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Real World Camera Raw with Adobe Photoshop CS4: Really Smart Objects

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Bruce Fraser and Jeff Schewe show you how mixing Camera Raw’s newfound local image corrections with Smart Objects can add another dimension to using raw files.
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Smart Objects in Photoshop aren’t new, but with Camera Raw 5 you have new capabilities. Mixing Camera Raw’s newfound local image corrections with Smart Objects adds another dimension to using raw files. Camera Raw allows you to open a raw image embedded inside a Photoshop file while maintaining the raw editing capabilities. It’s as close as you’ll come in Photoshop to using Camera Raw as an adjustment layer.

For this example, Jeff shot a studio still life shot of flowers using a Canon 1Ds MIII on a camera stand. The camera stand was important because the intent of this exercise was to shoot two shots with different lighting: one with a hard light and one with a soft light to get a result that simulated light coming from a window. The hard-light shot was adjusted warmer in Camera Raw to simulate sunlight, whereas the soft-light image was adjusted cooler to simulate skylight. We start in Camera Raw in filmstrip mode with the two images selected, as shown in Figure 5-70.

Combining Images into Layers

Once you have the two images opened in Photoshop, the next step is to combine the two Smart Object image layers into one image. Figure 5-71 shows the process of dragging the layer icon from the hard-light image (IMG_0017) into the soft-light image (IMG_0011). When starting to drag the Smart Object layer, hold down the Shift key to pin register the moved image in the destination image.

After combining the images, you’ll end up with two Smart Object layers. We chose to stack the hard-light image on top of the soft-light image, but it could have worked the other way around just as well (the layer masks we’d make would be different). Figure 5-72 shows the result of adding the two layers together.

At this stage, you can open the Smart Object version of Camera Raw and have full access to Camera Raw 5’s controls. We used the Adjustment Brush to vary certain areas of the image (in this case, the IMG_0017 Smart Object) and to add a Graduated Filter to darken the corners and top of the image. Figure 5-73 shows the local adjustments.

The Adjustment Brush was used to darken the left corner, slightly desaturate the front flower, lighten the clippers, and lighten the leaves on the right. The Graduated Filter was used to darken the corners and top of the image. Once you click the OK button in Camera Raw you’ll see a Progress bar indicating Preparing Smart Object (see Figure 5-74). Depending on the number of local adjustments, the size of the capture, and how slow your machine is, this can seem to take a long time. We sympathize: We wish it went faster but Camera Raw has to rerender the adjustments and provide Photoshop with the “pixel” results. Figure 5-75 shows painting in a layer mask to vary the opacity (visibility) of IMG_0017.

We’re close to being done, but there’s something further we needed to do that you can’t do in Camera Raw—Lens Blur for the background. For that we’ll need an actual pixel-based layer to blur. We did the same Merge (Option > Merge) trick we used in Figure 5-68 to render the combined Smart Objects into a pixel layer. Figure 5-76 shows the process.

We added a layer mask to the resulting blur to selectively add the blur. Figure 5-77 shows using the layer mask and the addition of a second blurred layer made by duplicating the previous blurred layer and rerunning the Lens Blur filter while lowering the opacity to 50%. Hey, just like any good photographer we figure if a little is good, more is better, right?

The final results are shown in Figure 5-78. The detail shows the effect of adding the Lens Blur to give a selective focus effect and soften the wood background. Smart? No, it’s a Smart Object!

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