Sunday, May 24, 2009

{Super Elementary Actions Lesson}

Part of my May resolution #1 -- actions.

This is going to be so basic. You almost shouldn't use it as a 
learning tool. Cuz I know just enough to be dangerous. 
Teaching myself as I go. That's always a very slow process 
for me and technology. But I'm learning and wanted to 

I'm really excited to be getting into actions. Most of the people 
whose photos I look at for inspiration or whose blogs I read 
and learn from use actions. Those are the people who should 
be doing a post explaining that stuff. Not that they "should", 
but if they did, those are the ones you'd want to learn actions 
from, I think.

I'm gonna post a bit on the subject anyway. This is like Actions
101. Or Actions 01. Super simple intro stuff. 

What are actions? 
They automate a series of things you do to your images. So, if 
you always do the same few steps to your photos (in photoshop), 
an action can be created to do that with a click of a button.  
They can also be used to create looks that you might otherwise 
not know how to do -- cool effects like making your photo have
a vintage look, for example.

Where do I get actions?
There are probably a lot of places. I'll mention two.

Lis told me about this one -- Coffeeteaphotography 
The ones there are FREE. This chick graciously creates & shares 
actions free of charge. (She accepts donations.) It's awesome of 
her to do that. But you also get what you pay for. They require 
you to do some of the work -- the part that makes actions kinda 
hard. At the same time, having the option to tweak the action is 
nice because you can adjust it according to your own style. She 
usually provides some kind of tutorial for each action. If you 
follow that step-by-step, you'll understand exactly what to do 
with that action. She also has story board actions there, (which 
look really cool, but I haven't tried any of those yet).

Lindsay and Kristi get their actions here -- Totally Rad Actions.
These are better and easier to use, but you have to purchase 
them. They suggest you have "Photoshop CS2 or higher" and 
"at least basic working knowledge of layer masks". I don't have 
the latter. So, I'm going to keep practicing and reading before I 
purchase anything. Linds showed me some of their stuff really
fast one day, and it looks awesome. So, if you're in the market, 
these come recommended.

How do I get started if I want to use the freebies?
First, you need to know how to download or install them. There
is a step-by-step video tutorial at Coffeeteaphotography that can 
be found here. It's got info regarding what kind of PS you need 
(which varies depending on the action) and steps that are specific 
to a mac or pc.

Then, click here. These are all the Coffeeteaphotography actions.

I watched the tutorial on installing them (which is like 17 minutes 
long but totally worth it because it's clear and easy to follow). 
Then, I was able to quickly download 18 actions -- all for free! If 
I could figure it out, anyone can. For reals.

How do I use the action once it's in PS?
This is the part I'm still learning. I'll tell you what I know so 
far. It'll get you started.

1. Open the photo in PS that you want to apply an action to.

2. Open your actions window. In my program (PS C4 on a PC), 
I go to the WINDOW tab at the top. Then click ACTIONS. A 
window with all my actions pops up. (If you don't see this on 
your PS, click HELP.)

3. Click the ARROW next to the desired action. Some stuff will 
appear below it, (sometimes it'll just be one thing or other times
it'll be a whole list of things). SINGLE CLICK THE ACTION 
NAME at the top of the list to highlight it. 

4. At the bottom of the actions window, you should see a PLAY 
BUTTON. Double click it to start the action.

5. Generally speaking, press continue or follow prompts as they 
come up. This is part of what I'm still trying to figure out. 
Reading the tutorials that come with each individual action 
should help with this part of the process.

6. The action will apply itself to your photo by creating layers. 
Double click the LAYERS TAB to open it so you can see what's 
going on. Click on each layer to change fill or opacity to adjust 
the look of the action as desired. (If you need to start over, drag 
each layer to the trash.)

7. Once you're done playing with the photo, and you have the 
desired look you're going for -- FLATTEN the image, which will 
merge all your layers into one. To do this, go to the LAYER tab 
at the top. Then, click on FLATTEN IMAGE.

8. SAVE as normal and you're done. 

A few samples of what these actions look like:
{NOTE: The original photo is untouched. Then, I only applied 
the action without any of my own tweaking so you can see what 
the actions look like. Except I haven't read any action tutorials
yet. So, I'm not applying them 100% as intended, and I know 
they could all look better (and will with practice). This will give 
you an idea though.}
BEFORE & AFTER vignette

BEFORE & AFTER honey retro

BEFORE & AFTER barista in b&w

BEFORE & AFTER Attic Vintage

Also, I used lomo on the photos in this post.

I hope this super limited, amateur tutorial is helpful to you. 
If you hadn't heard of or tried actions before and this inspired 
you to have a go at it, I'd love to hear about that. 
If there's something here that's really unclear, let me know, 
and I'll try to find a better way to explain it. 
If you're an actions pro -- please share what you use, don't use 
and any other tips you can offer to help us newbies along.

Happy photo editing.  :)


Kristi @ Mi Vida Ocupada said...

Great post, in fact I don't think I could've explained it any better. You totally get it! Its great to see examples of before and after the actions have been run.

Lis said...

Crap! Ive fallen off the BLOGWAGON! I feel SO BEHIND but when I scrolled down and saw this post, I SHED A TEAR! Im so glad you tried it!!! AND YOU LOVE IT! Its so fun! I love photo editing!!!! I love totally rad actions too and another SUPER awesome one is MCP actions! Also flourish has some too! Now you need to try TEXTURES!!!!

Sue Thomas said...

What cute photos, Sam!!! Love your tutorial too!!!