My Photoshop Actions
I’ve had my Photoshop actions online for quite some time and have posted links to them on various forums. Over recent days and weeks I’ve noticed a sizeable increase in the number of downloads of the actions as well as having a number of people email me asking me questions about them. So I thought I’d post the link to my actions here as well as discuss the main ones and demonstrate the effect they have on images. For the images below, if you click on the image, you’ll be taken to a higher resolution version of the image so you can see the effect of each action more clearly.
Conventional ways of booting contrast in an image, are by adjusting levels or curves, or indeed using the contrast adjustments tool. One of the issues with these tools is that they look at the image as a whole viewing it as a collection of tones. The adjustments make global adjustments on these tones as opposed to really analysing the image for where contrast could be improved. I prefer to use the “Unsharp Masking” filter to adjust contrast. By using this filter I can choose “edges” (areas of transition from highlights to shadow) within the image and by decreasing the area over which this transition takes place, I effectively increase contrast. This is how sharpening works using this filter too. But as opposed to looking for fine edges using a low radius, I choose a higher value for the radius (130pixels) and a lower value (10%). This is what I call defogging an image.
One thing to be careful of though This effect can often blow highlight areas and cause shadows to become blocked up. So I often have to use masks, or the new threshold tool in CS4 to ensure no detail is lost during this step.
The defog effect mentioned above is generally quite subtle (as all good effects should be). But in some cases I find it’s actually too subtle, so my second action button, takes repeats the defog procedure twice, i.e. it defogs an image and takes the resulting image and defogs it again. This nearly always results in some loss of details in shadow or highlight detail so masking is required to retain this data. You can see on the shot above, it’s blown out detail in the red channel leading to blotches in Ella Roses skin and also blocked up shadows. It is a strong effect so needs to be used sparingly.
- CONTRAST CURVE
Whilst I nearly always use Defog as my contrast enhancement tool, I do also use curves. This action is a pretty simple curves adjustment with a gentle s curve adjusting shadows and highlights to improve overall contrast.
I finish off nearly every image with a vignette of some sort and of varying degrees of opacity. I find that a vignette helps frame the subject, and draws the viewer into an image. The vignette is achieved by doing a feathered selection around the edges of an image. This selection is duplicated onto a new layer and it’s blend mode is changed to multiply, which darkens the newly selected area. The opacity of this layer can then be adjusted to suit.
- SHARPEN IMAGE
I am a sharpness freak.. I crave sharpness in an image and kick myself if I take an image which isn’t critically sharp. So a very important step in my post processing flow is sharpening. As with Defog, I also use Unsharp Masking to sharpen my images. But rather than using a large radius for boosting contrast, I now use a much smaller radius and to a much larger degree. Its rare I apply sharpening globally to an image so after my sharpening step I often have to use a mask to brush in or out this effect. It’s also rare that the same amount of sharpening is applied to every image, so even though I have button for this, I often have to tweak the value on an image by image basis.
- OCTAVE SHARPENING
I’ve already dedicated a blog entry to octave sharpening, so I won’t go into too much more detail here. Suffice to say that this method of sharpening is extremely strong and not at all subtle, so won’t suit every image. I don’t think the example above is a good candidate for this method of sharpening. However, replace Ella Rose with an old man with weather beaten skin and it’s a different matter entirely
- B&W – LAB
There’s an entry in my blog dedicated to the various methods of converting a colour image to monochrome and one detailing step by step on how to use the luminosity channel in the LAB colour mode for the basis of your conversion. This action basically performs these steps. This method of conversion quite often (always?) requires a boost in contrast, which is not shown above.
- SEPIA TONE
A lot of people, including myself, like to tone their monochrome images. A common toning is that of sepia. Like everything else in Photoshop there are 100s of ways of achieving the sepia tone effect, but the one I use is the colour balance tool. As opposed to a wash across the whole image, the colour balance tool allows me to target the toning to the shadow detail only, adding the tone into the blacks whilst leaving the whites remain white. Again the strength of this effect can be adjusted, but by default I dial down the opacity to approximately 30% or so, so as to keep the effect subtle.
There are other buttons/actions in my actions set, but most of the remaining ones don’t have any visual effect on the images that I can show here. These include actions to resize images for the web, actions to convert images to sRGB again for posting to the web. Apart from the people that have emailed me, I’m not sure who’s been downloading the actions or how useful they’ve been to people But if you have used them or plan to use them now, I’d welcome feedback and suggestions on how to improve them, or indeed if I can help clarify anything in particular, please feel free to ask a question here.