Smart objects have been available in Photoshop for quite some time now. And for designers, they have been a real game-changer. They allow for extremely flexible non-destructive workflows, and they allow you to keep the elements of your design nicely separate and reusable.
But it seems that many photographers don’t really know how to use this technology to their advantage. What good are smart objects if you’re not doing any design work but just photo editing?
Smart Object and Smart Filter Basics
In this video, John Ross demonstrates the basics of using smart objects in your retouching workflow. You’re going to learn how to bring your images into Photoshop as a smart object and how to use the smart object to go back and forth between Photoshop and Adobe Camera Raw in a non-destructive way.
Then, John will show you what a smart filter is, how you can use them in your photo editing, how to mask them and how to reorder them to refine the effect you’re getting.
Using Plugins as Smart Filters
Here, the guys from Google show you how to add the effects from any Nik Collection plugin as a smart filter to your smart objects. Most Photoshop plugins allow you to do just that, and this is a very powerful way to edit your images because it allows you to go back and change any setting made in the plugin later on. If you have plugins installed in your Photoshop version, try it and see if it works.
Converting a Layer to Smart Object
In this video below, Julianne Kost shows you the difference between bringing an image into Photoshop as a smart object (e.g. from Lightroom) and converting a pixel layer into a smart object in Photoshop. If at all possible, you want to do the former.
Making Independent Copies of a Smart Object
One property of smart objects can cause some difficulty, especially if you’re dealing with multiple instances of the same image layer that you want to process differently. Whenever you simply duplicate a smart object (e.g. via the Ctrl-J shortcut) and change one of the copies, the other is also going to change. In many cases, this may not be what you want when you’re editing photos.
This video shows you how to actually create a copy that is independent of the original smart object.
Creating a Fake Long Exposure
Smart objects can also help you achieve some quite complex tasks. In the video below, for example, Eric Barger shows you how to shoot a series of photos with the same exposure and framing and use smart object stacks to create a fake long exposure from those photos.
Removing Objects from your Photos
Finally, Sege Ramelli teaches you how to use the smart object technology to remove moving objects from your photos. This can be very helpful, for example, if you want to capture a popular tourist location without any tourists.
Smart objects are an incredibly powerful and useful technology inside Photoshop. And that’s not only true if you are a designer. If you learn how to use them correctly, you can step your photo editing game up a few notches. In this collection of featured videos, you’ve learned the basics, some of the caveats and the more complex applications of smart objects.