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Saving files in Photoshop

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When saving a file with several adjustment layers in Photoshop to a .jpg, or other file formats, do you need to merge or flatten the image first?

Sometimes they save fine for me, but sometimes if I haven't merged the layers the saved .jpg is splotchy.

Here is the file saved without merging the layers and the file saved after merging the layers.

It doesn't do this every time. What's going on?

photo credit: Hollenbeck Photography



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That is so weird. O.o It shouldn't do that. That said, I have had strange things happen when saving before if I flatten that I just can't explain. 

Did you save these in exactly the same way? (besides the flattening) File > Save as > jpeg > quality 10 ? (for example)  

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I saved them the same way except for the flattening. It happens sometimes and not others. It is weird. It's almost like it's saving the image with the adjustments on whatever layer I have highlighted in the layers panel. I understand that I can't sharpen unless I flatten the image, but I feel like it still shouldn't be saving the image that weird way.

So, as far as flattening for sharpening, is "merge visible" ok before sharpening or should I use "flatten image"?

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