Monday Blog Blog: Photoshop For Pros

January 24th, 2011 by David Leland Hyde Leave a reply »

After School Redux, Reno, Nevada, 2009 by David Leland Hyde. "Hey, wait a minute: was that image Photoshopped?"

Whether you love or hate Photoshop, it is transforming photography and how photography is perceived. Many of you reading this may be more experienced with Photoshop than I am, but you might gain insight from the Photoshop masters who have helped me in the digital interpretation of my father pioneer landscape photographer Philip Hyde’s photographs, as well as the journey I have been on in the process.

“Most of Ansel Adams’ iconic images required greater printing skills than most photographers possess,” John Sexton said in the newly released book, Ansel Adams in the National Parks. (Be sure to catch the upcoming Landscape Photography Blogger review of this excellent new book about arguably the best black and white printer of the 20th Century.) John Sexton is a master black and white darkroom printer and was Ansel Adams’ photographic assistant in the 1970s. Landscape photographer Carr Clifton and other acknowledged Photoshop masters such as Terrance Reimer of West Coast Imaging, Kim Reed of Reed Photo Imaging, David Staley, Jr. of Outdoor Plus Digital Photo Lab and Ed Cooper, who was also a pioneer mountaineer and large format photographer and now works mainly on restoring his own color shifted early Kodak large format film, these Photoshop experts have all helped me work on Dad’s photographs. Future blog posts will feature some of them. These five gentlemen have a combined Photoshop experience of over 60 years. Even so, matching the printing of my father’s black and white silver gelatin, color dye transfer or color Cibachrome and Ilfochrome prints, has been a challenge for even these very best in the business.

Fortunately Carr Clifton was a friend and neighbor of Dad’s for over 35 years and a photographic protege as well. With the color prints that Carr Clifton has made, we have improved on a number of Dad’s prints, a large number are essentially nearly as good or equal and a small number of Dad’s prints just can’t be matched without whole days of time invested tinkering in Photoshop. Typically in our process in the last two years, after Carr Clifton finished his master work on Dad’s images, I took the finished prints and put them in front of some of the top gallerists in the world representing landscape photography and Dad’s professional landscape photographer friends. Then I often returned to Carr Clifton for more tweaking. However, from now on I need to do more and more of the Photoshop work myself rather than outsourcing it. I also intend to do all Photoshop work on my own photographs. This puts pressure on me to learn 10 years worth of skills in a year or two or less. I have to become one of the best Photoshop masters ever in crash course fashion, to have what it takes to work on Dad’s photographs. In the midst of fulfilling my many other obligations, over the last year I have been looking around and learning, gearing up for an inevitable transition to me doing most of my Photoshop work. I will share here some of the resources I have found that I like. If I forget any resources that I ought to have included, please chime in and tell me about those that have helped you.

Carr Clifton himself recommends Lynda.com because he says it teaches all levels of Photoshop skills, even the most advanced fixes to difficult problems. Lynda.com also sells a video called, “Photoshop CS5: Landscape Photography.” After meeting Bob and Betty Reed of Reed Photo Imaging in Denver, who print for John Fielder and David Muench, and meeting their son Kim Reed, the technical backbone of the business and a Photoshop genius, I bought Kim Reed’s Photoshop course called, Inside The Master’s Circle Training: Adobe Photoshop Edition. Kim Reed and John Harris, the course’s instructors, according to the DVD’s back matter, “have been retouching images for renowned fine artists and Fortune 500 companies since the early pioneering days of digital imaging.” I have only started the course and had a few short lessons from Kim himself, but from what I have seen so far the presentation is easy to follow and covers A to Z everything photographers need to master. (See a future blog post for a specific review of this DVD set.)

