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Transform A Vacation Snapshot Into Art Using Photoshop Actions

Free Photoshop Actions and Lightroom Presets by MCP™

Transform A Vacation Snapshot Into Art Using Photoshop Actions

Yesterday, I shared information and images of my family vacation to the Southern Caribbean.  Today, I’ll show you an edit where I transform the image from a snapshot into a photo I am printing on a gallery wrapped canvas.

I took the following photo in Curacao, while on board a trolley.  I could not stop and compose it properly.  I was in a moving vehicle with 50 or so people. As such I quickly snapped the image and figured I’d see if I had something workable later.  I often hear photographers on my blog and on Facebook say to other photographers, “you need to get it right in camera.”  Some even think Photoshop action makers, or even Adobe Photoshop in general, enables photographers to cheat and not learn to take great pictures without editing.  I do agree Photoshop is a tool that sometimes helps less than perfect photos.  But sometimes, for example when you are on a tour and cannot stop to get a better shot, it is the only way to not miss capturing an image.

To me it is more important to document the moment, especially on vacation, than just forget it because things were not ideal.  What do you think?

Now for the edit:

  1. I started by using MCP Fusion Actions Set – and ran One Click Color. I left everything at the default opacity.
  2. Next I ran the Magic Markers Action. Normally you paint this action on just where you want it. But I wanted it everywhere so I inverted the layer mask instead (Ctrl + I: PC or Command + I: Mac). It was a bit strong, so I lowered the opacity of that layer to 45%. I loved the pop of color – do you?  The buildings, if you’ve ever visited Curacao, actually are very close to the intensity in the after.  The original snapshot did not truly capture how vibrant they were.
  3. Lastly, I cropped it to a 20×10 ratio.  There was so much sky in the original and that guard rail was pretty ugly too.  So as I cropped I also rotated the image slightly.
  4. I am printing this as a 30×14″ gallery wrapped image, but am having the lab digitally stretch the sides, as I do not want to lose any of the print.  I could stretch it myself but it’s quicker to have them do it.

colorful buildings in Curacao

Free Photoshop Actions and Lightroom Presets by MCP™
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  1. Alice C.
    April 12, 2012 at 3:18 pm —

    It’s always better to get it right in camera, but it’s awesome to save a shot too! Especially when the result is that.

  2. Adele
    April 12, 2012 at 4:55 pm —

    Wow. Lots of wows. Wow for the way you transformed that shot – I expected there to be a difference, but certainly not that strong of a difference – I definitely still have so much more to learn about PS! And Wow for the picture you ended up with. Beautiful. DEFINITELY worth printing and hanging your home! and finally, Wow. it just never ceases to amaze me that the “professional” photographers are so insecure that they have to bash everything and everyone who isn’t doing it “their way.” I have always had issues with the whole concept of “art”….WHO really is the one to say what is and is not “art” – and of that, what is GOOD and what is not – gotta say – the entire industry needs to get on board with the fact that people are different, and therefore, different things are going to appeal to different people. Get over yourselves, there is no “One Right Way.” Seriously – to even pretend that a photo is only “art” if it is printed exactly as it was taken in camera is ridiculous. Art is the end product, isn’t it? I liked the previous commentor’s description: “speaks to me and elicits an emotional response”…perfect. And I have to completely agree with the other previous comment – helloooooo – this is MCP Actions! If you only believe in in-camera work – why are you here? Just to bash? Sad, so so sad………..keep it up, Jodi – there are so many of us who truly appreciate all we are learning from all aspects of your site!! (and, like it or not – bottom line – the photographers who are WORKING – yeah, THOSE are the professionals, degree/training/in-camera expertise notwithstanding!)

  3. Carrie Flanagan
    April 12, 2012 at 5:14 pm —

    Lovely, Jodi! Like the color pop! :0)

  4. miranda dejarnatt
    April 12, 2012 at 6:34 pm —

    hi there, i too ended up with tons of albums…then i switched to a yearly book where i place all my favorite pictures for that year. Everyone loves to looks at them, they’re easier to store plus you can get copies if anything was to happen. thanks for the article…..

  5. April 13, 2012 at 9:45 am —

    GREAT edit Jodi! 🙂 I totally agree – better to capture a moment and play with it later in photoshop then to have nothing! How did you change the perspective? It looks like you not only straightened the frame but pulled the perspective so you are not at an angle from the front…

  6. April 13, 2012 at 9:54 pm —

    Glad I could give everyone a reason to be outraged.

    Just so you all know, I did read the whole blog as I usually do before I replied. I like to be informed before commenting.

    The basic reason I replied is because I saw this as a post that said it is okay to shoot bad photos and fix them later in Photoshop. I strongly disagree with that philosophy. Good photos start in he camera and can be made better in Photoshop if shot right and the right Photoshop tools are used.

    As a photographer with 35+ years experience this whole idea of shoot crappy photos and try and fix them later is offensive to me. I am also tired of seeing so-so photos with lots of excuses why the photographer couldn’t do them right. Excuses, the trolley wouldn’t stop, don’t make up for a poor photo. Get it right.

    If I was going to hang a large photo from a vacation on my wall it would either be a great art shot or one of my family showing lots of emotion. This shot doesn’t meet either criteria.

