Today I am going to show you how to use photoshop actions to learn how photoshop actually works!
Because it’s a BEAST, isn’t it? Where do you even begin?
If you are new to photoshop and new to actions I think you will find this really helpful.
Let me know in the comments if you plan to try them out!
So you have photoshop. Good for you!
But if you are anything like me when I first started you will open it up, look around for a bit in wild confusion then close the whole thing down and cry into your coffee cup.
It is completely and utterly overwhelming to begin with unless you have an affinity with that type of thing.
To tell the absolute truth I played around with photoshop for a full year before I actually understood how layers worked.
Because that’s how you edit your images in photoshop – using layers.
Then in 2011 I discovered photoshop actions and I bought my first set from www.florabellacollection.com
Talk about game-changing! I still didn’t know what the hell I was doing but I could now just click play on an action and cool things started happening to my images.
I won’t lie – I went so over-the-top using them at first, but that’s fine – I truly believe you have to play a lot before you learn to be subtle.
But then something brilliant started to happen. The more I played around with these actions – the more I started to understand how photoshop worked!
Eventually I was able to edit an image completely by myself with no help from an action. If I wanted to. But the truth is I still use them ALL THE TIME. Because they make editing quick and easy.
And that’s a good thing!
So I thought I would make this video for those of you who are like I was. Those of you who are completely overwhelmed by photoshop.
Start with actions guys – then it will all start to come together. Here’s how…
So here’s an image of my daughter Carla
This did start out life as a RAW file and I have already made some minor light and colour adjustments in lightroom and exported it as a JPEG. Obviously you could do all that in Photoshop if you prefer but I find lightroom faster and easier for that.
What I’m going to show you today is how you can fully finish an image just using photoshop actions.
For this particular example I am going to work with the first set of actions I ever purchased which is the Florabella Luxe 2 set from florabellacollection.com. I have loads of actions but I actually still use this set all the time.
I am not going to go deep into what is happening ok? Because you don’t need to worry too much about that. The understanding will come in time, so just go with it.
First of all you need to make sure your actions panel is open. If not, just go up to ‘Window’ and click on ‘Actions’
I like to keep my actions panel here alongside my layers and history panel etc but you can drag it wherever you like.
Now when you purchase actions or download free ones all you need to do is click on your actions panel, click the little 4 line menu icon in the top right corner, go down to ‘load actions’ and then all you need to do is locate the file you were sent when you bought your action set and click it. The actions will then all just load into photoshop automatically and appear in your actions panel. Voila.
So let me show you how a global action works first of all.
When I say global that simply means that what happens in the action will be applied to the whole image and it will stay there unless you change it.
So let’s choose an action from this florabella set. I am going to go with ‘love’ because i know its quite rich and warm and I think thats what this particular image needs.
All I need to do is click it and then come down here and press ‘play’
Now photoshops will start doing all the stuff that is pre-loaded into the action.
And as you can see there are big changes. The image pops a lot more doesn’t it. There’s a lot more contrast and vibrancy.
BUT I don’t just want to accept it the way it is. For me it is way over the top. That’s obviously a personal preference thing though.
So how can we tweak it?
Well that’s easy – we pop over to our layers panel here. And you can see that I have my original background image and then I have this ‘love’ action layer on top of it. So it’s important to know that my original is untouched. Everything that has happened since is on layers on top of it and can be removed easily.
And look, you can turn layers off and on using the little eye icon.
So let’s turn off the love layer. Look at that difference. Huge, isn’t it?
But like I said, for me, it’s a bit much.
In the layers panel is where you will see everything that has happened to this image using this action.
But to see everything we need to expand the ‘love’ action layer.
Now we can see that 12 separate things were done when I pressed play on that action.
There was sharpening, colour adjustments, contrast, centre fill light was added and so on…
All at the click of a button. It would have taken you a LOT longer to go through all of that believe me.
But how do we tweak.
Well it’s easy.
All layers have an opacity which just means how transparent something is. So you can have a layer at full opacity for full effect or you can reduce it to be more subtle.
So the first thing I am going to do is actually reduce the opacity of the love action as a whole. It’s just a bit overcooked for me.
I am happier with it at 50% opacity. Still a big difference but just not so ott.
But you can further tweak this.
As you can see a vignette has been added. Let’s see just how much of a vignette. If I turn the vignette layer off you can see the difference.
If the vignette was too heavy for you – you can reduce the opacity of it or even just turn it off completely.
Each of the layers has its own opacity.
Let’s look at the ‘lighten’ layer – if you look up at the opacity it’s at 0%. So its just there for you to use if you want to.
Let’s say your image was a little dark – you would simply increase the opacity of that layer and brighten it up.
Let’s look at the ‘sharpen/defog’ layer. This is an important one – I love it. Most images need some sharpening, especially if you shoot in RAW which can be so flat and lifeless.
There’s a big difference in definition when we turn that sharpening layer off but to be honest you probably have to be in my position to see it properly – not watching via a YouTube video. When you work with these yourself you will definitely see it.
So what I would recommend you do is go through each layer and look at the difference (or not) that it has made. Check the opacity of it.
Some layers might be switched off – turn them on and look at what they do.
The reason I encourage you to do this is because it will help you to understand how photoshop works with your images.
What you will find is that most layers in your action are simply adjustments which have been made here in your adjustments panel.
Using actions and examining the layers will encourage you to give layers a try for yourself. And you will be amazed at how the pieces will all start to fit together.
Ok so let’s say you have tweaked and played around with your action and you are now happy with how your image looks.
You now have a pretty complex file. You have your original image at the bottom here with all these adjustments layers stacked on top of it at different opacities.
As long as you are happy with it – you can now flatten these layers into one. Just make sure you are working in your layers panel – click the four line menu icon and scroll down to ‘flatten image’.
You now have just one layer to work with again. So you can go ahead and save that if you are finished with it or you can keep working on it.
And there is LOADS more you can do with this using actions. They don’t just make global adjustments to your images. You can also use them as brushes so you can just brush on adjustments to smaller areas of your photograph which is great for softening skin or lightening shadows and a whole host of other things.
If you want to see how actions like that work – just pop over to my next video and I will show you!
But first – let me know in the comments if you are going to give actions a try now!