How to set up a Photoshop Action to edit multiple photos

How to set up a Photoshop action - step 3

When you shoot dozens of similar shots in the same location, you may end up needing to tweak loads of nearly identical photos. 
For example, a batch of shots may need tones altered to increase the contrast range or a boost in colour saturation to increase impact. You could slog through each photo one at a time, tweaking contrast using a Curves Adjustment Layer and then adding a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer to boost colour, but this repetitive editing process could take ages. A faster way to tackle a group of photos with similar photo-fixing needs is to condense multiple editing commands into a single Photoshop Action.

How to set up a Photoshop action

By creating a Photoshop Action you only need to perform your time-consuming tonal adjustment and colour tweaking edits once. You can then unleash your multiple photo-fixing commands on any photo with the click of a button or the press of a ‘hot key’.

In effect, this will save you hours of boring and repetitive photo editing work because you can unleash your action on any shot – then sit back, relax and watch Photoshop do all the hard work for you.

In the following tutorial, we’ll show you how to create a new Action in Photoshop CS3 or higher to boost the contrast and colour of a photo.

You’ll also discover how to activate your Action by dragging a problem shot (or group of images) onto a desktop-dwelling Droplet.

How to set up a Photoshop action - step 1

01 Diagnose the problem
Open the image you want to edit. To view the shot’s tonal range go to Window>Histogram. This histogram is typical of an underexposed photo (learn how to read a histogram). You’ll see plenty of pixels in the shadow and midtones, but not many in the highlights section to the right of the graph.

How to set up a Photoshop action - step 2

02 Action stations
To create a photo-fixing Action, go to Window> Actions and click the Create New Action icon. In the New Action window, name the action Tonal Tweak and set its Function Key to F2, creating a ‘hot key’ to activate it later. Tick the Shift box, then click Record.

How to set up a Photoshop action - step 3

03 Start recording
The Tonal Tweak action will appear at the bottom of the Actions palette and the Record icon will turn red. In the Layers palette, click on Create New Fill Or Adjustment Layer and choose Curves. This event 
is added to the list in the Actions palette, to the right.

How to set up a Photoshop action - step 4

04 Boost contrast
The Curves command is full of presets that give a shot more contrast. Click on the Preset drop-down and choose Medium Contrast. This places control points on the curve that brighten highlights and darken shadows. Reposition the shadow control point so that Output is 32 and Input is 37. Click OK.

How to set up a Photoshop action - step 5

05 Boost colour
Click the Create New Fill Or Adjustment Layer icon and add a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer. Boost your colours by changing Master Saturation to +12. Click OK then click Stop in the Actions palette. All your edits are stored in this action.

How to set up a Photoshop action - step 6

06 Test the Photoshop Action
To test your new Photoshop action, press F12 (File>Revert) to return the shot to its original state. Select the Tonal Tweak action in the Actions palette and hit the Play button. The Adjustment Layers you recorded will now alter the shot’s tones and colours instantly.


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