Monday, July 6, 2009

Be a Sponge

Everyone starts at the same place. Photoshop is a daunting application and everyone just starting out is overwhelmed by it. I don't care if you started with version 2 or CS 4, there is so much to Photoshop it's scary. If you think you're hot stuff try taking the Photoshop ACE (Adobe Certified Expert) exam. It will, most likely, be a humbling experience. I think I took a practice exam for the first time with CS2. Before that I didn't know there was such a thing as an ACE exam. When I tried it, it became apparent that I had never heard of the things many questions were asking about. I think I got about a 10% grade on that struggle. There's a couple of hours worth of questions and it covers just about all aspects of the program. Everything from what a photographer might use to what a straight graphics designer needs to accomplish his/her tasks. If you use PS for a specific purpose you might have a handle on the branch dealing with the things you do. A little example: I know a couple of twenty somethings who have degrees in the graphics arts. One has written a highly illustrated book and has been the artist for a couple of children's books. The other makes a living designing corporate identities, websites and the like. They both mesmerize me with the things they can do in Photoshop. I'm a photographer. When I show them some of the tricks I use in my everyday situations their jaws drop. What's familiar about Photoshop to one person is Greek to the next. If you'd like to hear about today's image, hit the "read more" link.

Today's image started out as a "normal" image, with the bird being surrounded by the Everglades. It was created going on seven years ago, pretty much at the beginning of my involvement with Photoshop. At that time I had, basically, no idea what was going on or what I was doing. The only thing I had was an eagerness to learn. I think I picked up every magazine that even mentioned Photoshop. Anything with a tutorial in it (there weren't that many online tutorials at that time). I'd follow the tutorial line by line, but I'd use one of my own images. That way I had to do the things the authors were talking about.
Today's image is a direct offshoot of part of my early learning curve. I saw a tutorial in Photoshop User magazine and thought it was pretty cool. (Picture today's shot with a baby poking out of the "photo".) The one in the magazine might have been a horizontal rather than a vertical, but that really doesn't matter. I wasn't trying to duplicate what I saw in the tutorial, I was trying to learn what was being taught in it. I've probably gone through hundreds of tutorials. Even today, if I see an online tutorial, I'll check it out and try to produce the same look and feel of what the educator is showing. The biggest difference between yesterday (many yesterdays actually) and today is when I was first starting out I'd follow the tutorial as a recipe, step by step. Today I'll watch (or read) through the lesson and then take a shot at it using the concepts being taught rather than following by rote.
A friend of mine excitedly told me she had found a program that allowed her to put what looked like a linen texture on the "matte" portion of her images. She'd do everything she could in Photoshop, save the image, import into this other program and apply the linen "matte". I told her I had a program that could do the same thing. She asked what I was using. I told her Photoshop.
Photoshop has so many tentacles, reaching out into so many niches, that those who are able to master the ACE exam are a pretty rare breed. To those who are still learning Photoshop I'd say don't be afraid to be a sponge. Follow every tutorial, check out every magazine, view as many online videos as you can. Soak up as much of the community knowledge that's out there as you can. But (and it's a big "but"), have fun doing it. It ain't no fun if you're not having fun