Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Photoshop Tips: Automation

First of all, thanks to everyone who emailed to us about the photoshop tips blog. We'll try to keep it up! We are scheduling quite a few boot camps for December, especially when college gets out. If you've been thinking of coming go ahead and email us to get on the schedule. I apologize for not updating our boot camp calendar as much as I should, we forget sometimes when we get so busy.

Anyway, here is another Photoshop tip to share today: Automation. If you are in Photoshop, and you click on the File menu, Automation is about 3/4 of the way down on the menu.

If you've never used this tool before, this is another example of a photoshop tip that can greatly speed up your production, much like the Actions we talked about before. As you can see in the menu, there are several automated features available. The ones I use most are the Contact Sheet II, Picture Package, and Web Photo Gallery. 

Batch is a pretty cool one, which I would describe as like one step up from Actions. When you click on batch, it automatically applies an action to every image in a specific folder. So by using this, you eliminate the step of having to open each file. Here is a screen shot:

So you can see here, using the Batch automation tool, I select my source folder (which is where I have all of my originals saved) then I choose the action I want to run. In this case, I've made a special action for this project that converts all the images to 300 dpi, CMYK, and saves them as a JPG in the Links folder for InDesign. If you need a refresher on making these custom actions, read this blog. So by using this automated feature, I can do all my image work for a sale catalog in say, 30 minutes or less.

Another tool I like a lot is the Contact Sheet automation. I mostly use this for comparing lots of pictures and trying to decide which I like best. It is also really helpful if someone else is going to be choosing images with you. This one automatically makes a proof sheet of multiple images on one page.  To get started with Contact Sheet, click on the Contact Sheet II option, which will bring up this screen:

You will have several options. First you choose your source folder. Make sure you have all of the pictures saved within one folder (i.e. Calf Pictures November 15 2010 or something like that). Then you choose how many pictures you want on a page. Obviously the more pictures you have the smaller they will be. In this case I chose 2 rows of 2, so 8 pictures per page. Another thing I like to check is at the very bottom: Use Filename as Caption. This way I can easily know what pictures I like best. Once you hit Okay, Photoshop will automatically make a sheet like this for you:

You can easily print this out and share it with others within your creative team, or even clients, to decide which pics you like best.

I don't use the Photo Package option all that frequently, but it is still neat. This one would be helpful for people who like to print their photos at home. Perhaps you have a great family picture you took and you'd like to give a few to grandparents and relatives, but just want to print it at home on photo paper. Here's how you get started with this one:

From the dialog box, you choose your folder or specific file. Where the menu says "Document," choose your paper size. If you click on the Layout drop down box, you will see TONS of options. I happened to choose (4) 3.5x5.5s. Photoshop then takes my picture and resizes them all to fit on one sheet of paper for easy printing. There are lots of other options, just play around with it. You can do 8x10s, 5x7s, wallets, all kinds of sizes. This would be a quick option for people who like to print their pictures at home.

The last Automation tool I sometimes use is Web Photo Gallery. Now I have to say up front, we very rarely use this at RHD because I think it looks somewhat amateur and so you won't see these very often on RHD client web sites. But this is a great option for families who may have their own web site and want to share pictures from different events. This is one that you just have to play around with and find out what you like best. Once you get into this option, there are tons of choices. Photoshop offers about 20 different templates for the layout, ranging from flash transitions to very simple thumbnails. You can see these examples below under the very first option under "Styles"

This automation works exactly the same was as the other automations mentioned above. You choose the folder on your computer where all of your photos are saved. Then you choose the destination folder of where you want Photoshop to save the files (like your web site folder).  Also pay attention about mid-ways down the box for the OPTIONS drop down box.  There are several options available here like a headline, how big you want the images to be, custom colors, and more. You can even add background music through this automated feature.

In the 12 years I've been using Photoshop, I find that there is almost something new I can learn every day. I just went over a very basic overview of these automated features, however they are very powerful and dramatically can speed up your workflow. There is no limit to the way you can use these in combination with each other, just like we use Actions, then Batches together. They are great for saving time and speeding up lots of the legwork we have to do, which frees up time for the fun creative stuff...DESIGNING!

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