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The Photoshop Blog offers the latest Photoshop news and software updates, Photoshop tips and tutorials, and random thoughts from graphic artist and Photoshop expert Jennifer Apple.
TUESDAY - JANUARY 17 2006
Interview With Ben Willmore - Adobe Photoshop Studio Techniques CS2 Edition
When you tap into Ben Willmore you tap into a deep well of Photoshop knowledge and resources. For starters he has an excellent blog, "Where Is Ben?" where you can find his musings on Photoshop, info on digital photography and the latest cool gadgets, and assorted tidbits on living the mobile life. He also runs another site called Digital Mastery, where you can find a free PDF - "Where's My Stuff?" - which is a guide that tells you what happened to many of the features that were available in the previous version of Photoshop. The site also offers a selection of Ben's Photoshop Training DVDs.
And then there are his books. Ben has written a lot of books and they tend to garner rave reviews. If you want proof, just see this page of quotes for his CS2 Up-to-Speed book. Convincing, to say the least.
One of his most popular, and one of my favorite training books, is Adobe Photoshop Studio Techniques. The book is a comprehensive guide to not just learning Photoshop techniques but in helping you understand and grasp concepts. It's also written in an elegant, clear style that makes learning enjoyable. Here's some of what Jay Nelson says in the introduction:
- "For the past several years, Ben has traveled across the United States, presenting his unique Photoshop seminar. Unique, because it focuses on real-world jobs done every day by Photoshop users, and unique because Ben explains concepts and techniques in a way that everyone in the room can understand.
"I attended his seminar and was especially impressed by his ability to avoid technical jargon and his uncanny knack for answering questions before they're asked. Ben is a rare teacher; even advanced users are satisfied, and rank beginners never feel lost."
If you'd like to find out whether this is the right Photoshop book for you, have a look through a sample chapter that Peachpit Press has made available online. The sample chapter How Layers Work is a complete overview of layers and walks you through creating and manipulating layers in Photoshop. From the opening section:
- "At first glance, layers might seem complex, but the idea behind them is rather simple. You isolate different parts of your image onto independent layers. These layers act as if they are separate documents stacked one on top of the other. By putting each image on its own layer, you can freely change your document's look and layout without committing to the changes. If you paint, apply a filter, or make an adjustment, it affects only the layer on which you're working. If you get into a snarl over a particularly troublesome layer, you can throw it away and start over. The rest of your document will remain untouched.
"You can make the layers relate to each other in interesting ways, such as by poking holes in them to reveal an underlying image. I'll show you some great techniques using this concept in Chapter 13, "Enhancement," and Chapter 15 "Collage."
"But first, you need to pick up on the basics the foundations of layers. If you've used layers for a while, you might find some of this chapter a bit too basic. On the other hand, you might find some juicy new tidbits."
We sent Ben some questions and here's what he replied:
What level of expertise is needed to follow your book? Is this a good book for beginners to start learning with?
It's not the best absolute beginners book. It's an awesome second book on Photoshop. Go grab something like Deke's Adobe Photoshop CS2 One-on-One or Classroom in a Book if you're absolutely new to Photoshop and then transition to Studio Techniques once you have gotten your feet wet and want to start really understanding what you're doing.
How much of this latest edition is completely new material?
There are two completely new chapters (Workflow and Adjustment Layers) and all the remaining chapters have been updated for the new features in Photoshop CS2. Some essential features (such as Curves) have not changed in CS2, so there are a few chapters that have little or no changes, but I know that there are at least 10 chapters that are either brand new or updated for CS2. I always try to add new content that doesn't relate to new features to keep the book fresh so it's not just an update for a new version.
As a Photoshop teacher, do you find that certain versions are harder for a beginner to learn? And is CS2 easier or harder for a beginner than previous versions?
With each new version there are simply more features packed into the same interface, so it's easier to become overwhelmed with choices. That's why I try to teach readers the logic behind everything so they can see how all the features relate to each other, which makes it much easier to figure out the more optimal tool for the job at hand.
I find it's more difficult for intermediate or advanced users to adapt to some of the changes Adobe makes because you often get so used to doing something a certain way that any changes to your workflow are rather disruptive. In CS2, Adobe made huge changes to the Layers palette, which means that experienced users will need to re-learn how to use layers... that would be no problem for a beginner since they don't have experience with the old way things used to work.
