Back in my college days, there was at least one class that I would have happy to get 50% on an exam. But let’s not go there…

This post is about Photoshop and how some people don’t use an automated feature in Photoshop when it doesn’t do the entire job for them. For example, I’ve had people tell me they don’t use Actions because they can’t record the entire process that they’re trying to automate. My response is, can you record at least half of the operation?

Here’s a simple example: you need to take 5 versions of the same photo, get them all into one document as layers, align them and then mask out different areas on each layer. Can you do that whole operation automatically? No. But can you automate parts of the task? You bet. In this example I would select all the documents in Bridge and use the command Load Files into Photoshop Layers. That will automatically create a new document with a layer for each photo. Then I’d select all the layers, go to the Edit menu and select Auto Align layers.

Of course I’d still need to manually add layer masks and paint on each one, but at least a good chunk of the work was done for me.

I always like to remind people to “consider the alternative”. If you try Content Aware Fill and it does an “okay” job – not great but pretty good, doesn’t that still save you time, considering the alternative of cloning for 20 minutes? If you can record an Action that does half of an operation (leaving the rest to you), isn’t that better than the alternative of doing the whole operation manually?

Perhaps part of the problem is that often the initial demonstration we see of new technology such as Content Aware Fill when it first came out, makes the technology look amazingly perfect. I’m sure you’ve had the experience of watching in amazement as a software company demonstrates their new technology – then when you try it later it doesn’t work as well as the demo. Ever. That’s the reality of technology: companies are going to carefully choose photos that show off their technology on the best light. I understand that, and have changed my expectations: I don’t expect the new tool to work as well as the demo I watched, but I do expect it will help me get closer to my desired end result.

Think about the things you do in Photoshop all the time: aren’t there some operations where you could automate at least part of it? Maybe 50%?

In cases like this, 50% really is good enough. In fact, it’s pretty darn great.