Use Automator to combine your research photos into one PDF

By request, these are updated instructions for using your Mac to combine your research photos into a PDF. For more on digital research workflows, see here, here, and here.

If you have a Mac, you own a robot! It’s called Automator and it lives in your Applications folder. It does pretty much what the name implies: It bundles little actions and makes them easy to repeat and perform on a lot of files. Here, I’ll show you how to use Automator to combine a bunch of research photos into one PDF.

Open Automator


It lives in your Applications folder.

From the pop-up menu, select Workflow


Choosing Workflow means that in order to run your series of actions, you’ll open up Automator first. (It’s kind of fun to experiment with Application, too! That means that to your series of actions becomes a standalone application. To run it, you double-click on your icon or drag some files onto it. But for now, let’s keep it simple and stick with Workflow.)

Let’s investigate!


The Automator interface is actually pretty simple. The far left pane (1) contains categories of actions you might want to run. The second pane (2) contains the actions themselves: things like “Add Songs to Playlist” and “Combine Excel Files.” You can assemble actions into sequences by dragging them from pane 2 into pane 3, in the order you want to run them. So, really, not too complicated!

Assemble your actions (1)


First, you need a way to feed Automator the files you want it to alter. Under the Files and Folders category in pane 1, find the Ask for Finder Items action in pane 2 and drag it into pane 3. This means that the first thing that Automator will do is ask you which files you want it to modify. Because you’ll be modifying multiple files, check the Allow Multiple Selction box.

Assemble your actions (2)


Happily, the latest version of Automator comes with an action that does exactly what we want! Under the PDFs category in pane 1, you’ll find an action called New PDF from Images. Select it and drag it into pane 3. In the Output File Name box, call it something that makes sense to you. You can even tell Automator where to save your new PDF, if you want.

Run your workflow


Click on the Run button, which you’ll find in the top right-hand corner of your Automator window. Automator will ask you to select the photos you want to modify (hold down Command-A to select all the photos in a folder) and then it’ll run your actions!

You’ve got one big PDF!


Unless you specified a different place to save it, your big PDF should be waiting for you on your desktop, simple as that. Cool, huh?

Save your workflow


Since you’ll probably want to do this again, select File, then Save, so you can perform these actions again later. You can save it as a Workflow, or, if you don’t want to have to open up Automator every time you perform your action, you can save it as an Application.

Play with some options


Automator does a lot of cool stuff, and it’s fun to just play around with it. For example, you can make your PDF easier to find with Spotlight by using the Set PDF Metadata action (in the PDFs category). Give it a shot! You won’t break anything.


Call for participants: SCMS workshop on digital humanities and film/media studies

Among those who care about such things, it’s become clear that there’s a bit of a divide between film and media studies, often thought to be primarily theoretical or historical, and digital humanities, which often emphasizes the importance of hacking or making. Is such a divide irresolvable? Let’s find out! Jason Mittell and I have put together this call for participants for a workshop at the Society for Cinema and Media Studies‘ 2013 conference in Chicago. Please do apply, and email me if you have any questions!

Digital humanities is not a new field, but in recent years it has received unprecedented attention. Defined as the application of computational methods to humanities questions, digital humanities can take many forms, from digital exhibits to textual analysis to experiments with scholarly communication. As yet, however, little formal relationship exists between the fields of digital humanities and film and media studies; indeed, SCMS has not yet hosted a panel on digital humanities. In fact, however, the two would seem to have a great deal in common: an interest in image and narrative form, an engagement with both emergent and historical media of all kinds, and a concern with changes in scholarly communication.

This workshop will offer an opportunity for film and media scholars to engage with the field of digital humanities. We propose a series of brief research project demonstrations, with a focus on how the projects were accomplished and what scholarly insights they produced. In the bulk of time, reserved for discussion, we hope to raise a series of questions about the conjunction of the two fields.

  • Where do the two fields converge, and what are their differences?
  • Is a digital humanist ipso facto a media scholar, or do the two fields present different criteria for entry?
  • Media scholars are particularly adept at analyzing cultural representations, such as of race and gender. Might media scholars bring some of these strengths to digital humanities?
  • Many media scholars are interested in issues of reception and audience studies. How might such subfields engage with digital humanities?
  • What might media studies offer to digital humanities, and vice versa?
  • Conversely, do the two fields possess epistemological or methodological contradictions?
  • How might the growing interest in digital humanities alter the field of film and media studies?

Call for workshop participants:

We are interested in digital humanities approaches to research on film and media studies, broadly defined. Projects could include, but are not limited to:

  • computational approaches to film or media analysis
  • digital methods of analyzing film or media history (e.g., text mining, topic modeling, network analysis)
  • experiments with scholarly form and presentational/publication models
  • digital tools for annotating or analyzing media

Participants should be prepared to give a brief project demonstration as well as participate in a wide-ranging conversation.

Please email a 250–300-word abstract, or any questions, by August 1 to