Because there is so much to cover when it comes to actions, I'm going to do this in parts and go over some of my favorite actions. First off though, let's go over what an action is.
An action is a recording of a series of commands in Photoshop to which you apply a name. Later on, you can play that recording back on a different file and have Photoshop do the work for you. They are used to capture repetitive tasks that are to be applied to a series of files (photos). An action takes all the step-by-step stuff that you would normally have to do and does it for you with one click! Then you have control over some of it, like the opacity.
My favorite set of actions that I use ALL the time comes from The Pioneer Woman. Have you ever visited her site? I love it. She does it all-cooking, gardening, home schooling, and photography. She has a couple of set of actions available for both Photoshop and Photoshop Elements for FREE! It doesn't get any better than that! Plus, she has tutorials on her site all about photography. She's self taught just like I am, so maybe that's why I love her site so much.
The instructions for how to install the actions come with the download. There are several different ways to install them, depending on your computer program and what type of Photoshop you use. Once they are installed, you get to play! You can add multiple actions, just be sure to flatten your image after each action. Generally, the action will end up adding layers on top of your photo that you can adjust. If you add an additional action without flattening your image first, it can get a little messy. Here is a photo using two of my favorites. Here is the original picture of my son-a really cute picture but it needed a little extra something to make it amazing!
First up, I used "Bring Out the Eyes" action. It's a fantastic action for brightening and enhancing eyes on your subjects. I love it, especially because I have two blue eyed babies. Their eyes sometimes stand out on their own and other times I want to add a little extra pop. It's great because you don't change the color. I was going to do a tutorial for you, but I found one done beautifully by The Pioneer Woman herself! You can find that tutorial here. After I had my eyes the way I wanted them (I had the opacity down to like 20% so I barely lightened the eyes), I added the action "Lovely". It's probably the action I use the most. I does a few things to your photo-first, it boosts the colors; second, it adds contrast by darkening and lightening things; and third, it adds a soft almost dream-like softening to your photo. I love it!!!! And you can keep adding it too, if using the action once doesn't bring you the desired effect. Here is the final photo. Gosh I love those baby blues!!!
That's it for now! I'll have more to share in the coming weeks. Have fun with your actions! Why not use them for the Photography Challenge over at Scrap Orchard? If you do, leave a comment with the link so we can leave some love!