I could go on and on about the Carrot-Ginger dressing in that jar, but I'll spare you. Instead I'm going to talk a little bit about actions...Photoshop actions.
I had been reluctant to use them for a long time. In fact, I hardly did any post-processing on my photos at first. But that didn't last long. Sometimes, as hard as I might try, shots straight out of the camera aren't perfect. So I turn to Photoshop. I adjust the exposure, the white balance, and sometimes the color balance. That's where I used to stop. Until I found an Amelie action. It made my photos look like they were from my favorite movie. So I ran it on EVERY SHOT. But this is the thing about actions. Not every action works on every photo. And I learned this quickly as I started to find more actions and play around with them. But that's the fun part...playing!
There's a lot of free actions out there (just google "free photoshop actions" and see what comes up) but my favorite set, Shades of Mediocrity's I Dream of Film Action Set, costs a mere $20. I know that seems like a bit to spend especially with so many free actions available, but this is the other thing I've found. Usually the good actions cost a little bit of money, and these are well worth it. Here's a sample:
As much as I would like to be using my trusty Pentax film camera, I love the instant gratification of digital and these actions give my digital photos that filmy quality that I miss. I definitely have my favorites from the set but I always play around with them a little to see what works best depending on the photo. For example, I ran the "Packin'" action on the top photo, but I changed the opacity of that layer to 50% to make it a bit more subtle.
Over the years I've acquired quite a collection of actions, but these are the ones I use over and over again. Hopefully you'll think they're as wonderful as I do!
(Also, if you don't already follow Shades of Mediocrity on flickr, you should. Her photos are dreamy!)
Just FYI, nobody asked me to pimp these actions. I just really like them and thought I'd spread the word!
Edited to add: I wrote all that assuming everybody is totally familiar with photoshop actions and uses them all the time! Sometimes I'm not very smart. In case you have no idea what I'm talking about, I'm going to point you to eHow and this article about installing actions. If that doesn't help, I'd suggest searching the eHow site for "photoshop actions". They seem to have quite a few articles on the subject.