- Guaranteed for 2 full months
- Pay by PayPal or Credit Card
- Instant Digital Download
Let’s face it– Photoshop is a beast, and a tough one to tame. There are at least half a dozen “right” ways to do just about everything, and I think it’s safe to say that most of us don’t use it to anywhere near its full potential. I’ve lost track of how long ago I started using PS (version 4, maybe?), and I’ve yet to unlock all its secrets– which I think is a good thing. For me, the best Photoshop work is that which my clients never even notice. To that end, I strive to get it right in the camera, and to the extent that post-processing is necessary, I try to keep it to a minimum. Smooth a little skin. Bump some contrast. Open up the shadows. Darken the highlights. A few simple tweaks to help make sure that people notice the photo– not the editing.
Keeping the edits simple, though, is not always an option. Try as I might, I’m not always going to get it right in the camera. Keeping the sky nice and blue when properly exposing for the ground isn’t always easy. And don’t even get me started on the myriad of ways to run a black & white conversion. Learning how to tackle some of these editing challenges can be slow, meticulous work, and it can often feel like you’re re-inventing the wheel for every photo. Who wants to spend that kind of time in front of the computer? This is where Photoshop Actions come in handy.
A Photoshop action is basically a recorded set of steps which allows you to reduce any series of long, complicated, time-consuming steps to a single click of the mouse. What might ordinarily take minutes or even hours to achieve by going step-by-step, becomes a much more convenient, time-saving, automated process. Some actions provide a simple, global adjustment to the photo, while others will apply several customizable adjustment layers, allowing the user to fine-tune the action and target specific areas of the image.
While anyone can record their own actions in Photoshop, companies like Kubota Image Tools, Totally Rad Actions, MCP Actions, and others, have been creating action packs for years, allowing photographers to achieve editing results they might not otherwise have the time or Photoshop expertise to achieve on their own. Contrast adjustments, black & white conversions, sun flares, vintage filters– even teeth whitening– are all just a click or two away. Most action packs come with more than you will ever need (or want) to use, but if you’re lucky enough to find even just a few that help your workflow, you’ll find them to be well worth the cost.
Photoshop Actions from ATNX Digital is a new option, providing users with 90 actions in four sets– Primary, Mono, Color, and Special. The Primary set consists of 20 actions, helping to automate tasks like boosting contrast, dodge & burn, noise reduction, and soft focus. Mono– as the name implies– consists of 26 different black & white conversion tools, while the Color set goes the other direction, using actions like Bleach Bypass, Color Boost, and Custom Toning to make color adjustments you could never achieve in-camera (see image above). Finally, the Special set brings effects like center lighting, selective focus, light leaks, and 17 different textures to your digital palette. It’s a pretty extensive selection, with a variety of options for many post-processing tasks.
What I like about these actions is that most are customizable and can be adjusted to the specific needs of the image. This is achieved in a variety of ways, depending on the selected action. Since most actions are applied by adding various types of adjustment layers, the original image (the Background layer) is left untouched on the bottom of the stack. By adjusting the opacity of the new layers, selecting which of them are even visible, or tweaking the layer masks, you open up a world of adaptable possibilities.
All of that sounds great, but it’s important to keep something in mind. The quality of any action is only as good as the Photoshop skills and aesthetic of the person who programmed it in the first place. Most actions are good starting points, but since every image– and every photographer– is different, you are hardly ever going to simply apply an action and walk away. You may have to tweak it, finesse it, and sometimes even bend it to get the right look. Hopefully, the structure of the action makes it easy– perhaps a final step in a relatively streamlined process. That’s why it’s so important to find actions that fit well with your workflow. If applying an action is only the first step of a 30-minute editing process, you’ve completely missed the point. They only save time and effort if you are off doing something else.
I haven’t tried all 90 of the actions yet, but I’ve gone through a good sampling from each set to have a pretty good feel for them. Of the 40 or 50 that I’ve put to the test, I’ve probably found five or six that I can see incorporating into my workflow. While that might sound like a bad review, I assure you that it’s actually pretty high marks coming from me. Of the hundreds of actions installed on my computer, I probably use a grand total of anywhere from six to ten of them with any regularity. While that may sound like a waste of money, if they get me away from my computer so I can spend more time with my family, it’s worth the price.
For purposes of this review, anything labeled “Original” is straight off the camera, with no edits other than resizing. Anything labeled with an action name has had the action applied, with no additional editing of the image or tweaking of the action. See Set One examples above.
Speaking of cost, this is where ATNX actions really shine. While some companies charge hundreds of dollars for smaller action packs, the complete set of 90 ATNX actions comes in at a very budget-friendly $25.00 (USD). This is particularly helpful for photographers who may be new to Photoshop actions and still aren’t quite sure how they’ll fit with their workflow. While you might hesitate to spend anywhere from $80.00 to $200.00 on a maybe from another company, at $25.00 you can afford to take a chance. That’s not to take anything away from higher priced sets, but if you’re still learning your way through the post-processing labyrinth and want to give actions a try, ATNX might just be a good place to start.
Anything negative that I might have to say would be based only on my own personal aesthetic, through no fault of the product. If an action’s initial output requires too much tweaking to get the look I want, then it’s not for me. Objectively speaking, though, Photoshop Actions from ATNX Digital combine strong, user-friendly editing tools with an affordable price tag– not an easy combination to find.
ATNX Digital Photoshop Actions are available for digital download on their website.