September 23, 2011

Lights, Camera, Actions

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Post & Photo by Joe Farace – Follow Joe on Twitter

Power Tools are small bits of software that can be Photoshop-compatible plug-ins, Photoshop Actions, or selected graphics utilities that make a digital photographer’s life a little easier for creating practical or special effects. Much like an electric screwdriver makes household projects faster than using old-fashioned hand tool, software Power Tools let you produce imaging projects quicker and with less fuss, than doing it “the hard way.”

One of the inescapable rules of digital imaging is that if you have to go through a set of enhancement or correction steps once, you’ll probably have to do it again sometime in the future. Instead of having to keep track of what you are doing by making notes with a pen and paper, Photoshop’s Actions palette lets you record a sequence of editing steps as an “action” that can then be applied to a selection in the same image, another image file, or in a batch-type operation to hundreds of different files.

The order in which tasks are executed can be edited by dragging-and-dropping. You can playback an Action with steps disabled or display selected dialog boxes during playback to interactively adjust settings. Multiple actions are displayed in the Actions palette and sets of actions can be saved and loaded separately. Actions can also be used to batch acquire of images from a digital camera, allowing an entire set of images to be automatically acquired, retouched, and saved. Action sequences can even be saved and shared with others and since these .ATN files are usually small, download is instantaneous.

Actions are stored in the Photoshop Preset folder and all versions of Adobe Photoshop bundle some prerecorded actions but you may have to install them before you can see all of the possibilities that are available. If you want to be able to save and load them, click on the arrow in the Actions palette and use the “Save Actions” and “Load Actions” command, which will allow you to store your current set of actions in an external file.

Free actions are available all over the Web, and commercial actions are produced by talented photographers and designers such as Panos Efstathiadis, Kevin Kubota, Craig Minielly, Gavin Philips, and others. Let Google be your guide and have fun with Photoshop Actions.

Joe Farace is the author of “Studio Lighting Anywhere” the second book in a trilogy or glamour and portrait photography from Amherst Media. It’s available on


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