Photoshop, Lightroom, Actions, Oh my!

Posted by Stacie Jensen | May 18, 2012 17

by Stacie Jensen, owner of Rock My Photography and Colorvale Actions


So you’ve bought the equipment, booked the client, anxiously photographed the special moment … now the editing begins.  But where do you start?  Photoshop, Lightroom, Actions, Oh my!


It’s almost a headache to think about this step because it can make or break an image, it can even save you from a disastrous session!  What is your style?  Are you looking for one?  You should be!  This is art and your editing will portray the artist in you.




Ohhhh the long debated “what to use” question.  I’m not sure that there is a right answer here.  It truly depends on your needs.  The software available to edit is incredible and almost limitless.  Depending on your needs there are a variety of Adobe options to help you fix almost any image or in-camera mishap.  Of course the ability is also a reflection of its pricing too.


Photoshop – A-MAZ-BALLS!  Yep, I said it!  I am a huge fan of this amazing program that allows you to do the very thing that even high-fashion magazines need to make a model fake cover ready.  It’s the star of the show when it comes to helping you control all aspects of editing as well as fix in-camera blunders that you would otherwise trash a photo for.  It’s the vodka in my martini!

Elements – The baby sister to Photoshop and well worth the price.  So you aren’t ready to take the plunge and pay hundreds of dollar for Photoshop, why not get the next best thing?  This little sister isn’t a nag, she is simply smaller and more affordable!  The beauty of starting with Elements is that it was developed as a light version of Photoshop, if you learn this then the transition to the big bad mamajama (Photoshop) is easy-peasy!  Your concepts are the same, adjustments are similar, and easily a great addition to any photographers toolbox.

Lightroom – Is this just another editing tool?  Yes, this program can get you to an awesome final edit, but can it do it all?  Well not when comparing it to Photoshop.  It is a tool for editing photos, it does a great job but if you plan to take things to the next level with advertising and templates, this program may be something you upgrade from later.

Also, Lightroom Presets are time consuming because you have to go into each defined setting to adjust to fit your photo needs, but actions are made so that you can turn off layers and adjust the entire action opacity over your image.

Actions – So if Photoshop is the vodka to my martini then actions are the blue cheese olive that makes it that much better!  There are reasons why we buy tools for any industry.  Construction workers purchase nail guns so that they don’t have to hammer them by hand.  Isn’t that the purpose for actions?  You get to the same result, if not better and you save yourself precious time.

A one night stand with Photoshop – that’s what editing without actions is!  So you meet this sexy little photo and now you want to make it yours.  You take lots of time making it look better, feel better, become your style … and then the relationship is over and you must start again!  New photo, lots more time, and nothing to say for it.  Why not start with a wing-man, an action!  These are built to get you where you are going without you having to do all the work yourself – GENIUS!  Yep, they do the same thing you can do, but faster, more efficiently and even create masterpieces when it wasn’t looking good for you!

I myself want to make money off my session so clicking play on an action and then taking a few minutes to adjust it to my liking is the ONLY way to go!

Shameless plug –> Need actions? visit Colorvale Actions  I built this company to make editing tools available to everyone, keeping the pricing fair and the quality top notch!  I was shocked when coming into this industry that some companies are charging an arm & leg for this so I made it my goal make it possible for everyone to get their hands on these awesome gadgets. – We’ve got fantastic freebies.  Come grab some!



Editing Style

Editing a photo is definitely a style preference.  I can’t say that there is a right or wrong interpretation of how an image should look.  I think that there are some main guides to go by.


Clean - If a photograph is from a paying customer it is important to remember that they will use it (hopefully) as wall art.  Keeping a clean edit will help match any home decor.  Editing a photo should be a “get in, get out” process.  Edit with the purpose of fixing any exposure that you missed in camera, enhance your client when necessary and get out.  Remember to turn down opacities when running actions, these amazing tools are made to help you get to a good edit but they can not know exactly the recipe needed so you will need to adjust the opacity to fit your photo.

Skin tones – keep these natural.  If you are editing and you notice that skin tones do not look natural any longer then definitely pull back and think about your style.

Over doing the piazzas - just because you can smooth someones skin does not mean you should have them looking plastic.  Smoothing actions are incredible but remember to turn the opacity down to a very low and natural amount.  The same goes for sparkly eyes!  Adding sparkle is beautiful and almost necessary but please do not make someone look alien or fake.  Eyes tell a story  - let it be natural.

