As a lover of photography I take many, many pictures. The problem is finding the time to edit them in Photoshop. One easy (perhaps lazy) way to get around this is by using Actions. While Photoshop purists may scoff at the idea of automating your editing because you don't really learn how to use the software, I say phooey and take the easy way out on many of my photos. Once you find actions that interest you it takes a few simple steps to add them to PS and then you are on your lazy ass way to producing some wonderful images!
How to Install Photoshop Actions
1. Download your desired action.
2. Select "Save File" from the pop up window. Click "Desktop" in the save location window on the left side and click "Save" at the bottom. This will save a ZIP file of the actions on your desktop for easy access.
3. Right-click the compressed zip file and select "Open With">>"Compressed (zipped) Folders." This will open the file in a new window.
4. Select "Extract all files" from the left-hand menu. This will open the file extraction wizard.
5. Click "Next" when the wizard opens. Leave the location set as the default in the next window (it will extract the files to a folder in the same location as the compressed file). Click "Next" at the bottom.
6. Select "Show Extracted Files" in the next window and click "Finish" at the bottom. Your extracted folder will now open in a new window displaying your ATN files. Depending on the actions you chose to download, there may be more than one file.
7. Select your action file or files by clicking on them once. If there is more than one, hold "Control" on your keyboard and click each one once. Now click "Control + x" on your keyboard to "cut" the ATN files. Close all windows.
8. Open your Start menu by clicking on the "Start" button in the lower left of your screen. If you are using Vista, it will just be the Vista icon. Select "My Computer" from the right-hand menu. If you are using Vista, it will be labeled "Computer" only.
9. Double-click your main hard drive in the new window. It should be labeled drive C:\. Double-click "Programs">>"Adobe" and locate your Photoshop installation folder. This may vary slightly, depending on which version of Photoshop you are using and what suite it is part of. It will probably be something like Adobe Photoshop CS3 or Adobe Photoshop Technical Communications Suite 2>>Adobe Photoshop CS4.
10. Open your Photoshop installation folder by double-clicking it. Double-click the "Presets">>"Actions" folders to open the Photoshop actions installation location.
11. Press "Control + v" on your keyboard to "paste" the Photoshop action (or ATN) files you "cut" earlier. Next time you open Photoshop, your new actions will be available from your library.
There may be a quicker or easier way to do all this, but this works for me just fine!
Now on to the actions! The ones that I am sharing with you are only the ones that I use often, my most favorite. I will toss in a link to a large collection though, so you can have a wide variety to choose from.
The actions I use most frequently are created by Rita over at Coffeetea Photography aka Coffee Shop . Her actions are fantastic and user friendly giving the user control over the settings which is a plus for me. Among my favorite actions available here are Creamy Chocolate B&W, Baby Powder Room and CoffeeShop Vivid 2.
The Light's Right Studio is also another fabulous place to find actions. There are a bunch of them and they are also user friendly. I use TLR Tone Enhance the most. You can easily adjust the exposure of your image in familiar photographic stops. Eight actions take your image from -1 stop to +1 stop in 1/4 stop increments. But all of the other actions are great.
The Pioneer Woman Photography has an amazing blog. Not only does she share great recipes, but also provides free Photoshop actions that are easy to use and editable. Check out Pioneer Woman Action Sets 1 and 2.
Christabelle's Actions are also among some of my favorites. They are very subtle and ever so slightly lighten and brighten images, adjust color and much more. Some of them are free and some are for pay. I of course being cheap opt for the freebies and I love them.
Last but not least is a collection of 124+ photoshop actions to boosts your photos. Here you will find many fun and useful actions, although I must say that I find them a bit repetative. Just browse and see what sparks your creative juices. Oh and I forgot to mention, all of the actions I recommended here are free! That's right...FREE! Man do I love free!