Linked Smart Objects have been a part of the Adobe Illustrator and InDesign workflows for some time, and now they've been integrated directly into Photoshop CC as well! Let's take a look at how this new feature can save photographers (and graphic artists) time and disk space.
Smart Object Updates: The Old-School Way
One thing that many photographers have in common is they like to create a graphical signature or copyright notice that can be added to their photo documents. This can serve different purposes, but the bottom line is you're adding one file into many others. Invariably it's good to set things up so that when you update the file that holds the graphic, the update will "carry over" to all the other files that use it. This was one kind of task that Smart Objects were originally designed to solve, but until now they never quite solved the task completely; extra steps were often required to get the right result.
Traditionally, when you use an Embedded Smart Object within a photo, to update the appearance of that file you have to double-click on the Smart Object layer. This will open a copy of the embedded file in Photoshop and then you can make changes. After you save those changes and close the copy, the photo's appearance will update. However, because you're working on embedded data, the changes you make will not show up in other photographs where you embedded the same file, because those photos have their own "copy" of (which remains in its original state until modified).
If you choose to close your photos and update the graphic file that was embedded into them instead, even then opening the photos afterward will not show the changes made. This is because the original graphic and the embedded versions of the graphic are not linked. To get around this limitation in embedded Smart Objects, you would have to follow a process similar to these steps:
- Edit and resave the graphic file.
- Highlight the Smart Object layer in your photo(s), right-click and choose the Replace Contents command.
- Reselect and place the (now modified) graphical file.
This would replace the data in the photograph with the updated graphic. However, to do this for a large number of files, you'd have to take even more steps. In short, making changes to embedded Smart Objects across a large number of files is not an efficient process. What's more, Embedded Smart Objects create larger file sizes (sometimes substantially larger depending on what you embed).
If you're uploading (or your clients are downloading) many dozens or even hundreds of photos with these embedded files, adding even a few megabytes to the individual file sizes can be a big deal. It means the persons uploading and downloading are going to spend several more minutes getting those tasks done. Now let's see how it's done with Linked Smart Objects.