Photography, Portraits

Taking Action

Recently I have been thinking about doing more portraits, though not so much the fine art ones, but more just normal portraits.  I still love the idea of doing portraits of teenagers as they are finishing school and moving onto the next part of their lives.  I have discussed this before, the idea of doing them here, and how the whole concept of Senior Portraits wouldn’t work in Australia.  I am still thinking of names, but I did get to take some lovely photos of a friends daughter last weekend.

LeanneCole-alannah-1883She is a gorgeous girl, but has issues about her body (what teenage girl doesn’t?), so we did more head shots, which I think she was more comfortable about.

I have been looking at lots of portraits lately, and looking at what the photographers do to them.  I have also been hearing a lot about actions. Actions are like recordings of processes in Photoshop that you can then play over and over again.  You just click a button and then things happen before your eyes.  They are quite amazing.

I seem to see actions everywhere at the moment.  You know how when you suddenly become aware of something, how it seems to be all around you, well, that’s what’s happening with actions.

You can find free ones on the internet, and you can also buy them.  I was given some actions by Lara Jade when I did an online course that she was teaching.

LeanneCole-alannah-1883-ljaAfter a couple of clicks, this is what I got.  You can change some things, but it can give you a great overall effect.

Then during the week I was sent a discount coupon for Greater than Gatsby.  They sell actions, and you can end up with some great ones, the following image was done with one of theirs.

LeanneCole-alannah-1883-ggaOf course you have to learn how to use them, and I am sure eventually I will get the hang of it, but it is interesting to see what results you can get with them.

I purchased The Radiance Collection from Greater than Gatsby and it came with 110 actions.  I have only played with a few of them so far, but I was really impressed with what you got.

LeanneCole-alannah-1815-2This image I did myself.  I tried some things I had learned from Lara’s workshop.  I don’t mind this at all.  My next step is recording my own actions.  I have tried it a couple of times, and some things have worked and some haven’t, but I think I just need to practice more.

I think I am going to like actions, though I think it could be something that I need to work out how to do myself.  I hope my friends daughter likes what I have done to her images.

Here is a gallery for you.  The first image of each pose is the original with hardly any editing, and then the actions applied to them.


  1. Jackie Saulmon Ramirez says

    Tell the girl she is gorgeous, that she has nothing to be ashamed of. Real is beautiful.

    • I will Cate, thanks, I still have a lot to learn, but I think it could give something a little different.

  2. Wonderful portraits, Leanne! As a note, for me, it is very hard to get someone to be photographed. I would like to do a series of people on the streets. Maybe one day. Great series, and interesting writing. As always, Leanne at her best! Thank you! :)

    • I think to do portraits on the street you have to be able to go up to people and ask them, not something I have ever been good at. Thank you Fabio.

      • Christina Hicks says

        I was thinking about your black and white challenge today Leanne when I went out for Breakfast with Lily. There was a perfect shot (in my mind) of a guy in a leather jacket sitting at a table, his hair ruffled, and looking like he hadn’t slept. I loved it…
        Bit too shy to ask.. so moment lost sadly.

        One of my photographer friends in Qld is amazing at this, she just approaches humbly, explains what she is doing, then asks if she can take their photo.
        I have never ever seen a person say no. And they always end up having a good old chat. I admire her so much for this ease of communication.

        Perhaps it is time to be brave. I wasn’t this morning, but I’m going to try to be braver next time.

        Also, not sure if this helps anyone, but I found this helpful in understanding actions further. Especially if you want to make your own for a specific look.–photo-3502

      • Oh yes, the courage to approach people, I’ve never been very good at that. I am usually worried they will tell me where to go. Hahaha.
        I hope you can do it next time Christina.
        Thanks for link, I’ve already downloaded quite a few of those.

  3. Maybe it’s just me…but to my eye, the originals are my preferred shots – what I would call “the ripest pics” of the bunch!
    PS What a lovely model! A natural beauty!

    • The originals are nice, but I am trying to also see what actions are like, so many photographers use them these days, and I think it is good to know how to use them and when to use them.
      Thanks Mary.

  4. SouthernWild says

    Beautiful young lady….great shots too!