At the end of 2008, I first started learning to use Photoshop by purchasing Elements and attending a three evening basic class through the Boulder Valley School District’s Life Long Learning For Adults program. The teacher recommended the Classroom In A Book series for learning Photoshop. I also bought Teach Yourself Visually: Restoration and Retouching with Photoshop Elements 2. In time I graduated to Photoshop proper and now have a large list of e-books that my computer guy downloaded for me, but I have not yet had a chance to read. I also have several printed books on Photoshop Lightroom 2.

Speaking of Lightroom, recently I was browsing around on blogs and ran across Rob Sheppard’s new blog called Nature and Photography. I remember him as the former Editor and now Editor At Large of Outdoor Photographer who had published articles about Dad numerous times and without hesitation paid Dad’s rather high minimum licensing fee for using Dad’s photographs. Ah, how times have changed, and Rob Sheppard has too. He is producing a range of interesting new books and materials as he freelances and photographs. In one blog post he discussed the use of Photoshop 9 with Lightroom. What he had to say is surprising. Here’s a taste:

Adobe just announced Photoshop Elements 9 last week, and this is a very significant upgrade that does affect digital photographers, including nature photographers. It now allows us to do some things that make work easier for certain techniques, such as double-processing RAW (really an important technique for nature photographers — more below). I have been working with the beta for a few months as I worked on a book about it, Top Tips Simplified, Photoshop Elements 9. I believe that most photographers using Lightroom and Photoshop Elements work on images more effectively and more quickly than any but the most proficient users of Photoshop…

That is a strong claim and well-substantiated by the rest of his informative post. Also in the Lightroom vein, Mark Graf on his Notes From The Woods blog, posts a link to a site called Lightroom Killer Tips as well as an extensive resource called Photoshop News. Robert Rodriguez, Jr. on his Beyond The Lens Blog, posts great videos on various Photoshop methods and other topics. Here’s one called, “Controlling Exposure and Blending in Photoshop.” Jim M. Goldstein keeps us informed with dozens and dozens of posts on Photoshop, it’s uses, techniques, and darker side. Master landscape photographer Lewis Kemper teaches Photoshop classes through several organizations and offers a superb Photoshop Training DVD set. For more on Lewis Kemper and his expertise see the blog post, “Monday Blog Blog: Lewis Kemper.”

Guy Tal’s Web Journal On Landscape and Images, often holds forth more on the philosophy of digital print making and landscape art, than on specific methods or strategies, though he covers those too. He is a crusader on behalf of the good that can be done with Photoshop and its possibilities versus old printing and developing technologies that a nostalgic minority work to hold over from the film era. Michael E. Gordon wrote an excellent review of Guy Tal’s new e-book, “Creative Landscape Photography,” that shares more on Guy Tal’s approach. Stay tuned for the soon upcoming Landscape Photography Blogger review of “Creative Landscape Photography” as well.

One of the finest teachers I have seen yet of digital landscape photography is Michael Frye. His popular and entertaining blog posts called the Photo Critique Series offer some of the best advice available today on how to whip your photographs into shape. They also encourage a lively discussion that is the most energizing and interesting aspect of all, particularly with Michael’s experienced moderation. Here’s one recent post in the series and another here to give you a sense of how it goes.

If you choose to go beyond landscape photography there are dozens, perhaps hundreds of resources out there. I will share one top quality one here: Chromasia. Anyone who wants to be impressed by a professional, high-traffic photoblog, go see this expression of the new era in which we now live. You may not even like what David J. Nightingale can do to photographs, but you will know you are seeing something that not many can do, though he does offer a full range of tutorials and coaching, so look into that too if you like too.

If I know you or I don’t know you and you provide a significant or even minor amount of Photoshop teaching, tools or some form of skill development, please don’t take it personally that I did not include you here in this post as I am typing into the wee hours and going bleary-eyed. Please do take two minutes to add a link and short, tastefully helpful blurb about your offering in the comments below.

