year to grow myself but I’m hoping that changes next year. I look foward to viewing more of your work and although I don’t have time to post right now I will make more of an effort to view your blog more often as you are an inspiration for sure. Keep up the good work Laura!

    • Aw Justin, thank you! First, it’s so nice to hear from you. I’ve been watching your family photos on FB…your kids are getting huge! Baby Liam isn’t a baby anymore. 🙂 You’ll get back to it…right now I have a lot of time to devote to it. And thank you again for noticing my improvements. I work on it a lot and glad it shows. 🙂

  17. I keep my unflattened PSD files and then save as a flattened TIFF – the Tiff images are used to print from, the PSD files are there just incase I need a rework.

  18. Sometimes I need to group layers and flatten them for a specific effect but I do that to copies of the layers. I never flatten my layers completely. I don’t care how big it makes the file.

  19. Both glorious images, but the painterly one is my fave. I’m glad you didn’t flatten!

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