The term "destructive editing" does not necessarily mean that the graphic file is broken in some way during processing. Quite the opposite: most often it acquires positive changes, for example, it becomes more contrasting or brighter.
What is destructive editing
Destructive editing is a way of manipulating pixels in which all changes are saved without the possibility of rolling back to the original. Let's say that when you darken a photo and then save it, the pixels will be darkened and overwritten in a new state. It is impossible to revert them to their original state to see what the image was like before editing.
This is the most common photo manipulation method and has been the only one for many years. Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Photoshop Elements are the most common editing packages and both perform destructive processing.
You can use Photoshop for non-destructive editing, but this requires deep knowledge of the program and the ability to work with layers.
What is non-destructive editing
Non-destructive editing is a process in which the editor does not make changes to the original image. The picture changes, but the pixels themselves retain their original state. This happens due to the fact that the program creates an additional sidecar file (in fact, it is a regular text document), in which the changes made by the user are written.
This file is a kind of instruction that the program uses to display the image on the monitor. At this stage, the image can be manipulated in every way until it takes the desired form.
When you save, the changes are applied not to the original file, but to its copy. As a result, the user receives two images - the original and its edited version. Both of them are linked to the sidecar file, since this is where all the changes are written.
The advantage of non-destructive editing is obvious: for any manipulations, the source remains unchanged, you can always return to it to start over. However, this type of processing also has a significant disadvantage: sidecar files created in one program cannot be opened with other software. Thus, if you stop using the usual editor, access to all the changes made will be lost.
Nondestructive editing is most commonly associated with RAW files, but it can also be used in JPEG processing. However, it is best suited for raw formats because there is more data in the raw file.
Which editors edit how
The Topic of Article: What is destructive and non-destructive photo editing?.