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28 comments

  1. Greg Boyer says:

    Welcome to the never ending learning cycle of Photoshop. I’ve been at it since version 1.5 and still haven’t scratched the surface. Deke McClellands series on Lynda.com are hard to beat. Also look for tutorials by Russel Brown, he is part of the Adobe team. The “Ultimate Workshop” by Martin Evening and Jeff Schewe is excellent. There are many others to learn from, Katrin Eismann, Julieane Kost, Dan Margullis, George Dewolfe….some much to learn, so little time.
    So many photographers complain of the time they have to spend with Photoshop, but to me it is the equivalent of the time spent in the darkroom. It’s where the “magic” happens. It’s one part that I really love about my work.

  2. Hi Greg, thanks a lot for those additions to the resources available here. I realize it is naive of me to think I can learn 10 years worth of knowledge in a few, but I seem to continually get myself in these situations, especially in photography, where I need to play at an all-pro level when I have just started pee wees. Your input is appreciated here by me and I’m sure many others. I feel you are right about Photoshop versus the darkroom. When you compare the two, Photoshop wins hands down. It is drier, you can sit in a plush desk chair in regular daylight or whatever light you like, and most of all you don’t have to keep buying chemicals, supporting the chemical industry, sniffing chemicals, getting a permit for chemicals, and pouring chemicals down the drain and into the environment and our precious fresh water ecosystems. The chemicals used in the various pre-Photoshop processes weighed heavily on my father’s mind. Any landscape photographer who also cares about the environment would be wise to at least consider the chemical impact of his developing and printing.

  3. Thank you David for including me in such great company! All of the photographers and sites mentioned here have been a tremendous resource for me in my own career, and I encourage all readers to spend some time on their respective websites absorbing all the great information. Again, a wonderful example of how technology can provide resources that were difficult to find, if not completely unavailable a short time ago.

  4. Dave Taylor says:

    Great post again David –
    If I may, I’d like to add my recent post on how I created my new image “Winter’s Embrace”. The post details my thoughts in the field as well as in post production, using both Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop. I’ve been using Photoshop for over 11 years now, and was privileged to learn from a great portrait photographer. I took his portrait skills in PS and have customized them (and added many of my own skill sets) to my landscape and wildlife photography work. I also was a beta-tester for the original Lightroom, and have used the program extensively since it was formally introduced. I am looking forward to doing more “Making Of” posts in the future, since many photographers really enjoy that aspect.

    http://sixtyonenorth.com/2011/01/winters-embrace-the-making-of/

  5. Thank you Robert, for running such a high quality blog and for your participation here. It is a good confirmation to hear that you developed your expertise through many of the channels I mentioned.

    Hi Dave, thanks for visiting and for putting your information up for everyone. It is more than welcome. I almost mentioned you in this article anyway because of your good review of Guy Tal’s new book, “Creative Landscape Photography,” but I didn’t want to overrun people with too many reviews as I plan review his e-book myself very soon. We will remember you in relation to Lightroom and Photoshop and look for your upcoming posts.

  6. pj says:

    Looks like some good resources David. I don’t use Photoshop, but I’m gonna mark them for future reference in case I ever decide to do so. I probably will spring for it someday.

    As far as whether that image was photoshopped or not, well, it’s hard to tell. You may have made some subtle tweaks… ;-)

  7. Hi PJ, I appreciate your input. Many people like to work in camera raw, but I am finding more and more that it is only half of the process of photography, just as Ansel Adams said about the score and the performance. You can’t really have the best concert you are capable of without an orchestra. Even Dave Matthews has a band. Buying or otherwise obtaining a copy of Photoshop is much less expensive and time intensive than building and outfitting a darkroom.

  8. Greg Russell says:

    David, this is a great list of resources for photographers to learn more about the digital darkroom. I always knew that Adams’ staff worked very hard in the darkroom on his prints, but reading Sexton’s comments really drives it home.

    I think for people to think that Photoshop today is “cheating” isn’t entirely a good blanket statement, considering how much work went into the proper printing of an image decades ago. That said, even with Photoshop, Lightroom, etc, photographers still need to get it “right” in the camera today.

