Lessons from the Book

Lessons learned so far from the book:

  • Photoshop, still king. After working with several photo and graphics editors, I can say with a great deal of certainty that Photoshop really does deserve the respect it’s been given. Adobe’s habit of re-arranging its products with every release, paranoia about stolen software (somewhat justified) and high price tags aside, the product is the best.
  • There are other good photo editing tools. Having said that Photoshop is the best, there are other excellent photo editing tools, including GIMP. I tried out the new GIMP 2.4 and was very impressed with the application. What’s important to remember about GIMP is that it’s one of the few that isn’t claiming to be a “Photoshop killer”. It considers itself to be a unique photo editing product.
  • Of the other products I explored, Paint Shop Pro has gotten a lot of flack for only being 8-bit, and deservedly. It still has an extraordinary number of photo effects, though. Paint.NET is not–not ready for prime time, that is.
  • Photoshop Elements is fun Elements is more than Photoshop with much of the guts torn out. Elements really is focused at a different audience. It doesn’t have much of the fine control that Photoshop provides, true. It does, however, support what most people want from a photo editor, and a whole lot of new functionality that most people would find fun. Since I have my TV hooked up to my computer, I adored Element’s ability to generate a widescreen HD-compatible slideshow movie with music of a folder of photos.
  • The next Photoshop will be an online tool. I’m amazed at the number of online photo editors. I’m doubly amazed with all the hyperbole surrounding them. These tools are described variously as the next Photoshop Killer or the next Photoshop, period. Even Adobe is coming out with an online tool. My first test for each of the online photo editors I looked at? Uploading and opening a RAW image file. Puts the whole ‘online’ photo editor thing into perspective.
  • Colorful black and whites. I don’t think I’ve realized how colorful black and white photos really are until I started exploring, in depth, the many ways one can convert a color photo into a black & white. This exercise should be a requirement for every class teaching black & white photography.
  • Snag-It is great for screen captures and Skitch has an interesting social network facility, but my favorite screen capture tool ended up being Faststone’s Fast Capture. I found it more comfortable to use then the other two products.
  • I will accept software that dynamically resizes my photos for online display, only if you let me use my new Grease Monkey script that removes all the conjunctions from your writing.
  • Most important graphics tools. The most important tool both for editing photos and creating graphics is the Gaussian Blur. You can do without most other things, but you can’t do without the Gaussian Blur.

Matchbook cover

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7 Responses to Lessons from the Book

  1. ralph says:

    The book sounds like more and more of a humdinger every time you post about it. And I just got the previous one this week….

  2. Bud Gibson says:

    I’ve never used the Gaussian blur. I must have missed something.

    I’ve heard a lot of good about photoshop elements.

    I do agree that photoshop itself is extraordinary. An interesting tidbit, I know the wife of its creator from the gym. Both Tom and Ruth Knoll are from Ann Arbor and she runs a school here.

  3. Charles says:

    The RAW opening test might not be totally fair, particularly on a Mac, as some apps don’t use their own drivers and rely on RAW support in the OS. So if an app can’t open a RAW file, that might not be the app’s fault. A good example, Aperture uses the OS drivers, it takes an OS update for new camera support. OTOH Adobe apps use their own internal drivers and support a wider set of RAW formats, and is updated more frequently than the OS (usually).

    And yeah, Gaussian Blur totally rules. I remember the day way back when, must have been about PS 2.0, when it was the only really useful filter, and our Mac IIfx used to groan when we applied it to large images. You know, just today I saw a PS tutorial, it had an extremely convoluted technique using adjustment layers with Gaussian Blurs and it claimed to enhance edge contrast without changing flat tones. I finally figured out what he was doing, and I left the author a comment, “Wow, that’s really impressive, you’ve recreated the Unsharp Mask filter, but you did it like the old fashioned method that was used on film negatives, creating a blurred mask and then sandwiching it with the original negative. But it’s easier just to use the Unsharp Mask filter.” Apparently the author was not amused, as he deleted my comment. Ha!

  4. Shelley says:

    Ralph, I’m eager to hear what you think of the Adding Ajax book.

    Bud that’s rather cool. Nice neighbor to have.

    Charles, that’s one of the reasons I picked the Gaussian Blur. Not only is it used to eliminate noise, and add shadows, mood, but was originally used for sharpening. If you had to eliminate all filters but one, that would have to be the one you keep.

    I know it’s an unfair test to open a RAW image, not just for the RAW processing but also the upload size of those babies. The point is there is no ‘internet operating system’, and uploads take bandwidth and time. Not to mention can you imagine an online editor processing thousands of RAW images at once?

    Online editors are great for general photo editing of JPEGs but ‘Photoshop killer”? That’s funny.

  5. Seth Russell says:

    Gaussian Blur, huh? Never touch the stuff … err what is it? Now what is the best way to cut out an image and give it a totally white or transparent background? If your book tells me … i’ll buy it! I changed my website to my catalog company … take a look … tell me what i am doing wrong.

  6. Aruni says:

    Given my very limited ability to create and edit graphics, I have to say Photoshop is pretty cool. Once I figure out a way to do something then I can do it fairly quickly (i.e., rounded corners a la the iPhone). Between AI and Photoshop I have to say it has been easier to work with Photoshop (and believe me when I say I have no formal (or informal) training in graphics design.

  7. Shelley– I read this post by Garret Vreeland about Photoshop and Fireworks. Upshot for him: Fireworks saves time.

    (Interesting, I’ve used Photoshop since version 1.7, lo these 16+ years ago [on the internet, no one knows how many dog years you've put in to using the Big Apps] and I think I used Fireworks in its 1.0 or 2.0 incarnation, but I have never gone over to the side where I’ve been in the Fireworks site creation groove for extended periods of time). Anyway, it’s a different way of looking at image and graphics and layout.