Friday, 21 December 2012
Using Actions: Yes or No?
I'm sure many of you will have heard of actions and wondered whether getting them is a good idea. For those that don't know what these are, actions are simply editing steps that have been recorded so that you can speed up your workflow when in Photoshop or Photoshop Elements. You can simply press "play" on your action and it will run through a series of edits, ready for you to use, tweak and adjust. You can make your own actions, or you can buy commercial pre-made ones. Commercial actions are widely available, and can be very useful if you are perhaps new to Photoshop and don't quite understand how to get the most from it yet, but even if you are a seasoned editing pro they can be a great way of speeding up your workflow.
Some photographers love actions, and others think they should be banished from the face of the earth, and some, like me, think they are a great idea, but should be used with caution. I use actions all the time - some I've made up myself, others I have bought. Actions can definitely save you a lot of time, and anything that reduces the time spent in front of my computer is a good thing in my book.
The problem is that actions have a habit of being over-used, and can definitely cause people to be a bit heavy-handed when editing. If you use these and don't yet understand how to edit a photo without them, it's important that you take some time to understand what each layer is doing and how it affects your photo. You should also note that probably all actions will need to be tweaked after you have applied them to your image. For example, they may have a brightness layer added but you will need to adjust that using the opacity slider to suit the exposure of your particular image. Another example is they may also have a warming and a cooling layer. Obviously you would only need to use one of these - if you need to use any at all! Sometimes people use all the layers in an action because they feel they should (why else would they be there?!) but there are often layers in there just in case you need them, rather than needing to be used on every image. You should also note that many actions are for creative tweaks only - say adding a vintage feel, or converting to black and white, if this is the case you will need to carry out a "clean" edit first in order for it to create the best affect.
If you do buy actions, I would suggest taking some time to play with them, and see what they do to your image. You'll probably see lots of layers in your actions - toggle each of these layers on and off to see what they do (the little eye on the left on the layer toggles the layer on and off) or adjust the opacity to reduce the affect. Whilst actions are easy to install and use, you'll really get the best from them once you fully understand what they are doing to your image.
Another tip I have is to save the image as a PSD file with all the layers unflattened and still visible, and then come back to it the next day. You'll often find that you have overdone it on the first pass (it's very common to be more heavy handed than you need to with "all-in-one" actions) but you will recognise if this is the case when you open the file later. If you have saved the PSD file you will be able to go in an adjust each layer or just reduce the overall opacity without having to start again from scratch.
For those who are comfortable editing within Photoshop, it is actually quite simple to make your own actions for edits that you do all the time and it can actually save you a lot of time. I'll follow this up with a post on how to record your own actions soon!
Labels: EDITING TRICKS