Photoshop Tutorial: Actions

It’s Photoshop Friday!

Today’s tutorial is about actions.. how to load them, run them and then adjust them. In case you missed my last photoshop post, the actions that I’m using in the video are the wonderful Free Action packs from Pioneer Woman. Specifically PW’s B&W from her Pioneer Woman’s Action Set I.

In the video I only showed you the picture before I ran the action:

The image after white balance and exposure adjustment in Lightroom

The image after white balance and exposure adjustment in Lightroom

But I actually had already adjusted the exposure and white balance quite a bit in Adobe Lightroom. So I thought I should post what it looked like SOOC (straight out of camera:)


SOOC, too dark and too red!

And now here is the after in B&W the way the action is meant to be used:

After PW's B&W action

After PW's B&W action

And here it is in color after turning of the gradient layer that was responsible for the b&w conversion:

After PW's B&W action but in color

After PW's B&W action but in color

Shot with my Digital Rebel
Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 Lens lens at these settings:
F 2.8 (wide open baby!)
Shutter speed 1/50th
ISO 800.
This is the max ap for this lens, but there really wasn’t enough light indoors to shoot with a 2.8 aperture. I should have used my
Sigma 1.4 instead but I was testing out this lens.. look at the eyes, it is pretty sharp for wide open!


Other notes:

Many people have asked me if I think Photoshop Elements is good enough for doing photo editing or if they should spring for Photoshop CS4. I’m not the best person to ask because I don’t really use elements, though I do have it installed on my computer. From what I can gather, running actions is the main thing that you can not do in elements that you can do in Photoshop.  (-just found out from commenter Hayley that you also can’t do layer masking!-) You still get tons of functionality with elements though, and the price is just so much better. Just wanted to mention that. Oh, and I believe that Costco has a $30 off coupon for elements in their current coupon book that is good until April 5th in case that helps anyone!

To make things even more confusing, if you take a lot of pictures and shoot in RAW (i.e have a DSLR capable of shooting RAW images) I’d give a serious look at Adobe Lightroom instead.  It allows you to edit batches of images in the same way and has completely revolutionized the way I deal with images. I’m a huge fan! It also has what they call “presets” that are similar to actions in that it’s one click to change a whole bunch of settings and give you a new look. I think in my next tutorial I’ll give you a peak at Lightroom!

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Randi says:

I just stumbled across this and thought I’d offer some insight. I started with Elements and while it’s sort of true you can’t do layer masks and actions in it, it’s sort of not true. I downloaded some free “actions” from CoffeeShop for PSE that explain where to save the actions (much more complicated than PS4) and one of the actions I downloaded creates a layer mask! So while it’s slightly more complicated, and not all actions work with it, you can hunt around and find some that will! I think Elements is definitely all the average photographer would need. I’d still be using it except I stole a copy of PS4 from work (shh!).

Thank you for sharing this! I’ve used actions before, but only to quickly resize large numbers of photos. Never really tried this before, can’t wait to try it though!

THANK YOU. i have been trying to figure that out forever! lol.

ariana says:

Hayley, that is really great to know, I’ll update my post to reflect the information about layer masking.

anne marie, what i mean is go to develop, get one pic how you want it and then select that pic.. then select all other pics and click on “synch”. You choose what you want to synch (i.e wb, exposure, split tone, etc) and voila! Your whole shoot edited :)

Jenn, you’ll love it I’m sure!

jenn says:

love photoshop fridays!! and i just learned about lightroom and am already a huge fan!! will be buying that very soon!!

I LOOOVE lightroom! but i have a question i can’t figure out how to edit batches. i can only do one picture at a time. is there a way to edit whatever is in my library at once?

Hayley says:

in elements, you also have limited ability to use layers and do not have the ability to use layer masks…which is a big part of photoshops functionality. :)

for the amateur photographer, i would not pay the full $600 or so dollars that photoshop costs–BUT, thats just me. however, i think as a pro, photoshop is absolutely imperative.

Bobbi says:

It has been so helpful for you to post the camera you used and the way that it is set for each photo that you have been posting lately. I am very new to photography and find this info so useful! Thank you!