Lesson G: Intro to Smart Objects and Filters – Adobe Photoshop

Lesson G: Intro to Smart Objects and Filters

Now, just one last thing bothers me. If a bird like that was photographed with a long focal length lens, the backdrop would be somewhat out of focus. If we don’t arrange that, the town in the background competes with the osprey visually. Let’s get eyes to focus on the bird, since it’s the most interesting thing in the photo.

  • Highlight the Background in the Layers panel by clicking near its name.
  • Holding down the Shift key, click near the name of the retouch layer so its highlighted too.

We’re going to put both of those into a Smart Object, a kind of container layer that can hold many different kinds of data. The biggest benefit to us is that a Smart Object can have many different kinds of effects applied to it that can be edited or removed later if we wish. We’re gong to apply one of Photoshop’s many blur filters. Smart Objects and all the various layer types are covered in, you guessed it, the Compendium. Filters too.

  • With both layers highlighted, right-click on either one, then choose Convert to Smart Object. Those layers are now safely inside the Smart Object.
  • Choose Filter > Blur Gallery > Field Blur. Don’t be startled as the whole interface becomes dedicated to this function.

In the upper right of the interface, you’ll see a slider for the amount of Blur. At the top of the interface are a few options, including the OK button we’ll use to commit this filter.

  • Use the slider or scrub the word “Blur” to get the amount that is pleasing to you. I like it at about 20 pixels for this image.
  • Since any noise in the image has been blurred away, giving a too-smooth look, use the lower-right Noise panel to add some grain: about 10% will do for an Amount to match the noise on the osprey.
  • Enable the High Quality checkbox at the top of the interface and click OK. When the filter is finished applying, you’ll see it listed under the layer’s entry in the Layers panel.

A Note Regarding Navigation

There will be times when you’d like to zoom in or pan across an image in which you have zoomed. This seems a fine time to cover that.

Most tools have a letter that accesses them: B for the Brush tool or J for the Spot Healing Brush tool are examples. Z for Zoom tool and H for Hand tool are two more. However, we rarely want to use those tools for more than a moment, and then only to better see what we’re doing with other tools. Here’s what I recommend:

  • Choose a generic tool. A safe one is the Rectangular Marquee tool; tap M to select it. We’re not going to use it, but it doesn’t hurt anything if you accidentally use it.
  • Hold down (don’t tap) the Z key and keep holding it! Look at the cursor if it’s over the image. It should resemble a magnifier.
  • Keep holding down that Z! With the cursor over the osprey, use your mouse to press-and-drag rightward slowly. You’re zooming in. Leftward is zooming out. Zoom in a good bit. Release the mouse, then (finally) release the Z key.

When you’re done, you should be zoomed on the bird and the active tool should still be the Rectangular Marquee tool. Yes, this does take a little practice. The beauty of this trick is that it works with any tool that has a letter shortcut and that you need only momentarily. Try one more. Since you’re zoomed in, let’s trying panning.

  • Hold down the H key (as in “hand”). Drag in the image to explore other parts of it. You’re panning with the Hand tool.
  • When done, release the H key.
  • To see the entire image, use the shortcut -0/Ctrl-0 (that’s a zero!).
  • Save your hard work (-S/Ctrl-S).

Well done.