I think it is safe to say that we are all on the same page when it comes to automating our workflow in Photoshop, making corrections is hard work, it’s very time consuming and as a photographer time is money. Automation is a must especially when it comes to making corrections to our images because it is such a huge time saver! Of course it is always ideal to get everything right in camera when shooting a session, perfect white balance, perfect exposure, etc. but let’s face it, when it comes to editing our images there are quite a lot of things we need to consider when making corrections, like correcting white balance, lightening shadows and filling highlights, getting rid of color casts, evening out the skin tones, the list goes on. It kind of makes you dizzy just thinking about making all of these corrections right? Well it’s a good thing Photoshop has made it so darn easy to make all of these pesky tasks a simple step that can be implemented in just a few seconds as opposed to a few minutes to an hour . . . yea I’m pretty excited about it too!
Let’s start off with how to make one of these “simple” corrections in Photoshop. Keep in mind a few simple corrections that may take 2 minutes each, really add up when you are editing 50-100 images or if you are a wedding photographer, hundreds! Also these steps are applicable to Photoshop Elements, CS versions and Creative Cloud as well, because I don’t like to leave anyone out!
First I need to mention that I like to shoot in RAW because RAW files allow so much more flexibility when it comes to editing. RAW files do have one downfall and that is that they do not contain the same contrast and “oomph” that jpegs have straight out of camera, so my first editing step is usually adding a little “oomph” back into my image. My favorite way to add contrast to an image is depicted in the photo below. I create a new levels adjustment layer by going to Layer>New Adjustment Layer>Levels. You will see your levels adjustment box appear on your screen, normally this would be where you make adjustments to your levels but this time go ahead and click out of this adjustment box by clicking on the x at the top right of the box. Now we are going to change the blending mode of this layer. Make sure your “levels” layer is still selected and change the blending mode to “soft light”. You can find your blending modes to the right of your layer opacity, it should read “normal” before clicking on it and selecting from the drop down menu. After selecting soft light I will adjust the opacity of the layer as need and voila! I have added a beautiful boost of contrast to my image!
Of course I could keep going about it the hard way OR I could automate this step (because I know I like to use it a lot!) and create a Photoshop action. Photoshop actions are basically a recording of commands you make in Photoshop. After you record the commands you take to create an effect (like the contrast booster shown above) you will have the ability to click on that action and watch it play in just a few seconds right before your eyes, it’s pretty amazing! Recording actions is currently only an option built into Photoshop CS3 and above (Creative Cloud included) and is as simple as clicking “record” in your actions panel when you are ready to record your steps and clicking “stop” in your actions panel once you have finished. When you are done, your new action will be listed in your actions panel and you can click “play” whenever you need to use it and watch Photoshop do all of the hard work for you in seconds!
I will be covering how to make an actions more in depth in our next installment of this 3 part workflow series but until then if you want to see how Photoshop actions work or if you own a version of Photoshop that does not support recording an action, you are invited to check out some of the amazing free actions Jill Levenhagen recommends HERE.
I hope you enjoyed learning how wonderful automating your workflow in Photoshop can be and that making corrections to your images does not have to be time consuming! In fact, Automating your workflow in Photoshop can be fun and it should be fun, after all why shouldn’t we try to have more fun in our hectic workdays!
Amanda Glisson of Amanda’s Actions is a regular Contributor to this blog!