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Customizing the digital darkroom.

Byline: Dan Gould


Photoshop is as powerful as it is intimidating. Many photographers know their way around a few routine features and never stray from their comfort zone.

Curves, levels contrast, color balance and image size are the digital darkroom staples. Those basic commands are found in drop-down menu items hanging from the top of the application window.

Mousing around for those commands and entering the parameters is slow work, especially if you're editing dozens of shots.

A little action on your part can speed up the process. Chief among them is using the actions palette, which can be found under Window > Actions.

Actions can be used as shortcuts to often-used menu items and adjustments, such as curves, but, more importantly, you can create automated workflows.

One of my favorite actions resizes photos to a predetermined dimension, in this case 10 inches wide at 200 DPI. I really don't care about the height in this instance; it will resize proportionally.

Rather than drill down to Image > Image Size and then enter the width and resolution on every photo, I simply click one of my pre-made actions, and boom, it's done.

I have several presets for various dimensions and DPI, including a few for Web images that incorporate the Save For Web command.

Once opened, you'll notice several actions in the default set. Look to the top right of the palette and click the triangle-menu icon, which will switch Button Mode on and off.

Button Mode presents a list of action commands and is the mode to use when editing images. Disabling Button Mode allows you to create and edit actions as well as drag and drop the order in which they appear.

Clicking on the triangle menu reveals a list of optional Photoshop Actions sets at the bottom of the pallet that you can load. Some of these may be useful, some not.

Rather than use the "one size fits all" defaults, you should create your own custom actions or download any of the thousands that are available on the Web.

To load actions, click the triangle-menu icon and select "Load Actions," then navigate to the actions file you downloaded. After installing you can turn button mode off and drag the new actions where you want them to appear in your menu.

Creating a custom action is pretty straightforward. In this example we will create an action that crops a photo to 10 inches wide at 200 DPI.

Disable button mode and open a test photo, as you wouldn't want to experiment with a valuable image. Click the square "Create new action" icon, then name the action 10 inches W 200 DPI and click the Record button. You can assign a hot key and color if you like. Crop the photo using the dropdown menu as you normally would, Image > Image Size, then enter 10 for the width and 200 for the resolution. Finish the process by clicking the "Stop Playing/Recording button."

If you make a mistake, just trash the action and start over again. You can also edit actions later on. After you complete the new Action, go back into button mode and try it out.

This is simpler than it sounds. Take a look at the accompanying video for a visual tutorial. Better yet, download pre-made actions and sort them in a action folder set that fits your needs.

Contact Dan Gould at Follow him on Twitter @dangould.


CUTLINE: (1) Menu items for creating a new action are located at the bottom of the Action Palette. (2) Button Mode presents a list of action commands. Disabling Button Mode allows you to create and edit actions.

PHOTOG: DAN GOULD illustrations
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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Jun 9, 2013
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