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Photoshop CS2's Secret Hidden Image Processor

There are a lot of tools built into Photoshop CS2 — an awful lot. More than what most people need or will ever use. But hidden in the nooks and crannies of Photoshop's menus and palettes is one secret gem that almost everyone will find of use but that few know about. This week, I'm going to do my part remedy that. Allow me to introduce you to the Image Processor.

The Image Processor is a script that comes with Photoshop CS2. It's somewhat of a Swiss Army Knife that will allow you to batch process a group of images, performing an action on each, resizing them as need be, converting them to jpeg or tiff, and many other possibilities. You pick the files you want to work on, pick the destination folder for the resulting converted files, select the options you want to use, and click on the "Run" button to start it doing its thing.

You can get to the Image Processor in one of two ways, either from Adobe Bridge, or directly from within Photoshop. In Bridge, you get to it by selecting the images you want to work on and then choosing Tools >> Photoshop >> Image Processor. Or, if you are already in Photoshop, it's available via File >> Scripts >> Image Processor. Either way, it's the same thing.

If you access it from Bridge, the images you will be processing are those you chose beforehand by selecting them in Bridge. If you ran Image Processor from within Photoshop directly, you will have the option of working on files you already have open in Photoshop, or of picking a source directory on your hard drive. You can select to write the converted files back to a subdirectory of your source folder, or to a different folder of your choosing.

Input files can be of any type supported by Photoshop. If you select camera raw files, they will be converted using either your default settings in Adobe Camera Raw or any settings saved in a sidecar XMP file or the Camera Raw database from previous editing. You can save output files in the jpeg format, tiff or Photoshop PSD, or any combination of these three, all that the same time. During processing, a subdirectory will get created in your selected output folder for each type. For each type, you can specify that images should be resized to fit within chosen dimensions. For example, to resize a collection of horizontal and vertical images to be no more than 800 pixels on their long size, you can enter 800 as both the width and height. The original aspect ratio will be maintained.

There's a check box that allows you to embed an ICC profile in images that get created. You can also tell Image Processor to convert jpeg output files to sRGB, making it easy to create images for web or email use.

But it doesn't stop there. If you are processing a set of camera raw images that should all have the same adjustments, you can check another box to adjust the first image in the set and Image Processor will use those settings on the remainder. You can also create a Photoshop Action to be run on each image. If your Action does not require user input, the entire set of images can be processed with no further effort from you. There are several other features too that you will find as you work with the Image Processor.

For those who have been using Photoshop for some time, the Image Processor is actually the latest version of what started out as Dr. Brown's Image Processor. Russell Preston Brown is the Senior Creative Director at Adobe Systems Incorporated. He's a true Photoshop wiz, but he's also a bit of a nut — but in a good way. He travels around the world evangelizing the joys of using Adobe software, teaching countless digital imaging users how to get the most out of Photoshop. To get a sense of his creative but unusual presentation style, visit his website at

You can also download other scripts and tutorials from Russell's site. One script well worth downloading is in fact an updated version of the Photoshop CS2 Image Processor that fixes two known issues present in the version that ships with CS2. Notably, the updated version will run any selected Action at the end of processing rather than nearer the beginning. This works much better for unsharp mask or other sharpening actions.

The Photoshop CS2 Image Processor and its various options
The Photoshop CS2 Image Processor and its various options

One final point: If you happen to be good at programming, you can write your own scripts in JavaScript on either Windows or Mac OS, or using VB Script on Windows or Apple Script on Mac. And since scripts are nothing but text files, you can read Russell's or those from other sources to learn how to write them. There are also several publications on scripting available from Adobe's website.

Update 9/19/2006 - Russell Brown has just released a new set of scripts for Photoshop CS2 called "Dr. Brown's Services 1.5". The included Dr. Brown's 1-2-3 Process has a lot of similarities to the Image Processor script, but it can output jpeg, tiff or psd files and includes a drop-down to let you select whether to run any chosen action before or after resizing. Other included scripts such as the Caption Maker may also be of interest to readers here. And although I didn't mention this earler, all of Russell's scripts and tutorials are free downloads.

Update 9/21/2006 - Earthbound Light reader MS reminds me that Photoshop Elements Version 3 and 4 have a somewhat similar feature hidden under File >> Process Multiple Files. Quite true. It can read in a folder of images or process images already open, resizing them and resaving in any of a number of output formats. It can also optionally add captions, rename files and apply a number of "quick fixes." Well worth investigating if you are an Elements user. Earlier versions of Elements had a scaled down equivalent in File >> Batch Processing.

Date posted: September 17, 2006 (updated September 21, 2006)


Copyright © 2006 Bob Johnson, Earthbound Light - all rights reserved.
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