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If you work in Lightroom, at some stage you’ll probably want to take an image to Photoshop for some additional processing. How you send it to Photoshop will have an impact on the options available to you. One option in Lightroom is to take an image to Photoshop as a Smart Object and that has some advantages. Here’s how to do it and why you might consider using this feature.
In Lightroom, when you’ve finished processing the image and you’re ready to head to Photoshop, right click the image and choose Edit in > Open as Smart Object in Photoshop (this is available if you’re using Photoshop CS5, CS4 or CS3 – Smart Objects weren’t available in earlier versions of Photoshop).
Photoshop will open with your image open on the screen. If you look at the Layers palette you’ll see the layer has an icon in the bottom right corner of its thumbnail. This tells you the image is a Smart Object.
If you want to make further adjustments to the image you don’t have to start over. Instead, double click the image thumbnail in the Layers palette and the image will open in Adobe Camera RAW (ACR). The processing options in ACR are the same as you have in Lightroom so you can change how the image is processed.
When you are done making changes, click Ok. The changes to the image will appear in the Smart Object back in Photoshop.
The obvious advantage of opening an image in Photoshop as a Smart Object is being able to make changes to the image even after it has been brought into Photoshop and even after you have made changes to it – such as adding an Adjustment Layer, for example.
In addition you can use this feature to process an image in more than one way and to blend the two versions together. To do this, right click on the smart object layer and choose New Smart Object via Copy. This creates a copy of the smart object layer.
Double click on the thumbnail of this second Smart Object to open it in ACR and now process it a second time to bring out detail in another part of the image. In this case I adjusted to get a better sky. When you’re done click Ok to return to Photoshop.
The changes have been applied to only the second copy of the image and not the first so there is a different version of the image in each layer.
To blend the two layers together add a Layer Mask to the topmost layer – to do this, select the layer and click the Add Layer Mask icon at the foot of the Layers palette. Target the mask by clicking its thumbnail in the Layers palette and paint on the image with black to bring back detail in the layer below.
If any of the layers still needs fine tuning, return it to ACR to fix it.
Because the two versions of the image are on separate layers you can blend those two layers together using a blend mode or adjust the Opacity of the top layer.
When you are done, click Save to save the file, close it and return to Lightroom. Your edited version of the image will be saved in the same location as the original image and will appear in Lightroom too.
If you want to edit this image again at a later date and have the Smart Objects still in place, when you right click the image and choose Edit In > Adobe Photoshop CS5 (or CS4 or CS3), choose Edit Original.
Taking your images to Photoshop as Smart Objects gives you additional tools for working with your images in Photoshop – it’s a handy technique to add to your Lightroom/Photoshop toolkit.