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Photoshop 101: Why You Should Use Photoshop Actions Sparingly

by Lisa Carney
featured, photo & video, Photoshop Week

Are you hungry for the most up to date Photoshop actions? Let me offer you my best advice: You don’t need them. Trust me.

Chasing the newest Photoshop actions will ultimately stunt your skills

Here’s why. Relying too heavily on Photoshop actions will hinder your Photoshop growth opportunities. Photoshop actions only offer a quick-fix for a heavy price. In a world where everything is moving at hyper-speed, it can be tempting to find a band-aid solution if there’s an immediate result. But after decades in the business, I’ve learned the best trick in the book is to slow down.

Learn to drive Photoshop yourself.

If you can learn to adjust color, contrast, or sharpening by yourself, you won’t need to rely on someone else’s Photoshop actions.

And besides, most actions only work if a file is an exact match to the tone and value of the image the Photoshop action creator used.


From shoot to edit: work smart with your retoucher. Lisa Carney shows you how to compost images for commercial photography. Learn More.


The more you rely on Photoshop actions, the more of a toll they will take

I personally have trouble remembering where I left my keys, let alone where I’ve stashed a pile of purchased Photoshop actions. Imagine if you’re working from a remote location. Will you have all your cheats with you? There’s a laundry list of ways this kind of workflow can quickly go sour. As a general rule, putting in the extra work upfront will save you time down the line.  

There are, however, instances when Photoshop actions can be beneficial

They’ve gotten me out of a creative slump or two when I needed the inspiration. But they should not become a permanent creative crutch.

More and more, I am finding people who don’t know how to manipulate their own images. They lack true control of the program, and this is problematic.

For example, imagine a campaign where you shoot upward of 5,000 images. You plan to use the Photoshop actions you previously downloaded. So far, so good. The new actions worked on a few images you tested on pre-shoot, so things are looking good.

However, what if something goes unexpectedly on part of the shoot and you have an exposure catastrophe on a good portion of the images? Now the Photoshop actions will not work. Do you have the skills to manipulate the images yourself — all 5,000 of them?

Unless you’re a consumer shooter—a hobbyist—working for your own enjoyment, you’ve got a huge problem on your hands. As a professional, your time is money and your livelihood depends on your ability to complete this project. What do you do if you were relying on Photoshop actions?

Use shortcuts at your own discretion, but invest the time and energy in learning the skills. You’ll thank me later.


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Lisa Carney

I am a retoucher, primarily in Entertainment and Beauty industry.