When it comes to Photoshop actions, I have a short stack of them that I depend on for retouching my portrait and wedding photography images. I go to these almost all the time, for all my images. We'll talk about which one of those actions made the cut, in a subsequent blog post. So please do remind me.
Jodi Friedman of MCP Actions sent me an email asking me to test a new set of Photoshop actions that she was launching called MCP Fusion Photoshop Actions. So, let me at the outset tell you that I received them gratis for the expressed purpose of reviewing and writing about them here.
The MCP Fusion Photoshop action set combines the most versatile and user-friendly workflow actions with beautiful color and black and white conversions, bringing you an action set with infinite possibilities.
It makes sense to review actions only when you have some really good examples. The image below is from a headshot portrait session I recently completed for my client Carole M.
Straight out of camera, otherwise known as SOOC:
Enhanced using the Liquify filter in Photoshop + MCP Actions' Eye Doctor and The Dentist:
Beach House action:
Color Fusion Mix-n-Match action – Peachy/Rustic/Sentimental/Shades Of Gray:
In addition to the usual actions to enhance color images, this set includes ways in which you can convert images to black & white. Most of the black & white actions I've seen online have been pretty heavy handed at this, but the Black & White Fusion Mix-n-Match is particularly useful because like its Color counterpart, you are allowed to turn on and off layers and of course dial in the opacity for those layers just to get your desired effect. I really enjoyed this level of control to consistently produce images.
Black & White Fusion Mix-n-Match action – One Click Black & White/Highlight Helper:
See more sample images on Jodi's site and check out this video to show you how you would set these actions up in Photoshop (18 minutes):
I'll make this short and sweet. I had a lot of fun exploring these actions. Like any other set of Photoshop actions, I am likely to pick and use only the ones that feel natural to me and for what I want to deliver to my clients. In this regard, to each her/his own. There are several among the MCP Fusion Photoshop Actions have just been added to my short stack. Some of those actions you have just seen above. As I promised at the beginning of this post, I'll have a new article describing those to you in greater detail soon.
I almost never use any action at full throttle, that is the opacity is set to less than 100%. What is that magic number? It's very hard to pin down and kinda silly to even divulge because your images and tastes are different than mine. And these actions by MCP are no different. I toned it down several notches to meet my artistic sensibilities.
The mix-n-match actions were great, but even on a fast iMac, they took about 20 seconds to run. This isn't a shortfall of the action set, but I have to admit it did surprise me a bit. And as Jodi put it, that's 20 actions all running at the same time. If you are trying to get something done quickly, try then the individual actions that come bundled within this set. The mix-n-match is much too comprehensive and may be overkill for what you want to achieve. That said, I liked the multiple options the actions gave me. In my opinion, Photoshops actions are as perfect as you want them to be for your own workflow, sense of style or approach to photography.
Jodi's Photoshop actions are well-known in the industry for a reason – she consistently provides a quality product and her level of support via video tutorials, or in my case a quick email response to a quick question, was always greatly appreciated. If you are open to gaining some control back into how your images should look, you will want to get this Photoshop actions set.
Unsolicited words of advice:
1) Have a vision for how you want to retouch your images. What you present to the world says a lot about who you are as a photographer and an artist. Adding actions willy-nilly is no way to correct a badly exposed image. So start there first. No idea what I am talking about? Try this book by David duChemin. Figure out what the end product needs to be, how it will be applied and who your target audience is. Those answers will direct you into the appropriate use of these or any other Photoshop actions.
2) Make sure your monitor is calibrated. If you want WYSIWYG, this is one of the first steps you should take.
3) Use these actions on un-cropped, high-resolution images first. Then resize and sharpen at the very end of your workflow. The MCP Fusion Photoshop Actions include two nifty actions that will do just this for you, so rest easy.
4) Uncle Ben said it best: “With great power, comes great responsibility.” Just because you can use actions and mix-n-match them up, does not give you license to do so. Well, you could, but then your images are going to make your audience gag a bit.
5) Be aware that as you start adding more actions and you mix-n-match them as you can, your file size is going to inflate and your computer is liable to slow down to a crawl. So have lots of RAM and have a scratch disk for Photoshop to play nice.
6) Have fun. If you aren't having fun when using these or any other actions, that means you are just going through the motions of creating art for your clients and ultimately yourself. So, pace yourself, experiment and stick to the plan (ie. see number 1)
7) You are going to be naturally drawn to some actions over others. Let your gut instinct guide you. You'll know when you have crossed the line, or your friends or even clients may let you know pretty directly. Learn from these trials and move on. Don't cling to an action as the be-all and end-all of all your images. Keep making images and you will find Photoshop actions that are best used to enhance those specific frames. It is a learning process, so don't force it.
If you've enjoyed this post and want more like it, please let me know in the comments below. Also, please support this site by buying the e-books you see here. They have each been reviewed for quality and value and I am sure you will find them just as useful as I have for my photography business.