Photoshop adjustments time-saver

Working in Adobe Photoshop, I often found myself confronted with a situation where I had a lot of images that needed a similar adjustment. Especially with portrait sessions I may have a number of images with very nearly the same lighting and color. Because I'm good about using my meter and my noggin, my exposures are usually pretty close, but I often like to add a bit of contrast or saturation as I prepare images for clients.

I may want to lighten or darken many photos in a row
that were shot under similar conditions, and do it quickly.

Very quickly I got tired of trying to repeat a curves (CMD-M on your keyboard, or CTRL-M on a PC) or levels (CMD-L/CTRL- L) adjustment on picture after picture, calling up the adjustment controls box and then trying to use my mouse to make the same corrections I made just a second ago. Particularly with curves it can be hard to try to redraw the curve just the same way time after time, and I really want to have these images look consistent from shot to shot. It turns out there's a way to repeat the last adjustment you did, and I discovered this quite by accident one day.

It involves the OPTION key.

Open up the images that you want to make a similar adjustment to, and work with the first one as you see fit. Then when you get to subsequent photos, hold down the OPTION key as you CMD-M or CMD-L to call up the levels or curves dialogs. It will apply the previous adjustment as it opens the dialog box. If it looks okay you can just hit "return" and go to the next picture and so the same thing.
This trick with the option key works with a wide range of adjustment tools: Hue & Saturation, Color Balance, Selective Color, Shadow/Highlight, and many more.

One hitch.. this only works with pictures handled one right after the other. If you have an adjustment that you make on one photo, and then five pictures later you want to do the same adjustment, it won't necessarily give you the result you want. The adjustment information is only cached for the previous photo, which is why it's helpful to try to work with a bunch of similar photos.

So, what if you're not dealing with a series of photos needing similar adjustments where you can work with them back-to-back. You might be shooting a wedding, for instance, where you've got photos taken in several different rooms at a reception site. The bride and groom may spend some time dancing in the ballrooom, where you've got one set of lighting conditions; then go back to the dining room to mingle with guests, where conditions are different: and spend some time at the bar socializing before going back in to dance in the ballroom.

Photoshop has for several generations let users save a set of adjustments and then apply them later with the "load" option.

Now, in CS3, the folks at Adobe have made that process a little easier and more elegant. When you save a set of Curves adjustment, you can quickly access them in a pull-down menu at the top of the box. As long as you have Photoshop running in any one session you can access those adjustments quickly and easily. (If you quit, you have to use the "load" option to make the adjustment again, but then you can use the pull-down menu until you quit again.) Theyve included some interesting adjustments of their own as well, such as a cross-processing option.

I have my own frequently-used curves preset, called "tiny bit more contrast, eh?"
The one called "warmer skin tones" will only appear in the pop-up menu during this session of Photoshop.

If you've got a type of curves adjustment that you make all the time, for instance if you shoot in a studio or in a set of offices repeatedly, you can store what you've saved in the Curves Presets folder in the CS3 folder in Applications. (So, on a Mac, the path is HARDDRIVE>APPLICATIONS>ADOBE PHOTOSHOP CS3>PRESETS>CURVES. Dunno exactly what it is on a PC, but if you've gotten this far, I'm sure you can figure it out.)

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