Monday, December 3, 2012

Figuring Out Photoshop

Nine months ago, we purchased Photoshop.  The whole kit and caboodle.  As a homeschooler, you can purchase Photoshop for a third of the cost through Adobe's website directly.  Lightroom and Photoshop Elements are also reduced.  I think the cheapest way to get elements, though, is when BJs or Costco has a coupon for it.  I've seen it for as low as $50 there.  I wish now that I had started with Elements or Lightroom.  I have been using Google's Picasa program to edit my photos.  It's free and super easy to use. You can download it here if you're interested:  Google Picasa

Last summer I met a woman at one garage sale who was pretty snooty about photography to me.  But, I still wanted to glean from her what I could.  She spoke of Elements so poorly that I was convinced that the only option was to get the whole Photoshop program.  

There's two ways of approaching photography:
1) to take the picture you want with your camera.  To develop your understanding of aperture, speed, white balance, etc...
2) to use auto settings and a photo editing program to give your photos the effects you want.

Then, there's a middle road.  I strive for #1, but use #2 when I have to along the way.  I'm learning.  Many of my pictures need to be cropped, straightened, or lightened.  So, that's where photo editing software comes in.  

Picasa has worked great for me.  I still use it.  I have started to play around with Photoshop when I have time--it really takes a lot of time to learn how to use it.  Many people learn via youtube--which has been highly recommended to me as a way of learning how to use Photoshop.  My way of learning something is to use books.  So, I requested two books for review on the new version of Photoshop--CS6.

The first book is The Missing Manual, by Lesa Snider.  During college, one of my professors told me that I wrote reports that would win the "throw them down the stairs" contest.  This contest said that the ones that went the farthest were the best.  Of course, this was a joke, but what he meant was that my group was very thorough.  That's exactly what I'd say about this book.  It would definitely win that contest, because it's a thick, thorough book.

This book covers absolutely everything.  I have to admit that after reading the first two chapters and having no experience with Photoshop, I set it down.  I was completely overwhelmed and doubted if I could ever learn how to use this program.  After a few months of simply playing around with the program once in a while and using another book, I opened it back up.  Now, it makes a lot more sense to me.  If I want to really get good at Photoshop, this book would help me do that.  It starts from the ground up and builds skills on top of each other.  The writer does make it as interesting she can--this is a computer manual after all.  I chuckled at the first chapter and smiled.  The illustrations are from a PC version, but she regularly makes notes about the differences for mac and pc users.  Photoshop is a very complicated program that requires a lot of skill.  My brother in law told me that you can never fully know how to use all of Photoshop.  Would I recommend this book?  Definitely.  Take a look at it if you're looking for a book that will cover everything.

The second book I requested was the Top 100 Simplified Tips and Tricks for Photoshop CS6 by Lynette Kent.  This is a shortcut book.  I thought I'd be able to simply pick it up and use it to do what I wanted since I was overwhelmed by The Missing Manual.  Nope.  Not the case.  I had to play around a bit and feel comfortable getting out of the shallow end.  Then, last week a friend came to me with a project and I used this book to edit a picture she gave me.  I opened up the index and found the topic I was looking for.  I followed the directions step by step and successfully edited the picture.  I also attempted to do one thing that didn't work.  What I love best about this book is the illustrations.  Each numbered step is labeled on the diagrams.  It was so easy to follow.  

After working on that project and realizing I need more time on the basics, I have decided to go back to The Missing Manual when I have time and begin trying to work through it bit by bit.  I think Photoshop is a little like cooking.  If you haven't cooked much, it would be difficult to jump right into making a hollandaise sauce.    But, you can practice with the whisk over time and get better at making gravies and sauces.  But, if at the same time, you pull out a cookie recipe and it turns out well, you'll feel hopeful.  Having something come out right encourages us that eventually we'll be able to cook the harder recipe, too.  

Photoshop is that way for me.  I've taken some baby steps, but I fear I have a hundred miles to go before I'm competent in the program.  But, I'm hopeful.

Please note that I received complimentary copies of these books for review from O'Reilly publishing and John Wiley and Sons Publishing.

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