Photo Book

By | September 17, 2014

Back in 1993, I took a series of multimedia courses at New York University, learning programs that no longer exist to develop interactive content for media that became obsolete even before the courses ended (remember the “interactive CD-ROM”?). So it goes.

One of the classes I took taught a program that does actually still exist: the venerable Photoshop. This had been a semester of working with Photoshop 2.5, and literally on the last day of class, the instructor came in waving a CD, saying, “Photoshop 3.0 is out—and everything’s different!” That was my crash course in how ephemeral any working knowledge of software could be.

(I suddenly have a line from a commercial going through my head: “Remember a time when Photoshop didn’t have Layers? Pepperidge Farm remembers…”)

Anyway, I mention this because for a least a decade after that, I used to religiously upgrade Photoshop, back when I was doing more design- and graphics-related work than I do now—that is, more actual print production than just writing about print production. I love the Adobe Creative Suite and still use it for various projects, including the layout of the five books I have written with Dr. Joe Webb, the most recent being—plug plug—This Point Forward, being launched at Dr. Joe’s Graph Expo breakfast on September 30. I haven’t upgraded the Creative Suite since version 5.5, primarily because I really dislike the subscription model of software pricing. At some point, though, I expect whatever computer or device I end up working on will no longer run the Creative Suite versions I currently use and I will then be forced to upgrade to the Creative Cloud (or whatever supplants the Creative Cloud by the time I am ready for it).

“Like it or not, we’re now in the age of rental software,” writes Lesa Snider in the brand-new second edition of Photoshop CC: The Missing Manual, the latest in O’Reilly’s “Missing Manual” series, a review copy of which just arrived on my doorstep.

(“Remember a time when manuals were included with software? Pepperidge Farm remembers…”)

Lesa Snider is perhaps the preeminent Photoshop guru today, and once remarked to me, shortly after a Photoshop Conference in Las Vegas, “What happens in Vegas gets photoshopped out,” a line I wish I had the opportunity to steal more often. I’ve had the opportunity to sit in on Lesa’s Photoshop tutorial sessions at various shows over the years, and I’ve always picked up some new productivity-enhancing—or just plain cool—tips or tricks. Even though my Photoshop needs are fairly modest these days—and I have yet to avail myself of features in the latest version—it’s nice to stay reasonably current and learn new things.

In this day and age, the “computer book” is kind of an endangered species, which is a shame. Now, I admit, when I am working in a program and can’t figure out how to do something, or some “feature” is driving me crazy (yeah, I’m looking at you, PowerPoint), I just Google my question and can usually find an answer pretty quickly. But what this approach lacks—and what a good book boasts—is the ability to inspire creative ideas. No one reads these kinds of books cover-to-cover (at almost 1,000 pages, it’s almost like James Michener’s Photoshop), but even just flipping through at random during idle moments, or searching out specific tasks, it’s easy to come across things that can juice up one’s creativity. And even after all these years, it’s still possible to say, “I didn’t know you could do that in Photoshop.” For example, the new version supports 3D printing.

Photoshop CC: The Missing Manual covers the 2014 release and is an invaluable resource for the old veteran who thinks s/he knows everything there is to know about Photoshop, as well as for newbies who may be working with the program for the first time. It also provides a good rundown of what’s new in the latest version of Photoshop. Lesa also has an informal, often funny, writing style that makes what can often be a dry read quite entertaining.

By the way, if you are in the Boulder area on September 21, Lesa is having a book release party, info here. And remember, if things get out of hand, they can be photoshopped out.

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