    It is getting tiring hearing excuses for bad photos, someone has to stand up and point out the emperor’s clothes. The standard ploy is to call it art and them if anyone disagrees scream ART! again and then say they don’t get the art or everyone has a different definition of art. You can claim art all you want but it doesn’t make it a better a photo.

    People seem to be looking for any reason to get away from discussing the actual image as is the case here. This is an okay image, it isn’t a great art shot and doesn’t have any family. Why would you want to hang it on your wall?

    For me photography isn’t a sideline, I am extremely passionate about it, it is what I live to do. When I see people saying it is okay to shoot poor photos and fix them later I find it personally offensive. If you want to dislike me for trying to create better photographers by giving realistic feedback on images then have at it.

    • April 13, 2012 at 10:21 pm —


      I rarely censor comments, besides spam. I did have people email asking why I didn’t delete yours though.

      In response to your follow up comment, You say you “try to create better photographers by giving realistic feedback” but unless I am blind, I never saw constructive feedback. I wasn’t actually looking for critique per say, but I welcome that far more than just saying the final image was a snapshot even after edited.

      I smile just thinking about the fun, colorful buildings there, and you may not wish to take photos if you cannot get perfect lighting, but I don’t wish to miss shots because of full sun or, for example, being on a moving tour. It isn’t an excuse; it is life! Again, this wasn’t meant to be in National Geographic. It was a photo capture a memory of what I saw as best I could under the challenging circumstances.

      I make no apologizes for that.

      Now you’ve got me curious. I’ll have to check out your images and site when I have spare time. I encourage anyone reading this to do the same. I assume, based on your words, that we will be impressed and learn so much from your art, especially since you’d never share images from a moving trolley on vacation 🙂


  7. April 13, 2012 at 11:10 pm —


    Feel free to take apart any photo on my web site, I welcome any and all comments, it is how I get grow and improve as a photographer. Even after 35+ years I am always trying to get better.

    If you want you can pick one of my images and I will send you a copy so you and your readers can critique it.

    Just so you know, I shoot lots of snapshots, I give them to family and friends. I just don’t post them with my professional work or talk about making them into art. For me art starts in the camera, it is something special, not just to me but the people that view it.

    Just so you know, I wouldn’t share a snapshot from a moving trolley.

    • April 19, 2012 at 10:09 am —

      Cort, that is a shame that you wouldn’t share a photo taken on vacation from a moving trolley. It shows you are human and real. My husband actually was proud of me as he said “maybe you are getting back to being a normal photographer and not a snobby one.” He was mostly kidding, but for a while I had trouble printing anything I didn’t love the light in or angles of, etc. And I missed out.

      I made my family a promise that even if a photo was not perfect, that if it was fun or cute or memorable, that I will at least save it on the computer – in other words not delete it. The exception is a portrait session with my kids. Then I do only pick the best in a group of similar shots.

      Oh and Cort, please read through my post today, 4/19 on the blog. You’re gonna love it. 😉 Maybe you can learn to help others by actually providing useful, helpful critique rather than insulting comments as you have done here. If not, see you elsewhere on the Internet.


  8. Adele
    April 15, 2012 at 10:45 am —

    That’s kind of funny….because I use the “emperor’s clothes” comparison to most things that people call “art”…it seems to become one of those things where someone (who IS it, anyway? so called “experts”) decides that something is “art” – and anyone who doesn’t agree is painted the fool, so everyone starts agreeing….art is subjective – beauty is in the eye of the beholder, it just IS. And I guess I just missed two key things in this – the part where Jodi said “hey, don’t worry about taking good shots – we can fix ANYTHING” and the part where Cort offered up something constructive, something helpful, some way for her to “improve” (other than just “don’t do that” I guess….). We’re all here to learn, to share, to grow….from what I have seen from this blog, it is all about the MANY different ways to “do it better”…..and I appreciate that. I shoot zillions of sports shots every year for my boys’ teams, and sometimes, with sports, you capture the coolest image – and yet have missed the perfect shot – knowing some ways to save those irreplaceable moments – that is valuable. Obviously I would prefer to never have to fix them, but, like Jodi said….this is life.

  9. Stephanie
    April 19, 2012 at 10:00 am —

    Curious to know; if Jodi had not stated this was taken in a moving trolley, would it then be viewed differently? If I had not seen the ‘before’, I would not have guessed that was the case.

    Jodi-I hope that all this hype has not ruined this photo for you! Maybe everytime you see it hanging on the wall, you can laugh and still remember the great time you had on vacation, and not cringe recalling the ‘words of wisdom’ that were shared regarding it.

    • April 19, 2012 at 10:03 am —

      The photo makes me smile 🙂 And I love the colors and feel of it. And I also love knowing that it started as a vacation snapshot. So… no I will not be bullied. But after that experience and moreso after the comments about newborn images from some well-known very good photographers, I knew it was time to speak up.

  10. Jamie
    April 25, 2012 at 1:56 am —

    Hi Jodi,

    Would you mind explaining more how you rotated this image? Was that done in photoshop? I absolutely love your picture. I have some pictures from my trip to Italy that I would like to edit this way :).


  11. April 25, 2012 at 3:39 pm —

    The final image is amazing. I love the fact that you can take a so-so photo and convert it into something that good. Bravo to you and MCP Actions!

  12. ang
    May 17, 2012 at 4:17 pm —

    This looks like a snap shot at a carnival.


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Transform A Vacation Snapshot Into Art Using Photoshop Actions