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Using Photoshop Actions to Improve Your Efficiency in Post

Published: 12/11/2019

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Deborah, from Peterborough, England writes:

“Hi, I’m writing with the hope that you can point me in the right direction. I’ve pretty much given up on outsourcing my editing for a couple of reasons. First, I’m tired of the lack of consistency in the photos that I get back. Second, as I’m doing more work for higher end agents, I want to keep control of my editing because I want to have my own consistent look and feel for my work. However, I’m finding that I’m spending too much time in Photoshop. Do you have any suggestions about how to become more efficient in post? Thanks for all you do for us on PFRE, Brandon!”

Thanks for writing in, Deborah; and thanks for your compliment. I’m glad PFRE is helping your business move forward--that’s always part of our goal here! I’m sorry to hear that you’ve been having issues trying to find editing support. I’d urge you not to give up on trying to find an outsourcing company that you like. If you do--and they’re open to the idea of having you train them on how you’d like your photos to look (that’s what I did)--then they can take a lot of pressure off you and your business and allow you time to market to higher-profile agents.

In the meantime, if you’re going to be doing your own editing, then one of my go-to time-saving techniques in Photoshop is to create “actions”. An action is essentially a "recording" of everything you do in Photoshop, from the moment you hit "start" to record your actions, to the moment you hit "stop", on that recording.

To give you a better sense of what I’m talking about, here is a link to a video on how to record actions, from one of my all-time fave resources to learn Photoshop, Aaron Nace at PHLEARN. I’ve always loved his energy and the way he explains things. I hope you find this helpful.

So, do you have any other tips for Deborah on how to increase her efficiency in Photoshop?

Brandon Cooper

7 comments on “Using Photoshop Actions to Improve Your Efficiency in Post”

  1. Hi Deborah,

    I own an outsourcing photo editing company ( as well as a photography company and so I know the importance of consistency. I'm more than happy to talk with you (Skype's even better) and discuss how and why we are consistent at editing our clients photos.

    P.S. I am also originally from Kent, England

  2. Hey Deborah,
    You should try outsourcing your editing to a reliable company like Cross Digital™. They deliver consistent quality and a Turnaround of 12-15 hours. They learn your preferences by 2 or 3 trials and your feedback. Cross Digital™ also allocates dedicated editors to you considering you have a consistent & large volume of work.

    Many professional photographers in US, Europe, Australia & New Zealand are using them and am sure you too can stand to benefit to a great extent. You can contact

  3. I actually just did a couple vids on my Youtube channel about being faster in post and how to create an action in PS. Check out my channel "Focal Point Photography LLC".

    The time saved definitely adds up and I no longer freak out about having to edit multiple properties when I get home. And I really do not like the idea of outsourcing so getting faster and being more efficient when editing is key.

  4. Deborah, I have 2 suggestions that have saved me a ton of time editing for all of my post processing. First, if you don't have a Wacom tablet, get one (even if you don't use the pen!) and then buy their Express Key Remote. I only used the tablet pen itself for special things, but the remote was a huge time saver. Having said that, I recently bought a Cintiq which I absolutely love, and I DO use the pen with that now and it's saving me even more time! Anyway, second suggestion, after you create the actions Brandon refers to, put them into a Wacom tablet "On Screen" menu. You can make separate onscreen menus for Lightroom and Photoshop, but with LR you'll be limited to navigation and keystroke shortcuts to build the menus. With PS, the sky is the limit. Sometime in the next couple of months, I'm going to create a YouTube video showing how I set mine up, and how I use it for my RE editing. In the meantime, if you think this is a solution for you, go on YouTube and explore the many videos on using the Express Key Remote. Here's one I found that'll get you started:

  5. Hopefully you are coming back with images that only need some final touches in Lightroom most of the time. I have a stack of LR presets that I have amassed as time has gone by. Whenever I find myself doing the same thing over and over, I make a preset. If it's something I do to every photo, I apply that preset on import. A touch of clarity, some first round sharpening and noise reduction, lens correction, etc. All of the edits are non-destructive so I can always change the adjustment if it doesn't work for that photo.

    Actions in Photoshop are the same way. My main actions are for aligning images, darken mode window pull, lighten mode, 50/50 flambient and a few more. What you make will reflect your style so it's not something you just copy from somebody else and use unmodified. When I download an action, it's usually to take it apart and see what/how they've done something. Just like in Lightroom, anything you do on a regular basis is a good candidate for an action. Even simple things. My "darken mode window pull" action is simply to take a layer, change the mode to Darken, add a black mask and turn the layer off. Not that complicated, but I do it often enough that reducing it to one key press speeds things up. If I've shot images in reverse sequence to how I would stack them in PS. I have an action that flips the stack over. I use that a lot. On a bedroom, I might make an ambient, a flash layer and a window pull. On the next room I may start with the window pull since the settings are ready to go. I'll then shoot the flash layer and finish with the ambient. The second room will often be the same as the previous one so if they are on the same side of the house so I'll copy the settings and don't need to make adjustments if the sun doesn't duck behind a cloud.

    I would only suggest outsourcing your editing if you are just so busy shooting that it's the only way to keep work flowing without turning down too many jobs. That or if it bores you to tears. It's still good to know how to do it at some level so you can respond to customer requests quickly. You just never know when there's a week long holiday where your overseas editor is located and there is always the time difference. On several occasions I have heard of photographers that outsource getting in trouble when they have no idea how to match the look their editor delivers.

    An outside editor doesn't have to be somebody that delivers you completely finished images. If they do the bulk of the heavy lifting and send you a layer stack in Photoshop, you can add your style and push and pull their edits. I'd love it if I could afford to send images out and get back basic corrections and all of the paths I might need done for me. I suck with the pen tool and need a lot more practice but it's like piano lessons as a kid..... it's a chore. This is mostly outside of what's reasonable for mid-market RE photos. I do all of my own editing and only outsource virtual staging for PFRE.

  6. It would be good to know what you are spending time on in particular. Perhaps the best way to tackle this would be to look at how you could improve your workflow in the field. Tell us how you create your images (hdr, ambient blending, flash & ambient blending, multiple flash etc) and you will probably get more specific advice.

  7. The Answer to your question is not outsourcing your work again. I'm an Editor and yes i have a company but i still don't advice you to go for outsourcing.
    Deborah, you can try by changing some of your regular equipment's that you use while photographing. and may be learning more about proper lighting, Shutter Speed and Lenses. so getting more knowledge on the equipment's will help you spend less time in Photoshop.

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