Once the fun is over, the hard work begins. The shoot is done, and now you have several hundred images that need post-production. For many of these images, you might be doing the same edit over and over again, resizing, sharpening, and adjusting color.
It is tedious and time-consuming, but what if there were a way to speed up that workflow by automating some of those edits? Well, for those of you that use any recent incarnation of Photoshop, there is such a tool: Photoshop Actions.
Actions record the steps you are taking during an edit, allowing you to save them and use them again on the next image. Combined with batch processing, you can apply a whole range of post-production edits to your images in no time at all. In this article, we will look at the basics of Photoshop Actions and demonstrate how to create a simple action to batch resize your images for web display.
So, where do we find Actions? Like many Photoshop tools, they have their own palette; if this is not showing on the right side of the screen, then from the Photoshop menu select Window > Actions. On the right of the screen you should now see a palette containing some predefined actions with six icons at the bottom. These icons are how we record, save, and playback our actions script. So, before we go any further, let’s look at what they do.
- On the left, the square icon stops further recording.
- The round icon is the record action button.
- The triangle is the play action button.
- The folder allows you to create a new folder to keep your actions organized.
- The next icon is used to create an action before recording.
- Lastly, the trash icon allows you to delete actions you do not need.
The Actions Palette
So, let’s have a look at making an action to batch resize your images. To start, you are going to need an image to record the action on; this can be one of the batch, or better still, a copy of an image from the batch. With it open in Photoshop, click the Create Action icon. In the new window, we can give the action a new name; pick one that allows you to find it for future use, in this example “Image Resize 800px”.
Next we can add the action to a folder to keep it organized. The function key drop down allows you to run the action directly by pressing a function key. With a suitable name added, click Record.
For this action, we are going to resize our images to 800 pixels width for web use. From the menu, select Image > Image Size. Set the image units to pixels, and in the width box, type 800 making sure that the height unit is linked. Make sure the image resolution is set to 72 PPI. Now, set the most suitable resize algorithm, as in this case as we are reducing the image size, we will use Bicubic Sharper. Click OK.
Resize the Image
As we can see from the Actions palette, the edit has been recorded, but we are still recording. Because we intend this action to be a batch action, we will now add the next step, which is to save the image. From the menu select File > Save As and select a suitable file name.
With the image saved, the next step is to close the image. This is important; if the image is not closed, you will end up with multiple images open in Photoshop gradually slowing the process down. Once the image has closed, click the action stop button.
Now to batch resize using this action, from the menu, go to File > Automate > Batch. At the top, select the folder your action is in, then the action itself. Under source, you can choose from images already open in Photoshop or images in a folder. If you select Folder, you need to select the required folder using the choose button. Be aware that the action will resize all the images in that folder.
Under Destination, we can select how and where to save our images. Save and Close does just that, replacing the image in the folder with the resized version. Folder will create new images in a folder of your choice. We are going to create a new folder and use that. Next we need to check “Override Action ‘Save As’ Commands” This will allow us to rename the images and give them a unique file name.
In the first File Naming box, give your image a suitable name. In the next box to the right, use the drop down to select a 1-, 2-, or 3-digit serial. Lastly, from the next box, second row on the left, select extension. This will add the file extension such as .jpg to the images. You can also define a starting number for your serial from the bottom.
Once happy click OK and you will see Photoshop run through all the images in your folder, carrying out the action on them.
The Batch Process
If you wish to carry out the action on just one image, then open that image in Photoshop and from the Actions Palette, select the required action and click the Play button.
As you can see, actions are a simple but powerful way to automate your post-production in Photoshop. The action we have demonstrated is fairly simple, but with a little patience and planning, you can create actions to automate even the most complex Photoshop techniques. As well as creating your own actions, there is a wealth of pre-made actions both free and paid to cover virtually every technique you may need.