Smart Object Basics
Here we are in Adobe Camera Raw, and this is a follow along image that you can open up and follow along with me on this as well. If I were to go ahead and just say, let's change this to auto, and then let's go. I hit the Auto button quite a bit in Adobe Camera Raw, and there's a reason. It used to be horrible, and when you used to press Auto it would just blow your image out and make it really nasty. But now when you press Auto, it's doing a really good job of assessing the dynamic range that is available within your image, and it actually makes a pretty darn good starting point for a photo. So I'm just kind of playing around here. I'm just gonna set this to auto, and then go ahead and maybe increase that clarity a little bit to make it a little bit more grungy, and then bump up that vibrance a little bit. If I go ahead and press Open Image, I'm gonna commit this to go into Photoshop, and become a typical background layer that is essentially rastered, as we've seen before. But if I do ...
this cool little thing and press Shift, you see how it says Open Object? It's not opening an image anymore. It's gonna alter the state of this from being a raster-based photo, and pull it into Photoshop as a Smart Object. So we're gonna go ahead and just press Shift, and open this object into Photoshop. What you're gonna notice here is that instead of this opening up as a regular background layer, it's gonna open up with what looks like a little layer here, like a tearaway layer, with a little box that pops out of it. What that's telling me is that this is a smart object. At any time, if I want to, I can double-click on that picture there, that little preview. I can double-click on it, and it pops me back into Adobe Camera Raw, and allows me to apply any of my settings here, and change them. Let's say I was like, you know what, I really don't like that clarity boost that I did. It's a little bit too much. I can come down here and I can drop that clarity boost, and now if I press Okay, notice how it doesn't say Open Object anymore, 'cause what it's doing, it's just opening up those settings that I had before. If I press okay and commit to that, it's now gonna go ahead and open me up into Photoshop, still have the Smart Object little icon down there, but I don't have that clarity boost that I had before. The thing to understand about using Smart Objects in Adobe Camera Raw, though, is that if I were to go ahead and add, let's say a gradient map, to do a traditional black and white. If this did not get set to black and white on your machine, just go ahead and click up here to your gradient, make sure it's set from black to white, press Okay. So we've got a black and white layer on top of our Smart Object now, right? If I were to go ahead and double-click on the Smart Object, you're gonna notice something. It doesn't bring in that black and white data. So it is smart, it's smart in that it knows what those settings were from before, but it's not necessarily smart enough to calculate all the stuff that's happening above it. So if you do any curves adjustment layers, if you do any gradient maps, it's not gonna calculate that stuff and show you what would happen if you changed the effects here. So if I were to increase the highlights here, and increase the contrasts here, and press Okay, we're just going to see that increased highlight and increase contrast boost underneath those gradient maps. But we're not gonna be able to really see the effect of what we're doing, when we do that. That's really important to understand, because if you do something like this, if you go and add a curves adjustment layer here, and you do some of that contrast boosting to this, which is very similar to what we did before, and we double-click inside here, open this up, and bring that contrast and those highlights down, press Okay, we aren't going to curves adjustment layers. But that curves adjustment layer is altering the state of what's happening on that Smart Object. Because remember, it's a build-up from what's happening on top, and working it's way down. We don't see all the stuff that's happening up here if we double-click and go back into there. So yes, it's smart. You can always go back and re-do your settings, but there's still gonna be some type of intuitive decisions that you're gonna have to make during that process, when you're thinking about, okay, I have that curves adjustment layer that's boosting my contrast. So if I go back into these settings and I boost that contrast, it's gonna make more contrast, and maybe you don't want that. So then you have to go into that curve and maybe just drop this down a little bit, and bring this down a little bit. One thing that we do have to talk about here before we move onto the rest of Smart Objects, is that you would think this is awesome. Everything I do can be saved within that smart object. I'm just going to do Smart Object processing from here on out, that's all I'm gonna do is Smart Objects. Kudos to you if you want to do that. That's awesome. There's two little problems that happen with Smart Objects, and we'll just get this out of the way now, before we go any further. The one problem that happens is Photoshop has to think about everything that's happening on this layer as you're working on it, so Smart Objects tend to slow your machine down. Specifically if you're doing a filter on a Smart Object, those filters will take a lot more time to process, because they're processing on a Smart Object. When you go back and you adjust those settings, it just takes a lot more time. It can be a very time-consuming process. With something like this, not really at all because we've got two layers on top of a regular, Smart Object. It won't take much time to process at all for it to process anything that's happening here. We start getting into layer stacks that might have 15, 20, 30, 40 different layers in them, and now you start adding filters in there, and multiple Smart Objects in there? Forget about it. It's just going to be a very slow, tedious process. The other drawback to having a Smart Object, is that a Smart Object is going to add more data to the saved file. Now, sometimes that data is negligible, but I will tell you this, that data is exponential. The DNG file that we're working on right now is not very big. If I were to go up here and go to File, and go to Save As, and save this as a PSD with all of these layers, and has the Smart Object there. Let's just go ahead and call this Smart Example, and then go over to Lessons, and make sure I save it into the right folder, Smart Objects, and we'll add a new folder here, and we'll call it Test Saves. This is the smart example, we'll even put a, I am still a little psycho about this, 01, so it becomes the first one. Press Okay. So that's basically saving this out as a PSD file, it has these layers in it, plus it also has all the smart capabilities built into it as well. If I don't want this to be a Smart Object anymore, and I want to commit to all the changes that I made, if I click on that layer, and I right-click, I'm now gonna go from a vector-based Smart Object, to a raster-based normal pixel layer, and rasterize that layer, and it no longer has the smart capabilities. Notice how if I try to double-click on this, all it does is bring up my layer styles. It's not gonna bring up Adobe Camera Raw anymore, it's gonna bring up Layer Styles. So if I go to File, I go to Save As, and I save this as a PSD, and we'll call it 02, and then Non-Smart Example, press Okay. And then if we were to look into the actual folder there and look at those file sizes. The non-smart example is 45.8 megabytes. Not very big. This one is 51.3 megabytes. It's 6 megabytes bigger just because of that smart data that's in there. I told you that this seems negligible, because this is a small file size, but let's say you've got your Nikon D810's with the big sensors in them, or your Sony a7R III's, where the file starts out as 42 megapixels, 42 megabytes, I should say. Roughly between 42 and 45 megabytes. Then you start stacking on layers, then you start stacking on Smart Objects. Then you start stacking on multiple Smart Objects, and multiple layers. If it has a Smart Object in it, it could be the difference of a one-gig file, literally, I have some landscape images that are one gig, from my Sony a7R III, that are PSD files that have all the layers in them. It could be the difference of a one-gig file, and a 1.5-gig file. 500 whole megabytes, just because I have a Smart Object or two in there. Because it's such a big file to begin with, it's got a bunch of information in it. That's definitely important to understand, that while these things are great, we do have to kind of take them with a grain of salt, that we can't do everything under the sun with them that we could possibly want to, we're still gonna have to take in mind that there are some drawbacks, and those drawbacks are it's gonna slow down our machine if we don't have a whole lot of RAM in our computer, and number two, it's gonna take up a lot more space on our computer. If you want to commit to those things, you just go ahead and right-click Rasterize, and then save it down so you don't have all of that smart data that's available in there.