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Lightroom &
Photoshop CC workflow (Pt. 3): Camera RAW Filter

November 2014

Adobe now offers a Creative Cloud Photography bundle that includes Lightroom editing software and Photoshop CC for photographers who want to organise, edit, enhance and share their images via desktop or their mobile devices – this package currently comes bundled with Canon’s EOS 5D Mark III and EOS 6D DSLRs, plus the PowerShot G1 X Mark II and G7 X compact cameras. In a four-part CPN series of articles and video tutorials Richard Curtis (a Principal Solutions Consultant in Digital Imaging for Adobe UK) examines the workflow between Lightroom software and Photoshop CC to give you a good understanding of the benefits of working with both in tandem. In Part 3 of this series Richard Curtis focuses on the use of the Camera RAW Filter within the Lightroom and Photoshop CC workflow and, in a special video, he explains how to creatively adjust an image using Smart Objects and the Camera RAW Filter. Please click on the play button in the window above to watch the video…

The Creative Cloud Photography bundle – which includes Lightroom and Photoshop CC – offers photographers even more flexibility when it comes to editing their photographs and opportunities to make their images look even more amazing. Integration between the two products is a key benefit and is re-enforced with this bundle. The integration is not new – it has been in place for some time now – however, with the release of the Photography bundle and the ongoing updates to the Creative Cloud, this integration has become much stronger and offers even more possibilities to make images look more beautiful.

With traditional Photoshop workflows, any Lightroom/Photoshop adjustment(s) had to be ‘rasterised’ early on in the workflow and this reduced the options for any non-destructive work. There are classic ways of editing images in Photoshop, and ‘work-arounds’ to try create a non-destructive process, but these can result in workflows with a large number of layers and committing to adjustments early in the workflow with no way to re-edit any previous enhancements.

New, non-destructive workflows

The Creative Cloud Photography bundle, offers new workflows for the photographer to embrace a true non-destructive workflow, without having to commit to adjustments early in the process. Images can now be saved with all of their Lightroom or Camera RAW adjustments intact, with supported ways to re-edit the original RAW adjustments from Camera RAW or from Lightroom. This new workflow is a saviour for anybody who wants to tweak, enhance and then re-tweak their pictures in order to get the best result at any time in the process.

Photoshop CC enhancements

Photoshop CC has now been enhanced to include the Camera RAW engine as a Filter as well as numerous additions to the already powerful Blur Gallery. The Camera RAW Filter will allow you to make adjustments to your photographs, as you would have done in the Lightroom development module. However, the Camera RAW Filter in Photoshop is not just restricted to RAW files; it can be used on almost any layer inside Photoshop, including video clips, groups, layers and smart objects.

The Blur Gallery Filters enable in-camera motion effects to be applied in the post process. For example, previously in CS6 you could add field blur, iris blur and tilt-shift blur; now Photoshop CC adds the ability to add spinning blur and motion blur to an image, just as you are able to create in the camera.

Both of the above filters, as well as most of the other filters in Photoshop CC, are now useable on a Smart Object, which means that any modifications can be re-edited at any time... even after the Photoshop file has been saved. This workflow will allow images to be fine tuned at any time and will save a huge amount of time during the refinement process. The filters in Photoshop are now even more powerful and will allow you to make even better, creative images, and most importantly, they will naturally fit into your workflow.

© Richard Curtis/Adobe

Screen showing the original image of a dancer at a religious festival in Bhutan.

The following example will show how images can be brought into Photoshop from Lightroom, and keep any adjustments editable using Camera RAW and a combination of Smart Objects. This example will also show how unwanted parts of an image can removed and repaired whilst at the same time improving performance in Photoshop, and keeping the modifications editable for the future. New Blur Gallery Filters will be used to simulate movement that may have been lost when the picture was taken, or if the image needs it for creative effect. N.B. This example is using the 2014 version of Photoshop CC.

The image on the right was taken at a religious festival in Bhutan. To be critical about the original picture from the camera I feel the dancer in the foreground is an important part of the story however, there are additional elements in the background – like the chair and the additional person – which I feel do not help the picture and will be tricky to fix in Lightroom alone, but where Photoshop really excels. To discover the Lightroom and Photoshop CC workflow for creative editing of this image using Smart Objects and the Camera RAW Filter see the step-by-step guide below…

Step 1: Open as Smart Object in Photoshop

© Richard Curtis/Adobe

Screen showing the image of the Bhutan dancer being opened as a Smart Object in Photoshop CC via the menu Photo / Edit in / Open as Smart Object in Photoshop.

