Batch processing

So far, we've been applying actions to a single image. Actions acheive the greatest time savings, however, when they are applied to multiple images in a single step. You can do just that using Photoshop's Batch feature.

The Batch dialog is very flexible, but far from intutive, which prevents many from using it successfully.

You call up the Batch dialog (shown above) by going to File>Automate>Batch. To specify an action to apply, you must first select the set in which it is contained. The Source drop down menu is where you'll specify which images are to be processed by the action. 

While you can batch process files that are already open, a more efficient way of working is to select the Folder option and then click the Choose button to navigate to the appropriate directory on your hard drive (shown at left).

Checking the Include All Subfolders box does exactly what its name  implies. It will process images residing any number of levels beneath your source folder.

If your action contains an Open command, you must check the Override Action 'Open' Commands box. If you don’t, the action will process the same image you used to create the action, instead of the images you just specified in the Source option.

If, on the other hand, your action doesn’t contain an Open command, leave this option unchecked.

The Suppress File Open Options Dialogs option should be used with care if you're including raw files. Checking this box will prevent you from adjusting any ACR settings. The ACR dialog will not even open, and instead, the raw file will be processed honoring pre-existing custom settings on a per image basis. If you've never adjusted the raw file before, ACR's default settings will be used to render the image.

I generally recommend you select the Suppress Color Profile Warnings so that the action won’t stop for missing profiles or profile mismatches.

The Destination section of the dialog is where you determine how and where Photoshop will save your processed files.

Photoshop gives you three destination options. Choosing 'None' leaves the file open onscreen (unless your action contains Save and Close steps). The second option, 'Save and Close', commands Photoshop to overwite the original file. The option I use most often, however, is 'Folder', in which I designate a specific location to store the processed files.

The Override Action Save As Commands box (shown below) is crucial to the success of your batch process. If you have a Save As command within the action, check this box if want your new files saved to the folder you specify in the Batch dialog rather than the one you used when you recorded the action.

Checking this override box will also ensure that these newly created images are named according to the file naming options (shown below) you specify in the Batch dialog rather than the name you used in the Save As step while recording the action.

When you select 'Folder' as the destination choice you can specify file names for your images. You can enter custom text in each of the text fields and/or choose from a list of built-in options.

You can populate filenames with a list of preset options (shown at left) or you can type in custom text. The 1-4 digit serial number options in the drop-down menu are an easy way to create sequentially-numbered files.You can even select the starting number in the sequence.

I suggest leaving the Errors drop down menu set to Stop for Errors so that you know right away if there’s a problem.

When you’ve configured the Batch dialog to your liking, click OK and Photoshop will immediately begin processing all the files you’ve specified. Batch processing can be a huge timesaver. In fact, the first few times you use it, you may want to sit back and watch your screen as Photoshop opens and processes your images at blinding speed!

Creating a droplet

You can make batch processing even more convenient by creating a Photoshop droplet. A droplet is simply a file that executes a specific action when you drag and drop image files onto it. A droplet can reside on the desktop or any other location on your hard drive as an easy shortcut to perform a specified action. You can drag and drop multiple images or even an entire folder to process all of the images contained within it. If Photoshop is not already running, the droplet automatically launches it for you.

Creating a droplet is very similar to creating a batch process. You invoke the dialog shown below by going to File>Automate>Create Droplet.

The Create Droplet dialog is nearly identical to the Batch dialog except that it begins with a 'Save Droplet In' option where you specify the droplet's name and location where it will reside. You select the same settings and options as in the Batch example.

Note that droplets are ideally suited for completely automated operation. Actions that contain stops or are enabled for modal control are better used in a batch process. And you should always test any action and verify that it performs as expected before linking it to a droplet.

Here is the resulting droplet icon as it appears in the Finder. Dropping files onto it automatically launches Photoshop if it’s not currently running.

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