  5. johnholding says

    Hi Leanne, call me old fashioned I think, but the portraits I like best are the originals. Personally I love black and white for portraits, why because the colour distractions of clothing and other objects are removed.

    • I think the originals are nice to John, but I am trying to learn how to use actions, and how much more you can do to them, they are very interesting. I think in the end it is something you need to learn how to do yourself. I like colour portraits, I like how they show more, I think, especially of young people, it gives them life, if that makes any sense. Probably doesn’t. Thank you John for your thoughts.

  6. Portraits of teenagers can also be very lucrative, especially at prom and graduation times, if you can get in. Make yourself an 8×10 portfolio of your best stuff and circulate them around the various schools. That is, if you have proms.

    • I hope so Cris, it just doesn’t seem to be something that is done here. We don’t have prom or graduation here, though they have a “formal”, there are always other photographers there for those. I think I would like to do more natural sort of shots, like these, casual relaxed, showing more of who they are at that age. Thank you Cris.

      • It’s becoming popular here to do exactly the kinds of shots you are talking about rather than the more formal portraits. I prefer taking “candid” shots of people. That’s what I did for four years with the newspaper I worked for. To me, candids are more “real” than the formal shots.

      • I think it is becoming popular everywhere now, it is a great way to get a portrait, you get so much more personality in them. I think the candids are more real too Cris.

  7. Gorgeous girl…why kids get these image issues is so hard to fathom! then I suppose all phase of our life we have image issues…great shots..i hate haovng my pic taken image issue being I see what I am and it doesn’t match with how I feel..young inside old outside….my daughter in law took some snaps on the weekend and I cant find an angle I don’t look old hahahah :) see I have teenage image issues!! Hugs Bev

    • I don’t know either Bev, they are all a bit funny about it. Funny though, they love having their photo taken though, or so have noticed. I know what you mean about having yourself photographed, I feel exactly the same way, it is not good. I avoid getting in front of the camera as much as possible. Thanks Bev.

    • Thank you Nora, I like the way the actions can almost a feeling of spring or something, like a breath of fresh air.

  8. Hello Leanne; love images (I prefer the original, too, like some others here). Did you use a reflector? I am looking at the catchlights, and the big key light in the sky (the Sun!) is over her left shoulder, I was thinking—so I expected her face to be in shadow… lovely work.

    • Thanks Kit, I did use a reflector for some, and I also used the flash with a diffuser on it as well. I did a combination, though not together.

      • You did! Posted that separately, as an additional thought (this software done not allow one to edit a comment).

        Lovely work; that;s the main thing. cheers, kl

      • It doesn’t, I can, I hope you realised I was joking around when I said that. I sometimes edit people’s comments for them.
        Thanks Kit.

  9. I agree with a couple of posters above. Call me old fashioned but I like the original ones too if I had to choose, but experimentation is the only way we grow as photographers. That’s not to say I don’t like the other ones, I just prefer the originals (personal preference).

    One note of caution with actions though – I’ve noticed a lot of photographers recently that seem to be caught in an ‘action rut’ where they have a go-to action they use for almost every picture and all their pictures end up looking the same. Actions can be good, but with great power comes great responsibility – only use the action if it adds something to the image, don’t let an action define your “look”.

    We’ve been experimenting with a plug-in called Exposure 5 by Alien Skin, it’s not using actions, but might be another option you could look into if you’re interested.

    • That is fine and I always know that when I put up the originals next to the others that there will always people who prefer the originals, I do worry though they aren’t always giving the others a fair chance. Hey that is just me.
      This post was about actions and what you could do with them, and I agree with the other stuff you said, you do have to be careful using them, and I hope getting into a rut never happens to me.
      I had a go at that, but I couldn’t really see any difference between it and Color Efex, I have the latter, so thought I might stick with that for now. Thanks again.

  10. You have a beautiful model and great eye for showing who the person really is through your photography. I like both the natural and edited shots and both have their place. I have always been a fan of natural photography, rather than studio photos, especially when photographing people.

    Beautiful work Leanne!!

    • I am the same Brian, I love the more natural images, and it is so much cheaper to set up as well. Thank you so much Brian. I suppose in the end it would always be up to the client, would offer all sorts of options and then they could choose.