The traditional workflow from Lightroom to Photoshop is to let Lightroom apply the adjustments and send a rasterised image into Photoshop. This can be easily achieved using the CMD +E (Mac) or CTRL +E (PC) instructions. There is nothing wrong with this workflow and it has been tried an tested for a long time, however, when the adjusted file is then sent to Photoshop there is no way to go back and re-edit any Lightroom adjustments. If changes are required, then the process will need to re-start and any Photoshop edits will need to be re-applied.

© Richard Curtis/Adobe

Screen showing the image of the Bhutan dancer open as a Smart Object in Photoshop CC.

An alternative way of working is to open the file into Photoshop CC from Lightroom as a Smart Object. This will send both the RAW file as well as any Lightroom adjustments into Photoshop and keep the edits alive and re-editable into the future. To do this, right click on the picture in the filmstrip, or from the menu bar Photo / Edit in / Open as Smart Object in Photoshop.

© Richard Curtis/Adobe

Screen showing the image of the Bhutan dancer open in Camera RAW.

Inside Photoshop CC only a single layer will be shown in the layers palette. This layer is the Smart Object and it will hold both the RAW file and any adjustments from Lightroom. Smart Objects can hold anything inside Photoshop (not just RAW files and metadata); they can also store video files and clips, groups of layers, other smart objects, Layer Adjustments etc etc… and in any combination.

At any point in time, the Smart Object layer can be double clicked and the contents will be opened. In this example, the RAW file will be opened using Camera RAW, as well as any Lightroom adjustments that are found (If the file came from Bridge into Photoshop via Camera RAW, then the same screen will be displayed). The RAW file and Lightroom adjustments will be available even after the file has been saved (as long as the layer stays as a Smart Object and is not rasterised inside Photoshop CC).

Step 2: Removing elements with Content Aware Patch

© Richard Curtis/Adobe

Screen showing the new empty layer created and shown in the right hand side toolbar in Photoshop CC.

Sudden activities inside the frame are classic occurrences that regularly happen when a photo is taken. These additional elements sometimes don’t help to convey the story. In our example there is a green chair, as well as an additional person walking in the background. A few extra seconds and a move to the right would have eliminated them, but the position of the dancer might have been sacrificed. Elements like these are easy to remove in Photoshop CC using many of its tools – the one that will be used here is the Content Aware Patch tool.

The traditional workflow for removing anything in an image is to duplicate the background layer and work on this new layer. It’s a tried and tested route, and works very well, but one of the issues with this approach is that duplicating layers can drastically increase the number of pixels and, in turn, increase the physical document size. It’s also difficult to look at what was changed at a future time. A different way to achieve exactly the same thing, and not radically increase the file size, as well as improving the workflow, is to create a new empty layer above the background and use this to store any changes.

© Richard Curtis/Adobe

Screen showing the Content Aware Patch tool in use with part of the image being copied and lined up (on left hand side) to replace the green chair from the original image.

Content Aware Patch provides a fast and accurate way of fixing or replacing the areas that need to be modified, as well as showing a preview of what will be changed. When using an empty layer (as in this approach), it’s important to have the ’Sample all Layers’ icon turned on, as this will allow the tool to sample all layers in the stack and place the processed result into the empty layer (this option in the screen shot, above right, is depicted using the multiple layers icon in the toolbar).

© Richard Curtis/Adobe

Screen showing the option to adjust colour values (from 1 to 10) via the Adaptation toolbar options in order to achieve a better colour blend.

When working with the Content Aware Patch tool, and where there is a defined line (below there is a hard line between the crowd and the floor), try to make sure that the source and destinations are lined up on the preview.

Once applied, the replacement patch can sometimes have colour issues, especially when there is a gradient involved. In the above image there is a gradient on the floor, therefore the blend is not as seamless as it could be. Photoshop CC 2014 has the ability to control the colour values on the patch to make a consistent colour blend; this is available on the Adaptation toolbar options (Colour has a range of 1 to 10) and is shown in the image on the right. This value can be changed even whilst the selection and patched area are still active.

Step 3: Wrap adjustment into a Smart Object

© Richard Curtis/Adobe

Screen showing the layers being converted to a Smart Object – this allows for re-editing of the patch later on.

At this point in a traditional workflow, the Photoshop user might create a new layer that is a merge of the two layers and place it above the modification (sometimes called a ‘lock-off layer’, and will contain the results of the fix). However, this will commit the modifications and would make it much harder to modify the patch (if required), in the future.

A new workflow is to wrap this adjustment into a Smart Object, which will allow the re-editing of the patch in the future. To do this, select the layers that need to be converted then choose ‘Convert to Smart Object’. Once the conversion has completed, a single layer will be shown, and any adjustments to the image can be made using this as a base image.

Once the Smart Object has been created, it can be used to hold for any Filter adjustments or any Layer adjustments. Using this method will keep any image edits non-destructive for a much longer time in the editing process.

