Article Updated Feb 2012.
There are many things that we do regularly as digital photographers when editing. Changing file size, adding a personalised border around a photo, converting from colour to mono, adding grain or adjusting sharpness are just a few of those mundane tasks that we repeat time and time again. Wouldn't it be good if there was an automatic way of doing this? Well there is, it's called an Action and this guide will explain how you create and use them.
What is an Action?
An action is a programmed set of steps used to complete a task. These can be recorded and saved in the action window - Window>Actions (Shortcut Alt+F9). Here you will see a selection of default actions that came with Photoshop but there are also many more actions at your disposal.
Click on the down arrow to the left of the Actions window to reveal the drop down menu. At the bottom of the menu is a selection of Actions and when one of these is clicked on it brings up a list of all the Actions grouped within that folder. The Vignette list highlighted here, for example, begins where it says 'Make snapshot' and ends at 'Move current layer'.
How to create an Action
To see how Actions work we will create one for image optimisation that you can use when preparing photos to upload to ePHOTOzine's gallery.
1. Open your photo
Open a photo up in Photoshop that you will use to record the action.
2. Create a new action
In the Actions window Window>Actions (Shortcut Alt+F9) select New Action from the drop down menu or from the new icon at the base of the Action window.
The window that appears has several options:
Name: this makes it easy to find your actions in the future so be as specific as you can. We'll call this one ePz resize.
Set: this is where the action will appear. A set is a group of actions and you can create your own new groups but for now save it in the Default Actions set.
Function key: lets you set a combination of shortcut keys that will trigger the action into play. I'll set F12 and and tick Shift.
Color: This lets you group Actions by colour if you view them in Button mode. We'll set it to red for now. You can change any of these settings later.
Next, click Record and start your task. At the bottom of the Actions window are Stop (square) Start.
(circle) and Play (arrow) icons. The Start icon will be red, indicating that you are now in recording mode. To stop the recording once you've completed the action (next step) hit the stop button.
How to record an action
To record an action all you have to do is carry out the steps that will complete the task you want to make an action for. So, for this example where we are resizing an image so it's ready to be uploaded to ePHOTOzine's gallery we will need to do the following steps:
- Resize to 1000 pixels wide (Image>Image Size).
- Save as (File>Save As) a jpeg file at a setting of 6 or 7.
- Close the image.
- Click on the Stop icon to finish recording.
Now you will be able to see the various stages that you recorded in the Actions window.
Using the action
To use the action you can either open one photo and then use the shortcut you set (shift + F12) to run the action, or perform a batch conversion, where the action is applied to several photos at once, or you can create a droplet which will sit on your desktop and make the process even quicker. Batch conversion and Droplets are accessed through the File>Automate menu.
We will create a droplet which speeds the process up even more because all you need to do is drag a photo onto the droplet and it will resize and save ready to upload to ePHOTOzine.
Create a Droplet
Go to File > Automate > Create Droplet. And this window will open:
- Choose a location where you want to save the droplet (the desktop is a good place) and give it a name (we used ePz_Resize).
- Select the action from the Set (Default Actions) and Action (ePz resize).
- Choose a location where you want the files to be saved (we picked desktop but it can be any where).
- Click okay and a droplet will appear at your chosen destination (desktop).
Now when you drag a photo over the droplet it will run through the action.