Why your photos don't turn out like the before & after's

Ok, I get you.  You took all your hard earned money and invested it into this beautiful action set because you fell in love with all the before & afters used to advertise it.  

You're excited, you install it, you try it, and you fail at an exact replica of the results.  

But why does it not do what it says it does?  

It does, but with patience, and an understanding of the layer adjustments and the editing program itself.   We are going to breakdown the reasons why this is happening and what you can do to become a whiz at Photoshop Actions.  

Warning, this is for those that want a little push.  I'm going to get tough on you :)   


Photoshop actions for photographers


1. Your Exposure Is Different

The exposure of an image straight out of camera (sooc) is a complete reflection of how easy it is to get the finished product you are striving to achieve.  

This is why we always suggest you start with a good exposure before applying actions.  This can be done is many ways.

  1. Shoot in RAW and adjust in ACR to get a beautiful, clean base.  I am going to pitch a bitch fit if you are not at least opening your mind to RAW.  You won't regret it. (read more about raw here)
  2. Many of Colorvale's Action Sets have a Perfect Fix or Starting Base action that will allow you to turn on relevant layers that will bring you to a clean & fresh start.
  3. And of course, get your exposure as close as possible in camera.  Sometimes easier said than done, but we suggest using the light meter in your camera to help guide you.

2.  Your Editing Skills Just Need A Little Tweaking

Listen, you know the truth, just because you go out and buy yourself a really nice set of pots and pans does not make my your wild mushroom risotto a house specialty.  The truth is that it can still just kinda suck until you learn and refine your skills.  


3.  "But I don't understand, because I'm doing everything right"

If you are relying solely on actions to do the work for you, the results will never be the same as an action designer's.  

Yes, I make actions to save you time, but without understanding what the layers mean it's just a big bag of screwdrivers.

You aren't sure which is a phillips or a flathead (wait, are those the same thing? I never know).  Listen, I can only point you into the right direction and take tons of steps off your list. I need you as the editor of your photo to commit to understanding what is happening to the image so that you can tweak the things needed.  

I'm not in your office with you, I mean if you offered me a glass of wine and prime-rib I might accept the date, but no, I'm not there. So, start committing to diving deep into your software and learning what each layer does to your image.  Only when you find this out will you start to achieve the results you are striving for.  

Watch this video to see how actions are used and adjusted to get a beautifully artistic look.  As you will notice I couldn't just click play and call it day.  This takes some monkey'in around to achieve the results, but worth every bit of it.  


4.  Layer masks need to become your best friend

I'm not kidding you here.  My blood is boiling thinking about the possibility that you aren't taking advantage of  when not using layer masks to edit.  

You are cheating yourself and your results.  When you see the before & afters I post from our store, I am always wiping layers on and off areas of an image.  

Frankly, not all layers are good on skin.   A layer mask is exactly what the name suggests: a mask upon a layer that you are either revealing or hiding.  By using a layer mask you can mask away areas that aren't working with your photo properly.  

Essentially it is an eraser that doesn't "erase" but rather "hides" things.  Click here to watch a video on how to use layer masks.  


5. Opacity ... enough said

Ok clearly every action at the original opacity is not always going to work with your style or your image.  

I am serious when I say you need to be turning that down, like no joke!  Actions are usually designed and left at a higher strength so that you, as the user, have all sides of the spectrum:  an action that fits under or overexposed photos.  

The FIRST thing you should do when running an action is take that grouping of layers, which controls all the layers within side of it, and turn the puppy down.  

I sometimes go at a strength of only 9% for an action, then the layer on top of that another that is only 20% ... this again is like cooking.  I can't tell you how much salt to use, you have to determine how much you can tolerate.  


6. ... And Finally ...

Relax, because editing is like an old sweater.  

Once you wear it a few times it fits you like a glove, like it has always been there.  It's like I tell my kids, "You got this boo; you just need a little practice.  

Don't give up!"  If you love the before and afters of an action set then dedicate the time to play with it and see what it does.  Make it your own.      


  • 39 Tips To Help Photographer's Grow Their Business - Colorvale Actions

    […] Why my photos don’t turn out like the before & after’s […]

  • Stacie Jensen

    xoxoxoxoxoxo thank you! That makes it all worth it to know they help others.

  • Stacia Wallis

    Great stuff! I’ve learned that you have to play around with everything you’ve talked about above to get the look you’re going for. You can also get so many amazing different looks as well with just one action. I love your stuff Stacie! You’re my favorite person to follow :)

  • Stacie Jensen

    Thank you so much Stacia :) xoxo

  • Julie

    Your videos are beyond fabulous!! The best I’ve seen!!! Thank you so so much Stacie, you ROCK!!!

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