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When it comes to post-processing, photographers definitely have opinions about Photoshop Action sets. Some photographers love them, others consider them cheating. For me personally, Actions are most valuable when they either (a) make the editing that I would do by hand more efficient and/or (b) offer something unique and fun that may be outside my normal editing style, but fits a particular session.
In this case, the Winter Wonderland Action Set by Pure Photoshop Actions (available for Photoshop CS and above, and Elements 6-11 for $25 regular price) fits a bit of both those criteria. It’s not something that I use every day, but it really is a fun action set to have on hand during the winter months!
Essentially, the Winter Wonderland Action Set allows you to add snow with one click during post-processing. It includes several different kinds of snow, fog, and mist that can add a little something extra to your winter images. It also offers some tints and adjustments that allow you to tweak the final images towards your normal style of editing, whether you lean towards natural and clean, or a faded vintage look.
The first thing that I should mention, right off the bat, is that some of these actions run very slowly. The “Pure Snowfall 1” action in particular always seems to take several minutes to run. On the other hand, the “Soft Snow” action runs quickly every time. That said, even with “Pure Snowfall 1” taking several minutes to run, it’s still much faster than adding in individual snowflakes by hand, so it’s a win in my book.
As with most action sets, you should be prepared to tweak Winter Wonderland to fit your particular image. Winter Wonderland adds masks to most of the actions after they’ve run, and I find that I use them quite often. The most common tweak that I make to the Winter Wonderland set is to remove the added snowflakes from the subject’s eyes, nose, and mouth. I prefer the “snow” to look as natural as possible, so I do tend to leave the snowflakes around the hairline, and sometimes even on the cheeks.
The actions in this set tend to do a pretty good job of varying the size of the snowflakes in order to give a more realistic foreground and background, but there is also a snowflake brush included with the set, which allows you to pick the overall size of snowflake you want, and then scatters additional snowflakes in that size randomly over the image.
My editing style tends to be pretty clean, so that is about where I usually stop with this action set. However, the set also includes a number of actions that allow you to achieve a subtle vintage feel to your final images, and I’ve also enjoyed testing those options out as well.
When I use the Winter Wonderland action set, my ultimate goal is that if I were to post the image on Facebook, the majority of my client pool would not readily be able to tell that the snow was added in post-processing. Of course, some of my photographer friends are likely to be familiar with this particular action set, and others may be familiar enough with Photoshop to know that something’s up, but my hope is to create images that look natural enough that they could easily pass as being real. So, in order to accomplish that goal, one of the key pieces is to only use images in which your model is dressed appropriately for snow, and there could feasibly actually be snow in that location.
This particular set of images is my favorite set that I’ve ever edited with Winter Wonderland, and I think that’s due in large part to the fact that there was actually snow on the ground during our session. So, it’s not too much of a leap for a casual viewer to see snow on the ground, and find it feasible that snow could be falling at the same time. On the other hand, if I were to run this same action set on an image taken at sunset during the summer months, it would likely look ridiculous…which would really only work if you’re going for a super campy “Christmas in July” themed session.
Although I’ve seen Winter Wonderland marketed almost exclusively towards photographers doing portraits or family photography, don’t underestimate this set for landscape and nature images as well. As long as the content, and coloring of your landscape or nature image, would be appropriate for a photograph taken in the winter, there’s no reason not to give it a try!
Just for the record, I purchased the Winter Wonderland Action Set on my own, and Pure Photoshop Actions has no idea that I’m writing this article. I have just enjoyed the Winter Wonderland set quite a bit, and thought that it was worth sharing (and reasonable price at $25) as we head into the winter months in the northern hemisphere.
Have you tried the Winter Wonderland Action Set? If so, what did you think? If not, is there an image you’re eager to try it on?