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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.]

Book Review: The Digital Photography Companion by Derrick Story

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The Digital Photography CompanionBY DOMINIQUE JAMES

Do you know what is the best digital camera for you? Do you want to improve the quality of your shots? Do you want to turn your pictures into professional-looking images? And do you want to impress your family and friends with your creative photos?

Well, if you ask me, you can do all these things. And I mean it. Really! That’s because, the not-so-secret secret you need to know is that great photography is actually now easy to do. All you need is the right person to teach you the right things and in the right way. For that, you need Derrick Story and his new book, The Digital Photography Companion.

The Digital Photography Companion is the kind of book that will jump-start you into great photography. It has all the easy and quick lessons that gives you a sensible mix of creative tips and technical advise you need for taking amazing digital photos in a wide range of conditions and for a variety of occasions.

In this new book, Derrick clearly explains the many complicated and complex concepts of photography in a way that you’ll quickly understand. This is an easy-to-read guide on all the vital aspects digital photographic imaging that you really need to know such as camera features, sharing and printing, and an overview of photo management applications.

The Digital Photography Companion is one book that will tell you almost everything you need to know to get started in creating great photographic images. If I were to start out in photography today, this is the book I’d certainly pick out among the so many that’s available out there. And even now that I am a professional photographer, this book would still be valuable to me as a reference to the many technical and creative areas of digital imaging to help keep me and my photography up-to-date.

The book begins with a grand overview of the many different types of digital cameras. This is a great place to begin since there are so many different brands and models of digital cameras out there. The first thing you will need to learn are the differences and similarities among DSLRs, compact cameras and hybrid cameras. Along the way, you will hopefully discover for yourself which camera (or cameras) are best suited for the kind of photography you want to do. What’s nice about this book is that, right from the start, Derrick Story gives you a rundown of the latest digital technologies embedded in these cameras such as face detection, image stabilizers, diopter adjustment, focus assist light, RAM buffer, among others. This is a fantastic way to understand the many features that cameras have, and to help you decide and select which of those features you really want and need.

If you are struggling with some of the technical aspects of digital photography, this book teaches you the easy way what these technical aspects are. In alphabetical order, all the important operations of a digital camera are clearly explained. In no time, you’ll be an expert in controlling the variables of your digital camera from Aperture Value (Av) Mode and Auto-Exposure to White Balance, the Zoom/Magnify Control, and everything in between. All the buttons and menus in your camera will start to make sense, and you’d be able to expertly control them in your quest to take better photos.

Photography is about many different situations. Each new photographic opportunity may not the same as the last one. Because of this, you will be faced with many challenging shooting situations and conditions. This book will arm you with a number of expert advise from a professional perspective when it comes to handling variety of photographic adventures. Read and learn from this book what professional photographers have to discover on their own through many years of experience such as exquisitely capturing existing light portraits, creating awe-inspiring landscape images, shooting fireworks, taking underwater shots, infrared photos, and more, along with lighting and filter tricks.

With the many great shots you’ve taken, you are ready to work on the post-production aspect of digital photography. Post-production is when you will review your shots, make your best choices, enhance your final images, show your photos to others, and, archive your digital image files. Learn what software will best serve your post-production needs. This book gives you an overview of the most advanced and the best photo management applications from Adobe’s Photoshop Lightroom to Apple’s iPhoto and Aperture. You’d be surprised at the many amazing things you can do with your photographs.

Photo printing is an important skill you’d want to master. Most photographers who are just starting out tend to undergo a lot of unnecessary difficulties when printing their pictures. But printing doesn’t have to be a painful hit-or-miss experience. Learn various options, including direct printing without a computer, ordering prints from suppliers, and selecting the right inkjet photo printer for home (and then how to use it).

Looking for what you need without necessarily having to plow through the entry book? You’re in luck because The Digital Photography Companion has an appendix with Quick Reference Tables. The information you need is quickly accessible through this, and from all other tables and charts that you’ll find throughout the book.

If you are ready to take your photography one level higher, to learn and apply the many techniques and styles of professional photographers, you need Derrick Story’s The Digital Photography Companion. This is the kind of book that offers friendly advise. It is a guide that allows you to try out a number of photo shooting ideas, and for your to see for yourself how you can make your photography better when you click the shutter.

