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Lightroom Classic & Photoshop Integration

Lesson 6 of 14

Open as Smart Object in Photoshop

Ben Willmore

Lightroom Classic & Photoshop Integration

Ben Willmore

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Lesson Info

6. Open as Smart Object in Photoshop
Embed a copy of a raw file into a special layer that allows you to adjust the raw processing settings at any time in Photoshop.

Lesson Info

Open as Smart Object in Photoshop

Now let's explore a special way of opening an image known as using a smart object. Smart objects will allow you to embed the entirety of a file into a single layer in Photoshop that could be a raw file, and it contains all the raw data that is usually not sent to Photoshop. Or it could even be a layered file where those layered files will show up as a single layer in Photoshop. But you'll still have access to the individual layers. Let's take a look to create this image. I really couldn't get the result I wanted by working with a single set of development settings for a raw file. If I go back to the original image, here's what it looked like. And if I adjusted this until the sky at the top looked nice, then the pants that my wife, Karen here is wearing got way too dark. And if I made her pants look just right, had just the right amount of detail. These vines that are on the sides didn't look good. And even if I got both of those to get as close as I could, I didn't like the look of her...

skin. And so for that reason, I wanted to be able to develop this image using multiple sets of settings. And I want to show you how I did that. So here I'm starting with the raw file. I'm going to go to the photo menu. I'm going to choose edit in, and I'm not going to choose the standard choice of editing in Photoshop. Instead, I'm gonna skip down here to open as smart object in Photoshop. And when I do that, if I start with a raw file, it won't ask for any options. And it will just send me to Photoshop here in Photoshop. If you look at my layers panel, yeah, I'll zoom up for you. You're going to find a special icon that's on top of the thumbnail image for that particular layer. And that icon indicates that this is a special layer known as a smart object. A smart object you can think of is like a little plastic bubble that contains something that usually couldn't be there. Or you can think of it like a ziplock bag that contains something. It's a container for information that you can't usually have in a layer. Well, in this case, it's a raw file that's contained within this in In order to access the contents, I double click on this layers little thumbnail image. And I'll do that right now That brings up camera raw only because this is a raw file. If it was a layered file, it would have brought up a separate document that showed me the layers. But in here, I'm able to adjust the image as much as I'd like. And in this case, I'm actually going to use some settings I put into this image earlier. I have some snapshots, and in this case I'm going to choose one that makes the sky look good. All this is a set of development settings, and after I was done, I went to this icon on the side for a snapshot, and I clicked on this icon here to say, save the current settings and give it a name. And I did that each time I processed a different area. Snapshots are not necessary to do this. It will just make it so. If you work with this particular file, you might be able to get the same results. So I'll click, OK, and then I'd like a second version of this image that has different settings on it. Now. You might think you could just go to the layer menu and choose duplicate layer and then give it a name in Click OK, now you would have to that look identical. But the problem is that if you double click on the thumbnail for one of these layers and you change the development settings that are applied and you click OK if you watch in the layers panel, notice these two layers and my Zuma they both changed. If I choose undo, you can see the little layer thumbnails reflecting that. The change that I made one layer also affected the other, and that's because smart objects when you duplicate them. It thinks that you just have to instances of the exact same information, and if you make a change to one of them, it will update and affect them all. And that can be useful in some instances. Like if you had a logo that was used multiple times within a document and you want to replace the logo with something new and have them all change. But it's not what we need in this case. In this case, what I'm gonna do is make sure that that single layer is active and I'm going to choose a special choice called layer Smart Objects. New smart object via copy. The key There is the word new, and that means a brand new smart object that is independent of the existing one. So when I choose that if you watch my layers panel, you'll find it looks identical to what we had previously. But there is a difference. If I double click on this particular layer now, I can apply a different set of settings. And if I click OK and you watch the layers panel, you'll see that that top layer now has different settings applied than the bottom. And that's because the top smart object is independent of the one below. It doesn't know that the one below exists. Then what I could do is add a layer mask, and right down here is my layer mask icon. And if I then grab my paintbrush and I paint with black with a soft edge brush, then wherever I paint, I'm gonna hide this rendition of the image and reveal the one that is sitting underneath it, and the one underneath it is more optimized for the lower portion of the image. And in this case, I'm not going to be overly precise with my masking. Usually I would be much more precise with what I'm doing, but I just want to limit the amount of time I spend doing this. Uh, then I'd have to get a much smaller brush and being here, be much more precise, which again I'm not going to do now. If I want still another version of the image, I would usually come down to the bottom layer simply because it doesn't have a layer mask on it yet. I don't wanna have to clear out the mask. And again I choose layer smart objects, new smart object via copy, and I might drag that layer to the top of the stack, and then I can double click on its little thumbnail picture to get to camera raw. And I can come in here and decide that I want to use something maybe for my wife's skin look okay, in this time, when I add a layer mask, gonna do something special and That's because I only want to use this version of the image in a very small area. And so I want the layer mask that I end up with to start off full of black. And that means this layer won't show up anywhere. And then I'll paint with White to reveal it. To do that, hold on the option key Alton Windows. When you click on the layer mask icon and you'll get a black mask, then come in here and paint with white wherever you would like that particular version of the picture to be used. The other time I might use this with a raw image is if I was going to create a layout, and in that layout, I wasn't sure which image I was going to use yet. So I might end up terrible masking job here. But I might end up just using a placeholder image, and only later on, once I decide I like it, would I double click on the thumbnail for that layer and actually process the picture to make it look good? But in this case, if I just turn off these other two layers, you'll see that's what the bottom layer looks like the middle layer contributes near the sky. The top layer contributes near the skin. The main thing I would need is better masking here and potentially another version for her outfit and her, especially for those black pants. So that is using a smart object. Just know that these could, instead of being raw files, you could have been a layered Photoshop files. So if I go back here to light room, let's grab a layered file this time. Here's a layered one, and let's choose photo edit in an open a smart object in Photoshop. Well, when we get that image open, you'll see we have that same icon on the layer. But this time, when we double click on it, we're not going to get to camera raw. Because this layer does not contain a raw file. It contains a layered file. So when I double click, it's going to open a separate document to reveal those layers. And so right now you can see I have two tabs open will now have three tabs, and here are the individual layers, and I can make modifications to this. I can turn off individual layers like Here's the headlines, uh, maybe turn off another set, which is in the interior of the car in what I'm done. All I need to do is close this document and it will ask me if I want to save those changes. But if you think about where this image came from, it came when this document actually appeared from double clicking on the thumbnail for a layer. It did not come directly from my hard drive. That was a step I did previously. So when I choose save here, it's not going to save it on my hard drive. It's instead going to save it right back into the original file. And so when this document closes, it should switch me to this other tab and you'll see the updated version. Here we are. Back in that updated version, you can see where we have our smart object in our layers panel. If I choose undo by typing Command Z, which would be controls in Windows, you can see what we used to have, and then I'll do shift Command Z, which is redo, and you'll see where you can see the difference and the changes that we've made. So when we saved that image, it just saved it back into this layer. This file here hasn't been saved yet because I haven't done anything to manually save it. In this case, I actually don't want to say that. Somebody close it. I'll just choose. Don't save. So the version we have back in light room remains unchanged. I just wanted to demonstrate how it works with layers. Just be careful. If you have a layered Photoshop file and in light room you went to the develop module and applied some settings to it, then you're going to get something that's rather odd. If I were to edit this image, I would be able to see the individual layers. But when I did, the developed settings would disappear and they would remain missing when I was finished. So you get some slightly odd results on occasion. Next, we're going to explore another type of smart object known as a linked smart object

