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© 2002 Gregory Georges

© 2002 Gregory Georges

© 2002 Gregory Georges

© 2002 Gregory Georges

ABOUT THE IMAGE

Multihued Iris 1 - 6 Canon EOS D30 digital camera, 300mm f/2.8, 533 x 800 pixels, 1.25MB .tif files, cropped and edited with Pictographics iCorrect Professional

Not long after you start using Photoshop 7 to digitally edit photographs, you become aware of the need for a way to automate many tasks that can either be repetitive or boring — or just to get them done as fast as possible. The Photoshop 7 response to this need is a trio of powerful features: Actions, Droplets, and Batch automation.

The process of creating properly sized photos and thumbnails for Web galleries can involve doing the same functions over and over and over and over until you go crazy! For this reason, we use a folder of six photos of an iris to show you how you can get more done, quicker, using the Photoshop 7 trio of go-faster features. Besides just sizing these six photos, we also create an automated frame Action so that they look better on a Web page.

STEP 1: USING A PRE-DEFINED ACTION

Before we create our own action, first use one of the many predefined Actions that come with Photoshop 7. That way, you can understand exactly what you are doing when you get to Step 2. Plus, you'll have an opportunity to see what Actions the inventive folks at Adobe created for you.

■ Choose File ^ Open (Ctrl+O) to display the Open dialog box. Double-click the \03 folder to open it and then click the iris1.tif file to select it. Click Open to open the file.

■ If the Actions palette is not showing, choose Window ^ Actions to display the palette. Click the Actions palette menu button (the small tiny triangle in the upper-right corner of the dialog box) and select Clear All Actions to start off with an empty palette. Click OK when asked: Delete all the actions?

Click the Actions palette menu button once again. You should see at least six different sets of Actions at the bottom of the menu. At this time, click Frames.atn to load the Actions palette with actions for creating frames. The Actions palette should now look like the one shown in Figure 3.3.

■ The Drop Shadow Frame is a useful frame to use when creating images for Web galleries, so click the Drop Shadow Frame to make it the active action. If you click the triangle to the left of the Drop Shadow Frame, the action will open up and you can see each step it will take. At the bottom of the Actions palette, you'll find the Play Selection icon — it is the triangle icon — click it to run the selected action. Your image should now have a drop shadow as shown in Figure 3.4.

If you want to undo the Action, choose File >-Revert. You can also use the Snapshot feature in the History palette, but we skip that approach for now, as Technique 4 covers it.

As you can see, actions are recorded sets of commands and keystrokes that can be played back to repeat an edit process. This automation tool is really powerful, especially when you learn to use some of the other features it offers, too.

STEP 2: CREATING YOUR OWN ACTION

In the last step, we ran a pre-defined action. In this step, we are going to create an action that adds our

own customized border to an image for use in a Web gallery. Creating such a border manually can require many steps and be rather time-consuming. So, check out how we can automate the entire process to get it done error-free and best of all — quickly.

■ Choose File ^ Open (Ctrl+O) to display the Open dialog box. Double-click the \03 folder to open it and then click the iris1.tif file to select it. Click Open to open the file.

Our first step is to reduce the size of the image so that when it is framed, it fits within a 640 x 640 pixel square. Next, we add a black line around the photo; then hand-select a color from the image to use for a wider outside frame. Finally, we add a drop shadow by using the pre-defined action that we used in Step 1.

■ Set up the Actions palette as you did earlier in Step 1. It should show only the Frames.atn action set. Click the Actions palette menu button and

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choose New Set to get the New Set dialog box. In the Name box, type in 50 PS 7 Techniques. Click OK to create a new set. You should now see a new action set in the Actions palette at the bottom of the palette as shown in Figure 3.5.

■ To create a new action for the custom frame, click the Create New Action icon at the bottom of the Actions palette to get the New Action dialog box shown in Figure 3.6.Type in Frame for iris; then click Record to begin recording your steps.

Having done the math, I know the image needs to be 582 pixels tall. Using 582, we can add on the extra space and frames and still end up with an image that fits inside a 640 x 640 pixel square. Or you can use the Fit Image command, which will resize an image so it fits within a given rectangle.

■ Reset color swatches to a black foreground and a white background by clicking the Reset Swatches icon (D) that is at the bottom of the Tools palette next to the foreground and background colors. This sets the background color to white.

■ Choose Image ^ Size to get the Image Size dialog box shown in Figure 3.7. First, make sure a check mark is in the box beside Constrain Proportions and then set Height to 582 pixels, which forces Width to change to 388. Click OK to resize the image.

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■ To add a 7-pixel white border around the image, choose Image ^ Canvas Size to get the Canvas Size dialog box shown in Figure 3.8. Set Width to 402 (388 + 14) pixels and set Height to 596 (582 + 14) pixels; click OK to add white canvas.

