Post-processing and Photoshop actions

Published Categorized as Design

I though I’d just quickly go through how I post-process images these days, because I’ve changed up my workflow quite a bit recently. I used to do a lot of manual adjustments, but recently discovered the Totally Rad actions and plugins through an awesome travel blog that I follow. I still have a bit of work to do as I don’t always get my camera settings just right, but if you’ve ever wanted a ‘make look awesome’ button in Photoshop, this is pretty much as close are you’re going to get. I know that sounds a bit gushy, but since I go through a lot of photos this stuff is seriously making my life a lot easier.

So for this photo I set up in my living room, as I’m still too self-conscious to take self-portraits outside in the sunlight! It meant that I had to use a mounted flash, which I just pointed up mostly towards the (white) ceiling and pointing a bit towards me. Thankfully the walls of my apartment are all white and light bounces around reasonably nicely, although it still came out a bit darker than I wanted. The camera with mounted flash was on a tripod, and I got fed up with the timer and just used a remote (which you can see in my hand). For the geeks out there, this was shot in RAW format on a Canon 7D with a 16-30mm f2.4L (not ideal, but I don’t have a large space to work with) at 26mm, f4.0 and 1/20s with an ISO of 1600.
So anyway, this is my new post-processing process:

  1. Import photos in RAW format. If your camera can do this, I really recommend it – it gives a lot more options when editing and leaves you greater room for making errors when shooting (which is something I do a lot…).
  2. Since this photo was a little dark and yellowy, I played around with the levels and white balance in RAW mode to get it to the look that I wanted. Usually I aim to not have to do this and get things correct in camera, but I’m not really there yet!
  3. Bit of vanity – I removed dark circles under my eyes, smoothed out skin-tone, darkened and sharpened around my eyes and made my cheeks rosy. Mainly this is because I was too lazy to put on makeup! For a closer portrait I would definitely bother though, as it’s a bit more difficult to paint in makeup in Photoshop when it’s under closer scrutiny.
  4. My magic buttons – I ran my current favorite Totally Rad Photoshop actions, starting with “Boutwell Magic Glasses” which does some sharpening and adds a bit more depth to shadows, and “Lux” which gives a bit of a vintage effect. Both of these actions are a bit over-the-top at full strength, so I usually tone them down a bit – “magic glasses” usually at a bit below full opacity, and “Lux” at quite a low opacity or not at all depending on the look I’m after. My other favourite (not used here) is “Bitchn’ B&W” which produces much nicer black and white photos than I can do manually.

This is actually more complex than what I usually do with food and random out and about photos, which I tend to spend less time on. I’ve set up actions that also contain the TR actions, which resize the photo to fit on my blog then run “Magic Glasses” to sharpen and contrast things up a bit. Then I can tone it down a bit if needed and save it out ready for the blog, all with just a few mouse clicks. So much easier than what I was doing before! I’ve been using these actions for all the photos on here since my Singapore trip. Here’s a photo that shows things a little better:

Totally Rad actions on tagine

These were actually done with the free demo of the Totally Rad Action Pack because I was waiting for some clients to pay me before forking out for the paid pack. The free demo actually includes my favourite actions, so I definitely recommend grabbing it if you don’t have the cash for the full set! But Totally Rad sent out an email about a Mother’s Day sale with $50 off, so I figured now was a good time for me to get the real thing. I can’t wait to play around with it!

If you’re thinking of buying anything from Totally Rad, use the coupon code MOMSDAY to get $50 off, until 16th May. And yes, I am an affiliate, but I do wholeheartedly endorse it (especially for bloggers) and was going to write up something about it before they even started an affiliate program, so I figure that’s not so bad. If it’s too much moolah for you then I really recommend just getting the free demo as it has the best bits anyway and you can keep using it indefinitely!

If you want to try doing more adjustments to photos manually, I found the tutorials over on Sabatomic really easy to follow and useful – I’m always in awe of her skills.

Random aside – I feel like it’s a bit of a breakthrough for me to post pics of myself and not hate the way that I look, even without makeup and sleepy morning eyes! Okay yes it ‘shopped my face quite a bit in the end, but it came as a bit of a surprise to me to look at a photo and not feel that I hate the way my body looks. Not fishing for compliments here, just feeling like I’ve come a long way!


  1. I love actions! I have a few sets that I have downloaded but never usually use them as they make my photos look quite over-processed. So I either don’t do anything to my photos if I am feeling lazy, or just a bit of colour correction and that’s it. These ones look great though, I’ll have to download the demo set and see how they go!

  2. Omg your hair is growing back so fast!!

    Thanks so much for these tips! I’ve been muddling my way through photography and I really don’t know enough of the technical stuff…I should try to use actions as well!

    I don’t think it’s vain to erase imperfections!!! I see it as…I don’t want to subject others to them lol

    Btw the dress is gorgeous!

  3. Jennifer – I find the trick is to not use them at full strength – these ones operate in a new layer or folder, so you can tone down the opacity. So handy!

    Jiawa – Haha it is! I was looking back through photos from when I first shaved it and kinda wanting to reshave it again… might grow it out more first though!

    Your photography has gotten AMAZING! I was looking through your site and clicked back to a post from like a year ago, and you’ve come so so far! I never really bothered with actions until I tried these and realised I do pretty much the same things on most photos for my blog anyway.

  4. Aww I think you give me too much credit!! I mean I did massively upgrade my camera and that did wonders for my photos! I did have a look back as well, after reading your comment…and man…back when I first started, for some reason I thought my photos looked awesome lol. I used to make them randomly purple and super cold all the time and thought it was pro. Now I look at them I just cringe! xD

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