      • Thats for sure when the client is paying you you kinda have to go with what they want. I guess that could be one of the downfalls of working for someone. But having the options to give them will always be an advantage to you.
        I enjoy your post and photos immensely.

      • Always, the client has to get what they like. I hope so Brian, I can process the photos the way I like and hopefully how I do my images would be why they want me.
        That is fantastic to hear Brian, thank you so much.

  11. Beautiful portraits! I’ve also seen actions everywhere. I created an action for my watermark and some to resize images. The senior portraits are huge here. My hubby knows someone who does this all year round for high school events like proms and of course senior portraits.

    • Same Laura, everywhere. Seems we are both ready to use them. I tried to do one for my watermark, didn’t quite work, but I should try it again. They just aren’t done here, people don’t have portraits taken of their teenage children, they do them when they are little but not as they get older. I hope to change that. Thank you Laura.
      PS, think my image for next challenge is all done, got a great shot yesterday and I think it looks great in black and white.

      • Awesome that you already have your shot! I hope to get out in the next couple days. You just might’ve found a niche in Australia with the teenage shots!

      • I hope so, Laura, it would be nice to do something that isn’t the same as what everyone else is doing.
        I am glad, I don’t know if it is any good, but I really like the image, I hope you get out soon.

  12. Portraits is really my weakness, I just can’t seem to be confortable enough to get close to the person and take good shots. I know I will have to work that one day …. still beautiful portraits that you took

    • It is a skill. A few years ago I would not have attempted teenage girls, but now that I have some, I feel a lot more comfortable around them, and I think the are great. So I think I would really like to do more photos of them now. Thank you so much Nelson.

  13. This young lady is beautiful. And while I like the edits you made, I think I prefer the unedited photos. That, I think, is a testament to your great photography skills.

    • Thank you, what a lovely thing to say, though I think it is hard to get bad images when you are photographing someone who likes like her.

  14. I do like what you have done, but my favourite is the very first shot. The expression is sweet and the sunlight filtered through the hat splendid. I’m interested in how the actions change the mood and temperature. Thank you

    • You seem to be able to do a very things with the actions, I’m not sure how I feel about them, but they can certainly change a photo, that has to be interesting. Thanks you Derrick.

  15. Appreciative, Warm & relaxed portraiture. Skilfully done. Thank you

    Kind regards

  16. Thank you Leanne … I have to learn more about retouching and maybe actions could be more useful

    • You are welcome Iksa, there is so much to learn. I have to learn more too. I think it will depend on how you use them. Some of them I found a bit strong, but you can tone them down so that is good. Thanks

    • Her mum likes them, but I don’t know that she has seen them yet, she said I could put some up. I think she will. Her thought thought they were awesome. Thanks Gypsy.

  17. Beautiful images of a beautiful young women……your captures are cute, delicate and feminine.

  18. This is something a bit different from you of late. Love the portrait shots, I feel an element of “wonder” radiating off them. I don’t know about you, but it seems that getting people to look at your camera is always a challenging thing. On the subject of teenagers, I look a lot like one. Not that I mind :P

    • It is a bit different, I didn’t really like doing photos like this, but I am starting to see that they could be fun. I like what you see in them. I think when you are doing a portrait shoot it is usually easy. I just tell people what I want, and I have taken photos of this girl a few times before, so I know what she is like. No that isn’t a bad thing at all. My eldest daughter is a bit like that, people always think she is much younger. My younger daughter is always thought to be the eldest. Thanks Mabel, hope you have had a good week. :)

  19. Thank you for this. Interesting to see your take on the actions as I have contemplated buying myself but didn’t really know enough to be convinced. I have considered the Greater than Gatsby actions so will look onto it further

    • I like them, they are interesting, though with any “special effects” caution should always be applied. I tried some of the free ones that are in the internet, but I didn’t have any control and you couldn’t do things like tone them down. I was pleasantly surprised with what you could do with the ones from Greater than Gatsby. There is another place to Flora Bella, I think it is called, but they were much more expensive. Good luck, you can just buy one set, then you aren’t outlaying too much, it seems like a supportive site. Thank you.

