Photoshop actions

Photoshop fairy dust / Neil’s secret sauce

As much as I believe in the “get it right in camera” ethos, it is near inescapable that most images can use some sweetening in Photoshop. My own preference is for fairly subtle retouching of photographs.

The photograph above is one I’ve shown a few times as a great example of how good on-camera bounce flash can look. I did have to adjust the WB and exposure as part of my usual RAW post-processing workflow. And for the image on the left, I also removed some skin blemishes with the Healing Tool. So it does look pretty good .. but it can be subtly enhanced. And the keyword here for me is *subtle*.

My post-processing retouching for portraits involve some Photoshop plug-ins that I use, but there are some useful (and well-known) Photoshop techniques to make an image pop a little bit more. Over several articles on Tangents, I’ve referred to it as either “Photoshop fairy dust” or in a humorous way as my “secret sauce”. The techniques vary, depending on what is needed, and on what I’d like to achieve.  So the “secret sauce” varies from image to image by some degree. It really depends.

With the help of Photoshop wiz, Adrian (aka, Trev from the Tangents forum), we’ve put together two action sets that make these Photoshop techniques quite accessible … and more importantly, accessible in a subtle way. No over-the-top effect. Just that sweetening of the photograph as is necessary. The image on the right-hand shows the type of retouching that is possible with this action set.

The action set, called Neil’s Secret Sauce, is available for download for a $20 fee from that linked page. The zip file includes two actions as well as a PDF instruction sheet.

And of course, we’ll gladly help!

Learn more inside…


Adrian, a regular follower of the Tangents blog, (better known as the ever-helpful Trev in the Tangents forum), has the guest spot this week. Adrian has expanded on his explanation of the actions that he mentioned in the comments section of the recent article on Selective Sharpening in Photoshop. Even better, he has made it available as two downloadable actions as well.

Photoshop actions to help with Post Processing (free download)

guest post by Adrian, at Five Star Studios
wedding photographer, Mackay, Queensland in Australia

The following downloadable actions with the instructions on their use can save some time and grief on getting a good result after RAW conversion. Even using your RAW converter may not get a fully desirable end result and these very easy to use actions will help in that regard. They are not complicated and you don’t need any plug-ins to achieve a simple lift to your final image.

The actions, while still utilising the features in photoshop, do it in a different way to what you may have learnt or been shown, by using layers and masks you keep the integrity of your image at the same time giving it that lift.

Things like a simple contrast can be achieved in less than 1 second running the action, but, without the undesired color shift you would get with the ‘generic S Curve’.

Once you have run it through the RAW converter, you can still open the RAW file itself [from ACR] and have an image adjusted quicker and easier than during the RAW stage, or once exported, having a batch opening and then checking selected images make further adjustments much easier.

Learn more inside…