Saturday, May 25, 2013

Photoshop Workshop

Since I just recently finished changing my website to APhotoFolio X design, I thought I’d make a blog entry.  It’s been months since I’ve done so, and now seems as good as time as any.  And rather that waste words on why I haven’t made any entries in ages I’ll just use my time and energy writing on a recent event.  I will however write that writing isn’t easy for me, and unless I am very inspired to express something it’s difficult for me to put fingers to keys.  I suppose the same applies with taking photographs.  And like taking photographs sometimes you just have to do it when you’re not feeling it, and hopefully the inspiration will follow.
I want to begin with discussing the John Paul Caponigro and R. Mac Holbert Photoshop workshop I attended last month at Brooks Institute in Santa Barbara.  It was five days of intensive lectures and application of Photoshop workflow.  The amount of material they submitted overwhelmed me.  At the end of each day I needed to take a couple of aspirin and a glass of Pinot Grigio to relieve my headaches.
Before the workshop began they asked us what we thought our level of Photoshop was- beginner, intermediate, and advanced.  I put down intermediate.  I knew well enough that I was far from advanced, but since I’ve been dabbling in Photoshop for nearly 15 years I couldn’t consider myself a beginner.  After a week with JP and Mac I now consider myself an advanced beginner.  JP kindly placed me in the middle of the workshop attendees that he has encountered. 
A reason I’m not better with Photoshop than perhaps I ought to be is for the longest time I resisted and refused to embrace digital technology.  Yet now if you wish to compete in the editorial market, unless you’re famous it’s impossible to abstain from shooting digital.  For personal work, I still shoot film, so in a sense I still resist it.  But the reason I shoot film has more to do with the camera than digital technology.  I do not like making images with a 35 mm camera, and the cost of a medium format digital camera remains beyond my price range.  Thus, I’m still hanging out in the analog world.  Yet every decent image I expose ultimately ends up becoming a digital file.
After making portfolios for reviews and having friends and colleagues critique my work I learned the necessity of making better prints.  I’ve made a great deal of improvement, yet I've known that my printed images were far from perfection.  A couple of colleagues whose work I greatly admire have taken this workshop, and they had nothing but rave reviews for what they learned from it.  Have a look at Svjetlana Tepavcevic's work.  Her prints are exquisite, and her work went to another level after attending JP and Mac’s workshop.  She continues to return to her workshop notes and John Paul Caponigro blogs for different techniques to enhance her images.  As she likes to say she’ll work on a technique until she owns it, i.e. it becomes a part of her Photoshop tool kit.
After a month I’m still trying to gather all the information they presented and processing all that I learned.  I was warned to be prepared, which meant that the more you know going into this workshop the more you’ll gain.  Photoshop, like any other craft, art, or skill is something one must practice consistently and regularly, and the broader one’s base of knowledge is going into the workshop the more one will gain from the workshop.
I will not go into all the techniques I learned during the week, but I will write that I’ve added the gradient tool and the Selective Color Adjustment Layer to my toolbox.  For my work it’s not about compositing, HDR, or making someone’s skin perfect, it’s about having the controls to make my work look like I envisioned it and enhancing the qualities, e.g. contrast and color, of the image to make it appear its best.
I recommend the class for anyone who wants to improve their Photoshop skills and learn the proper way to use the application.  I do not suggest the class for beginners.  In fact I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone who hasn’t been using Photoshop for at least 5 years.
Both Mac and John Paul have websites that have a ton of free information.  In fact you might see me there.  I highly recommend bookmarking Mac’s basic image workflow pdf.  I follow it on every image I work on.  Finally, not only are Mac and John Paul Photoshop masters and prodigiously smart, they are nice guys and incredibly helpful and patient.