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This is a guest contribution from Meghan Aileen Schirmer at The Shoppe Designs & Photoshop Actions. Their In Vogue Action Set is available on Snap N Deals now for just $29! (until December 24, 2013)
Learning to Love Photoshop Actions
When it comes to Photoshop Actions or presets photographers tend to love them or hate them. But, when done right they can really enhance a digital image in a way that a straight out of the camera digital image cannot achieve. If you use film, that is very different, and the variety in types of film and processing techniques allows for a greater variety of beautiful looks for your images. However digital photography, in general, is limited to that digital look we all know, especially when we are in the context of a commercial photography workflow. You can of course edit your images individually in Lightroom, ACR or Photoshop. But when you use Photoshop Actions and presets it is simply speeding up this process. When you have hundreds of images to edit, time savers are very valuable.
Photoshop Actions can be used for workflow speed, such as simply adding a little contrast and saturation to all of your straight out of camera images. They can also be used to specially edit key images or to add a unique style or look to your images that makes you memorable amongst the sea of competition. Action sets at The Shoppe Designs & Actions usually each contain, several specialized Photoshop Actions that you can use at different opacities and different combinations for various style looks, as well as some utility Actions such as adding contrast or grain.
Our In Vogue set was inspired by the pages of high end fashion magazines. In this set you will see the matte look and slight toning of modern fashion photography, as well as the clipped blacks of vintage black and white film. When shooting film is not an option, using Actions to mimic the look of film is a great alternative. Maybe you love the look but are not in a position to switch to shooting film.
Here you can see the plain digital image and then the sample using the In Vogue Action Set. Our Actions are set up to leave you with a folder on top of your background layer in Photoshop, so that you can easily adjust the strength of the action. We give them to you at 100% strength or a bit less, and then you can adjust them to say 20% for a more subtle look. Perfect when you don’t want the image to look like you edited it with Actions, but just want to get rid of that digital feel. See how in these samples the actions are used at a lower opacity to simply enhance the image and not heavily alter it.
Using Actions to make your images black and white is an excellent use of them. Especially if you like the black and white film look. Just reducing the saturation on an image in Photoshop is not going to get a gorgeous black and white image, it will be flat and digital looking. Our Actions create different tones, different depths of contrast, flat or deep blacks and some even add grain for that authentic film look.
When using Photoshop Actions, we recommend trying a variety of them on several different types of photos with different lighting conditions. Not all Photoshop Actions work the same on all images, it is just not possible. Some greatly enhance one image, but may not work at all on another. As you use them often you get to know which works best on the different types of images. Some will really bring out the color in one image, while diminishing the color in another. As I mentioned our Photoshop Actions leave a folder on top of your image in your layers palate in Photoshop. We recommend playing each one on an image, then turning the folder off and on to see the effects. Then adjust the opacity of the entire folder and see what looks best. Then you can play another to add different effects and keep adjusting the folder opacity until you love it. It is best to go back to the background layer before playing each one.
In general, I recommend doing basic image editing in a RAW editing program before starting to play with Actions, unless you are using the utility Actions such as ADD CONTRAST. Stylized Photoshop Actions are simply meant to enhance while utility Actions like adding contrast, boosting saturation and sharpness can be used on original camera images.
If you want to use a utility type Action on a bunch of images at once, or a stylized action on a set of similar images, you can do that as well. In Adobe Bridge, go to TOOLS > PHOTOSHOP > BATCH and then choose the folder of images, the action to use, and the destination for them. I recommend saving them in a different folder and not saving over your originals in case you want to edit them differently later.
However you decide to use them, Photoshop Actions can be very versatile and very useful. It is a matter of fitting them into your workflow and discovering how Photoshop Actions in general as well as which Photoshop Actions in particular work best for you and the way you work.
Designer and Photographer Meghan Aileen Schirmer is the owner of The Shoppe Designs, Inc. Meghan has designed and photographed for some of the most well-known companies in the world over the past 15 years. From Sony to Nickelodeon, as well as Grammy winning artists and musicians. She lives in Nashville, TN with her family.