We all know by now that we should be converting layers that we add filters to in Adobe Photoshop to Smart Objects. I’ve said this a dozen times on this blog. Doing this has tremendous upside and only somewhat of a downside. The upside is that the layer we’re working on will be protected by the Smart Object envelope. Any changes that we make to it will be non-destructive. For a heavy Photoshop users, having this capability is invaluable. It’s huge. It’s make or break kind of stuff.
The downside of converting a layer to a Smart Object is that it adds to the file size. Whenever I hear that, I’m like, “Yeah, whatever. What’s it going to add? Like 5 MBs? That’s nothing! I have a 4 GB external drive!” It’s almost as if people say that the additional file size isn’t even something to consider. I’ll admit that I haven’t made a big deal about it on this blog. Should I have? Does the file size grow substantially? Is this something we should be taking a closer look at?
In today’s post, I’m going to run a simple experiment. I’m not going to take people’s words for it or read about it on the internet. I’m going to do the work myself to garner some actual results. What I’d like is to see exactly is how much the size of a file grows if a layer within that file is converted to a Smart Object. Simple enough.
To perform this experiment, I needed a photograph that was taken in RAW format. With this in mind, I grabbed my camera and ran outside to our bird feeder. It just snowed last night up here in Maine and the birds are going crazy for bird food. They always do this after it snows. I took a bunch of quick pictures and then came back inside and loaded them onto my computer. I’ll use the best shot, which isn’t great, but it’ll do. Here it is.
This is a Chickadee. It’s out state bird. We’re very proud of this bird in Maine. I just wish it was sunny for the photo, but I’ll have to live with the clouds.
Okay, ready for some information? Here goes. The size of the RAW file after I took it out of the camera is below.
RAW File (CR2): 28.3 MB
I did a small amount of editing in Camera Raw and then moved the file into Adobe Photoshop. From there, I simply “Saved Ad” a TIFF file. Let’s check out the size of that.
TIFF File (TIF): 68.6 MB
After that, I saved the original RAW file out as a Photoshop PSD file. Both TIFF and PSD files preserve layers within the file. I wanted to see the difference between the two sizes.
Photoshop File (PSD): 68.6
Isn’t that interesting? They’re both exactly the same. Because they’re the same size, I’ll work with just TIFF from here on out. Let’s move on.
The next thing I wanted to see was how large a file would become if I added a straight up filter to the layer and also if I added an adjustment layer to the file. Let’s take a look.
TIFF File with Filter: 206 MB
TIFF File with Adjustment Layer: 206 MB
Whoa. Okay, the minute you touch a file in Photoshop, the size of it jumps up quite a bit. That’s good to know.
Now let’s take a look at what happens to the file size if I just convert the image layer into a Smart Object. All I’m doing for this one is opening the RAW image into Photoshop and then converting the layer and saving it out. That’s it.
TIFF File with Smart Object: 275 MB
Okay, things are starting to get a bit heavy here. My 4 GB external drive isn’t looking so large anymore. How much bigger can these files get? Well, let’s have a look. For this final experiment, I’m going to add a filter to the Smart Object. For this one, I’m building off the last one. I already converted the layer and now I’ll go up to the Filter > Sharpen > Sharpen menu item and click.
TIFF File with Smart Object + Filter: 344 MB
That’s pretty large. It’s actually so large that if we were to work on many of our photos and save those working files, we’d need a heck of a lot of disk space to store all these things. The question now is, is it worth it to use Smart Objects? I suppose that depends on how serious you are. What type of photography or graphic design are you into? Are you making money off of it? Can you afford all those external drives? There are many questions, but I at least wanted to get you some raw data to review. Please, let me know your thoughts on this. Does what I showed you above surprise you?