The Digital Photography Companion is published by O’Reilly Media. To view the book’s table of contents and index, and to read a free sample chapter, click here. Derrick Story is a professional photography and a teacher. Check out Derrick Story’s tips and podcasts on photography at The Digital Story. Derrick Story is the author of other books such as: iPhoto ’08 Essential Training, iPhoto ’08: The Missing Manual (with David Pogue), Digital Photography Pocket Guide (3rd Edition, Pocket Reference), Digital Photography Hacks: 100 Industrial-Strength Tips & Tools, and Aperture 1.5: Beyond the Basics. He also appears on several training videos at

Press Release from O’Reilly Media:

The Digital Photography Companion by Derrick Story–New from O’Reilly: Practical Photography Advice You Can Take Anywhere

Remember how awkward it felt the first time you drove a car? Maneuvering on four wheels with skill and confidence required learning how to use all the controls with hours of practice. Many digital photographers experience comparable awkward feelings when faced with the bewildering array of settings and dials controlling the operation of today’s digital cameras.

Yet, “if you operate your camera the way you’ve mastered your car, you will take better pictures,” insists pro photographer and popular teacher Derrick Story. Fortunately Derrick–author of the bestselling Digital Photography Pocket Guide (O’Reilly)–is back with an entirely new book. Derrick’s highly anticipated, portable new guidebook–The Digital Photography Companion (O’Reilly Media, $24.99)–comes packed with information that shows you how to take control over your digital camera today.

Clearly written and richly illustrated, the information in The Digital Photography Companion helps put photographers back in the digital driver’s seat, so to speak, by teaching them how to operate their cameras like the pros. Whether you’re a beginner, a serious photo hobbyist, or interested in turning pro, under Derrick’s friendly tutelage, you’ll improve your photography skills, boost your picture-taking and image-editing knowledge, and, ultimately, shoot better images that truly reflect your creative spirit. So rather than wondering which button to push and fiddling with controls, soon you will focus on the world around you.

“And that’s when magical things begin to happen,” explains Derrick, who is also the coauthor of iPhoto ’08: The Missing Manual (O’Reilly, 34.99) with David Pogue.

Indeed, maverick photographer, Rick Smolan, creator of Blue Planet Run and America at Home agrees. “Derrick Story has a unique gift for creating order out of chaos. Digital photography turns things upside down and even seasoned shooters need help. Whether you are a complete beginner or a photographer with experience, Derrick is the go-to guy.”

Perfectly sized to stash in a camera bag, this timely new resource gives you plenty of examples of how to capture great shots of people, places, landscapes, and more. The Digital Photography Companion offers basic instruction and clever techniques to help you capture the high quality pictures you’ve always wanted.

You’ll learn how to:

  • Choose the right camera–with a roundup of features for Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSSLR), compact, and hybrid cameras.
  • Master your digital controls–everything from autoexposure to white balance.
  • Shoot like a pro–capture flattering portraits, compelling action shots, distinctive landscapes, and more.
  • Take control of your digital photos–find the right photo management software.

You’ll also appreciate a no-nonsense chapter on pain-free printing. The metadata for every photograph in the book (with thumbnails) is included in the appendix. This lets you find out things like what aperture/ISO/shutter speed was used.

Derrick’s online tips and podcasts have made him a popular blogger. And for more photography tips based on the techniques covered in his new book, visit You can also participate in the monthly photo assignment with results published on The Digital Story, contribute grab shots, and if you figure out a great photo technique that you want to share with the world, send in a “How I Did It” entry.

By the time you’ve experimented with the techniques outlined in The Digital Photography Companion, “you’ll have journeyed well beyond your peers,” writes Derrick. “And the pictures you take will not only become personal treasures, they will also be admired by others.”

For a review copy or more information please email Please include your delivery address and contact information.

Derrick Story is the digital media evangelist for O’Reilly. His experience includes more than 20 years as a photojournalist, managing editor for O’Reilly Network, and a speaker for IDG, PMA, and Santa Fe Workshops. He is the author of Digital Photography Hacks, Digital Photography Pocket Guide, 3rd Ed., and his latest, The Digital Photography Companion.

Additional Resources:

For more information about the book, including table of contents, index, author bios, and cover graphic, see the catalog page for The Digital Photography Companion.

The Digital Photography Companion
Derrick Story
ISBN: 9780596517663, 230 pages, $24.99 USD, £15.50 GBP

About O’Reilly:

O’Reilly Media spreads the knowledge of innovators through its books, online services, magazines, and conferences. Since 1978, O’Reilly Media has been a chronicler and catalyst of cutting-edge development, homing in on the technology trends that really matter and spurring their adoption by amplifying “faint signals” from the alpha geeks who are creating the future. An active participant in the technology community, the company has a long history of advocacy, meme-making, and evangelism.

Written by dominiquejames

April 1, 2008 at 6:38 AM

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