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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Maintain Flexibility

Using Smart Objects in conjunction with Adobe Camera Raw gives you the ultimate nondestructive means of filtering that there is within Photoshop

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Once placed for size and position, before publishing you'd go back and reprocess the RAW file to finesse the final image. When you double-click the Smart Object, you're accessing the RAW data in Camera Raw again, and applying a few quick settings enables you to bring out the true highlight detail contained in the capture (Figs. 4, 4a).

Fig. 4

Fig. 4a

Fig. 5
The fact that you're going back to the actual RAW data in the Smart Object is the only reason why you're able to pull out such a striking amount of detail from the highlights. This is in stark contrast to what's possible when using Camera Raw as a Smart Filter on the very same layer. Rather than double-clicking the Smart Object icon to access the original RAW data, this time I'll select the layer and choose Camera Raw from the Filter menu (Fig. 5).

This opens the layer in Camera Raw, and at first everything looks the same. Go ahead and apply the very same set of settings. This time Photoshop creates a Smart Filter for the nondestructive Smart Object layer because it can't actually modify the object. It only has the pre-rendered RGB pixels in the layer to work with, so this is what you get (Figs. 6, 6a).

Fig. 6

Fig. 6

Camera Raw does its best to pull out detail with the Exposure and Clarity settings, but the end result is almost unusable compared with what we were able to achieve working from the actual RAW data in the Smart Object. The highlights are flat and muddy because they were all compressed together up into the very brightest part of the range in the original. Once compressed in that way in an RGB space, it's impossible to pull them apart again to yield the same amount of detail. This is exactly the same problem you have when shooting JPEG, where the compression of the highlights is essentially done for you in the camera. Once the RAW sensor data is compressed and rendered into an RGB space, you have much less flexibility in the changes you can make in tonality, even when using Camera Raw as a filter.

You can go to mulita.com to find George Jardine's extensive tutorials on Lightroom and his blog.


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