Book Review: Derrick Story’s The Photoshop CS4 Companion for Photographers

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The Photoshop CS4 Companion for Photographers by Derrick Story

The Photoshop CS4 Companion for Photographers by Derrick Story

Through the years, Adobe has kept up with its robust pace of adding new and more powerful tools to Photoshop. If you’ve been keeping track, you’ll observe that it has turned out to be a seemingly never-ending cycle of new release superseding the old one. This, in part, has made Photoshop the undesputed weapon of choice of countless creative professionals. As we understand it, the evolution of Photoshop has one purpose: to address the insatiable needs of all sorts of creative digital artists in their quest to perform impressive feats of amazing visual acrobatics.

But as Photoshop grew into one gigantic digital Swiss army knife, with more and more new cool features heaped on top of previous ones, it has grown so big that no one, except perhaps Deke McClelland and a couple of other guys, is expected to learn and use everything it has to offer.

Imagine Photoshop as New York City. Countless people living and working there. Each one goes about doing his own particular thing, and yet, no one is expected to do everything. In very much the same way, while many different people use Photoshop, each one goes about it in his own way, focusing and mastering only the use of a handful of its myriad tools to do a job. Anyone who has been using Photoshop for quite a while still gets surprised at a few “new” things they discover they can do with it.

Of course, in time, it is possible to learn everything about Photoshop. But really, it seems unnecessary. With too many things going on in a gigantic digital editing tool, trying to learn and master all that Photoshop has to offer can be time-consuming, and somewhat of an unnecessary burden. It makes sense, therefore, to simply focus only on certain tools and features that are most useful to what one wants to accomplish.

That is what renowned photographer and author Derrick Story wants to do, with the release of his recent O’Reilly Media book, The Photoshop CS4 Companion for Photographers.

The Photoshop CS4 Companion for Photographers focuses only on the tools that photographers need to know, while at the same time, judiciously leaving out the multitude of other tools and features that photographers might not find useful. The only information packed in this svelte, companionable volume is everything that a photographer might want to learn in order to get the job done. In essence, Derrick Story’s book contains everything that a photographer essentially needs to know in using Photoshop CS4 from the moment of downloading the images to its delivery into the hands of the clients.

How this book came about is an interesting story. On several occassions, author Derrick Story have seen first-hand and up-close how some of the top professional photographers actually worked, specially when confronted with tight deadlines. From this perspective, and through his Photoshop CS4 book, he has laid out a sensible, easy-to-adopt post-production process that aims to cut out the bottlenecks in a photographer’s post-production workflow using only Photoshop CS4. He provides a simple and very straightforward roadmap on how photographers can efficiently organize and more systematically complete the work in the shortest time possible.

Can a photographer really learn everything that’s essential about Photoshop CS4, and smoothen the workflow just by learning and adopting the process described in this slim volume?

The answer is yes. This book provides you with only the kind of information that is relevant to a photographer.

The form of Derrick’s book, and it’s goal as well, is for you to invest as little time as possible learning only about the aspects of the application that is relevant to your needs as a photographer. There is so much more that Adobe’s new Photoshop CS4 can do for different creative digital artists such as designers, graphic artists, Web producers, special effects technicians, among others. Each of them has a different set of needs that Photoshop CS4 can handle. But for a photographer, Derrick’s companion book is a compact guide that points you to an easy direction on how to get set and running, and really make the most out of what Photoshop CS4 has to offer.

How about if you want to dig deep into what Photoshop CS4 has to offer? Well, for that, you need Deke McClelland’s comprehensive Adobe Photoshop CS4 One-on-One, also published by O’Reilly Media.

Because Photoshop CS4 has grown to be a tool for everyone, it has become almost difficult to learn each and every feature that it has to offer. The most practical way to learn it therefore is to focus only on those tools that you as a photographer needs the most, master them, and at a later convenient time, particularly when the need arise, slowly add and build on to what you already know. But first, it is essential that you figure out the software for what it can do to you. And Derrick Story’s practical companion book is your first crack at this monstrous software.

The book is easy to read, understand, and follow. You won’t have a hard time figuring out what to do. Derrick’s writing and tone is that of a friend, colleague and a coach, taking the time to talk and walk you through, providing step-by-step guidelines in a clear, concise, logical, and friendly manner that’s easy to absorb. Derrick provides you with instant information, only the ones you need to know, that you can apply right away.