Step 4: Using the Path Blur filter

© Richard Curtis/Adobe

Screen showing the selection of the Path Blur filter from the drop down Filter menu in Photoshop CC.

In this example, the dancer was taken with a high shutter speed, resulting in freezing of any motion. It’s not until the editing process, where other pictures that were taken can be seen, that the creative decision may be to add some motion in order to help to tell the story in this particular photograph. A new tool in Photoshop CC, called the Path Blur filter, can be used to re-create motion in the scene (this motion can usually be created in-camera, using a slower shutter speed). This filter will be applied to the results of the Smart Object, therefore not changing its contents, and is re-editable in the future.

© Richard Curtis/Adobe

Screen showing the curve/path being drawn onto the image using the Path Blur filter.

Once the Path Blur window is open, a Bezier-like curve/path can be drawn. This curve/path can be used to show the motion of some areas of the scene or the entire scene. Once a curve/path has been drawn, the speed of the motion can be controlled by either using the on-screen widget or by using the controls on the right hand side of the screen.

© Richard Curtis/Adobe

Screen showing a curved path being drawn onto the dancer in the image using the Path Blur filter.

The curve/path can be moved or bent into position by dragging any point including the centre point. Other points and curves/paths can also be created to create fluid motion in the scene if required.

© Richard Curtis/Adobe

Screen showing a straight line path being drawn onto the image to the left of the dancer using the Path Blur filter, in order to stop motion in other parts of the image, so the dancer will appear to be the only object moving.

Only the dancer needs the movement, but the result of the single curve/path will affect the whole scene. In this case more lines can be created to stop motion in other parts of the picture. In the example below, another straight line is created to the left of the dancer. Stopping the motion will help convince the viewer that the dancer is the only part of the scene that is moving (motion like this can be controlled in the camera by using a slower shutter speed and a tripod).

Slowing the motion in this part of the scene is controlled at either end of the curve/path. Each end of the curve/path has a speed value that can be reduced. These values are controlled by turning on the Edit Blur Shapes option (in the right hand properties panel below) – this action will show two red arrows at either end of the curve/path. Changing the End Point speed at each end will slow the motion down. A zero value at each end should work just fine.

Step 5: Masking out the effect

© Richard Curtis/Adobe

Screen showing the Filter mask added to the image as a Smart Object.

Once the effect has been applied, Photoshop CC will add the effect to the Smart Object, and provide a free mask. The mask can be used to mask out specific areas of the effect on the rest of the photograph. The effect can be re-edited at any point in time by double clicking on the Blur Gallery Filter on the Smart Object. The effect can also be temporarily removed by clicking on the eye icon next to the mask (which will turn off all effects) or the eye icon next to the filter (in this case the Blur Gallery filter). Turning off individual filters is useful when more than one filter is used on the Smart Object.

© Richard Curtis/Adobe

Screen showing the white mask being painted using the Photoshop Brush tool. Painting in black will hide the effect, whilst painting in white will reveal it.

The white mask can be painted using the Photoshop Brush tool (via the ‘B’ key). Painting in black will hide the effect and painting in white will reveal the effect. Once the Brush has been selected, the ‘D’ key can be used to reset the foreground and background colours (black and white). This reset is useful if other colours have been used in a process before this step. The ‘X’ key can be used to quickly switch the foreground and background colours around when painting. The mask can be accessed at any time by selecting it with the mouse and holding the ‘ALT’ key down whilst double clicking it. This is a good place to see what the mask looks like and to refine it further if required.

Step 6: Convert to Smart Object for single layer

© Richard Curtis/Adobe

Screen showing the ‘Convert to Smart Object’ option being chosen in order to create a single layer that includes all previous adjustments to the image.

If a mask has been used on the layer, it will affect filters that are applied. If any new filter adjustments are required, and they don’t require the mask, to keep the edits non-destructive and re-editable in the future, this adjustment to the Smart Object can be wrapped up into another Smart Object. This option is available by selecting the layer(s) that need to be converted, and using the right click on the layer, or by opening the layers fly out menu (on the top right hand side of the layers panel) and choosing ‘Convert to Smart Object’.

© Richard Curtis/Adobe

Screen showing that the choice of the ‘Convert to Smart Object’ option has created a single Smart Object layer

The result will be a single layer that contains all of the previous adjustments. This method will also increase Photoshop CC’s performance when working with layers and complex edits as the resulting layer size will be smaller and Photoshop CC will be faster.

Step 7: Select the Camera RAW Filter for enhancements

© Richard Curtis/Adobe

Screen showing selecting the Camera RAW Filter from the Filter menu in Photoshop CC.

