February 2021 // The Post-Production Edition

Unlock the Power of Smart Objects in Photoshop | David Byrd

When I open a RAW file from ACR, I will hold the Shift key which changes the Open button to Open Object. Now I’m dealing with a Smart Object and its file format, rather than a PSD file format. By utilizing a Smart Object, I can now go back into ACR at any point and continue to adjust the data of the RAW image as if I was doing it for the first time. This is especially useful in preparing the foundation of an image before you begin the retouch and art creation stages. Let’s look at an example of this below.

This image of Danielle in front of my super cool new wall at my studio is lovely, but it needs a major adjustment to the foundation before I move forward with the retouch. Can anyone guess what the big, bright, glaring issue is with this image? Yes, you in the back, you’re correct—it’s those distracting highlights of the wall on camera left. Now I can reduce those highlights in the RAW/ACR process, but that adjustment is done globally and therefore affects the highlights everywhere in the image. I need to have two copies of this image: one copy with all the highlights intact (including the blown-out ones), and the second copy with the highlights drastically reduced so we can use a Layer Mask and mask in the reduced highlights in that section only. To do that, I’m going to open the RAW file as a Smart Object into Photoshop, and then make a copy of that Smart Object so I can go back into ACR as a RAW file format and reduce the highlights. However, we can’t just make a copy or duplicate the Smart Object; we have to make a “New Smart Object via Copy.” Sounds confusing, right? (I agree. Let’s all tell the powers-that-be from Adobe that they should change the language of this option and alleviate headaches everywhere.) If you make a duplicate or copy of the original Smart Object, then you are making literal copies that are linked to one another. If you make changes to one of them, they both will be affected. If we make a New Smart Object via Copy then we are making an exact duplicate of the original Smart Object, but they are not linked. To do this step we once again have to return to the menu of Layer>Smart Object>New Smart Object via Copy.

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