When editing photos, I usually launch an image into Adobe Camera Raw from Bridge, edit it as much as I deem appropriate and then move it into Photoshop to finish things up. I actually have a Preset that I use quite often in Camera Raw for most of my food photography. After I apply the Preset and tweak the photo a bit to customize it, I’ll launch it into Photoshop, which will automatically close down Camera Raw.
This has proven to be a fairly efficient workflow. The issue that has arisen, though, is that I’m finding myself not always absolutely happy with the product I move from Camera Raw into Photoshop. Because of this, I’m forced to start all over again. Again, I’ll launch the image from Bridge into Camera Raw, edit the image using the Preset I made, tweak the photo a little differently this time and finally, transfer the edited image to Photoshop. If I’m not happy again, I’ll need to repeat this process one more time or until I get it right.
A few days ago, I wondered if I could open an image into Photoshop from the get-go and turn the photo layer into an eternally editable Smart Object. From there, I can take advantage of the Camera Raw Filter and perform my usual Preset edits that way, right inside of Camera Raw. When finished, I would close Camera Raw and have the edited file sitting there inside of Photoshop, where it was. If I needed to re-edit, I could simply do so from Photoshop.
I’m happy to report that this process works wonderfully. And because it works so well, I’ve decided to lay out exactly what I did here. So, if you’re interested in making an already efficient workflow even more efficient, read on below. This one is especially good because I’ll throw in a concept from one of my previous posts that will make the entire process lightening fast.
Previous Posts You Should Read
In the post below, I’ll be using some ideas I’ve written about in previous posts. While you’re welcome to breeze through what I share below, it would probably be most helpful if you review what I link to below. Whatever you would like to do is fine, just know that all the resources you’ll need are right here.
For this post, I’ll be using the image below. What you’re looking at is what I’d like the photo to eventually look like. The original is much more dull as you’ll quickly discover in the next section.
Creating a Smart Filter
After opening the photo into Adobe Photoshop, I’ll head straight to the Filter > Convert For Smart Filters menu item and click.
When I do this, a small warning box will appear, telling me that my action will turn the layer into a Smart Object.
Once I click OK, I’ll see a small box appear in the lower right side of the layer thumbnail in the Layers panel.
At this point, you may be asking yourself what the difference between a Smart Object and a Smart Filter is. Well, any filter applied to a Smart Object is a Smart Filter. So, when you create a Smart Filter, all you’re doing is creating a Smart Object that you’ll apply a filter to. Ask me why Adobe broke this task up like this as opposed to simply telling us to create a Smart Object and then apply a filter to it and I’ll tell you that I have absolutely no idea.
Anyway, now that the layer has been converted over, I can go ahead with the remaining steps of this project.
Creating an Action
By now, you should know how to create an action in Photoshop. If you don’t, I have a post that will explain everything in very simple to follow detail. You can view that post here.
I’ll head up to the Actions panel and, after selecting the freshly created Demo Actions folder, will click the Create New Action icon.
Immediately, the New Action dialog will appear, giving me the opportunity to name the action I’d like to make. In this case, I’ll call it Camera Raw Preset because that’s all I’ll be using with this task.
After I name the action and click Record, a small red circle will appear at the bottom of the Actions panel. That means my action is being recorded. Also, I’ll see the beginnings of the new action appear in the Demo Actions folder (set) in the Actions panel. I’ve outlined all this in red in the below screenshot.
From here, I can head up to the Filter > Camera Raw Filter menu item and click.
This will open Camera Raw right inside Photoshop. I’ll head straight to the Presets panel and click on my preset to activate it.
Then, since I think the Exposure setting is too strong, I’ll head to the Basic panel and push that slider to the left just a bit.
Finally, when I’m happy with the image, I’ll click the OK button down at the bottom right, which will cause Camera Raw to close out and me to return to Photoshop. In between that, I’ll see a status bar telling me the progress of the filter.
At last, I’ll click the Stop button at the bottom of the Action panel in Photoshop to create the action. At this point, I should see the action and Camera Raw Filter step in the panel.
If you look at the screenshot above, you’ll see that I clicked the small arrow to the left of the Camera Raw Filter step. Doing that exposed all the data that was transferred over to Photoshop from Camera Raw. This isn’t too critical, but I did want to show you that you can expand the action steps for a closer look.
The Benefit of Smart Filters
Okay, I just went over a heck of a lot of stuff. It sort of looked like the same steps from my previous post. There is, however, one huge difference between this post and the last one and it’s this; let’s say that I don’t like the output from Camera Raw. If I wanted to go back to Camera Raw to make a change, whether it be large or small, all I would need to do is to double click on the Camera Raw Filter text that sits directly under the Smart Filters object in the Layers panel.
If I did that, Camera Raw would open back up and I would be able to see all of the edits I made previously. I could make any additional changes I saw fit and then I could click OK again. Those changes would then be applied to the image sitting inside Photoshop. I could do this a million times if I wanted to because of the mere fact that I created a Smart Object, which is completely editable, to begin with. It’s like magic. And that was the purpose of this tutorial.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding this post, please leave them in the comment section below. As always, thanks for reading!