The folks from Kubota Image Tools asked me to take a look at some of the newly released Action Paks several months back and pass along my thoughts to Photography Bay readers. After using them for a few months now, I have to say that they have changed the way I edit photos (particularly portraits) in Lightroom and Photoshop.
If you’ve done much editing of photos in Photoshop, there’s a good chance that you have used Photoshop actions. In that case, you know how big of a time saver that they can be when it comes to killing repetitive tasks and just getting to a good starting point with an image.
While some looks in Photoshop can require just a handful of adjustments, there are often times that we want to repeat complex edits for similar looks across a series of images. While you can make your own actions do what you know you want, you can also buy Photoshop actions from a number of sources, including Kubota, that provide instant gratification to complex and easily repeatable edits.
In addition to the slick actions from Kubota, I have found the Dashboard system as equally useful for organizing a conglomeration of actions that I use. The Dashboard 3 Pro is a Photoshop plug-in that serves as a launch station for all of Kubota’s actions, as well as any other actions you have already installed in Photoshop. It also gives you a description of the Kubota actions once you highlight in the list of actions. I found that the Dashboard makes Photoshop actions a more user-friendly experience, and is a solid reason to look into Kubota’s products on its own merit.
There are a number of Kubota action collections, or Action Paks, as branded by Kubota. These Action Paks are available as standalone Paks or, in some cases, part of a larger Combo or Super Savings Pak at a discounted price. You can see a list of all the available Photoshop products here on Kubota’s website.
Some of the most recent Action Packs include Viva La Vintage, Pow Wow! and The Lensbaby Pak (designed specifically to complement Lensbaby Optics). While many of the actions within these sets are capable of being used at full power, I think they are most useful with a judicious measure of the opacity slider for a more custom look. In some cases, this will give you a starting point for other edits or you can combine multiple actions to stack on the looks for more customization.
While the options are truly infinite between combinations, blending modes and opacity settings, I’ve included several full opacity samples using the same image below in order to give you an idea of the variety of looks available from some of these newer Action Paks.
Just click on an image to see a bigger version. The initials in the caption reference the Viva La Vintage (VLV), Pow Wow! (PW) and The Lensbaby Pak (LB) Action Paks.
While you can see the thumbnails above, I wanted to emphasize that I rarely just apply a single action at full opacity. When I bring an image into Photoshop from Lightroom, there’s usually more than just one thing that I want to do with it.
For example, in the above HDR image, I used Photomatix to start with 3 images, then added a fourth exposure that was well outside the 3 exposure bracket for the highlights at the end of the hallway, and then only applied a partial opacity of the KPD Hollywood Intensity action.
There are a lot of cases where I’ll blend multiple actions together at different opacity levels. I think you can see the usefulness of this based on the myriad of samples above. For example, you may not want to put 100% of a the “Best Blueberries Ever” action on an image, but if you just wanted to add a little cooler color and contrast, a 10-20% built on top of your other adjustments may be all you need.
The Kubota Action Paks range in price, but are pretty reasonable for a pro-grade editing tool, particularly given the inclusion of the Dashboard 3 for launching the actions. The Pow Wow! and Viva La Vintage actions are $109 each; however, the combo for both Action Paks is $179. You can also pick up the Dashboard 3 Pro plug-in at a standalone price of $79, which is well worth it if you use actions (Kubota or any other actions) on a regular basis. Note that the non-pro Dashboard 3 that is packaged with some of the cheaper Action Paks doesn’t support non-Kubota actions.
In addition to actions that effect the tonality and color of your images, there are lots of Kubota actions for borders, textures and touch-up work. You can browse around all the different individual and combo Action Paks over on Kubota’s website.
If you’re on the fence about whether you want to shell out several hundred bucks for a big collection of actions, grab one of the more cheaper single Action Paks first and give it a whirl in your own workflow with the Dashboard 3. You can also get access to a free trial that lets you take the Dashboard 3 Pro and several Action Paks for a test drive. You can sign up for the free trial here.