#CreativeFriday – Lightroom and Photoshop Workflows, Smart Objects and Camera RAW filter

The Creative Cloud Photography bundle offers the Photographer even more flexibility when it comes to editing their photographs and opportunities to make their images look even more amazing. Integration between the two products is a key benefit and is re-enforced with this bundle. The integration is not new and has been in place some time now, however, with the release of the Photography bundle and the ongoing updates to the Creative Cloud, this integration has become much stronger and offers even more possibilities to make images look even more beautiful.

With traditional Photoshop workflows, any Lightroom / Photoshop adjustment(s) are rasterised early in the workflow and this reduces the options for any non-destructive work later in the process. There are classic ways of editing images in Photoshop and work arounds to try create a non destructive processes, however, this can result in workflows with a large number of layers and committing to adjustments early in the workflow with no way to re-edit previous enhancements.

The Creative Cloud Photography bundle, offers new workflows for the photographer to embrace a true non-destructive workflow, without having to commit to adjustments early in the process. Images now can be saved with all of their Lightroom or Camera RAW adjustments in tact, with supported ways to re-edit the original RAW adjustments from Camera RAW or from Lightroom. This new workflow is a saviour for anybody that is wanting to tweak, enhance and re-tweak their pictures to get the best result at any time in the process.

Photoshop CC has now been enhanced to include the Camera RAW engine as a Filter as well as numerous additions to the already powerful Blur Gallery.


The Camera RAW filter will allow you to make adjustments to your photographs, as you would have done in the Lightroom development module. However, the Camera RAW filter in Photoshop, is not just restricted to RAW files, it can be used on almost any layer inside Photoshop, including video clips, groups, layers and smart objects.


The Blur Gallery Filters enable in-camera motion effects to be applied in the post process. For example, previously in CS6 you could add field blur, iris blur and tilt shift blur, now Photoshop CC adds the ability to add spinning blur and motion blur to an image, just as you are able to create in the camera.


Both of the above filters, as well as most of the other filters in Photoshop CC are now useable on a Smart Objects, which means that any modifications can be re-edited at any time even after the Photoshop file has been saved. This workflow will allow images to be fine tuned at any time and will save a huge amount of time during the refinement process. The filters in Photoshop are now even more powerful and will allow you to make even better, creative images, and most importantly, they will naturally fit into your workflow.


The following example will show how images can be brought into Photoshop from Lightroom, and keep any adjustments editable using Camera RAW and a combination of Smart Objects. This example will also show how unwanted parts of an image can removed and repaired whilst at the same time improving performance in Photoshop, and keeping the modifications editable for the future. New Blur Gallery Filters will be used to simulate movement that may have been lost when the picture was taken, or if the image needs it for creative effect.



The image below was taken at a festival in Bhutan, to be critical about the original picture from the camera, I feel the dancer in the foreground is an important part of the story, however, there are additional elements in the background, like the chair and the additional person, which I feel does not help the picture and will be tricky to fix in Lightroom alone, but where Photoshop really excels.


N.B. This example is using the 2014 version of Photoshop CC.



Keeping Lightroom adjustments editable inside Photoshop CC


The traditional workflow from Lightroom to Photoshop is to let Lightroom apply the adjustments and send a rasterized image into Photoshop. This can be easily achieved using the CTRL (PC)+E or CMD (Mac)+E. There is nothing wrong with this workflow and has been tried an tested for a long time, however, when the adjusted file is then sent to Photoshop there is no way to go back and re-edit any Lightroom adjustments. If changes are required, then the process will need to re-start and any Photoshop edits will need to re-apply.


An alternative way of working is to open the file into Photoshop from Lightroom as a Smart Object. This will send both the RAW file as well as any Lightroom adjustments into Photoshop and keep the edits alive and re-editable into the future. To do this, right click on the picture in the filmstrip, or from the menu bar Photo / Edit in / Photoshop as a Smart Object.



Inside Photoshop CC only a single layer will be shown in the layers palette. This layer is the Smart Object and will hold both the RAW file as any adjustments from Lightroom. Smart Objects can hold anything inside Photoshop (not just RAW files and meta data), it can also store video files/clips, groups of layers, other smart objects, Layer Adjustments etc etc, and in any combination.



