Photography is an addictive hobby, especially if you are good at it. It doesn't take much to turn out good photographs these days, given the easy availability of slick digital cameras with a cornucopia of features. If your raw images aren't quite good enough, you can always turn to the trusty Adobe Photoshop, a product that has achieved iconic status, equivalent in some ways to the Xerox Corporation's eponymous copier.
Just like good photography, using Adobe Photoshop effectively is not easy. It requires a deft hand, and knowledge of techniques that can transform an image into a work of art, in many cases. The folks at O'Reilly Digital Media have come to the rescue with a new series of books, the Photoshop Cookbooks series, which combine the methodology of recipe collections with their usual flair at presenting technology through an easy to follow, and yet comprehensive, manner. There are currently five cookbooks in the series, ranging from the Photo Effects Cookbook to the Fine Art Effects Cookbook, and taking stock of Retouching, Filter Effects, and Blending Modes as well.
O'Reilly's 2006 Photoshop Cook-Off contest provided a mechanism for both experts and newbies to exploit their skills and imagination, requiring them to 'cook' original digital photographs using the recipes from the Cookbooks. The A-list panel of judges judged the entries on the traditional criteria of image quality, composition, originality, the appropriateness of the applied technique, and the use of color and/or tone.
The Grand Prize winner, Suzanne Pitts, converted a photograph of three ballet dancers into a black-and-white image with contrails capturing the energy and momentum of the dancers.
The Blending Modes winner, Karen Swaty, took on a personal theme — horses — and produced an impressionistic image.
The Fine Art winner, Ben Grace, shows the potential of Adobe Photoshop-influenced digital art, coming from a digital artist – himself. He has taken disparate elements of a photograph, and reconstituted them into a visually compelling image.
Sample recipes from the books are available online, such as how to achieve Motion Blurring and Removing Skin Blemishes & Wrinkles, and The Impressionist Landscape.
Given these recipes, it should be easy enough to apply them, even for someone as inept at art as myself. Excuse me while I get started on my entry for next year's cook-off – it should take me about that long to get finished.