Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Photoshop snafus & silver linings

A few days ago, I had an unpleasant surprise when I opened PS. All of my PS actions had disappeared.  I had a very extensive collection from all kinds of sources, some of them I used rarely or never, but some I used all the time. I was unable to restore them using time machine so i resolved to reinstall the ones I most wanted to have available. At the same time, I decided to create new custom PS panels (using Adobe Configurator) to organize the actions I use most frequently and make them easily available when I want to use them. All of this took a while to do, but the results please me.

The most elaborate panel was the one I created for noise reduction and capture sharpening. I really like the sharpening actions created by Glenn Mitchell because they allow a wide range of choices about the kinds of edge masks to use (to confine sharpening to edge detail) and the kind of sharpening operations to perform. Glenn’s actions automatically generate smart filter layers so that if you don’t like his default settings you can open up the filter and change the settings at will, as well as the layer opacity, and so on. And Glenn incorporated “Blend If” settings which precent the sharpening from affecting contrast in either the brightest highlights or the darkest shadows. Pretty slick.

Glenn also has actions (or a PS script) to generate edge & surface masks, and I will use these to create surface masks when I want to run a noise reduction app (such as Nik Dfine or Topaz DeNoise) prior to capture sharpening. Surface masks confine the noise reduction effect to image surfaces and so avoid degrading edge contrast and apparent sharpness of detail in your image. Also slick.

So my new panel has a button to activate the edge/surface masking script, and then six sub-panels arranged accordion style on the main panel, one for each of the masking options Glenn used to create his actions (Edge, Surface, Edge and Surface, and then each of these again using his “enhanced” masks that incorporate color information). Within each sub-panel, there are four action buttons corresponding to various edge widths I might want to sharpen: extra narrow, narrow, medium, and wide.

I also made a separate panel for Glenn’s creative sharpening actions, since that comes later in my workflow. Again, these generate smart filter layers that are infinitely customizable. In addition to a basic creative sharpening action, he has actions tailored to portraits, landscapes, images with texture detail, and a high pass sharpening action for “clarity”. There is also a creative blur action.

So with a couple of clicks I can access over 30 different sophisticated PS actions, protect image edges from noise reduction, and target the kind of sharpening I want where I want it. Did I mention that this was slick?

Glenn’s blog has been inactive for a couple of years now, but he has left a wealth of information and an amazing array of sophisticated PS tools there for anyone to use. Thanks to Glenn, I was able to reload and reorganize some of the most important actions that I use on almost all my images. I’m grateful to Glenn for leaving this astonishing resource for other photographers to benefit from.

Oh, and I also saved copies of all my actions, scripts and panels in multiple locations, as well as using the PS actions panel “Save Action” function, so hopefully I won’t lose them again and, if I do, I can more easily restore them.

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