Lesson from the Shop: Actions – A Way to Enhanced Productivity


Sample with Soft Rust Action 
“Hey that photo has been Photoshopped!” How many times do you hear that statement? Is it derogatory? Often, it is used for a connotation that the photo is false or that the photographic integrity of the photo has been compromised. Truthfully, there is a narrow line between the digital darkroom and “Photoshopped” photographs.
However, doing post-processing in The Shop is a valid and important part of the “development” of a digital photograph. How much time one spends changing the photograph will definitely modify the photographic integrity of the photo – for good or bad depending on your field of photography. However, post-processing has another insidious problem – it is a time drain away from revenue-generating activities like taking photos and selling them.  
Over-tweaking the photograph consumes too much value in your business by introducing excessive time costs. So how does one become productive in The Shop?
Three Different Approaches
There are really three different approaches to doing things in Photoshop. One way is to do everything manually and customize it for every photo. Clearly you will become very proficient at Photoshop, but this Web site is WeArePhotographers.com, not WeArePhotoshoppers.com. There is a time and a place for custom work, but, when you are faced with the same activities on multiple photographs in a photo shoot, automation is in order.   And that means ACTIONS.
According to Martin Evening in his book Adobe Photoshop CS4 for Photographers, “Photoshop actions are application scripts that you can use to record a sequence of events carried out in Photoshop.” This can be used to have the same sequence of activities repeated over and over or to many photos in a batch mode.   Actions can be simple housekeeping activities such as resizing to complex creative activities.
Photograph Before ActionsFor example, here we have a simple color grab shot (right) that I took at a local playground. By using some actions, downloaded from Gavin Phillips’ site http://www.photoeffects.biz/colors.html#get, I can easily create a more creative look.   Above, I used the soft-rust action (which comes in his sample download) to show a more dramatic look, converting the mundane into something with some interest.   Below, I have taken the same photo and run it through his pastel and soft sage actions as well.  
All this can be accomplished with a touch of the button. You need to be aware of the initial state of your photograph. Some commands, within the actions, will require certain modes and layers. Also, some actions, particularly creative ones, stop in the middle for user input. Lastly, you can buy actions (Gavin’s actions are for sale at his site) and/or you can record your own.
Photograph after Pastel ActionPhotograph after Soft Sage Action 
So what is the third approach? Third-party plug-ins as filters. Plug-ins often accomplishes many of the same functions as actions.  However, they are more like individual applications within Photoshop. Plug-ins can leverage the same commands under the covers. The interactivity of plug-ins allows the photographer more input into the creative process, but at the cost of time and higher purchase price. We’ll look more at plug-ins in a future article.
Learn more about the actions that Gavin provides at his Web site and use your WeArePhotographers.com purchase code wearephoto to receive a 10% discount off the price.


FTC Notice: Gavin Phillips has provided content to the WeArePhotographers site free-of-charge and, by using the WeArePhotographers purchase code, WeArePhotographers will receive some consideration through an explicit business relationship with Gavin Phillips.