Are you familiar with Photoshop actions? If you are just getting into photo editing, you might not be aware that actions offer a way to apply several edits to a photo all in one go – namely, by clicking an action button. They can also be used to quickly create cool special effect, as you will soon see.
Now actions are like little programs that you download and install into your Photoshop or Photoshop Elements (an equivalent called “presets” is available for Lightroom). It is a little more work to install them in the Elements, but once you get it down, it’s really easy to keep adding more actions. I am an Elements user, and by now I remember the installation path by heart.
Now you can certainly go all out and buy actual action sets both for Photoshop and the Elements from a number of online businesses that offer them. Here are some I can think of:
Actions sets tend to be priced somewhere around $30 to $80 depending on how large a set you are buying. Usually, those sets include quite a few of them.
And then there are glorious freebies (which is what I’ve been using so far). All the sites that offer actions also supply the instructions for installing them in both Photoshop and Photoshop Elements.
Here are some examples:
This picture of Josie is relatively SOOC, or straight out of the camera. Although I obviously increased the contrast and saturation, I haven’t applied any actions yet.
I used two actions from this set: Boost & Warmer. I reduced the opacity in both cases to tone down the effects. Boost basically increases contrast and saturation, while Warmer removes (or counteracts) the blue cast you can get in low light situations. You definitely need to fiddle with the level opacity of that one.
Here I used what is pretty much my most favorite action from the same set – it is called “Lovely & Ethereal.” It’s really good for pictures that include grass and trees but it’s also good for people. And, here’s a trick – it’s good for pictures that aren’t sharp and can’t be effectively sharpened digitally – so this additional blur really masks the lack of sharpness.
This action came from the fabulous CoffeeShop Blog – a treasure trove for finding incredibly gorgeous, totally free actions – and plenty of them. These were made by an amazing woman named Rita. Specifically, I applied the Creamy Toffee Latte action from CoffeeShopCoffeeBar Set. I also used it in this post’s opening picture along with Lovely & Ethereal. It can be a little eerie, but I still wanted to show you what it can do. Remember that you can always remove the blur from the areas where you don’t want it, such as face.
This is another one of Rita’s actions – and one of my favorites. It’s called Velvet Truffle. It gives photos this soft, vintagy look that I love.
Another one of Rita’s actions, called Lomo. I love the drama.
The next three actions came, once again, from the Pioneer Woman Set for Elements. These are some of my favorites:
This is the “Colorized” action from the same set. It is particularly good when guns are involved.
This is called Heartland. I love it. It’s perfect for the whole farm theme.
This action is called Vintage, and I may have also ran Boost on it as well. The rounded corners are courtesy of another CoffeeShop action, called, unsurprisingly, Rounded Corners.
Or you can also add a frame using a color of your choice.
Or you can create a tasteful diptych. I just learned how, and I love it.
And you can add this kind of stylish color block – great for text or watermarking (I added the text myself). This, by the way, is my father’s-in-law late and sorely missed beagle Yoder, given an Amish name because Jacob and I bought it for him from the Amish years ago.
Just keep in mind that not all actions will look good on the same picture, that it’s OK to apply several actions to the same photo, that you need to flatten the photo before applying each new action, and that layer opacity of the action layer or layers can be reduced (or increased) to increase or decrease certain effects.
Now get ye some and go crazy!