Photoshop is an extremely powerful and very deep application that has grown in power and, it must be said, complexity for over a decade (which is something close to a century in software years). Legions of scribes, myself included, have penned millions of words on its capabilities and quirks. This isn't, however, a book about Photoshop. Instead, it's a book about how to get raw images into Photoshop as quickly, as efficiently, and in as close to an optimal state as possible.
In short, it's mostly about all the things you do before the image lands in Photoshop.
Automation and Actions
The one key area of Photoshop that this book covers in some depth is automation, and especially Photoshop Actions. As a digital photographer, you will routinely be called upon to push amounts of data through your system that only a few years ago would have given NASA nightmares. The hardware you use to do so will doubtless get faster, but one key component in the system, the wetware, the part that occupies the space between the keyboard and the chair, will almost certainly continue to operate at the same speed it has done for the past 20,000 years or so.
Exploiting the power of Photoshop Actions to automate repetitive tasks isn't just good sense—it's a key survival strategy. Writing Actions isn't without its quirks and challenges, but if you're saying to yourself "but I'm not a programmer," rest assured that writing Actions is like programming the way driving to the grocery store is like competing in the Dakar Rally.
Any repetitive Photoshop task is a candidate for automation. My copy of Photoshop spends a lot of time doing its own thing, and my hope is that by the time you've finished this book, yours will too. It's rare for me to open an image directly from Camera Raw into Photoshop—I almost invariably apply my raw edits in Bridge, then use batch processes to open the already-edited images into Photoshop.
The batch processes may also include things like sharpening routines, adding adjustment layers, and renaming and saving the files so that when I do get them into Photoshop, the layers are there ready for me to go to work on localized corrections, and the files are already named and saved in the format I need so that when I've done my work, I can simply press Command-S. Automating simple things like file renaming, or saving in a specific format with the necessary format options, only saves a small amount of time on any one image. But doing so brings at least three benefits:
- Small savings on one image add up to significant savings on dozens or hundreds of images.
- My brain likes being liberated from repetitive drudgery.
- Automated processes don't make mistakes!
I'll talk about the ways we can make the computer do our work for us in detail in Chapter 9, Exploiting Automation.