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Book Review: Adobe Photoshop CS3 Studio Techniques By Ben Willmore

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Adobe Photoshop CS3 Studio Techniques came to be when the author, while looking at all the Photoshop books at the local chain bookstore, realized that there were fundamentally two types of Photoshop books. First there are the "cookbooks" that taught you Photoshop in a step-by-step manner. These, which while showing how to do something, never seem to explain why you should do these steps in enough detail to make you feel you understood. Secondly, there are the technical books that are so technical that, unless you knew Photoshop, they were too hard to understand and left you frustrated.

Enter Adobe Photoshop CS3 Studio Techniques. The goal here is to explain, in everyday language, how to use Photoshop, taking everything from the simplest feature to the most advanced technique an distilling it down so that you can understand it. As an instructor, the author has used this approach for many years and hundreds of seminars and workshops. His goal with this book is to take you from "going through the motions" to "at last, I really understand." The book is 592 pages long and divided into 16 chapters (there are five bonus chapters on the CD which required no update for CS3 and so I will concentrate on the 16 printed chapters and list the bonus material below). It is also divided into three basic areas.

Working Foundations

Chapter 1, "Tools and Palette Primer," is all about effectively managing your workspace and finding your way around all of the features that has made Photoshop the industry standard that it is. Here you will learn about the palettes, tools, and panels that you will be working with in this book.

Chapter 2, "Selection Primer," will take you through what many consider to be one of the most central techniques to Photoshop success: the ability to make selections. This is because when you want to be able to edit a portion of an image you must first select it. Here you will work with the marquee tools, lasso tools, crop tools, selection tools, magic wand tool, and others.

Chapter 3, "Layers Primer," examines what is another fundamental Photoshop device – Layers. The Layers palette is what helps you keep everything organized. While on the surface it may appear to be complex, it really is very simple to learn. Throughout this chapter the author shows you how to use Layers while teaching you all sorts of tricks that will prove invaluable later in the book.

Production Essentials

Chapter 4, "Optimizing Grayscale," explains that when working with grayscale, your adjustments and corrections are tonal in nature and therefore you only have to deal with the brightness and contrast of the image. Here you will learn about all of Photoshop's tools for working with these tonal adjustments which will be of use as well later when you get into working with color.

Chapter 5, "Understanding Curves," will show you the power of Curves and how they are like the Swiss Army Knife of the Photoshop world. This is another really great chapter in that the author, by way of explanation, shows you how the curves dialog box works before you realize that you really do understand it.

Chapter 6, "Color Management," is another one of those areas that seems too complex to grasp, but by dissecting it down into non-technical jargon, it can be made much easier to understand. Here you will learn how color works, the problems with color, and how you can implement color management to make colors consistent among devices.

Chapter 7, "Color Correction," now shows you how to control the colors in your images. Here you will learn how to get rid of the color casts in your image by using gray to fix your colors. Don't worry, you will use color as well, it just won't be of a hit-or-miss nature.

Chapter 8, "Using Camera Raw," will examine the fact that Raw files are better to work with because they contain all of the information that was captured by the camera. This gives you much more control on the processing of your images. Once you get the hang of it, it is really no more intimidating than the stuff you have already learned.

Chapter 9, "Color Manipulation," is a chapter that is chockfull of color manipulation tools and methods beginning with the color wheel, progressing to Hue/Saturation, color balance, Levels and Curves, Channel mixer, and Gradient maps.

Chapter 10, "Adjustment Layers," explores a method of adjusting your image without changing the image itself. Unlike a direct adjustment which physically changes the image, an Adjustment Layer is used when you want to experiment with the image and you may want to undo your changes. Chapter 11, "Sharpening," is a necessity for images that are created via a capture device, such as a camera, or scanner. Here you will learn how to clean up noise, remove grain, and in general make your images sharp.

Creative Explorations

Chapter 12, "Enhancement," is really all about the many Blending Modes that are available in Photoshop. In this chapter the author breaks down the Blending Modes menu into its six sections and details each one according to its functionality. Chapter 13, "Advanced Masking" takes you beyond the basic selection techniques you learned in chapter 2. Here you will see what it takes to mask complex backgrounds such as frizzy hair, massive vegetation growth, and objects in motion.

Chapter 14, "Collage," is all about compositing or image blending. Here you will learn about Clipping Masks, Blending sliders, Layer Masks and Vector Masks and how you can use them to combine images together seamlessly. Chapter 15, "Retouching," can mean different things to different people. From removing unwanted objects to just making an image more presentable, you will learn how to work with the Patch tool, Healing brush, Spot Healing brush, Clone Stamp tool, Vanishing Point, Dodge and Burn tools as well as other techniques to improve the look of your image. Chapter 16, "Workflow," is essentially the author's step-by-step workflow that he uses everyday. In this chapter he explains why each step appears in this order and is provided as a guide that you can use to create your own workflow.

Adobe Photoshop CS3 Studio Techniques is one of those books that I wish I had when I was first starting out with Photoshop. It covers all of the fundamental techniques that you need to become proficient with Photoshop and it shows you how to accomplish tasks by teaching.

The amazing aspect about Adobe Photoshop CS3 Studio Techniques is how the author would start at one point and then all of a sudden you were advanced down the line before you realized it. It would be like if you went to him to learn how to fly using a flight simulator and 45 minutes later you look down and see you're 10,000 feet in the air and in control of the plane.

Adobe Photoshop CS3 Studio Techniques is not just for beginners either. I have been using Photoshop since version 5 (actually played with it since version 4) and there were many books I found enlightening as well. Ben Willmore does an incredible job of Teaching with a capital T, which I define as taking an idea from his mind and implanting it into your's without the loss of any pixels.

If you are a beginner, intermediate, or even an advanced user, Adobe Photoshop CS3 Studio Techniques will explain Photoshop in a clear, concise, and understandable way that will have you saying "at last, I really understand." I very highly recommend this book.

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About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.