Fun with Photoshop Actions

Posted August 27, 2009 by cameraaddict
Categories: Photography, Tools and Techniques

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JP_090517_20313 copyJP_090517_20313-Edit_flat copy

I now use Adobe Lightroom for about 90% of my work, but I still use Adobe Photoshop for pictures that require layers,  compositing, and creative tools that Lightroom doesn’t have,  such as Actions.

Actions are awesome. An action is a programmed series of operations in Photoshop that is set in motion with a single mouse click, and can be designed to do just about anything, from simple to extremely complex. They’re one-step solutions that can really add to productivity and creativity.

Photoshop comes with a few actions, and you can write your own, although the process is not very intuitive. There are gobs of free actions on-line for a huge range of tasks, and I regularly surf for them,  looking for new ones to add something special to my pictures or automate  really boring and repetitive tasks, such as resizing pictures and saving them as jpgs.

One of my favorite actions converts an image into a high-contrast black and white duotone.  I often combine this action with layer masking and painting to create duotones that also have areas of color.  Above  is a before and after example of this technique.

To add an action to Photoshop, click on the menu box in the upper right corner of the Actions Palette, and select “Load Options”. Then, navigate to the folder on your computer where you have saved the action and select it.

actions paletteactions menu

To apply an action to an image, first open the image in Photoshop and click on the button for the action in the Actions Palette. In the picture on the left,  above, each of the horizontal bars with text is an action “button”.

Below are some of my favorite Actions websites;   Google “Photoshop Actions” to find many, many more.

Have fun!

Action Central

Deviant Art

Smashing Magazine

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What in the World?

Posted June 25, 2009 by cameraaddict
Categories: Photography

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I work a lot with patterns, line, shape – the textures of the world.  And, sometimes, I see things through the viewfinder, in isolation, that I might not see if I didn’t have a camera pasted to my forehead most of the day.  I’ve been working with a new camera, the Canon G10, that produces big, sharp pictures, and the other day I went around the house photographing patterns that caught my eye. I’ve posted some of the most interesting ones here, to see if anybody can figure out what I was photographing. In my next post, I’ll reveal what they are.

Red Room picks Diane Chamberlain video as Best Video of the week.

Posted May 22, 2009 by cameraaddict
Categories: Video

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Great news!  The writers’, site Redroom,  www.redroom.com picked one of the video programs I produced for noted author Diane Chamberlain  as its Best Video of the week! Cool!  This is one of six videos I’ve produced this year for Diane, starting with a Video Book Trailer for her latest book,  “Secrets She Left Behind.” You can watch the trailer, above,  find these videos at Diane’s web site,  and see clips from other videos I have produced at my web site. Just click “Video.”

A Day of Her Own

Posted May 18, 2009 by cameraaddict
Categories: Photography

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Diane receives certificate proclaiming May 16 Diane Chamberlain Day in Surf City, NC.

Diane receives certificate proclaiming May 16 Diane Chamberlain Day in Surf City, NC.

As some of you know, my significant other is a noted novelist, and last weekend we went to a party in Surf City on Topsail Island to celebrate her 20th year as a published author.  It was a great party where we saw old friends and made new ones.  The highlight of the evening was a proclamation from the Mayor of Surf City officially designating May 16 as Diane Chamberlain Day. Pretty cool, to have a day named after you!

Kids, Capes and Cameras

Posted May 15, 2009 by cameraaddict
Categories: Photography, portrait, Tools and Techniques

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It’s been said that photographers should avoid children and animals, but I really like working with kids. They are great fun to photograph, because once you gain their trust they open up to you and are entirely at ease in front of the camera.  I recently started a new series with children, sparked by a shoot I did with my significant other’s grandkids, boys age 3 and 5. It started as a conventional portrait session, but suddenly veered into something else when the 5 year old wanted to wear his new red cape, that has a big white star on it.  Now, I’ve photographed a lots of kids modeling clothing, for advertising and clothing catalogs,  but this time was very different.  What I saw through the viewfinder wasn’t a shy, quiet 5 year old boy, but a SUPERHERO ready to save the world, and that came across powerfully in the pictures.  I started photographing other kids dressed in costumes and acting out their fantasies, and their transformation to superhero, ballerina, sports star, or cartoon character has yielded strikingly different and powerful images. As a result, I’ve added Kids’ Fantasy Photo Adventures to my portrait business.  I hope you’ll visit my site and check out the Fantasy Photo Adventures gallery and let me know what you think.

Photography and recharging the creative batteries

Posted November 3, 2008 by cameraaddict
Categories: Tools and Techniques

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First, my apologies for not posting for so long; about a three weeks ago I had cervical spinal surgery and I have been  moving a bit slowly. Also, apologies for the typos, my right hand is not back to normal yet and, unfortunately, I have not yet learned to type left handed, though that might be  a useful skill to work on.

