I oftentimes will see photographers say (with their nose slightly upturned?) “I NEVER use actions with my photographs!”. This always kinda makes me chuckle. I think I understand some of what they’re saying, I really do. Yet I don’t think there’s anything wrong with using actions, or with not using actions … and maybe it would be helpful to have an honest conversation with one of these photographers to pick their brain on the topic.
You see, my guess is that when they say they never use actions they mean they never us other people’s actions. You know, the ones you can buy and install into Photoshop, press a button and “voilà!” their photo is magically transformed into Photoshop “awesomeness”. But … could they also mean that they don’t use actions at all? Do they never open up the actions panel out of some inner principle that they shouldn’t automate anything in Photoshop?
You see, while I don’t use pre-created (by other people) actions in my work in Photoshop, I do create my own actions all the time (many of them are in screen-shot above of my actions panel). There are a lot of things that, even if I had to do them to a hundred photos, they would be done exactly the same. Since most of what I create are stock photographs then a lot of the edits I do are similar … some things like levels adjustments will always be different, but if I want to whiten teeth, add a dodge burn layer or even sharpen my image then they are all going to be the same steps repeated over and over. So, the way I see it, it would be time-consuming for me to not use any actions with my photographs.
The more you can automate repetitive and mundane tasks in Photoshop, the more time you have to push your brain cells towards being creative. This doesn’t just apply to actions … I use keyboard shortcuts, sync RAW edits in Lightroom and use some of the Photoshop scripts, like merging photos into a panorama. In my opinion it’s best to work smarter, not harder. :)
(For tutorials on creating your own actions in Photoshop, check out my video tutorials section here on my blog.)