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Book Review: Photoshop CS4 Photographers Handbook By Stephen Laskevitch

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Digital technology has fundamentally changed how we photograph and print images. You have unlimited options in order to accomplish creating the precise image output that you imagine. The level of control today now exceeds some of the most powerful darkroom techniques that were available in the past.

But this power comes at a price. The price is that, for many people, it is an overly complex piece of software and with all of its features it can become confusing. In fact, many of these features most people will never use. The goal of Photoshop CS4 Photographers Handbook is to guide you through the thousands of complex techniques for editing an image, and distill out those few steps that are really needed to get the vast majority of the jobs done.

Although Photoshop CS4 Photographers Handbook addresses Adobe Photoshop CS4, Lightroom 2, Adobe Bridge, and Adobe Camera Raw, many of these techniques will apply to previous versions of these products. The book is 272 pages in length and is divided into 10 chapters.

Chapter 1, "Terms & Concepts," begins by covering many of the technical details of how computers and software deal with digital images. This section gives you a good foundation for your understanding on how Photoshop 'sees' your digital image. Chapter 2, "System Configuration," gives you an overview of how you might configure some general settings in each of the applications that are addressed in the book. There is also information on what to consider when purchasing new equipment.

Chapter 3, "Flowing with the Software," gives you the means to be in tune with the tools that you are using and the tips and techniques to work with the software in the most efficient manner possible. Chapter 4, "Capture & Import," are important in the workflow. While it is possible to fix many types of problems in Photoshop, it is still a better idea to start with the best image possible. After capturing the image, you will also see the best way to get images in to both Lightroom, and Adobe Bridge.

Chapter 5, "Organizing and Archiving Images," will help you develop a strategy for keeping your images organized. Here you will work with Stacks and Collections, moving images through the process, as well as options for backing up your images. Chapter 6, "Global Adjustments" looks at the big picture of image correction. These adjustments focus on making the overall difference in your image. This includes, tone, brightness, contrast, color, and cropping.

Chapter 7, "Local Adjustments," pertain to changes that need to be made to a smaller portion of the image. Say the sky is too flat and you want to punch it up, or the face is in the shadows and you want to lighten it without washing out the rest of the picture to make the image more balanced. Here you will learn how to target adjustments. Chapter 8, "Cleanup and Retouching," is also referred to as spotting. This is where you will clean up dust spots, blemishes, or other flaws in the image.

Chapter 9, "Creative Edits & Alternates," is a catch-all chapter that details the effects that you may want to employ that do not fit one of the other sections. This includes burning, dodging, adding soft focus, adding film grain, and boarder effects. Chapter 10, "Output – Print, Web, and Presentation," looks at the different methods for presenting your image output. This includes printing on inkjets, putting your images on a website, or creating a presentation using Lightroom.

At first it seemed that Photoshop CS4 Photographers Handbook was trying to accomplish too much by trying to cover how things are done for four products, but by having the flow be the main thread, and highlighting the techniques for each, it really was not too confusing once you got a hang of it. Some may still complain that the title says Photoshop, and it also spends time covering Lightroom, but that was not a problem to me.

Another thing that I liked is that annotations on the screen shots. Not only is the important aspects highlighted, but the flow from one dialog to the next is made apparent. Overall the text is clear and concise and the dialog a narrative voice. While a more advanced user would gain some insight, this is really geared for the beginner user, the user who has been using Photoshop and wants to become more efficient in their workflow, as well as the person making the transition from film to digital. For these users, I highly recommend this book.

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About T. Michael Testi

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