My daughter Jenna (age 7) was just watching me edit some pictures in Photoshop. She looked up at me and asked, “Are using actions in photoshop kind of like… cheating?” I said, “no – they are just a shortcut.”
That got me thinking as I so often do when my kids ask me these deep questions about what I see simply as life. So I posed her question on facebook to get others thinking. Dozens of responses came in minutes. So I decided I would post this here on my blog for discussion too.
What are you thoughts? When you use actions do you feel you are saving time? Cheating? Do they make it so you do not need to learn Photoshop? Or do Photoshop actions help you learn Photoshop?
Here is a sampling of just some of the comments people expressed on Facebook:
- Exactly . . . actions just save us time in recreating the steps we’d normally take to complete an image . . . First there was the abacus, then the slide rule, then the calculator . .
- It’s like using a remote control to change channels.. why get up every time? Some things were designed to make life easier.
- When I was first starting out, my mentor drilled in my head that time is money. He always told me that anything you’re going to do more than 5 times you should build an action for. I think it is more about efficiency than “cheating” if used correctly.
- It’s not cheating…makes work faster.
- It’s only cheating as much as using auto-focus, automatic cars, a nail gun instead of a hammer, etc. Although I personally think Actions do a huge disservice to anyone who doesn’t know how to do the same effect manually. 🙂 Tell her it’s the reason you can spend as much time with her you do, and without them, she’d never see you.
- no way is it cheating! I get to give my clients an image that has a super cool look and I wouldn’t do that if it took more than a press of a button…
- Ya gotta do what ya gotta do & ya gotta do it fast!
- I don’t think that is cheating as long as you are the one that created the action and know why it makes your workflow efficient. Buying actions because you do not know how to create the action or the end result is kind of cheating.
- Is using an antibiotic cheating the body out of truly developing an immunity? What about vaccines? If actions are cheating, then so is shooting digital. And shooting in Raw. Or using a zoom lens. Or using Photoshop at all. Should the determination of cheating be that we have to be able to recreate the same images using a pinhole camera? I believe that using actions is a reflection of developments in technology. As we learn more, the tools become more refined.
- Explain film photography to them. See if digital is cheating.
- It’s important to understand each step/layer of the action…but they are sooo important to a photographer’s workflow…without them I’d be twice as expensive–ha!!
- work smarter, not harder.
- Not cheating. Its enhancing that’s all. You can’t make a poor photo good with actions.
Its like saying getting an epidural in childbirth is cheating.
- I am going to say shortcut… I don’t run a lot of actions but I the ones I do run save me a lot of time!
- I think it is much easier to achieve consistency of look to your photos with actions. I wish more people did not use the actions “straight outta the box” and went for more unique customized look…but I think consistency in your look is extremely important and can be difficult to achieve without the use of actions (when post-producing large #s of images).
- They shorten my time in front if the computer.
- I also think Actions have gotten to be a creative crutch for many and are too often used to fix things that should have been taken care of in the camera.
- I myself don’t care to use others actions. I have never purchased them. I DO think it is totally cheating for people that don’t have the PS skills. It’s a short cut for people that have the ability to do it long hand.
I think they should be your own though. The analogies people are bringing up are pretty funny.
- If you have to know why things work in photoshop…I mean, do you know the inner workings of any other program you use? It is good to know the basics of contrast and color and to get it right in the camera first, but if I see a cool look, and I can buy the action, I’m not going to spend the time learning why the action does what it does, I’m going to buy the action, get the cool look and save myself some time.
- Isn’t that what being an “artist” is all about? Creating your own look and taking the time to do so. In a way that just makes people dependent on actions fashion models rather than the actual designer/artist. Great topic Jodi. 🙂 and rich…i totally agree with you on the analogies.
- No cheating here! Actions are a blessing that make editing easier…
- I don’t think it matters if you know how Photoshop works or not–besides I think what is really meant by that is whether or not you actually know how to use PS, not how it works (that’s knowing code and I don’t find that necessary to my life). I am amazed at the number of pro photographers who don’t know the basics–like how to crop an image in PS. Lots of people who use it know only how to open an image, apply an action or two and save it.
- What matters is if you understand what you’re doing and why you want to do it and if you understand the underlying principles of image and design. A bad image is still a bad image, no matter how much time you spend on it. Rather like trying to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.
- Kids always ask those simple but thought provoking questions. I love it!
- It’s not cheating… It’s all good. Come on, we purchase and enjoy off the rack clothing yet, most cannot sew a stitch. We eat ready made bakery treats yet, many have never made a cake from scratch… They serve a function. If one wants to learn the nitty gritty of Photoshop to have a full understanding and appreciation then that’s good too!
- And in a way they force photographers to learn Photoshop. They may not understand why they do what they do but they need to understand the “what” and “how to control” them for best results.” The problem is that some do not do that and just run the action as is or batch them.
- no more cheating than using an oven cook dinner.
- Definitely not cheating in my opinion. I agree that they allow you to create a consistent look for a session without having to keep doing the same thing to a similar image over and over again. And I also think it takes an artistic eye and is part of the creative process to choose which action to use, how much of it to use, how to make it really work with that image. It’s all artistry to me. Just like sometimes we have to swap a head or fix a few wrinkles on a face – anything that can make your image look better for your client is a good thing. And faster workflow equals a more reasonable investment for your clients! I’ll use the analogy of a recipe… just because I use a cookbook and follow a recipe doesn’t mean that I didn’t make that yummy meal.