I had a couple a questions recently about how to load and use actions in Photoshop or Elements, so I thought it was time for a brief tutorial... Many of my new followers or FB fans are new to actions or editing software, so this is for you :)
Loading the actions :
For loading your actions, if you use Photoshop CS go to your action panel and select "load action"
browse through your files and select the action set, it will be installed instantly.
You then open your photo, and select the set you wish to use in the actions palette. The set will open
and you will see the actions inside the set, select the one you want, then click "Play" at the bottom of
the action panel, and the action will run.
If you are using Photoshop Elements 7, here are the guidelines:
To install the actions into the Action Player, put the .atn file into this folder:
C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Application Data\Adobe\Photoshop Elements\7.0\Locale\en_US\
Vista 32 or 64 bit
C:\ProgramData\Adobe\Photoshop Elements\7.0\Locale\en_US\Workflow Panels\actions
For older versions of Elements, if you don't already know how to load them,
please read these infos first:
Note that it is always safer to save your actions on your drive and load them from there than just adding them to Photoshop. This way you will always have a backup if something happens with your software.
Editing with the actions:
To get the best results out of the actions, it is recommended that you adjust the action to suit your image exposure or color. In CS: You can adjust every layer the actions individually, by simply using the opacity slider. Or you can adjust the opacity of the whole group of layers at once, by changing the opacity of the group layer. This way it gives you all the control you need over your editing. (this applies to my actions, for I know the layers are grouped in a folder, and the layers are never flattened. For some of the other actions, well, the best designed ones will give you control over your layers, the others, I can't help you with...)
In Elements: The layers won't be grouped, so you will have to work one layer at a time, but that is not a problem, since it really is the best way to edit your images.
You will notice on the image above, there is the Group of layers, if you play with the opacity slider on this Group layer, you will act on ALL the layers at once.
You can notice there is also a layer mask on the Group layer, using this mask will also apply changes to ALL the layers.
If you work on the Individual layers, your changes will apply to this one and only layer. Adjust opacity or blending modes to your liking. Sometimes playing with the blending mode is useful too, and don't worry if you messed up and don't remember the original settings, just delete the whole group and play the action again, your image will still be just like before you ran the action. There are layer masks on most of the individual layers too, it's just another tool to refine your editing, use them if you need, to remove tint or lighting on some particular spot on the image.
Adjusting every layer will really make sure the action suits your image's exposure or saturation. Sometimes if you run the action and leave it as it is, you might not like what you get, some tint might be too much, the light might not be enough... It's all part of the fun! Actions are tested on a lot of photos to make sure they fit most subjects, but as a designer, you never know what image the user will start with. Actions are designed to make your editing more creative by adding the designer's vision to your photos. But that doesn't mean it's always a faster way of editing. It's a different way of editing. Yes, it might be faster sometimes, the action might just be perfect without adjustment, but don't take it for granted. Most importantly, you have to add your personal touch to the finished photo, so it keeps your own vision as well.
Have fun playing :)