You can also use the new-to-Photoshop 7.0 Relative check box in Canvas Size. Click on it and enter 14 pixels (7 X 2) for Width and Height and you get a 7-pixel border without having to do the math!

■ Choose Select ^ Select All (Ctrl+A) to select the entire image.

■ Choose Edit ^ Stroke to get the Stroke dialog box shown in Figure 3.9. Set Width to 2 pixels to create a 2-pixel wide black border. Make sure that Location is set to Inside and then click OK.You should now see a 2-pixel black line all around the image.

■ Now we add some more white canvas by again choosing Image ^ Canvas Size.Set Width to 446 pixels and Height to 640 pixels to create a 22-pixel wide white border. Make sure to check Relative! Click OK to create extra canvas.

■ To create the outside border, choose Select ^ Select All (Ctrl+A). Choose Edit ^ Stroke.This time, we don't want to use black for the line; instead, we want to pick a color from the image itself. Click inside the Color Box in the Stroke dialog box and you get the color picker. Move the Color Picker so that you can see the image, and then click inside the image to get the color that you want. Keep clicking until you find something that looks good as a border color. I chose a deep green color that has R, G, and B values of 21,85, and 17, respectively. Click OK on the Color Picker dialog box to close it. Then make sure that Width is set to 6 pixels and click OK to apply the colored border.

■ Now we add a drop shadow so that it appears to float over a white Web page. We do this by simply adding the Drop Shadow Frame action that we used in Step 1 to this action. Scroll up the Actions palette until you find the Drop Shadow Frame action. Click it to make it the active action, and then click the Play button at the bottom of the Actions palette. Photoshop 7 then does all the necessary work to create a drop shadow. We have just now added one action to another action.

If you look at the Layers palette, you'll find that it has created a background layer filled with white. If your intention is to use this action to create frames and drop shadows on images that are to go on a Web page that is any color but white, you can modify this action to make the background layer be the same color as your Web page. This enables the image to appear as if it hovers over the page as the image blends seamlessly with the Web page background.

■ Before saving the image, choose Layer ^ Flatten Image.

■ To save the image for use on a Web page, choose File ^ Save for Web (Alt+Shift+Ctrl+S) to get the dialog box shown in Figure 3.10. Set Settings to JPEG Medium and click Save to get the Save Optimized As dialog box. After naming your file and selecting an appropriate folder (for example, c:\temp-iris-images), click Save to create a .jpg file.

■ As your action is now complete, turn off the recording function by clicking Stop Playing/Recording button, the square icon at the bottom of the Actions palette.

Your image should now have a narrow black line plus a wider color outside frame plus a drop shadow like the one shown in Figure 3.11. If you want to save your action to your hard drive for future use, click the 50 PS Techniques actions set palette button to highlight it — then, click the Actions palette menu button and choose Save Actions.

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STEP 3: DOING THINGS IN BATCHES

If you want, you can now open up one or more images and run the Frame for iris action on each photo individually. The only problem is that it runs without getting any input from you. This means that you have no option to select border colors and every one of your images will have the green frame! Go on — try it. Open up one of the other iris photos and run the action.

Lucky for all of us, you have a feature that allows you to stop any action on any command that uses a

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dialog box. If you look at the Actions palette shown in Figure 3.12, two columns are running down the left side of the dialog box. The first column allows you to turn on or turn off a specific step. The second column indicates whether the step has a dialog box associated with it or not. If it does, it shows a gray box. If you look down the column, you see that there is a gray box next to the Stroke commands. The Stroke command is where we would need to change colors. If you were to click a specific step to make it the active step, you can then click the box to turn on show dialog box. Then, as the script runs, it stops at

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that step after opening up the dialog box and waits for your settings before it continued. Pretty cool, 'eh — try it out.

■ Look for the second Stroke command as the first Stroke command creates the thin black line and we want to use a thin black line on all the images. Click the second Stroke command to make it active and then inside the box to enable the dialog box function on this command.

■ Now open another iris image and run the script again. Remember, you must click the name of the action that you want to run to make it the active action — in this case, the Frame for iris photos action. This time, when the script gets to the second Stroke command, it opens the Stroke dialog box and waits for you to select the color for the stroke. Only after you make any and all changes to the Stroke dialog box and click OK, will the script continue doing work for you!

Our goal was to create an action and run it on an entire batch of images. As our action has been completed and fully tested, we can now run it on the entire folder of iris images. All we need to do after the script is running is select the right border color for each of the images. Now that's what I call automation!