The past few days I’ve had a chance to get back in the field and make pictures while teaching a photography workshop in the North Carolina Outer Banks. We had an enthusiastic group of participants from across the country and from Canada, and they managed to get up before dawn every day and work until way past dark. It’s amazing, and sometimes scary,  what people can create when they have been deprived of sleep for three or four days. I’m thinking of doing a study of how creativity is enhanced by depriving creative people of sleep for long periods of time. Let me know if you would like to volunteer, and I’ll refer you to a competent psychiatrist for an evaluation before you are committed to an asylum!

The workshop is part of a series I teach with two other talented photographers as part of the Barefoot Contessa Photo Adventures. We teach workshops across the country, helping photographers hone their skills, especially their ability to see beyond the ordinary and create extraordinary images. Then, we teach the basics of color-managed workflow so our participants can control color reproduction from the camera through the computer to the printer and create prints that match the images they see on their computer monitors.  Everyone goes home with a big digital print made on site of an image they created and worked on during the workshop.

Sometimes there is no better reward than seeing a student have that “Aha!” moment when they have made a breakthrough and learned something new. Well, I have to amend that; NOTHING is better than good Champagne, fois gras and Cote D’or dark chocolate, and what often follows when two consenting adults indulge in these wonderful things.

The weather was perfect and we were able to take our people to some of our favorite spots to experience the glory of the sun rising from the Atlantic Ocean and painting the dunes, and to work with the exquisite afterglow that remains when the sun has set but its light is still reflected from the immense dome of the sky. Having a few picturesque lighthouses as subjects didn’t hurt, either.

We had a great time working with our participants and we hope they had just as good a time working with us. If not, please send complaints to the Dead Letter Office of the US Post Office.

Since I try to talk about photographic issues with each entry, I will return to the subject of creative black and white digital printing. In an earlier post, I covered an alternative way to create quality B&W conversions in Adobe Lightroom; today we talk about creating Duotones and Quadtones in Adobe Photoshop CS3. One of the best ways I know to create lush, rich B&W prints is by changing them into Duotones or Quadtones. A Duotone combines a second color with black to subtly enhance the image and, particularly, the feeling of depth of tone. A Quadtone combines four inks to do achieve a similar effect, but usually with added subtlety and impact. I use this technique often on my web site.

How can you do this in Photoshop? First, convert your image to Grayscale if it is color with the Image>Mode menu setting (I would create a copy first so you can always preserve the original). Then, again under the Image>Mode setting,  select Duotone. A Duotone Options dialogue box will open, showing the inks and contrast curves Photoshop has pre-set for duotones. While you can go in and change all of these parameters, Adobe has done a pretty good job of choosing ink colors and setting up curves, so you might want to use their choices to learn the process before experimenting.

There is also a drop down box in the Dialogue box that also lets you choose Tritones and Quadtones, and a “Load” radio button on the right side of the box that lets you select and load in other combinatons.

You may have to hunt for the folder where Adobe has hidden the Duotone and Quadtone curves; in my PC copy of CS3 the path is: Program files>Adobe Photoshop CS3>Presets>Duotones, where you should find separate folders for Duotones, Tritones and Quadtones.  Experiment with them to see if you like the results. Remember, if you change parameters and come up with something good you can save your changes as a Preset in the Dialogue box. Convert your image files back to RGB to preview them in Photoshop’s Softproof feature or the print them with an RGB printer. Most inkjet printers are set up to print RGB images.

Well, I feel the need for more heavy drugs and a short nap, so I will stop, but have fun with Quadtones and let me know what you think.

A new way to create B&W conversions in Lightroom

Posted September 20, 2008 by cameraaddict
Categories: Tools and Techniques

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Recently Adobe released Lightroom 2, an update of the original program with more capabilities. Now, I was reluctant to but Lightroom in the first place  when I already owned Photoshop and Bridge and they seemed to work just dandy. Slowly, with a great deal of complaining, I began to experiement with Lightroom. In fact, I experimented so much that I now use Lightroom 90% of the time, even thought I still have Photoshop CS3. Why do I use Lightroom so much more than Photoshop? Because Lightroom is designed for photographers instead of graphic artists, the way Photoshop is. Put another way, Lighroom is designed for people with ADD. Lightroom’s various modules bring together elements of a digital asset manager, an imaging program, a slide show creator, a digital printing manager and a really slick web gallery producer that can create and upload web galleries in html and flash formats almost as quickly as I can type this sentence.

One of the many cool things about Lightroom is the ability to create grayscale images from camera RAW files with one click of the mouse. Yesterday I learned a new way to use Lightroom 2 to create better black and white conversions. I got the tip from Adobe’s Lightroom web site, Lighroom-News.com.

This video, featuring noted Photoshop expert Martin Evening, explains the process and at least two alternate ways to create B&W conversions. I tried it, it works, I like it a lot. Enjoy.