The Batch dialog box is overwhelming enough that it helps to have an example or two. I've got two. They're similar, but that's on purpose so that I can point out why I decided to set up each action the way I did.
I often produce compact JPEG files from camera raw files. I could use the Image Processor, but there are specific features I like to apply, and I frequently tweak the settings depending on the content. For example, I might decide to apply the Shadow/Highlight command to the images of a high-contrast subject. Or I might adjust the noise-reduction settings depending on the camera I used. For those reasons, I decided to create actions and use them with the Batch command.
There's a complication in that opening camera raw files involves settings that aren't present for other file formats like TIFF. That's the main reason I have two actions, and I explain that a little later.
I run these actions from Bridge (Tools > Photoshop > Batch) after selecting documents in Bridge, as described in Chapter 6. In the future, I may decide to save each variation as a droplet if I don't want to examine and possibly edit the action's settings before running it.
Producing JPEG Files from Camera Raw Files
In Chapter 17, I use the example of producing JPEG files for the Web. The action in this example, Raw to JPEG (Figure 18.3), uses the same planning philosophy, but this action can produce JPEG files for uses other than the Web. Let's look at the action from the top down:
At the top is an Open command that specifies settings for the Adobe Camera Raw plug-in. If I didn't include this step, Camera Raw would open a raw file using the last settings used, which may have no relevance to the raw files I'm converting. I recorded this step to control those settings.
Next are three Fit Image commands, and only one is enabled. What's going on with those? There are three main sizes at which I usually create JPEG files: 2000 pixels on a side, 1440 pixels, and 320 pixels. I enable the size I need for a particular batch and make sure the other two are disabled (by enabling or disabling the checkboxes in the first column of the Actions palette). The details of each step aren't visible in the screen shot, but remember that clicking a disclosure triangle expands a step to reveal its details.
Figure 18.3. My Raw to JPEG action includes an Open step to specify settings in a camera raw file.
In the future, if I learn how to write scripts (Chapter 19) that can present dialog boxes, as the Image Processor does, I may turn the three Fit Image commands into three radio buttons in a dialog box.
There's a Shadow/Highlight step. For some batches, I want to apply Image > Adjustments > Shadow/Highlight. If I need it, I enable this step.
Some batches need noise reduction, so I include a Reduce Noise step (Filter > Noise > Reduce Noise) if I need it.
Next you see three Smart Sharpen steps. Again, there are three settings that I tend to use most often, so I keep them all in here and turn on the one I think will work best for a specific batch of images.
The Save step is actually for the Save As command. I recorded it with specific JPEG compression settings and set the destination to be a specific output folder I created on my hard disk. I have that folder saved in my Bridge favorites so that as processed images arrive in that folder I can watch them show up and examine them to make sure everything's going as planned.
The last step closes the file without saving it. It's already saved by the previous step, and I want it out of the way so that each successive file doesn't stay open, occupying valuable RAM.
When I run this action from the Batch dialog box, I enable Override Action "Open" Commands because I want the currently selected raw files to be the ones I specify in the Batch dialog box, not the specific raw file I used to record the Open command. Photoshop still applies the settings in the Open step for the Camera Raw dialog box.
For the Destination in the Batch dialog box, I choose None because I let the Save step in the action control where the file go. When recording the Save step, I was very careful not to touch the filename so that Photoshop would simply use the name of the source file. Of course, the file is saved with a .JPG extension instead of its original raw format extension.
Producing JPEG Files from Other Formats
At first glance, my To JPEG action (Figure 18.4) looks like the Raw to JPEG action in the previous example. There are a few differences, for the following reasons:
There isn't an Open command, because non-raw files don't open through the Camera Raw dialog box as in the other action. The non-raw files are opened by the standard Open command, so I let the Batch dialog box handle that.
There's a Flatten Image step in this action. That's because I might run layered Photoshop or TIFF files through the action and I want to flatten them to reduce the amount of time and RAM required to process them.
I also include a Convert to Profile command that converts the document to the sRGB color space. I didn't need this step in the other action because the Camera Raw dialog box was set to output sRGB.
Figure 18.4. My To JPEG action includes steps that can conform documents that aren't flattened or in the sRGB color space.
The rest of the action is the same as the other one. Because the two actions are similar, I could have left them as one action and simply remembered to turn on or off more checkboxes depending on the documents I was feeding into the action.
When I run this action from the Batch dialog box, I disable Override Action "Open" Commands because there isn't an Open command in the action. If I forget to do this, the action doesn't work correctly. For the Destination in the Batch dialog box, I choose None, just as I do for the other action.
The way I've set up these actions is not necessarily the best way to implement them, and they may not be the best solution for everyone. I hope they at least provide insight into the decisions and considerations you may want to anticipate when you build your own actions.
If you want to apply a batch action to files in more than one folder, use Adobe Bridge to tag those files with a unique keyword or label and then choose Edit > Find in Bridge to gather those files by performing a search from a folder that contains all the folders of images you want to process. This works as long as you enable the Include All Subfolders checkbox in the Find dialog box in Bridge.
Even actions you test can cause unwanted results if you process a document that has an attribute you didn't originally test, or when you accidentally change a setting in the action and don't catch it before running the action. The risk is magnified when you apply batch processing, because instead of potentially ruining one document, you could ruin an entire shoot of many images. You can avoid damaging original documents by designing your actions workflow with document safety in mind.
One overarching guideline is to never let an action save over your only original document. Here are more specific ways to protect your original documents:
Process copies of the original documents. If you do this, you don't need to use the rest of the recommendations in this list.
If you decide to run an action on original documents but need to save the processed document, make sure the action includes a Save As step that copies the processed documents to another folder.
If you plan to use an action for batch processing, make sure the action closes the original document without saving it and make sure there are no Save commands anywhere in the action (Save As to a new name or location is OK).
If an action leaves an original document open, you might want the first step to be a new snapshot in the History palette so that you can easily back up if the action doesn't work correctly. Notice that the actions that come with Photoshop create an initial snapshot for this reason.