How to Take Your Photography to the Next Level using Photoshop Actions


One of my goals for 2017 is to take my photography to the next level. My oldest is now four, and I’m starting to imagine what my life will be like when I go back to work in a few years. I have a creative spirit, and I’d love to run my own business(es) from home someday. I’ve done some photography over the years but recently I’ve taken more measures to improve my work. I wanted to share with you some basic techniques I’ve been following to get my pictures from ok to great! I’m certainly not an expert but I think the before and after shots speak for themselves.

Before and after photoshop tutorial- taking pictures to the next levelThis is my best friend from high school, her boyfriend, and their dog, Gander. They wanted some pictures of their little family for a Christmas card. We chose a brick wall for the backdrop and we had some fall leaves from a nearby tree that beautifully accented the setting. These were taken in the fall and we were chasing light. Straight out of camera, the picture is ok, but I really wanted it to pop, so I made a few quick fixes.

The first thing I wanted to do was to straighten the picture. At first glance it doesn’t look that crooked, but the brick background gives it away. The easiest way to straighten the picture in Photoshop (I have the Creative Cloud) is to click on the crop tool on the lefthand side, and across the top toolbar, click on the icon to the left of the word “straighten.” If you hover over it, it says you can straighten the image by drawing a line on it. On this case I drew a line directly across the lines in the brick. It instantly made the picture straight- a subtle, but strong difference.

before-and-after-photoshop-tutorial-taking-pictures-to-the-next-level-2The picture still looks kind of dull to me. I’d like the brick background to pop more. I use the Greater than Gatsby Actions, and I think the Woodstock collection would be perfect for this picture. I love these presets and own most of them. This collection has presets that are really in style in terms of being able to create matte and retro type photos. I like to start with the Subtle Edit Color Base. I’ve applied it in the picture below. 

photoshop-editing-that-takes-your-pictures-from-ok-to-greatThe color base warmed up and brightened the photo, especially in the center where the people are. I also think the picture looks more crisp and sharpened. I would still like the colors to pop a little more, so I’m going to add another favorite preset. Of the color film enhancements, Joplin is my favorite from this set. It adds a matte purple that just makes everything look so polished. It automatically goes on at 70% which is perfect. You don’t want to apply all of the enhancements at full opacity or they can be overkill.

before-and-after-pictures-with-greater-than-gatsby-presets-joplinI’m really happy with the way this turned out! I will typically also whiten everyone’s eye whites and teeth at a low opacity, but I don’t feel it’s necessary in this far-away shot. I’ll put the before/after below so you can see the difference for yourself!

before-and-after-photos-photoshop-tutorialWhat do you think of the before/after? Was this mini tutorial useful to you or too basic? Leave me some feedback of what other types of tutorials would be interesting to you!

leave a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


  1. 1.2.17
    Kathleen said:

    Thank you for the tute. I’ve already downloaded creative cloud and a few other adobe products! ??

    • 1.2.17
      justina said:

      Woohoo! Are you taking pictures for fun or for business? Do you use actions?

Get the Latest!

Sign up for my newsletter and get the latest "gems" straight to your inbox.