Update: Lightroom now accepts .psb files which means that the following steps aren’t necessary in order to view large files.

“Could not save because this document exceeded the 4GB limit for TIFF files” is an error you might have encountered if you work on large panoramas or use multiple layers when developing images in Photoshop.

TIFF and PSD are the most common file types for photographers to save their developed files in but unfortunately they’ve got some restrictions: TIFF files can’t exceed 4GB while the PSD file maximum is 2GB.

How to Handle HUGE Image Files and View them in Lightroom

It’s not uncommon to exceed these sizes when working with panoramas, focus stacking, image blending or several layers, especially when using top-end cameras.

The solution is to save the image as a .psb file. However, that introduces a new problem: Lightroom doesn’t read .psb files.

In the video below, professional photographer Sean Bagshaw explains a better way to save HUGE image files in Lightroom. A method that lets you save the image as a .psb file while still seeing it in Lightroom.

How to Save Huge Files in Lightroom

In case you’re not able to view the video right now, or you prefer a written summary, let’s go through the step-by-step process Sean teaches in the video:

  1. Select all layers
  2. Go to the layer panel menu and select Convert to Smart Object (this may take a few minutes)
  3. Right-click the Smart Object Layer and select Convert to Linked…
  4. In the new window that appears, name the file and save it in the same folder as the original file
  5. Next, go to File -> Save As… and save the .tif file
  6. View the file in Lightroom!

That’s it. Following the steps above has reduced the file size enough to be saved as a TIFF, making it possible to view it in Lightroom.

Note that saving the linked files in the same folder as the original file is not crucial for this to work.

Further Processing on a Linked .tif File

But what if you want to continue developing the image at a later stage? How do you get access to all the adjustment layers again? 

When re-opening the .tif file in Photoshop you’ll notice that there’s only one layer there. All you have to do in order to access the adjustment layers is to double-click it; this will open the .psb file containing all the layers.

Saving the .psb file after making new adjustments will automatically update the .tif file as well. The last step is to save the .tif file and you’ll see that the image has been updated within Lightroom as well.