At any point in time, the Smart Object layer can be double clicked and the contents will be opened. In this example, the RAW file will be opened using Camera RAW, as well as any Lightroom adjustments that are found (If the file came from Bridge into Photoshop via Camera RAW, then the same screen will be displayed). The RAW file and Lightroom adjustments will be available even after the file has been saved (as long as the layer stays as a Smart Object and is not rasterised inside Photoshop).



Using Photoshop to make complex image edits. 


Sudden activities inside the frame are a classic occurrence that regularly happens when a photo is taken. These additional elements sometimes, don’t help convey the story. In the example, there is a green chair as well as an additional person walking in the background. A few extra seconds and a move to the right would have eliminated them, but the position of the dancer might have been sacrificed.  Elements like these are easy to removed in Photoshop using many of its tools, the one that will be used here is the Content aware patch tool.


The traditional workflow for removing anything in an image (including spotting), is to duplicate the background layer and work on this new layer. It’s a tried and tested route and works very well, but, one of the issues with this approach is that duplicating layers can drastically increase the number of pixels and in turn increase the physical document size. It’s also difficult to look at what was changed at a future time. A different way to achieve exactly the same thing, and not radically increase the file size, as well as improving the workflow, is to create a new empty layer above the background and use this to store any changes.



Content Aware Patch provides a fast and accurate way of fixing/replacing the areas that need to be modified, as well as showing a preview of what will be changed. When using an empty layer (is in this approach), it’s important to have the ’Sample all Layers’ icon turned on, as this will allow the tool to sample all layers in the stack and place the processed result into the empty layer (this option in the following screen shot is depicted using the multiple layers icon in the tool bar).


When working with the Content Aware Patch tool and where there is a defined line (below there is a hard line between the crowd and the floor), try to make sure that the source and destinations are lined up on the preview.



Once applied, the replacement patch can sometimes have colour issues, especially when there is a gradient involved. In the above image there is a gradient on the floor, therefore the blend is not a seamless as it could be. Photoshop CC 2014 has the ability to control the colour values on the patch to make a consistent colour blend; this is available on the adaption tool bar options (Colour has a range of 1 to 10). This value can be changed even whilst the selection and patched area are still active.



At this point in a traditional workflow, the Photoshop user might create a new layer that is a merge of the two layers, and place it above the modification (sometimes called a lock off layer, and will contain the results of the fix). However, this will commit the modifications and would make it much harder to modify the patch (if required), in the future.


A new workflow is to wrap this adjustment into a Smart Object, which will allow the re-editing of the patch in the future. To do this, select the layers that need to be converted then choose Convert to Smart Object. Once the conversion has completed, a single layer will be shown, and any adjustments to the image can be made using this as a base image.



Once the Smart Object has been created, it can be used to hold for any Filter adjustments or any Layer adjustments. Using this method will keep any image edits non destructive for much longer time in the editing process.


In this example, the dancer was taken with a high shutter speed, resulting in freezing of any motion. It’s not until the editing process, where other pictures that were taken can be seen, that the creative decision may be to add some motion to help tell the story to this particular photograph. A new tool in Photoshop CC, called the Path Blur filter can be used to re-create motion in the scene (this motion can usually be created in camera, using a slower shutter speed). This filter will be applied to the results of the Smart Object, therefore, not changing its contents, and is re-editable in the future.



Once the Path blur window is open, a Bezier like curve/path can be drawn. This curve/path can be used to show the motion of some areas of the scene or the entire scene. Once a curve/path has been drawn, the speed of the motion can be controlled by either using the on screen widget, or by using the controls on the right hand side of the screen.




The curve/path can be moved or bent into position by dragging any point including the center point. Other points and curves/paths can also be created to create fluid motion in the scene if required.




Only the dancer needs the movement, but the result of the single curve/path will affect the whole scene. In this case more lines can be created to stop motion in other parts of the picture. In the example below, another straight line is created to the left of the dancer. Stopping the motion will help convince the viewer that the dancer is the only part of the scene that is moving (Motion like this can be controlled in the camera by using a slower shutter speed and a tripod).


Slowing the motion in this part of the scene is controlled at either end of the curve/path. Each end of the curve/path has a speed value that can be reduced. These values are controlled by turning on the Edit Blur Shapes (right hand properties panel below), this action will show two red arrows at either end of the curve/path. Changing the End Point speed at each end will slow the motion down. A zero value at each end should work just fine.


