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Image Editing in a Cinch: Using Photoshop Actions
by kp

Since you have put that new digital camera to use, you may be wondering how to edit all of your photos efficiently. Photoshop offers not only professional-level editing tools, but also a way to automate editing functions. This is done through the Actions menu where you can record each step of your photo correction process. Depending on your version of Photoshop, some of these features may different, but the basic Action functions are included with earlier versions.

Actions Palette
Two ways to create a new action

First, open one of your photos in Photoshop. To begin creating actions, open the Actions palette from Window -> Actions. Next, click on the new action icon next to the trash can at the bottom of the Actions palette, or, click the side menu arrow, and select New Action. There is also another option for New Set which allows you to organize similar actions into the same folder.

New Action
New action options

Type in a name for the new action, and choose a function key and action color if desired. Once the selections are complete, click the Record button to have Photoshop start recording your actions. Now, start performing your editing functions normally. In the example, I began with Auto Levels then adjusted Curves. I continued editing my photo through the final export process. Recording Actions can be paused by clicking the Stop button at the bottom of the menu.

Action Steps
Each step of an action is listed separately [enlarge]

After you've recorded an action, you can examine the steps by clicking on the arrow next to the action name. Notice to the left of each step there are two columns. The first column turns the actions on/off while the second allows the dialogs boxes to show during the process or not. Showing dialog boxes is helpful if you want to edit settings manually for each photo.

Photoshop includes some additional actions available through the application extras. By selecting Load Actions from the side menu, you can import actions for various special effects. Some of the action effects include aging, blizzard, neon and oil pastel. For more free Photoshop actions, visit the Adobe Exchange.

To fully automate your image editing process, there is another Photoshop feature that needs to be set up. Under the File menu, go to Automate -> Batch. This command allows you to apply your actions to all images in a folder. At the top of the dialog box, specify the action, then you choose which folder your images are in as well as where to save the finished images. There are also automatic file naming options by date, serial number or document name. Once you have the batch command and actions set, you can fly through your image editing in no time.

Action Steps
Batch image processing options

For those who use Photoshop Elements, you can still use actions from Photoshop, but you won't be able to create a custom action set. Adobe Exchange offers some free downloads for pre-set actions. To install, add the action file ending in ATN to the special effects folder within the Adobe Elements application folder.  The new actions can be accessed in the Artwork and Effects palette and applied to your images.

Shop:
Adobe Photoshop CS3
Adobe Photoshop Elements for Windows
Adobe Photoshop Elements for Mac

References:
Adobe Help Resource Center: Creating actions
Adobe Exchange (Photoshop Actions)

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