Actions in Photoshop

Ravens (before)
Ravens (before)

So I had a hard time deciding what to call this post – the runner up was “how to make post-processing not suck!”

This is about what is called the Actions tab in Photoshop.  For anyone intimately familiar with Excel, or programming in general (OK so probably just me in this room, but that’s OK!), this basically boils down to a macro.

All of which is a long-winded way of saying: you tell the computer a set sequence of steps, and then make it so you can execute that series of instructions at the click of a button from that point forward.

In essence, if there’s some particular process you apply in PS on the regular, this lets you reduce it to point-n-click!  Much handier.

This is done via the “Actions” tab in PS.  This can be opened either via Window –> Actions, or Alt+F9 on a PC (probably Command-something on a Mac but I am not a devotee of the Cult of Apple, so go Google it, or whatever the equivalent Mac process is).  You can then click the “new action” icon on the bottom, and give it a name, e.g. “standard processing,” “HDR,” etc.

The tab looks like this:

Actions Tab
Actions Tab

Then starts the meat of things: once the little red “record” icon is turned on, go through whatever your steps are.  Then click the rectangular “stop” button.

Your process is now ready to use again anytime you want, on any image you want!  Just click on it in the actions tab, and click the “play” button.

For example, from the start, I applied my “high contrast” action, highlighted in the panel above.  It involves multiple layers of blend modes, flattening, lens correction, and photo negative inversions.

The result:

Ravens (after)
Ravens (after)

So think about what you do regularly in PS, and decide if there’s anything you can shorten like this to make your life easier!

Happy shooting!

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