Monday, August 22, 2011

The Trouble With Plug-ins In Adobe Photoshop CS5

I was watching the latest episode of Scott Kelby's talk show, "The Grid" late last week and was real interested in the topic.  Basically it was "is it alright to use plug-ins with Adobe Photoshop CS5"?  Scott's sidekick, Matt Kloskowski and guest Rich Harrington had a lively discussion about the topic, with lots of tweets coming in either defending the use of plug-ins or saying it was cheating.  Scott and Matt both said, when they're out teaching, they show the step by step "how to do it in CS5" method and then say "but here's how I really do it using plug-ins".  Let me make sure I say upfront that "I have nothing against plug-ins".  As Rich Harrington said on the show, "if they save you time and make you money they're fair game".    I absolutely agree, but there is a telling point in what Scott and Matt said.  They said they first demonstrate the straight out of the box method before going into plug-ins.  To find out why that statement is so important, hit the "read more".

The big thing they mentioned was that they show how to get the effect they're going after without the use of plug-ins.  They understand how CS5 (and earlier versions) work and what steps need to be taken to get to a final product.  This is where too many people skip a step and go directly to plug-ins.  I'd dare to say that there isn't a plug-in out there that does something that can't be done manually in Photoshop.  Think of Photoshop as a box.  Everyone gets around the center of the box with some degree of competence.  The further out from the center you push the hairier it gets.  The number of people who can reach into the far corners of the box is very low.  The plug-in manufacturers take the user out to the scary places with little distress on the part of the user.

Scott and Matt know how to get to the edgy places on their own.  The reason for using plug-ins is for their convenience.  Click and they at a place that might have taken them five or ten minutes to get to.  The same trip, without the use of plug-ins, might take a relatively proficient user a half hour or more and an average user might never be able to get there. 

The point I'd like to make is that the average user is missing something by using plug-ins.  It's the knowledge of the journey.  Rather than clicking a plug-in preset and saying wow, I'd like to see more users say what I think Scott and Matt might say.  "Cool" and not only do they choose wisely but also know what went into getting them there.  To use another analogy, taking a shortcut going to granny's house is very useful, but only if you know how to drive.

BTW:  I do use plug-ins but,  in my free time, I try to figure out how to get to the place the plug-in took me to in one click.