Q. Is There More to Life Than Photoshop?

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been attending a few photography seminars about manipulating images – and, it’s obvious, all roads lead to a need for serious Photoshop expertise to “do it right.”

First up for me was Trey Ratcliff’s HDR (High Dynamic Range) Webinar series – a nine lesson online webinar about how Trey creates his HDR images. Trey, proprietor of the amazing Stuck In Customs, has educated a lot of folks about HDR with his free HDR tutorial, his book “A World in HDR“, his eBooks and this HDR webinar. In this new webinar – now available for purchase – Trey mixed his philosophies about photography, business and more with his specific techniques for taking multiple image captures and turning them into great HDR images. As it turns out, while much of the HDR and tone mapping is done using Photomatix Pro, the real “genius” behind Trey’s images emerges as he manipulates them in Photoshop. He’s a master at using layers and layer masks to help achieve his desired look – and learning his Photoshop techniques helps make HDRs as output from Photomatix Pro into much better images.

Here’s my take on Trey’s workflow in a nutshell: Import images into Lightroom (master archive), select and export those to be processed out to a folder, use Adobe Bridge to access that folder and to open multiple images into Photomatix Pro. After perfecting the tonemapped imaged in Photomatix, save it into the same folder and then use Adobe Bridge to open the tonemapped image along with the other exposures as layers in Photoshop. Once in Photoshop, adjust/manipulate the layers to achieve the desired result – this is where the webinar is so helpful as you get to see him working through lots of his images. Save as PSD into a working folder. Later, use Photoshop’s batch processing tool to convert PSD to JPG. Import final JPG into iPhoto – where all of the post-processed images live with their star ratings, etc.

Second up for me was the Photoshop CS5 Power User Tour – an one day seminar with Dave Cross. Dave’s one of the Photoshop gurus at – and this seminar, while having nothing to do with HDR, opened my eyes to a bunch of new Photoshop techniques. This proved to be a step function up in my understanding of many Photoshop techniques – very valuable! And, Dave’s a great instructor for this kind of seminar.

Last up was this weekend’s CreativeLive session with Doug Landreth titled “Beyond Photography“. I was able to watch most of this live – and it was fascinating how so much of what Doug was teaching was all about using Photoshop and not about composition, how to shoot, and all the rest of that photography stuff. He’s a master manipulator (composer?) of images in Photoshop – using techniques that go well beyond those taught by either Trey or Dave in the earlier sessions. Doug, for example, is a user of the Wacom pen and tablet for his Photoshop work. In my experience, that’s a sign of Photoshop maturity – if you’re using a Wacom, you “get it.”

So, is there more to life than Photoshop? Sure. But if you want beautiful images, better hunker down and learn some of these techniques! I continue to try to do better in Photoshop — I just wish the user interface would encourage my ability to retain the techniques I learn rather than having to re-learn them all over again the next time I try a week later!

As a postscript, I was pleased to receive RC Concepcion’s “The HDR Book: Unlocking the Secrets of High Dynamic Range Photography” late last week. For those wanting to learn more about HDR – perhaps in parallel with Trey’s tutorials as mentioned earlier, this is a great book. RC discusses post-processing multiple exposure images using Nik Software’s HDR Efex Pro, Photomatix Pro, and Photoshop CS5’s HDR Pro. For each image, he walks through post-processing using each of those programs – fascinating to see the differences.

(Note: Affiliate links included above – appreciate your support!)

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