Up until now I’ve mainly been using Adobe Lightroom to process my RAW photos for white balance, exposure and tonal correction along with removing dust spots and sharpening. Whilst I’ve got pretty used to Lightroom I’ve often found myself wanting to do a bit more. I have a copy of Photoshop Elements 4 on my Mac and sometimes take photos out to that to do a little more with levels and layers. However I’ve never really invested much effort into that side of things. Whilst I always try to get things right in-camera I’ve become increasingly interested in improving my post-processing skills.
Adobe Photoshop CS3 is pretty much the de-facto standard for photo editing, but the problem is it costs a lot. I’ve never been one for the illegal use of software, mainly because I work in the industry, so up to this point have simply got by with what I have, plus a few great low-cost tools like FDRTools, Calico and NoiseNinja.
So, I recently stumped up and bought Photoshop CS3. I also got a couple of books: Adobe Photoshop CS3 for Photographers by Martin Evening, and Scott Kelby’s 7-point System for Adobe Photoshop CS3.
Whilst Evening’s book is a typically comprehensive overview of the features and function relevant to photographers, the Kelby book is structured in a different way. It concentrates on a core set of functions and techniques, including processing in Camera Raw (or Lightroom), curves, shadow/highlight adjustments, painting with light, channel adjustments, layer blending and layer masks and sharpening. It applied these techniques to 21 photos each in it’s own chapter. It is basically teaching by rote. You can download the RAW files he uses and follow along with each chapter taking you through the same set of actions (more or less) until they become ingrained. Along the way he introduces other techniques but never digresses too far from the seven key concepts.
I’ve found this very useful in terms of helping me learn what to apply in what circumstances. There’s such a wide array of tools in Photoshop that there are effectively many ways to achieve the same end result. Already I look back at how I used to do things in Elements and know it wasn’t the right way. The real value I’m getting from the 7-point system is to give me a solid base skill set that I know when and how to deploy for the result I want to achieve. Without this and if I just had the Evening book (or any similar one, including other Kelby efforts) then the information overload it gives you can be a problem and it is hard to relate that to what you would need to do to take one particular photo from start to finish.
Of course, the danger is that the 7-point system becomes too formulaic and the inevitable look that it produces becomes too familiar. I think the challenge here is to use it as a basis but then extend that knowledge with your own style and ideas, and other techniques that you pick up along the way.
To end, CS3 has also been great fun to use with one of my Christmas presents: a Wacom Bamboo graphics tablet. I can’t wait to revisit some of my back-catalogue of photos and work them through CS3!