■ One of the peculiar aspects about the Batch command is that it does not allow you to create new images in the same folder as the original images or in a folder that is a sub-folder of the folder where the original images are stored. So, we first need to create a destination folder to place our new images after the action runs. I suggest that you create a temporary folder on your hard drive such as: c:\temp-iris-images.

■ Choose File ^ Automate ^ Batch to get the Batch dialog box shown in Figure 3.13. If you have not selected other actions since the beginning of this technique, Set should show 50 PS 7 Techniques and the Action should be Frame for iris. If not, select them by using the menu boxes.

■ Set Source to Folder and click Choose to choose the source folder containing the six iris photos.

■ If you have set your color management policies to Ask When Opening, then you will want to also check Suppress Color Profile Warnings. This allows the script to ignore any color profile

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conflict alerts. These can be set in Edit ^ Color Settings.

■ Destination should be set to Folder. Click Choose to select the temporary folder you set up for this exercise (for example, c:\temp-iris-images). Click Override Action "Save As" Commands to force the action to write the files to the folder selected in the Destination folder. Click OK to run the script and choose border colors.

Having seen all those steps flash before your eyes for just six digital photos just imagine how long and how crazy you might be creating the images needed for a Web gallery of around fifty or so photos without the Batch command.

If you want to, you can now go back and edit the Frames.atn action and add steps to do add copyright information, overlay a layer that includes a signature, or contact information, or even some basic image correction. Now that you understand how to create and use the Batch command, stop and think for a minute how it can be used to make your Photoshop 7 work easier. Then create the necessary actions and let Photoshop 7 do the work for you.

STEP 4: SAVING AN ACTION AS A DROPLET

A Droplet you might say — now pray tell, exactly what is a Droplet? Well it is the Adobe name for a feature that makes it easy to run an Action. While we can use any action, we can make one that you can use often. If you like to send digital photos as an attachment to e-mail, you'll find this one to be quite handy.

Before creating a Droplet, you must first have an Action. The Action we will create takes any image and reduces it to fit within a 640 x 640 pixel square and then saves it in a compressed .jpg format to a specific folder created especially for digital photos that are to be e-mailed.

■ Choose File ^ Open (Ctrl+O) to display the Open dialog box. Double-click the \03 folder to open it and then click the iris4.tif file to select it. Click Open to open the file.

■ Create a folder for saving digital photos that you want to e-mail. I suggest using a name like c:\_photos to e-mail. The underscore makes sure the folder is listed at the top of your directory so that it will be easy to find.

■ Click the 50 PS 7 Techniques action set to highlight it. Click the New Action icon at the bottom of the Actions palette to get the New Action dialog box. Type in E-mail photo converter in the Name box and click Record to begin recording.

■ Choose File ^ Automate to get the Fit Image dialog box shown in Figure 3.14. Set both Width and Height to 640 pixels; then click OK to resize the image.

■ Choose File ^ Save for Web (Alt+Ctrl+Shift+S) to get the Save for Web dialog box. Make sure that Settings is set to JPEG Medium or JPEG Low if you want smaller files. Click Save to get the Save Optimized As dialog box. After locating the folder (for example, c:\_photos to e-mail) where you want to save your photos, click Save to save the file.

■ Click the Stop Playing/Recording button at the bottom of the Actions palette and your action is complete.

■ To create a Droplet,choose File ^ Automate ^ Create Droplet to get the Create Droplet dialog box shown in Figure 3.15. Click Choose to get the Save dialog box. After locating the folder where

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you want to save the files, (for example, c:\_pho-tos to e-mail), name the file with a name that makes it easy to know what it does, such as photo converter, and click Save to save the droplet. I suggest saving it to your desktop. ■ Toward the middle of the Create Droplet dialog box you find Destination; choose Save and Close. To avoid having to respond to a color management policies dialog box, make sure you check Suppress Color Profile Warnings. Then, click OK to create the Droplet.

You have now successfully created a droplet. If you saved it to your desktop, you can drag and drop a file from Windows Explorer or other file management program such as a thumbnail application and drop files onto the Photo converter icon — with or without Photoshop 7 being open. When you drag and drop a file onto the icon, Photoshop 7 automatically loads if it is not already open and then converts the

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file. The file is then saved to your chosen folder ready for you to use as an e-mail attachment.

Droplets may be shared with anyone who has a copy of Photoshop 7 — you just have to make sure that you have not referenced a folder that does not exist on their PC.

So what do you think of these automation tools? The trick to getting things done quickly is learning how to quickly use these automation tools. Then, each time you have a repetitive task — automate it. As I shoot many sporting events like soccer and lacrosse games, I often run a script against a folder of digital photos. Using the Web Gallery feature (we'll cover that later in Technique 48), I can have a Web page uploaded within a few minutes with none of the tedium that would put me off from sharing my photos.

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