I was excited tonight to get the new version of Photoshop, Photoshop CC, installed and to try out the Camera Raw Filter feature. But I was disappointed to discover that you can’t apply it as an adjustment layer which is what I had been assuming Adobe would deliver. Instead, the Camera Raw dialog opens just as it did in CS6—as a dialog separate from the rest of the Photoshop UI. That wouldn’t be so bad but it also fails to remember your previous settings when opening the filter a second time. Camera Raw does remember your previous settings when actually opening a Raw format file so this was a bit of a surprise. The good news is that you can apply the Camera Raw Filter as a Smart Object and, in this case, it does remember your previous settings when you subsequently edit the filter.
The bad news is that it still opens in the same ACR dialog as we’ve been used to for a long time now. In and of itself that’s not so bad but it means that you can’t see Camera Raw Filter changes in context the way you can with adjustment layers. For example, suppose you apply a Levels adjustment layer and then a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer. If you then go back and make further changes to the Levels adjustment layer what you see is the combined effect of both adjustment layers. You can stack any number of adjustment layers and what you see as you adjust each one is the end result of all of them.
With the Camera Raw Filter you don’t get to see any other edits that you may have made to the file even when editing a Smart Object. What you see is the original layer as modified only by the Camera Raw Filter. After you click OK you can then see the full impact of that change in the context of any other edits inside of Photoshop proper.
So, this is actually very disappointing. Right now, I’m not seeing any real difference between this behavior and what you could do in CS6. In Photoshop CS6 you can open a Raw format file as a Smart Object from ACR by holding down Ctrl+Shift before clicking open (Open Object). If you later want to go back and edit your Camera Raw settings you can do that and that process seems to be nearly identical with the process in CC. In CS6 you can double-click the Smart Object and you get right back to the Camera Raw dialog. After you finish making your changes you click OK and you’re back in Photoshop again. The only difference is that in Photoshop CC you can see the Camera Raw Filter in the Layers panel as a Smart Filter. In CS6 you don’t get any indication that you can go back and bring up the ACR dialog again. You just have to remember that fact.
With both CC and CS6 you get the increased file size that you get when using a Smart Filter with a Smart Object. By contrast, adjustment layers cause a relatively small increase in file size.
The only real advantage to this new filter is that you can apply it to non-Raw format files from within Photoshop. This is based on my first quick look at this brand new feature of Photoshop CC. I’ll look at this more closely in the days to come and if I discover I’ve missed something I’ll definitely report it here. I’ll also be testing the integration between Photoshop CC and Lightroom 5 to see whether it’s possible to have a truly non-destructive round-trip workflow between the two. Check back soon for more info or subscribe to this blog at the top of the right column.