Monday, 27 June 2011

Lights, Camera, Photoshop Actions!

I thought I'd give this a quick write up seeing as today's Daily Snap features four different edits in one shot!

I'm all for Photoshop actions to tidy up and give my photos a bit of va va voom - to make them look happy and to give a bit of clarity to each picture. Before last year I had no idea what these actions were, what they did and why. I just kept looking at other people's photos and wondering, "How did they achieve this?" I've always had a copy of Photoshop on my computer, and I knew how to do a greyscale and duotone photograph from searching online. But I wanted to do something more with my photos, to make them look awesome but not to overprocess or oversaturate a photo so much you can barely recognise the subject! (Think the thermal image sensor on Mac Photobooth and you have pretty much my photographic pet hate right there)

Anyway, I upgraded late last year to Photoshop Elements 9 - I still have my old copy of Photoshop 7 in case I need to do a duotone (note: PSE doesn't do duotone or recognise them in any way, shape, or form) - but PSE is very intuitive and I love it! However it does make it a bit harder to find working actions as most are built specially for the newer versions of Photoshop, like CS3 and so on.

That doesn't mean you can't find them though!

My favourite go-to actions are made by the Pioneer Woman and you can find them here: For Photoshop CS3 and above people and for Elements users, like me

I love, love, love the Boost action the most. I don't know what it is about it, but it makes all of my photos explode with colour, and they look so sharp! I also enjoy combining this with Define & Sharpen which makes the photos look even better.

Take for example, my wishing wand:


This is how it looks after I used the Boost action! (and another one which I'll tell you about shortly) Here is what it looked like beforehand:

Wishing... before Edit shot

It's not quite as sharp or zingy, which is why I love using actions: No matter what you take a photo of, it will always look ten times better with an appropriate action run on top of it.

What I also love with the PW action sets (there are two) is the Heartland action, which is a beautiful alternative to black and white - I love black and white photos, but sometimes you want it to look a little bit different.

Like this?


It's a little bit cream-y, a little bit soft black, a whole lot of subtle texture in the background but it's so, so beautiful. It's how my profile picture (to the top right of your screen) looks so good.

I also love Nelly Nero actions too - you can find her here: Nelly Nero on DeviantArt

Nelly has loads (and I mean loads) of different actions available. I particularly love Seaweed:


(great for shots taken along the coastline, by the way)


Kiss BW - for all those really lovely moments that need a bit of purply pink!

Jelly bean love

And Summer Vintage - which casts a soft, yellowy, sunny hue over everything.

In fact, I love all of them, which is why I did today's Daily Snap, in four of the actions, from top left Straw, Seaweed, Palumunus, Poisoned Peach after running PW Boost/Sharpen This! actions on the photo first.

One thing I will note is that you need to install each and every Elements action, and it does take time, in fact, it takes a good hour if you download a set of them, so be prepared to wait a bit. It's not too complicated either, in fact, it's explained very well here. Elements 9.0 works exactly the same in file structure as 8.0 so don't be afraid! But please, don't do what I did, and try looking for the source folder on Windows 7 while using the Windows XP instructions *blush* - I spent ages worrying and panicking over that!

Once it's all installed, you'll be able to simply click the thumbnail of the action you want to use, click Apply and watch it do all the hard editing work for you. Simple! Simply flatten the image (PW has a flattening action) and save it, or choose another action to do some more editing.

Either way, once you get to grips with actions you'll be even more proud of your photos than before. Nothing like a good tidy up to make your photos zing with awesomeness.

Top tips:

Photoshop or Photoshop Elements are the only editing suites which Actions apply to.
Flatten your image after each edit so that the action you play next doesn't get caught up in any rogue layers from the previous action (causing error messages, whoops!)
Play around with it, have fun and if you don't like it, click Revert or Undo. You can't go wrong!

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