Sample Lesson: Jim Miotke's Photoshop® for Photographers
The following is a sample lesson from a previous version of Jim Miotke's Photoshop® for Photographers online photography course. This lesson was written with Photoshop 6 in mind but while help anyone with the full versions of Photoshop that feature Actions. Note: Jim no longer teaches this Photoshop® for Photographers class - the lesson is now a free sample.
Lesson #8: Saving Time - Automation via Actions/Batching
That's what automation in Photoshop is all about: streamlining your experience in the program so you can get in, make your changes, and get out in the least amount of time.
The different versions of Photoshop offer different ways to automate tasks. While the full version of Photoshop features "Actions", Photoshop Elements features a Batch command. So to be fair to all of our students, we will take a look at both.
But you might be asking, "What's the point?" So, before we look at the Hows, let's talk a little bit about the Whys.
First Questions First: Why Automate?
However, as I became more and more involved in Photoshop, I quickly began to realize how much time I spent doing repetitive, mindless tasks. As I developed habits, I began to see that I could save a lot of time and effort by using automatic scripts to have Photoshop do these habitual tasks for me.
For example, let's say you have several images that you would like to upload to BetterPhoto.com. In the instructions, I recommend that you size your images at something like 500 x 750 pixels (500 pixels on the short dimension). I also recommend that you upload TIFF files (they result in sharper uploaded images).
Option A would be to work on each image in its own time, resizing and saving it after you have made any needed corrections (such as sharpening or color adjustment).
Option B would be to adjust and color correct each image without worrying about resizing and saving as a TIFF file. These two latter tasks can be easily automated. Then, once you are done preparing all of your images, you can choose a menu function that runs your automated script on all of the images. While you go out to dinner or head outside to make a few more beautiful photos, the software does the work for you. This saves you a lot of time in the long run.
Automation in Photoshop 6+
Actions are basically pre-recorded tasks. They work like a cassette recorder - you hit one button to record and another button to play back what you have recorded. Instead of recording music, though, Photoshop Actions record the things you do (your "actions").
Once you have recorded a series of actions, you can repeat that series on another image with one simple click.
How to Set Up an Action
What is Recordable and What is Not
It can easily remember, though, what folder you like to save your image files in. It can remember that you prefer to save your images as high quality/low compression JPEG files. It can even remember that you like to downsize each image after you save it, allowing you to save a smaller, thumbnail version.
If you can perform the action from a menu function, without artistic intervention, then it is totally "Action-able."
If you are not sure, you can try to record your action. If you see an entry added to the Action in the Actions palette, then it worked. If not, that action is not recordable.
Can I Step In?
First record your Action as you would, including the color correction step.
Next, after you have stopped recording, click to the left of the color correction step in your Action to activate what's called a stop.
This stop means that when you run the Action, it will pause at this point, allowing human intervention. Once you are done making your artistic, human changes, the Action continues onto the next step.
How to Resize Both Portraits and Landscapes
If you specify that each image should be exactly 200 pixels wide, for example, landscape images are going to be much smaller than vertical portraits. If you tell Photoshop to downsize by a particular percentage, larger source images will produce larger thumbnails and smaller source images will produce smaller thumbnails.
Either way, there will be no consistency of size.
The solution is to use Photoshop's Fit Image command.
When you are recording your Action, go to the File menu and choose Automate/Fit Image instead of opting to use the usual Image Size command.
If you want each image to be no bigger than 750 pixels on the long end, for example, type "750" into the width field and "750" into the height field. This will ensure that each image you process is no larger than 750 pixels wide or high, regardless of whether it is a vertical or horizontal image.
Applying an Action
Both options will save you a lot of time. The latter option, though, is that one that I use the most. It allows me to go do something else, while the computer does the Photoshop work for me.
Automation in Photoshop Elements
With the Batch command, you can:
So this will allow you to save a lot of time when it comes to converting file types and making them all one standard resolution.
As Elements does not offer the Fit Image command that we discussed above, you will have to find another way to consistently resize all of your images (if that is the task that you are interested in doing).
One way you could make a set of images all one consistent size would be to separate your vertical source images from your horizontal source images. You can then run the Batch command on the vertical set using a standard width and then run the Batch command a second time on the horizontal set using a standard height. This will give you a collection of images all the same size.
Shortcut of the Week: Create Your Own
For example, as much as I have searched, Photoshop does not seem to have any shortcut that will allow me to quickly and easily open up the Image Size command. And as I use this command often, I would like to make my own shortcut to it.
To do this, I open a sample image and click the Create a New Action button. I name it "Open Image Size", and then indicate which function key I would like to use as my shortcut. For example, I might choose F12. Once the Action is recorded, pressing the F12 key on my keyboard will activate the Action.
After I record the Image Size command on this sample image, I stop recording and click to the left of the Action to create a stop. This will cause the Image Size dialog box to open and remain open while I make individual sizing changes.
Viola! I now have a shortcut to the Image Size command.
Assignment: Create a Contact Sheet
This second assignment leads perfectly into the subject of our final two lessons - image management. After all, printing off contact sheets is one great tool for cataloging and organizing your images.
Upload one contact sheet from this week's assignment by Sunday evening.
Have questions? Use our online Q&A forum or email me for answers.
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