Using actions in Photoshop is like using quick keys on your keyboard (If you still say Apple instead of Command raise your hand). If you're not using them, why not? They save you time and can make your life easier. You can do something the long way, but why not just push a button and watch the magic happen? Also with the plethora of free actions out there, you can also add amazing effects to your pictures or logos, along with guaranteeing uniformity if you're working on a set of photos that you need to make black and white. I found this great list of 50 free Photoshop Actions and loaded up some of my favs from their list into Photoshop to see how they would look using the same two photos: A stock image of a woman and a stock image of a sunset road. And as a bonus, I did a more difficult action that involved creating a custom shape to my AG Designs icon.
Here are the results:
This one definitely works better with the woman. I can see it being used to greatest effect on an image with a white background, so that the 3D edges stand out more.
I have to give this one again to the stock woman. To use this one on this sunset image and have it look correct, I would need to go back into my history and make a lot adjustments and then what is the point of using an action if not for it's push-button ease?
I like this effect on both images. But, I might have to give it to the sunset for the contrast of purple and yellow.This isn't the magic teeth-whitening bullet I was hoping it would be. The action seems to have whitened out my stock woman's whole face, but over-all I like it. Her teeth are whitened. Case closed. It's interesting to see the action on the sunset. The photo is softer and not as high-contrast. Not a bad effect.
Finally, I used a fun action to create this 3D effect on my icon. It came with a folder of items that you need to create the look using their sample. But I wanted to do it on my own icon. So first I had to trace it with the pen tool to create a custom shape and then let the action do the rest of the work. It turned out pretty cool. I can see where this action could really come in handy for creating quick realistic 3D effects.
Well, that was 5 of the 50 freebies from that page alone. I could test out freebies for days and days! Try them. Have fun with them. Use them in ways that the original action creator hadn't intended and then when you do something cool and complex in Photoshop create your own action and share it with the universe. I know I am going to!