What is your favorite new feature in Photoshop CS2?
Smart Objects. They turn one or more layers into a special layer that's known as a Smart Object. Once you have a Smart Object, you can scale/transform/warp it, add layer styles (like a drop shadow), duplicate it and use it in multiple areas of your document... and then you can double-click on it to view the original layers that were used to create the Smart Object and make changes, which will be reflected in the parent document that the Smart Object has been used in.
That means that all of the duplicates update because they all refer to the same original layers, all of the transformations and layer styles are retained and all transformations are non-destructive, which means you can easily undo them without degrading the quality of the image.
A lot of users tell us they have trouble with color management. How do you deal with maintaining color accuracy in your workflow?
Color management doesn't have to be overly difficult, but there is a steep learning curve involved. The one problem is that what you need doesn't come in the box with Photoshop. You need have you screen profiled using a hardware device known as a colorimeter and you need accurate printer profiles for every paper/ink/printer combination you work with.
I'm fortunate enough to have the hardware devices that make this possible. The initial setup can be a bit of a pain, but once you have the proper pieces in place then color management largely becomes a non-issue. The problem is when you don't have the resources to get proper screen and printer profiles, and don't have the time to learn the concepts, then it's all guess work and frustration. I've been begging Adobe to simplify color management, but they haven't been open to making the changes that would be necessary.
What hardware do you use and do you have any recommendations for which type of screen to use for Photoshop work?
I have three machines: 1) 15" Powerbook G4 1.67 GHz with 2GB RAM and a 100GB Hard Drive. 2) Dual 2GHz G5 Tower with 4.5GB RAM and aprox. 4TB storage capability using multiple external drives. 3) HP Tablet PC, which I use for testing and note taking, but the 1024x768 screen severely limits it's usefulness.
My Powerbook and G5 Tower are hooked to an Apple 23" Cinema Display through a KVM switch so I can access either one with a push of the button using a single screen, keyboard and mouse.
Screens: I personally prefer LCD screens and will not purchase another CRT. But it's a personal preference and I'm not saying that everyone else should do as I have. A few things that I like about the LCD's are: Brighter, sharper, no flicker, think so I can use it anywhere, colors don't shift as much over time, don't see the reflection of the room behind me, no distortion/misregistration around the edges, etc, etc.
Some people *read* about the color gamut differences between LCD and CRT's, but don't realize that your eyes/brain adapt to what you see and cannot see as large of a difference as some color measurement devices would. I do all my color work on this setup and have had zero problems. Having said that, do not buy just any LCD. Make sure it's got a wide viewing angle and is from a reparable manufacturer (Apple, Dell and Sony's higher-end LCD's are good choices) since I have seen some terrible cheap ones on the market.
Every Photoshop expert has that one signature trick that they use over and over again. What is yours?
I don't use tricks, just deep understanding of Photoshop to know what is the most appropriate tool for the job. If I had to pick my "trick", my secret weapon would have to be Curves. Too many people are afraid of it (same with channels), even though it is the most powerful adjustment in all of Photoshop.
There's no need to be afraid of it, all you need is a clear description of how it works, which unfortunately is a rare find. That is one of my specialties, so take a look at one of my books, seminars or DVD's for a perfectly clear description. I don't say that to try to sell more product... I'm serious, go to the bookstore, have a seat and read the chapter, there is no need to buy the book.
Please tell us about your current and future projects, and other publications you might have in the works.
I'm currently traveling quite a bit teaching my Photoshop for Photographers seminar at least twice a month and making appearances at many conferences. I'm also working on some new DVD products and books (my new Up To Speed book is my latest creation).
My house is up for sale, when it sells, I'll be living full-time on a motorcoach traveling the country and presenting seminars. My travels will be chronicled on my blog "Where Is Ben?" which is already up and running.
Thanks Ben and continued success in all that you do!
Adobe Photoshop CS2 Studio Techniques (Amazon - 43% discount)
Photoshop CS2 - Up To Speed (Amazon.com - 34% discount)
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Transforming Smart Objects In Photoshop CS4
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Adjusting Exposure in Adobe Camera Raw CS3
Photoshop CS3 Tutorial High Dynamic Range
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