I am Rod Wynne-Powell, and this is my way to pass on snippets either of a technical nature, or related to what I am currently doing or hope to be doing in the near future.

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Professional photographer, Lightroom and Photoshop Workflow trainer, Consultant, digital image retoucher, author, and tech-editor for Martin Evening's many 'Photoshop for Photographers' books.

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Still a pre-release tester for Adobe in the US, for Photoshop, he is also very much involved in the taking of a wide range of photographs, as can be seen in the galleries.

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Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Smart Objects – What are they?

Photoshop over the last several versions has moved to more and more non-destructive editing.
Smart Objects is just one of the ways this has been achieved.

What is meant by non-destructive?

It means that whilst working for a client or one’s self, the changes that are applied to the image file can be restored and re-altered differently; it means that when a client changes his/her mind, it does not mean a complete rebuild, or painful de-construction.

One of the simplest ways in which this can be accomplished is to apply a Layer Mask directly to a layer, rather than erase a section, which would be destructive by being non-reversible.That is not strictly so if one has had the foresight to check the History Option to allow for Non-Linear History, because under those circumstances one could step back to before the erasure, and paint from the earlier complete state. However someone who operates in that mode is likely not to have set this option anyway.

Select History Options from the flyout menu, top right

then check the box against 'Allow Non-Linear History'

When colour correcting: rather than work directly on a specific layer or layers, an Adjustment Layer is best applied above, which can either be linked only to the layer immediately beneath, or all those layers below. This means that the alterations can be made, yet later returned to and applied differently.

Here the mask is fully operative  

Here the Mask has been switched off temporarily

Since an adjustment layer has a layer mask option available by default, the mask can provide the means to apply the effect preferentially to specific areas, and this mask can be either altered at a later stage or switched off by holding the Shift key and tapping the mask icon for that layer. Since it is a toggle, that in itself is non-destructive.
This shows that in Colour Balance, I reduced the red component within the Shadows

Because I knew I might need to alter the size of the image I was bringing in to the existing image, at a later stage, and did not wish to lose its original quality, I made this a Smart Object from the flyout menu in the Layers panel.
Selecting a layer in the Layers panel and using the flyout menu to Convert to Smart Object

I took two photos: one of the remote in the hand, the other the Speaker Dock with the iPhone inserted. The idea was to combine the pair into a single image, whilst giving me the opportunity to alter the relative sizes of each at a later date.

This is where the concept of Smart Objects comes into play. The Smart Object is a file within a file, which in the Master image seems and behaves like a single layer. In the corner of the image icon within the layer is a label as shown here:
This shows the small label in the bottom right to designate this layer is a Smart Object

Double-clicking this image icon in the layers panel will open the image as it was last saved as a Smart Object (it is stored as a .psb file within the Master file). This means that even if you scale the Smart Object to small size, followed by enlarging it, each transform is made from the original file stored in the Smart Object, so it does not lose the initial quality of the file.

Here is a montage of the two files where the background of the Speaker Dock has yet to be scaled down, followed by the final relative sizes. But, at any time thereafter I can rescale the elements without adversely affecting the original quality of either image.
Here both images are the same size they were taken

Here they are at the relatives sizes I decided as I was primarily showing the Remote

The layered Master file contains both images at their full resolution, offering maximum scope for non-destructive future editing, as both elements are Smart Objects within a single file.

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