Color Punch – Colors should be vibrant and beautiful but not look like they are from a cartoon.  Vibrance is something you can easily over-do.  Clients purchase more photos that look like memories they see with their own eyes and unless we all have on 3D glasses nothing should appear as it’s jumping out at you.

Sharpness – with variations in glass and even camera’s, sharpness may need to be added to a photo, but with a degree of caution.  A light amount of sharpness can be added and not detected if done right, but a heavy hand can make an image appear unpleasing.


Resizing no-no’s and saving images

Now you are done editing, what do you do next?  Save and save with good thought!


Resizing A Photo Before Print

Do not resize the photo because your client wants a 5×7.  Doing so will only provide a headache later when a client comes back for a new print size.  And trust me your client will ask for it later and you will be in a pickle.  Printing companies have user interfaces for ordering prints.  You can supply them the original sized photo and then choose your print size.  They have these crazy smart computers that will compress it to fit what you need.  You will have the ability to fit it into their print area box that is proportionate to the print size you have chosen and of course a little “cropping” will happen but the beauty is you control that crop area and are not doing anything permanent.  You can go back later and print it even larger without losing any integrity in the photo.

People tell me often that the printing company asked them to resize the photo.  This is because you are not using their interface system such as ROES for WHCC.  You download this javascript interface and then you will never need to resize a photo again.  You drop in your original, select the new size you want, play around with the print area if cropping will need to happen and send.  Easy enough.  No damage was done to the original and you will have a perfect print.  This is the same for those that say they get a white margin around a print.  You didn’t use the printers interface and select the cropping area. The printing company, not wanting to choose what should but cut out of the image, sent you the print without crop. Unfortunately the only way to do this without cropping some areas is to shrink the photo size a bit to fit the paper size, giving you that white area around the photo.  Solution to this issue – use the printing companies interface program to choose the crop area of the print once a size is chosen.

Saving your photo as the highest quality!  

There is absolutely no reason to take anything less than highest quality when saving a photograph for print.  Choosing a JPG format and then choosing a quality less than 12 will create pixelation in a photograph.







Colorvale Photoshop Actions For Photographers - Speed up your editing time and create amazing photographs with these digital tools




17 Responses

  • Great post! I have to disagree about LR though…I use it more than PS to edit everything. I prefer presets to actions…but that is just me :)

    • I love having people for all sides of the spectrum since our opinions are all valid. Lightroom is perfect for exposure but not a lot more than that other than some slight cloning etc. Presets aren’t as easily adjusted like actions are because with an action you can quickly turn off a layer or change the entire opacity of it over an image. Presets you have to go into the settings one by one and adjust to make them fit your needs. Also Lightroom only allows very light touch-ups. It doesn’t give you the awesome ability to make those fixes like swapping eyes, thinning subjects, removing major scars etc. Lightroom is not used much by me because all the major edits can’t be done in it such as puppet warping which I LOVE!

  • Thank you for commenting on photo sizes and quality. I’ve wondered for awhile now what other peoples opinion was on these. I’ll keep them original and at the highest quality!

    • Absolutely Kris! You paid a great deal for a camera that takes large photos. There is no reason to decrease this before sending to print. They use awesome computers attached to their presses that knows how to compress the original file into the smaller size when needed.

  • Good advice. The kind of software program seems to be personal. Some like Lightroom, some darkroom, I like Bridge.

  • Great advice! I find that I love Lightroom most, especially for weddings, as I can run batch edits to correct any exposure or WB issues; use presets to get the B&W image quality I like, and then export to PS or Portrait Professional for any fine edits. But that’s me!

    • Did you know you can do those same things right in Photoshop as well? That is how I do my whole editing process in CS5. Batch my exposures to them and open those I need extra love in.

  • Areally great article thanks for sharing!

  • Keepsake

    Thanks Stacie, This is very helpful information to remember.

  • I’m a LR user too, but can really appreciate how actions really can pop an image in a way that LR cannot. I love the watermark brush!!!

  • When you say downloading a company’s interfaces, such as ROES, what do you mean? I’m currently setting up an account with WHCC, but I’m afraid I’m missing something now, because I have not downloaded something extra!

  • Sandra Mck

    This info is perfect i have been looking for an article about resizing photos my friend keeps on telling me to resize and it always confusing me but before i was not resizing just uploading to the lab then selecting the size and my photos came out perfect. Thank you sooo much i love what you have done here! Keep up the good work! Some photographers will not share any info i guess thats why you are so successful. I wish you much success on your business!

  • It drives me CRAZY when I have a client come back to me and request I down size an image. Thank you for this – now I know I was right!

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