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I don't think that there is anything else that comes close to providing this much detail in a book on Photoshop.

Book Review: Real World Adobe Photoshop CS4 by Conrad Chavez And David Blatner

Real World Adobe Photoshop CS4 is subtitled "Industrial Strength Production Techniques" because that is really what the focus of this book is – how to move images through Photoshop. But this book is not just about Photoshop, it is also about photography and images and translating your own understanding of images into the digital world of Photoshop.

Real World Adobe Photoshop CS4 knows that when you are in a crunch, you have to have an instinctive, intuitive feel for what is going on in Photoshop to finesse it to your needs. Because of this there is a lot of conceptual discussion that goes on in this book. The goal then becomes how to take what you already know and incorporate it with new tools that will give you the ability to push Photoshop to the limit.

This new edition has been completely gone through, tightened up and updated to take on the new features of Adobe Photoshop CS4 including the Masks panel, Modeless Color Correction, Adobe Camera Raw 5, and much, much more. Real World Adobe Photoshop CS4 is contained in 448 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 that computers do not understand about images, 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.

Chapter 3, "Color Essentials," examines the different ways that different people thing about what makes a color. Regardless of if 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 this book. 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 which mean that there are many more images to handle. This chapter is all about getting through Adobe Camera Raw as quickly as possible. Chapter 6, "Essential Photoshop Tips and Tricks," continues the work in chapter 5 in that the biggest boost to your productivity is to accelerate it with the tips and trick found here. As a sideline, included here are a couple of Easter eggs included 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 adjustments instead of burning pixels. By using these techniques, you will be allowed to experiment more with little or no degradation and maximum flexibility.

Chapter 9, "Making Selections," is as 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 loose some definition and hence loose 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 densely filled pages. So much so, that I don't think that there is anything else that comes close to providing this much detail in a book on Photoshop.

Real World Adobe Photoshop CS4 is not going to be for everyone, but if you have a reasonable knowledge of how Photoshop works and you want to learn how to be more productive, have a better understanding of why it does what it does so that you can control the results that you get, then this is an essential book and I highly recommend it.

About T. Michael Testi

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

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