Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Special Effects

I've always wanted to set up a blog that educates people on how to use Photoshop effectively. When my friends Todd and Diane set up their photography blog, it resurfaced in my consciousness, but I always feared, like I told them in the comments, that food bloggers would come knocking on my door with pitchforks.
Tartine - Raspberry Tart
Somehow the idea is that photographs that have been through Photoshop are less genuine. It's a stigma that Kate Winslet and faithful readers of Photoshop Disasters know very well. My fear is also that accomplished photographers would feel cheated at the idea that people who don't work as hard to get perfect photographs make the grade by altering their pictures to look like they were better photographers.

I really don't have anything to refute that, but let me just share my experience. I work with Photoshop all the time. I have been since third year high school: 13 years as of today. It's a very powerful program that's allowed me to feel comfortable displaying my food photographs, which have all been taken with a point-and-shoot camera. But there's only so much I can do with it, and only so much I allow myself to do with it. It's helped bring out the sunshine when it refused to come out, but I really wanted to eat my dessert already. It removed that distracting spot of grease on my tablecloth, which I only use because I don't have a ton of tablecloths. It helps me emphasize what looks good about my dish and de-emphasize what I'd rather you not focus on. And of course, there are the more common but no less important tasks to use Photoshop for: cropping, making diptychs, adding text, compressing photos, and straightening out crooked photographs, among others.

What I don't do: fool you into thinking that my dish isn't burned: if it's burned, it's burned. Add things: if I forgot to garnish it with star anise, it's never coming back. Because people can tell it was never really there, no matter how hard you try to hide it. And more importantly: you will always know that it wasn't there. But I must confess, I have used Photoshop to add a tablecloth where there wasn't any. It was a beautiful pattern and I had to have it!

Just ask yourself this question: are films less masterful because they needed editing to get rid of the crap? There's no question that a great film made without any cuts is a rare and impressive feat. It's still the director's job to make a film tell a great story well, not the editor's or special effects dudes. And we know how corny and terrible a film that is all special effects is.

What I'm going to do is take you through some useful skills in Photoshop (and might be useful in other photo-editing applications as well, though I don't own any other). It's not always going to be food photographs. We'll make it useful and fun. With each lesson I'll walk you through a basic skill and we'll integrate the skills and apply them to a photo that could use a little oomph. There'll be no wacky stuff like Making Horror Text or Psychedelic Photos, but every now and then we'll put something cute out there. Maybe eventually I'll make videos so you can hear my weird voice, but we'll see how much time I have.

What you need to know before starting: absolute basics of: Using layers. Using brushes. Using the move tool. Zooming. Using the text tool. Using the selection tool. You don't need to be good at any of these (uh, even zooming), but just know how to use them.

If there's anything you want to learn specifically, just leave a comment below and I'll put something together for all of us. If I don't even know how to do it, I'll try to research it and present it in a way that's easy to understand.

Also, if there's a site that educates people on taking good photographs you want to include in the sidebar, just tell me and I'll check it out.
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