Photoshop and Digital Printing Workshop: Making the Complexities Easy to Understand

Do you have a love-hate relationship with Photoshop? You’re not alone. One the one hand, it’s an incredibly powerful tool, capable of doing fantastic things. You know that if you mastered this program you could get the most out of your images and make beautiful prints. On the other hand, Photoshop can be cryptic, complex, and confusing. The learning curve can seem downright crooked.

I was lucky. When I first started using Photoshop in the late ’90s, I got to spend a weekend with Bill Atkinson, who probably knew more about digital imaging than anyone else in the world at the time (maybe he still does). He started me in the right direction and helped me avoid the confusion caused by gathering random bits of information from books and the internet. Like Charlie Cramer, Keith Walklet, and many other fine-art photographers Bill taught, I still use a variation of the simple, powerful, and flexible workflow that Bill showed me.

I’ve since taught Photoshop (and now Lightroom) skills to dozens of people in workshops for West Coast Imaging and The Ansel Adams Gallery. I try to make the complexities of Photoshop easy to understand. The truth is that Photoshop is simple. Anyone can learn to use it. And if you’re already familiar with it, you can learn to harness its full power. The secret is that you don’t have to deal with most of the tools. If you learn to use a few powerful tools well, you can do almost anything in Photoshop.

My next workshop with The Ansel Adams Gallery, Digital Printing and the Zone System (January 19 – 23, 2010) is designed for people who already have some Photoshop experience but want to master this powerful beast. You’ll learn both simple and advanced techniques for getting the most out of your images and making beautiful, fine-art prints. I included the Zone System in the title because getting good exposures in the field is vital to getting good results in Photoshop, so we’ll be working with the entire process, from capture to print. The Zone System also gives us a framework for understanding contrast throughout the workflow—an important tool in this age of HDR. Here’s a partial list of the topics covered:

– Zone System Exposure for Digital Cameras
– Color Management
– Overall workflow
– Raw Image Processing
– Making a Master File
– Using Layers for Flexibility
– Controlling Contrast
– Mastering Curves
– Flexible Dodging and Burning
– Retouching
– Making Difficult Selections Easy
– Converting to Black and White
– Sharpening
– Combining Images for Greater Depth of Field
– Combining Images to Expand Dynamic Range, both with HDR and Photoshop

There’s still space available in the class if you’d like to join us. Click here to register or get more information.

So how do you feel about Photoshop? Do you love it, hate it, or both? And if you’ve learned to love it, how did you get there?

By the way, I’m planning to add more Photoshop tips and tutorials to my web site soon, but for now here’s one tip that you might find interesting, about imitating the effect of a graduated neutral-density filter.

More Amazing Student Photos

I’ve posted more student images from June’s Hidden Yosemite Valley workshop and July’s Full Moon Night Photography workshop. I’m constantly amazed by the level of talent people bring to these classes, as in John Robert’s photograph above of a misty sunrise from Swinging Bridge. Click here to go to my workshop page, then scroll down to see a list of workshop slide shows.

Full Moon Night Photography Workshop

Monday’s Full Moon Night Photography Workshop proved to be a lot of fun. After dodging mosquitos at Tenaya Lake we headed to Olmsted Point and it’s photogenic collection of junipers—perfect subjects to light up at night. I demonstrated some light-painting techniques using simple flashlights, then the students set off to try it on their own. They took to it like ducks to water! It was fun to see people collaborating. Often two or three people would frame a view of the same tree and take turns handling the flashlights, discussing the results after each exposure. Digital cameras certainly make the learning curve much easier.

This outstanding photograph was made by one of the participants, Kyle Jones. Clearly Kyle is a quick learner and a talented photographer.
We’re planning to do another of these one-day workshops before the summer is over—probably on September 2nd. When the details are worked out it will be posted on The Ansel Adams Gallery’s web site and blog.

Full Moon Night Photography Workshop

There’s still space available in my Full Moon Night Photography Workshop on July 6th.

I’ve been interested in night photography for a long time, and have created a rather surreal body of nighttime images using flash and flashlights to illuminate objects in the dark. If you haven’t seen this work you can view the nighttime portfolio on my web site. The techniques required to make such complex photos take years to master, but this one-day workshop is a good introduction to this fun and creative arena of photography. I haven’t taught many classes on this subject, so this is a rare opportunity to learn some of the essential skills needed to make nighttime photographs. To register or get more information visit The Ansel Adams Gallery’s web site.