 Once the effect has been applied, Photoshop will add the effect to the Smart Object, and provide a free mask. The mask can be used to mask out specific areas of the effect on the rest of the photograph. The effect can be re-edited at any point in time by double clicking on the Blur Gallery Filter on the Smart Object. The effect can also be temporarily removed by clicking on the eye icon next to the mask (will turn off all effects) or the eye icon next to the Filter (in this case the Blur Gallery Filter). Turning off individual Filters is useful to turn off filters when more than once filter is used on the Smart Object.



The white mask can be painted using the Photoshop Brush tool (B key). Painting in black will hide the effect and painting in white will reveal the effect. Once the Brush has been selected, the D key can be used to reset the foreground and background colours (black and white). This reset is useful if other colours have been used in a process before this step. The X key can be used to quickly switch the foreground and background colours around when painting.  The mask can be accessed at any time by selecting it with the mouse and holding the ALT key down whilst double clicking it. This is a good place to see what the mask looks like and to refine it further if required.




If a mask has been used on the layer, it will affect filters that are applied. If any new Filter adjustments are required and they don’t require the mask, to keep the edits non destructive and re-editable in the future, this adjustment to the Smart Object can be wrapped up into another Smart Object. This option is available by selecting the layer(s) that need to be converted, and using the right click on the layer, or by opening the layers fly out menu (top right hand side of the layers panel) and choosing ‘Convert to Smart Object’.



The result will be a single layer that contains all of the previous adjustments. This method will also increase Photoshop performance when working with layers and complex edits, the resulting layer size will be smaller and Photoshop will be faster.




Now that a single Smart Object layer has been created and it contains all of the adjustments, the edit can continue. In this case, the Camera RAW filter can be used to further enhance the image.



The Camera RAW filter will open up the Camera RAW dialog screen and provide comprehensive adjustments of this powerful filter. Any adjustments available in this dialog box can be performed at this stage (i.e. Split tone, radial filter, clone/heal, lens corrections etc. etc.).




To further enhance the viewers experience and to keep the viewer in the picture much longer, we can use traditional dark room techniques to guide the eyes into where we need the viewer to focus. Dark areas of a picture will repel the eyes and bright areas will attract the eyes. In the dark room, master printers would use this technique and create something called an edge burn (which is similar to a vignette). Essentially this keeps the viewer in the photograph and will keep the view from ‘falling out of the frame’. This effect can be achieved in Lightroom or Camera RAW by using the Post Crop Vignette, but sometimes we might need a more impactful way of doing this. The Position of the Post Crop Vignette cannot be modified and will be applied from the center outward, this is heavily dependent on the final crop of the image. The Radial Filter in Lightroom and Camera RAW will allow a customised area to be created, and then apply adjustments outside or inside of it. In this example, the exposure can be reduced outside to give a much more controlled effect (this is also a great tool to use on portraits or anything that needs focused impact).


The radial filter can be selected and drawn on to the image at the desired location. The radial filter’s size and shape can be changed at will by dragging it or by expanding/contracting the handles on the ellipse. The image below is showing the area covered by the radial filter by having the mask turned on.




The initial round/elliptical shape of the Radial Filter isn’t quite correct and a part of the dancer is affected. The Radial Filter in Camera RAW now includes a brush that is used to customise its shape. To turn the brush on, select it in the radial filter options panel (or press SHIFT+K), then choose + or – to add or subtract the mask area.




Once the Camera RAW filter adjustments have been completed, press OK and commit the results. The results are then added to the Smart Object. The Camera RAW settings can be modified at any point in time by double clicking on the Camera RAW filter option. Also, the layer mask can be used to further refine the filter(s) adjustments.





Once the edit has been completed, it can be saved from Photoshop CC using the CMD (Mac)+S or CTRL (Pc)+S, the file will automatically be saved next to the original RAW file and will be available inside Lightroom.


If the file needs to be worked on further (now or in the future), it’s best to edit the original and don’t make any additional adjustments in Lightroom to the Photoshop (PSD) file. To open the file quickly into Photoshop from Lightroom the CTRL (PC)+E or CMD (Mac)+E combination can be used This will keep the workflow simple and not add any complexities. If Lightroom adjustments are required, then they can be made using the Camera RAW filter and Smart Objects inside Photoshop CC.




Once re-opened inside Photoshop. All Smart Objects and adjustments are available. This means that the PSD file doesn’t have to be flattened once the Photoshop Edits have been initially made. Other adjustments / enhancements can be made to your picture in the future, as your Photoshop editing skills become stronger and more refined.




Comments are closed.