In describing the process you need to take, as well as the options available to you, Derrick provides easy-to-understand instructions. He also generously expounds on some helpful information, and provides numerous examples, that gives you a clear and comprehensive know-how about what may or may not be important to you and your work. In addition, he even draws upon his knowledge, expertise and experience on how the functions and behavior of Photoshop CS4 compares to previous versions, and other similar photo management and photo editing software that’s available. And in some instances, he freely recommends what other tools you might need.

Photographers who are eager to get started will appreciate the first few pages where Derrick explicitly outlines a roadmap. If you are used to working with previous versions of Photoshop by diving directly into its editing capabilities, you might be in for a surprise. This companion book will show you how to make the most out of Photoshop CS4 by providing you with a sensible workflow that begins with transferring your shots from camera to computer, adding metadata, rating and selecting the images, and only then edit your top choices.

The book immediately sets you on the right course by giving you a sense of what expect to learn and how to do your work correctly using Photoshop CS4. He immediately demistifies the steps you need to take in order to maximize the use and power of the software. If you were to jump right into Photoshop CS4, which most of us are inclined to do, thinking that we know what we are doing and we can wing those that we don’t, Derrick’s book saves us the time and effort from trying to discover things ourselves on our own, and perhaps, at a time when we need it the most–when we need to deliver a job and when faced with a tight deadline.

Off the bat, Derrick Story describes the Photoshop CS4 workflow, or as he’d like to call it, the “basic steps” for a photographer, as follows:

1. Open Bridge and choose Get Photos from Camera. That launches a companion application called Photo Downloader.

2. Check your settings in Photo Downloader, choose the images you want to transfer, amke sure your backup drive is connected, and download the photos.

3. Review and rate your pictures in Bridge. Here’s where you determine wich are your best shots and mark them accordingly.

4. Add keywords as necessary.

5. Apply basic image edits to your best shots in Adobe Camera Raw.

6. Further refine the photos that need additional care with the advanced tools in Adobe Camera Raw.

7. Move images that require detailed attention in specific areas to Photoshop CS4 for further work. This will only be a small percentage of your shots.

8. Perform advanced techniques, such as portrait retouching, color changing, and panorama merging, in Photoshop CS4.

9. Print some of your work for further evaluation and enjoyment.

It is easy to see why this workflow is useful to photographers. With the advent of sophisticated photo management tools such as Apple’s Aperture and Adobe’s Lightroom, there are still a lot of photographers out there who are handling their workflow in an old, ineffective, and inefficient way, from transferring the contents of their full cards from camera to going through and refining the select images. Aperture and Lightroom are top-of-the-line tools that can help photographers do it easily and quickly. And yet, they still aren’t. With Adobe’s Photoshop CS4, and the guide provided by Derrick Story in his companion book, photographers will be introduced to an intelligent way of working and processing the flow of thousands and thousands of images in post-production.

Derrick Story’s book is all about proposing efficiencies to your workflow when you use Photoshop CS4. The goal, as the author himself wrote, is to “make your photographic life happy and carefree.” It truly is a companion book with “portable Photoshop advise that you can take anywhere.”

One reader wrote, that it is an essential guide “for upgraders to CS4 or those considering it.” Another reader also wrote: “I was impressed with how much I learned.”

To make this book inimitably useful and accessible, O’Reilly Media made this book available not only in print format, but also as PDF and online versions. You can therefore “read” the book in three different ways: while on-the-go, on your desktop or on a laptop, and while online. Each format allows the readers access to the same great information, reinforcing the learning experience in three different, convenient ways. And since O’Reilly Media have recently started making their titles more accessible, a digital, mobile version of the book may soon be introduced for devices such as the iPhone.

Derrick Story said, “I think the electronic version is handy if you like storing your tech docs that way. The nicest part is the search function that makes it easy to find just the thing you’re looking for. Personally, I like using the book itself. It has been designed so it’s easy to carry in the laptop bag, and I paid close attention to organizing the ToC and index so readers could navigate it easily. That being said, I’m glad both versions are available.”

If you are a photographer and you are planning to upgrade to Photoshop CS4, or perhaps, you are already on it, it definitely pays to get a copy and read Derrick Story’s The Photoshop CS4 Companion for Photographers.

Check out the book’s table of contents here, and also read an excerpt here. To order this book online now, click here. Also, check out Derrick Story’s other book, The Digital Photography Companion and Deke McClelland’s Adobe Photoshop CS4 One-on-One. You can order these books as a print (with free shipping), a PDF or as an online resource directly from O’Reilly Media. These books are also available from several other brick-and-mortar and online stores such as Amazon.

[Note: For more on Derrick Story’s digital photography podcasts, photo tips, reader-submitted pictures, and equipment reviews, visit his informative online blog, The Digital Story.]


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