Friday, June 24, 2011

Why Adobe Photoshop Smart Objects Are Like SCUBA Diving

What!  How bizarre a statement is the title of today's post?  To tell the truth?  Not at all. I was looking at the third (and last) times Square scene in this trilogy and was trying to decide if I liked the way it looked or if one of the older iterations looked better.  By using Smart Objects I was able to pick the image apart, going back to the base Layers of the four shot pano.  I was able to take a look at each of the five nested Smart Object Layers and turn on and off each Layer at each interval.  I had total freedom to move in any direction I wanted.  Up, down, left, right, just as if I was SCUBA diving.  When you're SCUBA diving you're not restricted by the typical forces we find on land.  If a diver is properly buoyant he/she can move vertically just as easily as she/he can move in a horizontal plane .  The same holds true for working in Smart Objects.  One of the demonstrations I typically do when discussing the use of Smart Objects is to start a panorama with four or five shots.  Once Adobe Photoshop CS5 does its magic I add a Layer and write the word "MISTAKE" in big red letters across the image.  From there I make the whole set of Layers into a Smart Object.  I'll go through any color correction and color saturation I think works with the image and make a Smart Object of all those Layers.  From there, as in today's image I'll create an Alpha Channel Mask and drop in a pleasing sky.  I'll adjust the sky (using Adjustment Layers and a Clipping Mask) to make it look reasonable with the rest of the image and make a Smart Object of that whole shooting match.  I'll make two copies of that Smart Object and use the lower copy to Sharpen the image and the upper to put a Vignette around the edges to "finish" the image.  Mind you, I still have the word "MISTAKE" across the image.  The reason for having the word in large type is so no one forgets that a "mistake" was made on the original pano.  In real life it wouldn't be a large, typed word, but this is only to make a point.  To find out what the magic is about using Smart Objects, hit the "read more".

Just in case you haven't been counting, there are four sets of Smart Objects nested one under another in the scenario I've described.  And, there's a "MISTAKE" all the way back at the beginning.  So, now I'm finished with this masterpiece I've just created and I'm looking for any flaws I may have overlooked.  Lo and behold I spot the "MISTAKE".  I can double click on the base Smart Object and step down one level, it's not there.  Double click on the next base Layer Smart Object and step down another level.  Not there either.  Step down again and check.  Nope, not there.  One more step down and we get to the place where the "MISTAKE" can be fixed.  It can be fixed any way you'd like.  The visibility can be turned off or the Layer dropped into the trash bin.  Whatever method is used, the "MISTAKE" is gone.
It's sort of like being at the bottom of the dive in SCUBA.  You're as far down as you can go.  On the way back up you have to take it nice and slow and rise at the same pace as your bubbles.  In PS CS5 you Save and then Close each step.  Save and Close, Save and Close your way back up to the top.  You can't just Save, Save, Save and expect to get the proper results.  Saving is one thing, but Closing updates the Smart Object that will be used by the Smart Object above.
It is interesting to watch what goes on as the Smart Object are updated.  In today's image the T-shirt on the fellow just about in the lower center of the image is a copy of the one worn by the guy just under the tip of the "One Way" sign.  The original shirt was a confusing mess of person and van due to the movement of both as a shots were taken.  When rising in the levels of Smart Objects, at one point the pants that go along with the shirt can be seen extending below the Crop of the image.  When that Smart Object was updated, the crop returned and the pants neatly trimmed to conform.
Smart Objects are the coolest things I've ever worked with in Photoshop.  The flexibility they provide is outstanding.