  20. These are beautiful Leanne! And she is too; she has nothing to worry about her body, it is perfect the way it is! As for the name; what do they call students in their last year of high school? What ever it is, call it “_____ portraits” That’s why they are called senior portraits here in America because the 12th grader is called a “senior”
    Good luck.

    • I agree Darla, and thank you. We call them Year 12 students, though I do sort of want to keep it away from the idea of school students and school portraits, which are nearly always horrible. I was thinking of calling them teenage portraits. Which is essentially what they are.

      • I don’t mind that Darla, it isn’t really something we use here, but it has nothing to do with school, and that is even better. Thank you.

      • you are so very welcome my friend. I like what I’m seeing, and if there becomes a market for these portraits in your area, I think you have cornered the market! Beautiful work!

    • Thank you so much Colline. I hope the weather is getting warmer for you, we are heading into Autumn now.

      • Not yet Leanne. We had a snowstorm a couple of days ago and the temperatures have dropped to below minus 20. When March is over we are sure to get warmer weather and rain instead of snow.

      • Wow, it goes on for a long time. Not sure how I would cope with it. Our winters tend to be quite short, and really very mild, very very mild, compared to what you get. We still have days in the 20’s here. It only lasts for about 3 months. I hope you get some warmer weather soon Colline. Flowers will be out soon.

      • A little like the South African winter. I am sure you will hear when we have spring – plenty of photos will abound in wordpress :)

      • I look forward to seeing all the photos of flowers and spring. I hope you don’t have to wait too long. :)

  21. I use NIK but have played with some actions. It is so fun to just click and poof! A whole new look to a photo. Personally I like your original. She looks relaxed with a genuine smile. That makes the photo.

    • I have NIK too, but keep forgetting I have it, I must start using it more again. I like that too, just click and watch it happen before your eyes, quite amazing. Thank you Jo.

  22. I thought I was going to be original when I said I liked the originals the most. I see I’m not!

    I was experimenting all over the place this morning and ended up just posting the original photos.

    I just like the crisp clarity right now. In other moods, I like softer treatments. That’s the difference I see between the originals and the ones with actions applied. Same with mine … I’m not using actions but auto painting, which I sometime prefer for the softening effects. But not today, for whatever reason!

    • No you aren’t, seems most prefer those, which is a shame, I was hoping people would notice the actions, and what you can do with them. Oh well.
      I saw some of your experimentation, you are really getting into it. They are looking good. Has spring sprung there?
      I think you have to be in the mood at times. I never know what I will do when I start working on an image. It will be nice to give people options if I do portraits though, thanks Nia.

      • Spring is here. We didn’t really have winter, so it seems weird, and there’s not much water for landscaping making the gorgeous weather a somewhat guilty pleasure. It’s fun to play with pictures. As for the actions… I don’t know. Keep trying. Maybe don’t put up a before and after! Just an after.

      • Yeah, I will learn one day, haha. Sounds wonderful, Autumn is certainly happening here, the leaves are starting to change, and it is getting cold in the mornings. We really didn’t have much of a summer, beside those couple of weeks. I am looking forward to more colours in the Autumn and then winter. I am hoping for lots of fog.

  23. Pingback: Color | Nia Simone, Author

  24. I can only repeat what everyone else has said, that this young lady is absolutely beautiful. I hope as she gets older she realises that body image isn’t that important and people remember who you are on the inside rather than what you look like. Show her these comments Leanne. Your photos of her really do her justice. It’s interesting to see the subtle changes and I like that you showed the original and the changes.

    • I hope so too Carol. she is gorgeous. Thank you, I was a bit disappointed when I first put them on the computer, then when I went back the next day, I was really surprised, I think I got lots of good shots. Thanks.

  25. I think it’s a wonderful idea, all of us have our issues. If people are comfortable their real personality will shine through. She is a beautiful girl and I’m sure she was very proud to show others how her personality came through instead of just what she wore. Great job.

    • Thank you, I hope so, I have really heard what she thought yet, I tried to take into consideration what she didn’t like and work on what she did. I love the photos, I am so happy with how they came out.

