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Using Smart Objects

Lesson 6 from: Integrating Photoshop and Lightroom

Ben Willmore

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Lesson Info

6. Using Smart Objects

Lesson Info

Using Smart Objects

Now, there's a different way of opening your images which will give us some special, additional qualities. Let's say I had this image, I thought I had it, yep, this image and I adjusted it. Maybe I came in here, I don't know, maybe I darken this up a little, get my highlights different, and maybe I make it black and white like that. Let's just say I like this, but what I have in here is, if you look close, do you see what's on this guy's forehead? Isn't that kinda cool? But, with black and white it kinda disappears. Now, I could, in Lightroom there's an adjustment brush and I could paint in a different change on him, but it's really limited in how it works. Sometimes I wanna open this image in Photoshop, but I don't choose this. Instead I choose this. What Open as Smart Object does is it means let's take the raw file itself, send it over to Photoshop, and somehow encapsulate that raw file within the Photoshop file so I can still get to all the raw data. Now, when I choose Open as Smart...

Object in Photoshop, over here in my Layers Panel, the result has a little, extra icon on top of it. It's kinda hard to tell with this exact picture, but there's an icon on the lower-right. I'll make my thumbnails a little bigger here and it might be easier to tell that there's a little thing in the corner there. That little icon is your one indication that this layer is special, it's a Smart Object. What's special about it? Well, watch what happens when I double-click on the picture part in my Layers Panel. It brings up camera raw. These are the same adjustment sliders we have in Lightroom. I can change the settings and it's as if you changed the original, raw data before it got opened in Photoshop. The changes I make here will not be shown in Lightroom on the original file, 'cause this is separate from that original. It doesn't know that that original exists in Lightroom when I'm in here, but it's here. What can I do with that? Well, what I want is two interpretations of this raw file that I can layer on top of each other. I want two different develop settings, one for the thing on its head and one for the rest of the image. I wanna duplicate this, but here's the problem. If I duplicate this using normal methods, like here, Duplicate Layer. (clicking) When you duplicate a layer and it's a Smart Object, it thinks that those two Smart Objects are identical. They're clones of each other and anything I do to one will happen to the other. To show you that, I'll double-click on one to get into camera raw. I'll make it so it's no longer black and white anymore, and I'll make it so it looks very yellow. It's visually obvious. When I click OK, watch my Layers Panel. You see they both updated? They're known as multiple instances of the same Smart Object. I don't wanna duplicate it. That's not being smart. Instead, I wanna do this, Layer, Smart Objects, New Smart Object via Copy. The key term is New Smart Object meaning not the same Smart Object that's already there, just having multiple instances, but a new, independent one. Now, it still looks like a copy, but if I double-click on that top one now, I'm gonna make that top one black and white, I'm gonna click OK, and now watch my thumbnails in the Layers Panel. It's independent of the other. That was Layer, Smart Object, New Smart Object via Copy. Now, what can I do? Well, I could add a layer mask. I don't know if you're familiar with layer masks or not, but I'm gonna add one to the top and all I'm gonna do is zoom up on this picture. Maybe I'm gonna just use my brush and if I paint with black, it's gonna hide that particular layer. Now, I just come in here and say I'm gonna hide the top layer and look at the layer that's underneath. It's a color version, isn't it? By hiding the top layer, I'm revealing the layer that's underneath it. Therefore, I can have more than one interpretation of that raw file and I can blend them together using masks or anything else. Now, I'm not gonna spend the time to get this mask precise because that's what we'd waste our time doing instead of learning about going between Lightroom and Photoshop, but you get the idea, don't 'cha? That if I did something like that, I could then make that guy stick out in my picture, even when seen relatively small. But for that, we have two interpretations of the same raw file and if I double-click on that left-side, we can change the raw file. Now, let's close that, save it so we get it in Lightroom. Some people use Smart Objects for everything. If they're gonna open their image and they're gonna need a retouching on it, they'll open it as a Smart Object, but I don't use Smart Objects for everything. A Smart Object increases your file size. It has not only the information for that layer that it actually needs, it also have the entire raw file as well. Therefore, the file size is bigger. A lot of people do that, though, so they have the most versatility, but the moment you put retouching on top of it. Now if I change that layer that contains the Smart Object, if I change it, make it black and white or something like that, is that retouching? Gonna suddenly change along with it and match? No, that retouching is done manually in Photoshop. Any change I make to the Smart Object underneath is gonna cause it to not match anymore. If I change the brightness, the retouching brightness doesn't change 'cause it's a separate layer that's not a Smart Object. I use Smart Objects when I think they might be helpful, but I don't use them on every single image 'cause that just makes your file size bigger. Although you could because the one advantage would be if you ever lost the original raw file. If you ever lose the original raw file, all you have is a layered Photoshop file like this one, where we had that little guy in there, then you could always do this. Just tell it to Edit In Photoshop, the layered version has a Smart Object in it. Choose to edit the original and this is pretty cool. Whenever you have a Smart Object that contains a raw file, you can choose Layer, Smart Objects, where is it? Do you see something that says export, where is it? This might not, I'll just convert, hold on a second. There it is! Export Contents. That will spit out a new raw file that is an exact copy of the original, so if you ever lost the original raw file, you could get it out of your layered Photoshop file. For some people, that could be a cool thing to do, but for most, they'd never remember that it's possible. (giggling)

Ratings and Reviews


This was a great course. It was very informative and Khara Plicanic did a fantastic job teaching this course. It brought light to and organized the essential Photoshop tools and techniques. Some of the tips are real game changers for me, such as to start learning the shortcut keys have made Photoshop much more fun for me. Fantastic course.

Ryan Redmond

This was very useful. I have been a photoshop user for 20 years but I have just recently gotten into photography and Lightroom is new to me. I knew there was some overlap in features but I wasn't sure how to manage workflow between the two programs. This short course helped to clear up some of those differences and understand and appreciate more the non-destructive image adjusting nature of Lightroom vs the more hardcore creative nature of Photoshop and going between them.

Joe Cosentino

Another great class from Ben, he has one of the most smooth flowing teaching styles I have seen. He always makes it easy to understand how PS and LR work, Thank you

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