Friday, May 29, 2009

Book Review: Photoshop CS4: Down And Dirty Tricks By Scott Kelby

Written by T. Michael Testi

It has been a while since author Scott Kelby has put together a Down And Dirty Tricks volume together, but now, with Photoshop CS4: Down And Dirty Tricks he has come back to where it all started and he has accumulated a whole host of new Photoshop special effects in one book.

This title has been one of the best selling Photoshop books in history and its release is long overdue. Down and Dirty 5.5 was the first book that Scott Kelby ever wrote and subsequently, is what started his career.

Keep in mind that unlike many of Kelby's recent books, THIS IS NOT A BOOK ABOUT PHOTOGRAPHY. You will not learn about camera raw, about sharpening, about curves, or levels, or channels. It is a book about creative design with photographs. It falls back to an earlier time in his career when he worked with design effects.

The effects that are contained within are the same types of effects that you see on TV, in magazines, and on the Web. The book also contains creative ideas, layouts, and design techniques to enhance your creativity. Photoshop CS4: Down And Dirty Tricks is 384 pages long and is divided into nine chapters.

Chapter 1, "Miracle Photo," is the first of two chapters on photo effects. Some of the techniques include a very popular de-saturated portrait look, a corporate ad that takes on a sports poster look, a reflected sky logo technique, and an effect that takes a photo of a real object (a baseball stadium) and makes it look like a toy.

Chapter 2, "Studio 54," looks at professional style studio effects that are done in Photoshop. These include a logo that is placed on a grid-like floor that goes off in the distance, adding texture and aging to a photograph, and a gritty high contrast portrait look,

Chapter 3, "Commercial Break," works with special effects that are used in commercial environments such as brochures and advertisements. These include a sports-look bio page, a line burst background effect, and a back screen layout.

Chapter 4, "Dangerous Type," examines type effects that have been made famous from various sources beginning with the halftone pattern type look that was used for Ford's F-150 trucks. Then you will see how to create the look used in the movie "Fracture," the Play station type effect, and others.

Chapter 5, "Reflections of Passion," now explores reflection effects. You begin with how to correctly create a basic reflection. While this may seem simplistic, it is something that I have seen messed up by many. You then move on to letter or shape reflections using a double gradient, a glassy bar reflection, how to create a 3D video wall with live updating reflections, and more.

Chapter 6, "Truth in Advertising," is about effects seen in web and magazine ads. Included is a multi-photo look to use when you have only one photo, but don't want that one photo look. A fake see-through glass look, and a chrome with photo reflection look that Disney Pictures used on their new logo.

Chapter 7, "The Midnight Special," contains more special effects that include working with a mix of photos and vector art, a fashion-warped grid look, and a fading people in the background look.

Chapter 8, "Photo Finish," is a second chapter on photo effects. Here you will see such effects as creating a sports wallpaper look, how to add window light to flat looking photos, and creating sparkle trails.

Chapter 9, "3D Jamboree" was actually written by Corey Baker, an instructor and 3D specialist at NAPP - since Scott Kelby admits that he lives in a 2D world. In this chapter you will learn how to create true 3D lights and shadow, 3D package design, a 3D filmstrip, as well as a 3D sports logo.

As with all of Scott Kelby's books Photoshop CS4 is very well written, easy to understand, and chocked full of pictures and descriptions. And, as with all of Scott Kelby's' books, there is a certain amount of humor that you either tend to like or hate. For those who are not a fan, he does contain this humor to the first page of each chapter where you can get by without reading it. For me, it just wouldn't be a Kelby book without it.

While Photoshop CS4 is about learning how to create and use special effects, according to the author, it is more about doing things other than photography, sharpening, camera raw, and all the other usual techniques you find in most Photoshop books. It is about learning the "other side" of Photoshop.

One thing to keep in mind is that Down And Dirty Tricks should be viewed as a cookbook and not an in-depth guide to each of these techniques. I have heard in the past where someone says that the book just tells you to put in values, but not why to pick those values? For example, in this book in one tutorial you are told "when the Gaussian Blur dialog appears, enter 9 pixels, then click OK to apply…" Sure, you are not told why 9 is the magic number, but this is no different than when you are making spaghetti sauce and you are told to put in an 8 oz can of tomato paste. If you want to try 6 go for it.

