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Photoshop Actions

Reported by Emilie Ahern

Lately I have had a bunch of people ask what camera I use to take my photos. You’ll be surprised by the answer. A normal…everyday…little Sony digital DSC-W5. Fits in my purse. No lenses to lug around. And the best part? Set on auto mode with the flash turned off. No aperture and ISO for me…I don’t really know what those things are. So how do I get such good photos? The answer…..Photoshop Actions.



So what are “actions”? Say a fancy-shmancy professional photographer takes some photos and loads them onto her computer to enhance (or “proof”) them. She might sharpen the image. Adjust the lighting. Enhance certain colors…all to get a certain effect. As she proofs her photos, our imaginary photographer records and saves every step that she takes. She can then save all of these steps and turn them into an “action”. So, an action is a set of photo altering steps used to achieve a certain look. Get it? So instead of a amateur like me actually learning about how to use every single little tool in Photoshop to make a photo black and white and enhance the contrast…I can just buy some genius’ Photoshop Actions and they do it for me.

You plunk any photo into Photoshop and hit a play button and the steps do ALL of the work for you. And there are infinite numbers of actions to try from making your photos into comic book characters, making them look warn and vintage, sharpening, rounding corners…and much much more.

(click to enlarge. Courtesy of Mindy’s Photo Actions)

You can always use Google to search for free actions to try out. A good resource for free actions is Action Central and the Adobe Photoshop Exchange. The Pioneer Woman offers a free set on her blog.

You can also buy some if you can’t find free ones you like or find a certain photographer whose proofing you really love. Before you purchase any Action sets make sure they are compatible with your particular program. Some are only for Photoshop Elements and others only run in regular Photoshop.

A popular site is Itty Bitty Actions. Their sets run for around $100 and you get a large number of actions (around 50). But my favorite set is perfect, inexpensive and worth every penny. Mindy’s Photo Actions Vibrant Color set. I bought them at http://mindysphotoactions.blogspot.com/. Mindy herself will help you install them and answer any questions you may have. This makes them perfect for a beginner who is unsure about installation and utilizing them. She sells them for cheaper in small sets so you can just buy what you want and add more later as desired. I use her “Vibrant Color” on pretty much every photo I take and often use her “Soft Indoor Light” as well. Here’s a little before and after so you can get the feeling of what these actions can do for you.

Before:

After:

Before:

After:

I’m not being overly dramatic when I say that Actions have changed my life. They have enhanced my photographs so much that I felt proud enough of family photos recently to frame them and hang them in my Living Room. I just can’t live without my (I mean Mindy’s) Actions.

I’d love to know what you think. Have you ever tried Photoshop Actions? Would you like to try them? Do you think they are worth the money or do you prefer more traditional photos? Do you have a favorite set you want to share? Please leave a comment!

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12 Responses to Photoshop Actions

  1. Martha Bonneau September 18, 2008 at 8:10 am #

    Great write-up…I am definitely going to give Mindy’s PSE actions a try…such a great price, thanks for the info.

  2. Nevis September 18, 2008 at 8:25 am #

    LOVE the way these photos look! I’ll definatly have to check this out…!!!

  3. Alina Brito September 18, 2008 at 9:16 am #

    Great article, thank you for all the helpful links

  4. Diane September 18, 2008 at 1:45 pm #

    I think I must be in the minority but I loved your pictures better before the tweaking!!! But it’s good to know of this availablity!
    Diane

  5. nichole September 18, 2008 at 2:07 pm #

    teach me more! have you used the “totally rad actions” site? I have heard of this and I am VERY curious…. I would love to hear how they compare.

  6. Jules September 18, 2008 at 2:22 pm #

    Brilliant. This is totally what I needed to see. Thank you very, very much!

  7. Julia Stainton September 18, 2008 at 2:40 pm #

    Ohhhhh loved the links. Just had to stop by Mindy’s and purchase some actions!

  8. Radiogirl September 18, 2008 at 11:33 pm #

    Well done. I like actions too. I have not used them a great deal though. I think I will try more now. I’ll be visiting Mindy’s place. Thanks much.

  9. angela September 19, 2008 at 10:52 am #

    i am so glad you posted this! i did not know that actions are a collection of steps. i am new to pse, can you tell?!

  10. jerseytjej September 19, 2008 at 1:16 pm #

    I am so trying to justify PS but have no idea which version or type to purchase! Thanks for making this read and visualize as EASY!

  11. Jo September 21, 2008 at 2:42 am #

    love this write up….I just bought her actions…you were so so right….thanks for the tip!

  12. christa September 25, 2008 at 12:03 am #

    I am waaaaay overwhelmed. . .I don’t really even know where to start. I am a self-proclaimed digital idiot!!! I have a Mac and Photoshop for Mac without a freaking clue how to use either. I’ve read a bit about actions and think the end product is amazing. But, realistically they scare the crap out of me. . .will it just be yet another thing I don’t know how to use. Yet another icon on my dashboard to mock me??? Hmmmm. Any resources for serious basics, and when I say basics I mean. . .”here is the on button” stuff.

    BTW, loved your article, loved your blog. . .yo GO!!