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Real World Adobe Photoshop CS3 is an absolutely, positively, must-own if you want true control in Photoshop.

Book Review: Real World Adobe Photoshop CS3 By David Blatner, Conrad Chavez, and Bruce Frasier

Real World Adobe Photoshop CS3 is subtitled "Industrial Strength Production Techniques" because that is really what the focus of this book is: how to move images through Photoshop. This is not about being creative; it is about getting the job done and getting it right. It is also a technical book. The discussions contained within are there so you can learn how Photoshop 'thinks' about images so that when you are in a situation that has no canned solution, you can think for yourself and create a solution that works.

A lot of Real World Adobe Photoshop CS3 is geared toward prepress production. The original book came about because in this day and age of the desktop prepress process, there were not a lot of people to ask when you had a problem. Now the book has matured in to all phases of image production. It's about photography as well as images, and in fact one of its goals is to help photographers translate their own images into the digital world of Photoshop. The book is contained in 768 pages divided into 12 chapters.

Chapter 1, "Building a Photoshop System," will show you what you need to build a quality Photoshop system. Mac or PC is not as important as having enough power to do the kind of work you need done. Chapter 2, "Image Essentials," reminds us what computers do not understand about pictures, tone, color, or any of those other things that we view as important about images. While you won't have to understand binary math to work with Photoshop, it does help to understand how Photoshop thinks and how it will process your photos.

Chapter 3, "Color Essentials," examines the different ways that different people think about what makes a color. Regardless of whether it is RGB, CMYK, Lab, or some other variation, this chapter looks at the fundamental color relationships, and how Photoshop presents them. Chapter 4, "Color Settings," constitutes the heart of Real World Adobe Photoshop CS3. While the authors consider every topic to be important, they feel that unless you understand how Photoshop handles color behind the scenes, you will never achieve the quality of image that you should be able to get.

Chapter 5, "Building a Digital Workflow," explores what it takes to build a true digital workflow that allows you to make quick work of your digital images. Because taking digital images is so cheap, you soon find you have so many more images in which you will find yourself quickly mired and spinning your wheels. This chapter is all about getting through Adobe Camera Raw as quickly as possible. Chapter 6, "Essential Photoshop Tips and Tricks," continues the work started in chapter 5 in that the biggest boost to your productivity is to accelerate it with the tips and tricks found here. As a sideline, contained here are a couple of Easter eggs in Photoshop including one honoring the late Bruce Frasier, one of the authors of this book.

Chapter 7, "Image Adjustment Fundamentals," is about tonal manipulation, the adjusting of the lightness or darkness of your images. This is what makes the difference between a flat image and one that pops out and draws you into it. Chapter 8, "The Digital Darkroom," will show you how to get the most out of adjustment layers to make your fixes instead of burning pixels. By using these techniques, you will be allowed to experiment more with little or no degradation in quality and maximum flexibility.

Chapter 9, "Making Selections," is important when silhouetting and compositing images as it is when making nondestructive tonal corrections, color corrections, sharpening, and retouching. But to do this you also have to become comfortable working with masks and channels. Chapter 10, "Sharpness, Detail, and Noise Reduction," points out that for us to have a lifelike image, it must have sharp edge definition. No matter what quality there is to your scanner or digital camera, you will lose some definition and hence lose sharpness. Here are some techniques to bring that sharpness back.

Chapter 11, "Essential Image Techniques," is a chapter that gives a lot of techniques that allow your images to soar. This is basically a potpourri of tips and tricks that will not only make your images better, but speed up processing as well. Chapter 12, "Image Storage and Output," provides methods of output for those professional images that you are now creating for both printed as well as online destinations.

Real World Adobe Photoshop CS3 is well thought out and well executed. It is definitely a must-own for anyone who wants to get to the nuts and bolts of working with Photoshop. There are hundreds of tips that can be found in the 700 plus pages. Keep in mind that this is not a book on how to use Photoshop – instead, it is a book about how to understand Photoshop once you know how to use it.

Real World Adobe Photoshop CS3 shows from chapter one that nothing is going to be glossed over. Everything is covered in depth and with the precision of laser surgery. It is not a book for the neophyte or the person who, because they had the few extra bucks, bought Photoshop instead of Elements. Rather, it is for the person who works with Photoshop and purchased Photoshop because they need the power. If you are that kind of user, or want to be that kind of user, then Real World Adobe Photoshop CS3 is a must own.

About T. Michael Testi

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

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