For me, the real purpose of Photoshop CS4: Down And Dirty Tricks is not to show you how to recreate the effects demonstrated here, although if you needed to, you have the steps. The real purpose is to show you the steps to recreate an effect. Then with an arsenal of techniques at hand, you can start putting your own techniques together to create your own style. In his intro, the author recommends that you work through each tutorial even though you may never use that technique. It is because of value of gaining this arsenal that I very highly recommend this book.


Friday, May 01, 2009

Book Review: Photoshop CS4 Photographers Handbook By Stephen Laskevitch

Written by T. Michael Testi


Digital technology has fundamentally changed how we photograph and print images. You have unlimited options in order to accomplish creating the precise image output that you imagine. The level of control today now exceeds some of the most powerful darkroom techniques that were available in the past.

But this power comes at a price. The price is that, for many people, it is an overly complex piece of software and with all of its features it can become confusing. In fact, many of these features most people will never use. The goal of Photoshop CS4 Photographers Handbook is to guide you through the thousands of complex techniques for editing an image, and distill out those few steps that are really needed to get the vast majority of the jobs done.

Although Photoshop CS4 Photographers Handbook addresses Adobe Photoshop CS4, Lightroom 2, Adobe Bridge, and Adobe Camera Raw, many of these techniques will apply to previous versions of these products. The book is 272 pages in length and is divided into 10 chapters.

Chapter 1, "Terms & Concepts," begins by covering many of the technical details of how computers and software deal with digital images. This section gives you a good foundation for your understanding on how Photoshop 'sees' your digital image. Chapter 2, "System Configuration," gives you an overview of how you might configure some general settings in each of the applications that are addressed in the book. There is also information on what to consider when purchasing new equipment.

Chapter 3, "Flowing with the Software," gives you the means to be in tune with the tools that you are using and the tips and techniques to work with the software in the most efficient manner possible. Chapter 4, "Capture & Import," are important in the workflow. While it is possible to fix many types of problems in Photoshop, it is still a better idea to start with the best image possible. After capturing the image, you will also see the best way to get images in to both Lightroom, and Adobe Bridge.

Chapter 5, "Organizing and Archiving Images," will help you develop a strategy for keeping your images organized. Here you will work with Stacks and Collections, moving images through the process, as well as options for backing up your images. Chapter 6, "Global Adjustments" looks at the big picture of image correction. These adjustments focus on making the overall difference in your image. This includes, tone, brightness, contrast, color, and cropping.

Chapter 7, "Local Adjustments," pertain to changes that need to be made to a smaller portion of the image. Say the sky is too flat and you want to punch it up, or the face is in the shadows and you want to lighten it without washing out the rest of the picture to make the image more balanced. Here you will learn how to target adjustments. Chapter 8, "Cleanup and Retouching," is also referred to as spotting. This is where you will clean up dust spots, blemishes, or other flaws in the image.

Chapter 9, "Creative Edits & Alternates," is a catch-all chapter that details the effects that you may want to employ that do not fit one of the other sections. This includes burning, dodging, adding soft focus, adding film grain, and boarder effects. Chapter 10, "Output – Print, Web, and Presentation," looks at the different methods for presenting your image output. This includes printing on inkjets, putting your images on a website, or creating a presentation using Lightroom.

At first it seemed that Photoshop CS4 Photographers Handbook was trying to accomplish too much by trying to cover how things are done for four products, but by having the flow be the main thread, and highlighting the techniques for each, it really was not too confusing once you got a hang of it. Some may still complain that the title says Photoshop, and it also spends time covering Lightroom, but that was not a problem to me.

Another thing that I liked is that annotations on the screen shots. Not only is the important aspects highlighted, but the flow from one dialog to the next is made apparent. Overall the text is clear and concise and the dialog a narrative voice. While a more advanced user would gain some insight, this is really geared for the beginner user, the user who has been using Photoshop and wants to become more efficient in their workflow, as well as the person making the transition from film to digital. For these users, I highly recommend this book.

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