Some of the most frequent questions I get about post-processing have to do with actions. What are they? Do I use them? I do use actions. I love them! Used skillfully, I think they really elevate a photo beyond snapshot status. An action is like a short cut for a long Photoshop process. So instead of going through 10 or 20 individual steps in Photoshop to get the look you want, an action puts them all together and does them really fast for you. It is like a recipe to get a certain look.
Actions don't come with Photoshop, you need to get them separately. There are a lot of sites that make actions that you can buy, although The Pioneer Woman has some great FREE ones. There are soooo many action sets out there. For my photography business I use and love Totally Rad Actions. But for this tutorial I'll be using the free sets from The Pioneer Woman (she has super easy instructions on how to download and install them).
So let's get started! First of all, in Photoshop make sure you have the Layers, Actions, and History windows open. They are probably already opened by default (located at the right side of your screen) but if you don’t see them, just look at the top of the screen and click on Window and then Layers, Actions, and/or History.
Each action has a name, and in Photoshop you select which action you want, and then click the "play" icon to "play" that action.
Then it quickly goes through each of the individual steps and creates a new layer or layers on top of your image. You can use these layers at their full 100% strength, but I almost always change the layer opacity to tone it down to my liking.
When you're done adjusting the layer opacity, you right click on your bottom layer and choose "flatten image" which merges the new action layer/s into the original layer. You can then leave it as is, or you can apply other actions.
Let's do an example photo together (click on YouTube icon to view larger on YouTube)...