Class Description


  • Optimize your settings and explore the multitude of options for round-tripping images between Lightroom and Photoshop.
  • Apply adjustments in Lightroom that are usually only available in Photoshop.
  • Make multiple passes of Lightroom adjustments on layered files while retaining the ability to edit all the layers.
  • Mask an image in Photoshop and then transfer the result to Lightroom in order to preview how it would look on top of images in your catalog.
  • Teach Lightroom to automatically create complex layouts in Photoshop.
  • Work on your Lightroom images in Photoshop even when the originals are not available.
  • Learn tips and tricks to increase productivity.


If you’ve ever sent an image from Adobe Lightroom to Adobe Photoshop and have been confused by the choices of “Edit a Copy with Lightroom Adjustments”, “Edit a Copy”, and “Edit Original”, then you’ll love this class from the start. After all, developing clarity on the fundamentals is essential before you can feel comfortable with Lightroom Classic.

If you dig a little deeper, you’ll learn that both Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Lightroom have unique strengths that become dramatically more versatile when they are used together. For instance, Photoshop’s advanced masking and layering capabilities are great when you want to replace a dull and boring sky. But, it’s only when you partner it with Lightroom’s ability to overlay a Photoshop image that you can experiment with various skies and interactively adjust the raw file until it looks like it belongs in the resulting image.

Once you have a solid feel for the strengths and limitations of each program, you’ll learn to push them and combine features to accomplish things you had no idea were even possible. This is Ben Willmore’s special gift: He gets you comfortable by relating the technical aspects to things you already know and use every day, which develops clarity. Then he guides you through real-world projects to help build your confidence before showing you just how far you can push the boundaries so you know what’s possible.

This class will help you:

  • Understand the preferences and choices that control how Photoshop and Lightroom Classic interact
  • Learn under which situation each option makes sense so you can always choose the best option for your images
  • Discover how uncommon features add a lot of functionality once you see concrete examples of their use
  • Eliminate the frustration of having Photoshop images not appear in your Lightroom catalog after editing
  • Understand how to round-trip your images while retaining Photoshop layers and multiple passes of Lightroom adjustments
  • See how Metadata conflicts can cause issues and how to resolve them


  • People who have Adobe Lightroom Classic and Adobe Photoshop (not elements) installed and have some familiarity with the absolute basics of both programs.
  • Those who desire clarity, confidence and efficiency based on proven logic.
  • Please who want to develop versatile workflows that go beyond the basics.


Adobe Lightroom Classic (v10.2)

Photoshop (v22.3)

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase


Lightroom Class Catalog and Images

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

Related Classes



Fantastic, clear explanations of these features. i have a much better understanding of how to go back and forth between LR and PS. Thank you Ben. this is must watch class for anyone that uses LR and PS