Book review: Adobe Photoshop CS one-on-oneAuthor:
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Photoshop Elements 3 One-on-One book review
If you would like to find out more about Adobe Photoshop CS please see the latest press release: A Reason to Buy Adobe Photoshop® CS
Summary: Adobe Photoshop Adobe CS one-on-one was written by Deke McClelland and this book is just one of over twenty he has written on the subject of Photoshop in particular. It's 465 pages long and is aimed primarily at boosting the confidence and skills of both beginners and intermediates using Adobe Photoshop CS. The book is bundled with around two hours of video tutorials on CD that are loosely related to the chapters in the book. Much of the book's information will be of use to users of previous versions of Photoshop, though I wouldn't recommend it to users of Photoshop Elements. If you are an Elements user, McClelland has a book just for you, Photoshop Elements 3 One-on-One, due out in the New Year.
McClelland has a number of very impressive entries in his CV, including being an Adobe Certified Expert, he's a member of the Photoshop World Instructor Dream Team and he's a member of the National Association of Photoshop Professionals' Photoshop Hall of Fame. None of this guarantees that he can write, but fortunately his style is concise and easy to follow. With these assets, you should expect a lot from this book and I'm pleased to say you won't be disappointed.
McClelland writes: "I created One-on-One with three audiences in mind." He's referring to graphic artists, designers and last, but not least, photographers. He adds:" Adobe Photoshop CS One-on-One is designed to suit the needs of beginners and intermediate users. But I've seen to it that each lesson contains a few techniques that even experienced users don't know." Many of the tutorials are relevant to older versions of Photoshop, though some are specific to Photoshop CS. If you already have Photoshop 6 or 7 and are considering the upgrade to version 8, which is CS, then the book will illuminate many of the new features exclusive to CS.
What's left out?
Right at the end of the 22 page preface is an important reminder that the book doesn't address a number of fundamental Photoshop features, including the Actions palette, Pixel Aspect Ratios, Online Service and Save for Web commands. Neither is the Photoshop companion program ImageReady covered. McLelland hints that these will be the focus of forthcoming books.
The book's 465 pages are generously illustrated to a high standard in full colour, with clearly reproduced screen shots and example images. There are twelve chapters, each divided into an average of half a dozen sub-sections. Each chapter relates to one of the twelve lessons supplied on the included video tutorial CD, though the book is not critically dependent on the CD and nor is the CD dependent on the book, but it helps to combine the two. The book goes in to a lot more detail than the video clips, but the video does help to visualise things if you get stuck.
Most of the text is a series of tutorials that you can recreate and follow, on-screen, using your own installation of Photoshop. The text is presented in an easy-going but concise style that won't send you to sleep. Command and option names are printed in bold type and figure illustration references are printed in a contrasting colour.
There are three types of highlighted paragraphs that draw attention to particularly important information. One of these is called a 'pearl of wisdom' that provides an overview of how the topic being explored fits into a bigger view of Photoshop use. McLelland is sensitive to the different paces that his readers will work at and he uses an 'extra credit' label to mark relatively advanced exercises that might put off some readers. Extra credit exercises are non-essential so they can be skipped if you don't feel up to them but if you do they will stretch your abilities.
The first chapter deals with file management and navigation. It's a non-demanding introduction and there are plenty of glossary-like descriptions of Photoshop terminology. Subsequent chapters are more demanding. At the end of each chapter there is a 'What did you learn?' page which helps you revise key concepts. Each concept is listed and you have to match them to a list of descriptions. The correct combinations are at the bottom of the page.
Besides Photoshop-specific information, there is also a wealth of fundamental imaging knowledge explained in generous, though not overly technical, detail. These include sections on colour theory and printing.
The two hours of bundled video training
And here is the author introducing the video tutorial programme
The book is supplemented by a CD ROM containing twelve easy to follow, bite-size, video lessons, averaging nine minutes. These are presented by the author in four sets: navigation/colour correction, select/crop/edit, masking/focus/layers and type/styles/output. McLelland narrates the tutorials in a clear and engaging manner – it never gets boring.
Although there are nearly two hours worth of lessons on the CD, the sheer breadth and depth of Photoshop CS means that the topics covered are addressed in a reasonably simplified manner rather than in depth. I've been a Photoshop user for about three years now, but I personally learned some useful tips from the lessons.
It was interesting to witness McClelland occasionally being critical about some of Photoshop's options. In lesson 2, for example, McClelland warns you that: "In the weird world of Photoshop, the obvious is often dead wrong…" In this case he refers to the Photoshop Brightness and Contrast adjustment tool. McClelland explains: "Brightness and Contrast is a poor brightness and contrast fixer, it's in fact the worst of all the brightness and contrast fixers in the whole of Photoshop because it lacks clear controls and relies exclusively on subjective feedback."
Here is a snapshot of the Set 1 Levels and Curves video tutorial
The video tutorials are basically a tour of fundamental Photoshop features and once again much of what is explained will be relevant to earlier versions of Photoshop, though less are relevant to Photoshop Elements users. There are fleeting references to chapters in the book, but the CD is not dependent on them. The inclusion of the CD is a definite bonus, but it's really a taster for a series of much more in-depth training resources available from the company that produced the CD: Total Training.
Photoshop is an image cobbler
At the start of chapter 2, which covers the manipulation of highlights, shadows and mid-tones, McClelland writes: "At the heart, Photoshop is an image cobbler. Its primary mission is to take a worn photograph, with the pixel-based equivalent of sagging arches and holes in its heels, and make it better." His point is cleverly illustrated by the before and after correction of a picture of a… shoe.
Adobe Photoshop Adobe CS one-on-one is an ideal resource for anyone who is serious about getting serious with Adobe Photoshop. Particular highlights include the section on masking and selection and a remarkable example of how a ripped picture of a one-eyed elderly peasant from a far-off land can be given his missing eye back and made to look ten years younger and the physical damage to the picture be magically healed. If I have any criticism, I was a little disappointed at how short the section dealing with the curves tool was. This is a particular focus of interest among digital photographers and while the coverage provides a good introduction, it doesn't go beyond that. However, the section on CS Raw file manipulation was relatively comprehensive.
Compared to Secrets of the Digital Darkroom I recently reviewed, Adobe Photoshop Adobe CS one-on-one is less of an ideas book and more of a 'let's do it' book. 'Secrets' is also more glamorously illustrated. The two books complement each other well. Overall, though, I can highly recommend Adobe Photoshop Adobe CS one-on-one to any users of full versions of Photoshop other than seasoned Photoshop professionals. Even ignoring the very useful CD tutorials, you get a lot for your money too.
Information content: Excellent
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