Despite the name of this site, I’ve got nothing against Photoshop! Even if it doesn’t have all the effects filters and organising tools you might be looking for (hence this site), it’s still worth having in your software armoury, especially if you get a good deal on an Adobe Photoshop CC subscription.

Photoshop has limitations, but it also has some powerful, versatile and unique features – and one of these is Smart Objects. When you convert an image layer into a Smart Object, you can then apply filters ‘non-destructively’. The filter no longer permanently changes the images pixels, and you can go back at any time to change the filter settings.

This makes Photoshop a really good host for filters like those in the Google Nik Collection, Perfect Photo Suite and more. And if you use Lightroom to organise your images it gets better still, and all because of a little menu option you could easily overlook…

01 Using filters from within Lightroom

Lightroom, Photoshop and Smart Objects

You can use filters directly from within Lightroom by right-clicking on the image to open the context menu and then choosing the Edit In sub-menu. Now you can choose a filter directly from the list, but if you’ve got Photoshop installed on your system, you’ll see another option down at the bottom – Open as Smart Object in Photoshop.

02 Applying a filter in Photoshop

Lightroom, Photoshop and Smart Objects

Now you can choose and apply a filter in Photoshop in the normal way. The difference is that your image is a Smart Object – but the filter will work just as if it was a regular image layer.

03 Filter settings

Lightroom, Photoshop and Smart Objects

I’m using Google’s new Analog Efex Pro filter here to give this shot of an old Royal Enfield motorcycle a vintage look. The exact settings aren’t quite as important as usual though, because I’ll be able to come back later and change them if I’m not happy.

04 Smart Objects in Photoshop

Lightroom, Photoshop and Smart Objects

This is what the result looks like in Photoshop. The Smart Object has a layer mask attached directly below, and below that the filter itself. To change the settings, you double-click the filter. It opens up, you make your changes, save them again and they’re re-applied to the Smart Object.

05 How to re-edit the effect from within Lightroom

Lightroom, Photoshop and Smart Objects

Your new image will be saved back into your Lightroom catalog alongside the original, but what do you do if you want to re-open it and change the filter effect?

What you need to do here is set up Photoshop as your external editor, if you haven’t already, then hit the ctrl/command-E shortcut. You’ll then see this dialog with three choices. Normally, you’d pick no. 3, but this time the other choices become important.

1.Edit Original: This is the option to choose if you want to re-open the Photoshop file you just created to change the filter settings.

2. Edit a Copy: This time, Lightroom will create an exact duplicate of the Photoshop file, complete with Smart Object, so that you can create an additional version with different filter settings without losing the first.

3. Edit a Copy with Lightroom Adjustments: If you do this, Lightroom will create a copy of your Photoshop file, but a flattened version with the filter applied. You will no longer be able to adjust it as a Smart Object.

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