Borkware Photoblog

February 1, 2008

Just finished reading: Scott Kelby’s 7-Point System for Photoshop

Filed under: Books, Borrow It, Buy It, technique — Mark Dalrymple @ 5:49 pm


Rating: Buy it (if you’re new to photoshop or are overwhelmed by it, otherwise Borrow It)

For the longest time I’ve avoided Photoshop, generally using it for the occasional tone adjustment or lens distortion fixing. In my mind, Photoshop = highly processed phographic excesses, like what you see on the daily photos at Yes, having someone eaten by ivy is cute, but is it “photography”? I don’t think so. Is a collage made by cutting up oil paints an oil painting? No. If that won “Best Photo” at a competition, I would be unhappy. Spending hours and hours in photoshop making something like that would be torture to me.

That being said, I flipped through Scott Kelby’s 7-point Photoshop book at the bookstore, and noticed it was a very extended tutorial on different photo enhancement and manipulation techniques. “Woot!” I thought to myself (saying that too loudly in a quiet bookstore is frowned upon). This kind of presentation is how I learn computery things best, having learned BASIC back in the bronze age by typing in game listings from magazines.

I spent the better part of a weekend working through all of the exercises : Scott provides (via the internets) a set of 21 images, most raw files, some jpegs, and leads you step-by-step through tweaking them. There is a lot of “Click this to add a layer. Change the color to white. Choose a large soft brush and start doing xyz”. For someone who really hasn’t spent a lot of time with Photoshop, this was a godsend. With all of the encyclopedic tomes out there, it’s hard to know where to start. This shows you where to start.

His “7 point” system is actually quite amorphous once you start working through the tutorials. Officially the system boils down to:

  • Process your image in Adobe Camera Raw, set white balance, tweak settings
  • Adjust curves
  • Bring down highlights and fill in shadows.
  • Painting With Light – using a bright layer behind the photo to paint in brightness. You too can be as cheesy as Kinkaid.
  • Channels adjustment, includng the “Lab move”, which changes pixel representations to do some adjustments
  • Layer blend modes and masks – tweak stuff in a layer, and pull them selectively via masks
  • Sharpening

The actual step-by-steps flow in and out of these, without real demarcation between them, like sometimes heavy sharpening happening during the Camera Raw stage. Most of the time there’s not a clear description about why one technique happens at one stage of a pipeline, and then is performed at another stage on another photo. Sometimes there is.

Many of the tweaks he shows I think I can find use for. Some others, such as pasting in an extra rowboat, or faking a lake reflection, are not in my realm of manipulations I’m going to do. (“if I do this and it wins Best Photo in a competition, would I feel like a fraud?”) Some of the end results (such as the ocean liner in front of storm clouds) look very processed and quite fake, even in the book.
I don’t like that look, but it was good to go through the steps to see what’s involved. If nothing else, to know what to avoid.

The writing style is Kelby’s usual. I find his stuff fun to read. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, but doesn’t go over the top in “see how funny I can force this material to be” as I’ve seen in some other books. *cough* .

So, if you’ve been afraid to touch photoshop, or haven’t done more than some very simple things, this book could be good for you. If you know what you’re doing, though, you’ll be bored.


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