Editing photos is a process of trial and error. Settings that work well for some photos may look terrible on other photos so you won’t always be able to rely on presets. Most functions in Photoshop are considered “destructive” which means that they make permanent changes to the data of the original image. The undo function can only fix a few stages of these edits. The solution is to use Non-Destructive editing. By converting your image objects to “Smart Objects,” you can apply filters and make edits without any data loss/corruption. This tutorial will show you how to access and use that function:
Open the image file you plan to edit.
Go to Filter > “Convert for Smart Filters.”
This changes your image into a “Smart Object” that can be edited without losing or damaging the internal image data.
Notice that the image tab in your Layer Panel now has a “Smart Object” icon to indicate the conversion.
Let’s try adding a filter that would normally be considered a destructive edit.
Go to Filter>Sharpen>Unsharp Mask
Since the image is a little muted, we will add a fair amount of the effect. I set the Amount to “50″ and the Radius to “5.”
With the preview option enabled, we can see that the limbs on the tree look much more vivid!
When you are satisfied with your changes, click “OK”
After applying the filter, look in the Layer Panel again. You will notice that a Smart Filters sub menu has been added to your image tab. The specific filter you use will be listed below as well.
To illustrate the flexibility of non-destructive editing, lets say that the effect we added was too harsh and we want to alter the settings of the filter.
To do this, double click on the name of the filter in your Layer Panel (in this case, it’s the Unsharp Mask).
After double-clicking on the name of your filter, the filter menu will re-open and allow you to change the settings. I backed off the Amount to “30″ and the Radius to “3.”
The tree limbs still look more vivid than the original image but the effect is more subtle.
Click “Ok” when you’re satisfied with the changes.
Another benefit of the Smart Filters is that you can click the eye icon next to the tab in the Layer Panel to toggle them on or off.
This allows you to make an A/B comparison between filters or between the edited and original image.
Non-Destructive editing is an essential technique for designers to learn. It can help you improve your workflow, save time, avoid frustration, and give you the ability to quickly respond to change requests for clients.