HOW TO CREATE PERFECT ACTIONS IN PHOTOSHOP
Actions can be an exceptionally powerful tool within Photoshop. Whether it be packshots, advertising, portraits, landscapes, whatever, a custom created Actions panel will have a dramatic impact on your retouching. Not only in terms of speed, as most people would think, but the Actions panel can also have some other significant benefits which I’ll cover later.
What are Actions? Essentially, Actions allow you to record what you do in Photoshop and then repeat that process by playing the Action. If you regularly Dodge and Burn then you can create an Action to instantly create your layers. That’s a very simple example but in essence, that’s it. Actions in Photoshop can be complex, reference external documents, produce a large number of layers, all sorts. The only limit is your imagination.
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In the video above, I take you through the whole process of creating Actions In Photoshop. I show you my personal packshot photography Actions and demonstrate the process by creating a Dodge and Burn Action. During the video, I also give you a link to a previous video which includes a free Frequency Separation Action. Watch the video on YouTube here.
Why Are Actions So Useful For Packshot Photography?
Generally speaking there are three main benefits to using Actions. Firstly, the most obvious is to speed up your retouching in Photoshop. If we guess that creating the necessary layers for Frequency Separation has 20 steps, whereas an Action is just one click, the benefit is clear. Secondly, I don’t know about you but I’ve learnt tonnes of Photoshop techniques over the years, some better than others. I also have a pretty poor memory. There is no way that I would remember all the steps needed for 50 different techniques. Actions can act like your Photoshop memory, storing every technique you’ve ever learnt.
Finally, a well-created custom Actions panel is something you continuously develop. Over time, you add new methods and take out old ones you no longer use. As such, it’s a wonderful place to evolve your Photoshop skills. You’re never going to forget a technique as the Actions are always there, you’ll just refine them. As you refine you’ll find that your retouching improves. As the years role by, your panel, and your retouching, will get better and better.
When it comes specifically to Packshot photography, Actions assist me in performing the mundane tasks which every image requires. They also serve as an organizational tool, helping me to clearly define certain aspects of my edit (using colours and groups), and they remind me of my workflow. Workflow in Photoshop is a separate topic, which I’ve already made a video on (check it out here). The combination of a good workflow and custom Actions panel is very powerful within all genres of photography but especially so within complex packshot photography, where large numbers of layers and adjustments are implemented.
My Packshot Photography Actions
In the image above, you can see my personal Actions panel. The red cluster of Actions toward the bottom of the panel are used for packshot photography. I do occasionally delve into some of my other Actions but I mostly stick to those. The panel is usually nestled over at the side and hence it’s a little out of order here but you get the idea.
I have Actions which quickly create the layers I use for cleaning, they’re always the same so having an Action saves a great deal of time. As well as this, there are Actions for creating my “Contrast Corrections” and “Colour Corrections” groups, as well as lots of others. I’m certainly not saying you should be copying my Actions, rather I want to give you an idea of what they can be used for. I highly encourage you to create your own custom panel as that is where the biggest benefit is had.
Key Considerations When Creating Actions In Photoshop
This section is important! If you’ve skim read most of this article then pay attention here. If you create Actions the wrong way, they can be a headache. What you want is Photoshop Actions that can be run repeatedly within the same document, without interfering with one another. If you’ve ever purchased an Action pack (which I usually hate by the way) and they don’t run repeatedly without interfering with one another, then they’ve been created wrong. You’d be surprised how many people sell badly created Actions.
SIDE NOTE – I don’t sell my Actions. Sorry. I get asked all the time and maybe one day I will but right now they’re not for sale. However, as mentioned above, it’s far better if you can start creating your own.
So, the key considerations when creating your Actions so they work again and again without exception are as follows:
- Do not click on the layers panel. If you do, Photoshop records that click. It’ll say something like “Select Layer Curves 1”. Meaning that every time you play the Action Photoshop searches for Curves 1. What if you have multiple Curves 1 layers?
- Use the Menu system as much as possible. You can create any adjustment layer, change the blend mode, name it, group layers, add filters. Everything. Do it all from the menu system.
- If you need to navigate the Layers panel use the following shortcuts
- Ctrl / CMD + [ or ] to move the currently selected layer
- Alt / Option + [ or ] to select different layers
- Alt / Option + Shift + [ or ] to select multiple layers – this is needed for making groups. You’d select the layers and then go to Layer > New > Group from layers
- Use the Actions menu (photo above) to insert things like stops. Stops allow you to add notes which are great for reminding you of steps to take after the Action runs for example.
Combined with an effective workflow, Actions are one of the most powerful features within Photoshop. Both for experienced professionals and especially for those attempting to learn Photoshop. Make sure you check out this video on the importance of Workflow, click here.
I’ll be creating lots more videos on Photoshop and Packshot photography in general. Make sure you subscribe to my YouTube Channel so you don’t miss a thing, click here. If you have any questions about Actions in Photoshop or Packshot photography, pop them in the comments below and I’ll do my best to answer.