Now that a single Smart Object layer has been created, and it contains all of the adjustments, the edit can continue. In this case the Camera RAW Filter can be used to further enhance the image.

© Richard Curtis/Adobe

Screen showing selecting the Camera RAW Filter open in Photoshop CC with the Exposure value being adjusted in the right hand side toolbar.

The Camera RAW Filter will open up the Camera RAW dialog screen and provide comprehensive adjustments of this powerful filter. Any adjustments available in this dialog box can be performed at this stage (i.e. Split tone, Radial Filter, clone/heal, lens corrections etc. etc.).

Step 8: Using the Radial Filter for customised adjustments

To further enhance the viewer’s experience, and to keep the viewer in the picture much longer, we can use traditional darkroom techniques to guide the eyes in to where we need the viewer to focus. Dark areas of a picture will repel the eyes and bright areas will attract the eyes. In a darkroom master printers would use this technique and create something called an edge burn (which is similar to a vignette). Essentially this keeps the viewer in the photograph and will keep the view from ‘falling out of the frame’. This effect can be achieved in Lightroom or Camera RAW by using the Post Crop Vignette, but sometimes we might need a more impactful way of doing this. The position of the Post Crop Vignette cannot be modified and will be applied from the centre outward; this is heavily dependent on the final crop of the image.

© Richard Curtis/Adobe

Screen showing the Radial Filter selected in Camera RAW, and the area covered by the Radial Filter, with the adjustable options in the toolbar on the right hand side.

The Radial Filter in Lightroom and Camera RAW will allow a customised area to be created, and then apply adjustments outside or inside of it. In this example, the exposure can be reduced outside to give a much more controlled effect (this is also a great tool to use on portraits or anything that needs focused impact).

© Richard Curtis/Adobe

Screen showing the Radial Filter selected in Camera RAW with the brush being used to customise the shape.

The Radial Filter can be selected and drawn onto the image at the desired location. The Radial Filter’s size and shape can be changed at will by dragging it or by expanding/contracting the handles on the ellipse. The image on the right is showing the area covered by the Radial Filter by having the mask turned on.

The initial round/elliptical shape of the Radial Filter isn’t quite correct and a part of the dancer is affected. The Radial Filter in Camera RAW now includes a brush that is used to customise its shape. To turn the brush on, select it in the Radial Filter options panel (or press SHIFT+K), then choose + or - to add or subtract the mask area.

Step 9: Save the Camera RAW Filter adjustments

© Richard Curtis/Adobe

Screen showing the adjusted image being saved as a Smart Object in Photoshop CC.

Once the Camera RAW Filter adjustments have been completed, press ‘OK’ and commit the results. The results are then added to the Smart Object. The Camera RAW settings can be modified at any point in time by double clicking on the Camera RAW Filter option. Also, the layer mask can be used to further refine the filter(s) adjustments.

© Richard Curtis/Adobe

Screen showing the Edit options available to open the file into Photoshop CC from Lightroom.

Once the edit has been completed it can be saved from Photoshop CC using the CMD +S (Mac) or CTRL +S (PC) keys: the file will automatically be saved next to the original RAW file and will be available inside Lightroom.

© Richard Curtis/Adobe

Screen showing the adjusted image re-opened in Photoshop CC: once re-opened all Smart Objects and adjustments are available for any additional adjustments or enhancements.

If the file needs to be worked on further (now or in the future), it’s best to edit the original and don’t make any additional adjustments in Lightroom to the Photoshop (PSD) file. To open the file quickly into Photoshop from Lightroom the CMD +E (Mac) or CTRL +E (PC) key combination can be used: this will keep the workflow simple and not add any complexities. If Lightroom adjustments are required, then they can be made using the Camera RAW Filter and Smart Objects inside Photoshop CC.

Once re-opened inside Photoshop all Smart Objects and adjustments are available. This means that the PSD file doesn’t have to be flattened once the Photoshop edits have been initially made. Other adjustments or enhancements can be made to your picture in the future, as your Photoshop editing skills become stronger and more refined.


I hope that this article and video tutorial have given you a better insight into the key steps that are involved in using the Camera RAW Filter within the Lightroom and Photoshop CC workflow whilst keeping a non-destructive editing process alive.

Biografia: Richard Curtis

Richard Curtis

Richard Curtis is a Principal Solutions Consultant at Adobe UK with a focus on Digital Imaging. Richard is the UK contact for Photoshop, Lightroom, Elements and Imaging workflows around the Creative Cloud. He is a keen technologist and has been a keen photographer for over 20 years, with a focus on street, travel and portrait photography. His favourite photographers include Irving Penn, Mary Ellen Mark and Henri Cartier-Bresson.


Screen showing the original image of a dancer at a religious festival in Bhutan.