Book Review: Photoshop Studio Secrets, Second Edition

Photoshop Studio Secrets explains the skills and techniques required to master Adobe’s Photoshop software

Photoshop Studio Secrets explains the skills and techniques required to master Adobe’s Photoshop software

Photoshop Studio Secrets, Second Edition

By Deke McClelland and Katrin Eismann

Published by IDG Books

First Edition - January 1999

In this book, designers and artists explain their techniques for getting the best out of Adobe Photoshop using a lead-by-example technique. Designers first explain what they are trying to achieve and the problems each particular photograph poses. It should be pointed out that while Photoshop can greatly improve a photograph, it isn't an excuse for sloppy photography. Instead, it gives artists greater flexibility to target their work at a particular market. For example, the photograph that is required for a fashion magazine is different from that required by a gossip magazine, even though art editors may start with the same original.

It should also be pointed out that the effects Photoshop creates aren't new; artists and photographers have practised them for many years. Photoshop provides an electronic darkroom; rather than sending pictures away - waiting anything from a few days to a week for altered pictures to return - designers can now see the effects immediately. If a designer is unhappy with any changes, they can either revert to a saved original or simply press the undo key. Even though the price of Photoshop may seem expensive, it works out extremely economical when the reduced darkroom costs and greater flexibility are factored into the equation.

Photoshop Studio Secrets gives designers, photographers and art editors the confidence to obtain successful results with Photoshop. McClelland and Eismann explain many different Photoshop techniques, processes and ideas used to enhance pictures. The accompanying CD-ROM includes website links, 3D images and QuickTime movies. At 333 pages, the book strikes just the right balance between sufficient depth and brevity. Each section is self-contained, making it easy to pick out the key aspects of a particular area as desired.

With most applications, the user manual is key to mastering any software. However, for DTP applications such as QuarkXpress, Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop, user manuals by themselves aren't sufficient to master the package. This is because most user manuals that accompany creative applications like QuarkXpress concentrate on functions and features rather than harnessing designers' present skills and explaining how these can be applied. This is partly because DTP requires an appreciation of the subjects such as photography, together with an element of creativity. Too many technical authors who write user manuals for the creative fields still haven't grasped this; user manuals frequently appear to be written by techies rather than creatives.

This technical approach is fine for general-purpose applications like Microsoft Word. However, for the likes of Photoshop, what's needed is an accompanying manual to discuss the overall philosophy of image manipulation and how the best results can be achieved. To get the best out of Photoshop requires an appreciation of the craft of image manipulation. If the user has an understanding of what can be achieved at the outset, then the package really comes into its own.

Packages like Photoshop have so much functionality that only some of the features tend to be used for much of the time. It is often more appropriate for Photoshop users to gain a grasp of some basic techniques and then to build upon this foundation. This is the approach Eismann and McClelland have adopted; instead of jumping in and talking about most of features, they concentrate on specific techniques which will allow users to build upon their existing knowledge.

Paul Phillips

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