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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Get More From Smart Objects

Eliminate the dreaded do-over when your client changes his or her mind by making good use of this Photoshop feature

This Article Features Photo Zoom

Smart Objects can be made from pixels (as this example will demonstrate), vector art and even a Camera Raw image opened as a Smart Object. Any “object” that needs the ability to adjust size and rotation without the normal limitations of layered images is an excellent candidate for Smart Objects.
These original shots were done on 4x5 color film and scanned. Care was taken to finesse the lighting individually, hence the reason for shooting them separately. The background image was of a plaster cast of texture airbrushed to achieve the color and with cast shadows and light highlights.

Working With Smart Objects
It should be noted that some of my best friends are art directors, so don’t take it as a slam when I mention that one of the more frustrating aspects of dealing with them is that they have this annoying habit of changing their minds. For digital imaging, that can cause real problems. When doing a traditional multilayer composite, the resizing and rotation of a layer can cause image degradation. Positioning and sizing an object has to be a precise operation because if you use Free Transform to make a layer smaller and then find out you actually need it back at the original size (or bigger), you basically have to start over. The way to deal with this situation when doing a complex composite is to make those layers into Smart Objects. Smart Objects are embedded image objects that allow resizing, rotation and other select editing without changing the pixels in the object. The image layers are actually treated as a separate file embedded within the master file. You can’t do all editing on the Smart Object, but you can open the original layers as a temporary file and do pixel-level editing there and then save the changes back into the Smart Object; the changes will auto-update in the image in which the objects are embedded. It’s easier to show than explain, so let’s see an example of what I mean. I took a series of shots of electronic widgets (I really don’t know what they are, I just shot them) that were outlined and put on a colored, textured background.

Jeff Schewe photographed these electronic widgets in his Chicago studio as part of a commercial job. Schewe purposely shot them in such a way as to give him maximum flexibility. He relied on his Photoshop skills to build the final image, and by using Smart Objects, he didn’t have to start from scratch every time the client asked for a modification. This article on Smart Objects is an excerpt from the book Adobe Photoshop CS5 For Photographers: The Ultimate Workshop by Martin Evening and Jeff Schewe.

1) The first step in this process was to prep the image for both outlining and adding cast shadows. The image above had been retouched, at least as far as spotting and cloning was concerned. The overall color (of the object) was good. You’ll note that the crop was wide enough to provide a hint of a natural shadow. This was important, as the real shadow would be the basis of the made shadow. I used a path to create an outline and turned the path into a selection and used Command J to make it into a new layer.


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