Advice #48: What’s Your Secret to Shooting Photos?

Photoshop Actions


First off, this is just a quick note that I’ve changed my long-running advice column from Ask Nubby to simply Advice. I felt it needed some clarity and the “+” comes into play since my goal has always been to give positive yet relatable advice. If you have a question of your own, contact information can be found in the sidebar.



Hello,

I’m wondering if you could do a post on your photography for blogging. Your images are always consistent in style and very punchy with colours. I’m a junior-intermediate user of a high end DSLR camera, but can’t seem to get the most out of it in a blogging capacity – your journalistic style photographs and pics of your work always look lush!

Photoshop Actions

Shooting away at The Viceroy, Santa Monica! Photo by Gala Darling.

One of the key components that you’ll notice across the board for established bloggers is that they have a fairly consistent style to their photos. This is one of those more ownable elements that you can use to differentiate your content. Shooting almost all of my own photos has allowed me to add my unique take to blogging over the last ten years. I bought my first Nikon digital camera in 2002 and it opened up a whole new world to me.

I’ve been carrying a camera in my bag since the sixth grade and am constantly shooting. But the straight-up truth is that I’d never call myself a photographer. I’m first and foremost focused on being a designer — I just know how to manipulate my photos to look the way I want. I am not very technically savvy in the photography department — I have a very point-and-shoot method to what I do. I keep my settings on auto and shoot in natural light 90% of the time. If I need something above and beyond the basics, I call on one of my professional friends or my brother to make it happen. I’ve been around enough pros and have also been on enough sets to realize that photography is an art all it’s own and I have major respect for that.


This is the exact setup that I use.

Here’s the exact setup I’ve been using for the last 2+ years: A Nikon D40 paired with a Nikon 35mm f/1.8G Lens. I particularly like the D40 because it’s on the small size as far as DSLRs go and super tough. I just throw it in my handbag and go! I’ve tested a few of the new micro-sized DSLR cameras but too many of them feel cheap and breakable. The Nikon 35mm f/1.8G lens is great for detailed, close-up shots which I do a ton of. I still need to do some more research about what lens to invest in next! That’s it, though. I like to keep things as simple as possible and shoot almost everything on the blog with with this combo.


I use Actions to edit all my photos.

Between the camera and lens, I can get a good base image to work with but beyond that, it’s all about using Photoshop Actions to implement a consistent look. Actions are a series of recorded steps that help you edit your image without having to do each step manually — they are essentially a one click editing process! Can you say time saver?

If you’re wondering how to load an action in Photoshop, it’s easy! In your menu bar, simply go to Window > Actions. Once your Actions palette is up, click in the top right corner on Load Actions and you’re set!

Over the last three years I have pulled from a number of other actions and tweaked my process until I was happy with the style. Some actions are too soft for my taste while some are too harsh so I never use them straight out of the box. I personally have three of the below sets of actions and after much research, I really want to try out the fourth as well!

1. Making Nice In The Midwest Photoshop Actions are great if you’re going for a soft, vintage effect.

2. Devlin Photos has an awesome variety of Photoshop Actions that are geared towards weddings and beyond. As a sidenote, Lisa Devlin will be at our Blogcademy New York launch teaching you about Photoshop shortcuts as well!

3. Elsie and Emma of A Beautiful Mess shared examples of the actions they use and now I really want to try out Totally Rad Actions!

4. As a sidenote, I know not everyone can afford a set of actions right away so I also included a link to my favorite free action: Vintage Film Effect by Fallout 75. I modified this one a lot when I used it but there’s some good layers in there to tweak and learn from.


Here are some real life examples of befores and afters of images I’ve featured on my blog. All of these were edited with actions:

Photoshop Actions

Photoshop Actions

Photoshop Actions

While I wish I could give you the exact formula of actions I used on these, I’ve built my own mix over time with many elements from the above sets of actions. I tend to like my images to be bright, vibrant but not too saturated and to have an overall cool tone. I’m constantly adding and subtracting to get what feels right to me but always depend on actions to get me off to a solid start when editing.


Readers: Let me know if you have any more specific questions about my photography setup or editing in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer!

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