  26. I am ambivalent about photoshopping photos – note that I say ambivalent and not against, I think that retouching photos – especially of people can give a nice boost to people, especially the young ones, who are unduly embarrassed about some small flaw they think they have. I always whiten teeth, for example because yellowing teeth show up in photos so much more so than in real life. So, I’m with you on your touch-ups, but I can think of only one or two occasions when I have done that sort of thing with my nature pics, and I do that when the light in the photo does not match my memory of the actual scene.

    I really like what you’ve done with these portraits. I have started taking more myself these days. I’ll have to see if I decide to do any finagling with them. . . :lol:

    • Young ones are horrible to photograph sometimes, well teenagers, but I think as long as you can do things like remove blemishes and make them look great, then you can get some great images. I do lots of processing, I love doing that aspect, almost, maybe as much, as taking the actual photos, for me it is all part of the process. I like to have my input, if that is a good way of putting. It is interesting how we all work differently.
      Thank you Paula, I do like photographing the girls, it is nearly always lots of fun.

  27. I subscribe to so many blogs and frequently fail to comment on what I have read and learned. Please forgive me for being remiss in telling you how much your blog means to me – how much you have taught through sharing experiences and how much I have learned from reading your words and those of your commenters. So, in case I forget again, (and I will), accept my thanks for your always thoughtful input in the blogosphere.

    • Nothing to forgive Paula, I completely understand how it is. I rarely comment on other blogs now, it is very very hard to do it all. So pop in when you can and say hi if you have time, otherwise, please know, I understand.

  28. I have been playing with actions lately also. I love the effect of them.
    I was also completely blown away how you managed to put your watermark onto a strand of the young lady’s hair in one photo. Very well done. :)

    • They are a lot of fun Suz, don’t you think.
      Oh yes, people have been complaining that I haven’t been doing that, so I thought it was time I did it and these were perfect photos for them.
      Thanks Suz.

  29. What a coincidence! I literally just wrote a new photo/post about how I just started taking portraits too. Thankfully, I have a beautiful fiance who’s willing to model for me. Your piece on actions was really fascinating, too. I haven’t got the time or skill for Photoshop though… I just use Lightroom for everything.

    • It is great if you have someone who will model for you. I have teenage daughters and they have lots of friends, and the friends like me photographing them, so it is great. My daughters came with me the other day when we photographed another girl and they both said they would let me photograph them after that, so two more subjects. I like the actions, I think it can give you more options, of course when it comes down to it at the end of the day, it is about the client, and they will choose what they want, but giving them different ones can’t hurt. I love photoshop, it has taken me about 3 years to get to where my skill level is now, but it was so worth it, still plenty to learn, but that is okay. Good luck with your portraits, wow I’ve given you a long response, hope you haven’t gone to sleep.

  30. I’m on my iPhone so it’s hard to take a look at much, but the portrait here is just fabulous.

  31. Terrific post Leanne. I hear a lot about actions (and presets since I use Lightroom) but I haven’t taken the plunge yet. I’m definitely curious about these sorts of things, but I also like the process of playing with the image myself. Now, if I were shooting a wedding or an event, then I could see how much time you can save by using these tools. I recently watched a seminar by a really great UK wedding photographer, Lisa Devlin, and she uses some pretty cool actions for her work.

    Anyway, great to see you’re always experimenting and trying to make yourself better.

    • Thank you Shane, I am the same, I first heard of them only a few months ago. They are fun to play with, and I can see how some actions would save time, though there are a heap of actions that are just special effects, so not so sure about them. I do want to explore them more and see what I can do with them.
      Oh yes, always trying new things, think it has something to do with never being happy with my own work. :)

  32. I saw the tutorial by Lara Jade on CreativeLive and have been thinking about exploring it too. Have you tried the Alienskin Exposure 5 plug in? I just downloaded a free trial and fell in love with it!

    • I did the free trial thing, but I couldn’t see enough differences between it and Color Efex, so I stuck with that. I really like Lara Jade.

  33. Beautiful young woman … beautiful images … all of them. You are great as a portrait photographer. Let see more action !!!!!!!

  34. Great Results! By the way, I hand-pick the best free Photoshop Actions from all over the web, from all different developers, and sort them into categories on my website!

    Have a browse through our collection of: Free Photoshop Actions, you may find some ones you like, they are all free!

    Cheers and happy Photoshopping!!

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