    If I can be so bold, I’ll add to your list a few good tutorials and reads…

    Tony Kuyper’s work in the southwest US is phenomenal, and he has a very comprehensive set of tutorials on his website:

    http://goodlight.us/index.html

    Alister Benn, a Scottish photographer, who lived in Tibet and China for a while, now living in Spain has some excellent articles, and some great imagery:

    http://availablelightimages.com/

    Cheers,
    Greg

  9. Hi Greg, I am grateful for your suggested outlets for good Photoshop instruction. People who over-saturate the color in their images give Photoshop a bad name. As in any change in technology, many people reject it, most often those in the establishment who have something to lose by the transition. Some photography galleries and many collectors put down Photoshop work and digital prints because they are afraid that the source that has given them income and fed their collecting habit will dry up, and they are right. It will. Some day the galleries will run out of vintage black and white prints and will have to move on to digital color, gasp. There is not a large enough percentage of photographers continuing to pursue old fashioned black and white photographing and printing to supply the whole fine art photography industry.

  10. pj says:

    I actually use GIMP instead of Photoshop, which does most of the basic things that Photoshop does. It just doesn’t have all the bells and whistles as far as I know. Besides — it’s free.

  11. Hi PJ, thanks for responding. I was hoping you would say more about how you do work with your photographs. You have such excellent images. This GIMP is an important resource to mention as well. I have always felt that Photoshop is overpriced, not for what it is or the value you get or anything, but to be in range of regular folks. They do say you can now do most anything necessary with Elements, especially the new Elements 3 (See Rob Sheppard’s post on this above). Nonetheless, here’s the website for GIMP to save you readers out there the Search Engine typing: http://www.gimp.org/ you can read all about it there.

  12. Mark says:

    Wow, this post is going to get me going with all sorts of new learning! Thanks for the mention of my blog David! The methods of learning about photography have certainly changed so dramatically over just the past 10 years.

  13. I appreciate your input Mark. I had also meant to add to my mention of your blog all your wonderful descriptions of how you work with your images, but then I would have to post a link to each of your blog posts. I have learned much from reading your blog. You and Guy Tal seem to provide excellent information on plug-ins for Photoshop too, which I had never heard of before I saw your blog. One that I heard about from you is Topaz Adjust: http://www.topazlabs.com/adjust/ . I never would have had any respect for such a contraption before I read your blog and saw your superb and tastefully rendered nature and landscape photography.

  14. Steve Sieren says:

    David, you’ve got to put in a heavy amount of time learning photoshop and it adds to the amount of time you’ll spends on images. Some will lots of time some will not but the more you know the further you can catch and meet your ideas. Good luck with your quest.

    I have paid attention to Carr’s newer work and in some of it you can tell he’s using some of the newer techniques or some kind of shadow recovery and detail enhancing from either photomatix, Topaz or other HDR program. Those programs can come in pretty handy and makes things a lot easier to work with. I really do like his other work with the stark contrast and rich colors that is evident in Muench’s, Fielder’s and Frye’s photographs. I was instantly curious how they photoshopped their work from the moment I saw it.

    Even with the use of photoshop, I have noticed that there is a difference in digital capture and velvia capture when shooting a snowy winter scene at dusk or dawn when there are puple tones in the sky and snow the two are very different even after the use of photoshop. Which shows photoshop isn’t always the answer.

    Of course we absolutely need it as nature photographers. A few years ago I saw on the internet some nature photographs that looked highly manipulated from an artist I won’t mention the artist be he said the photographs were altered in photoshop but only took about 3 minutes of photoshop work so I thought I would learn some of this magic from someone that was highly published and attended a Marc Muench workshop. Marc mentioned he spent at least a half hour or an hour average on an image. I learned there was no quick trick and the mid tones and light sculpting were not like instant oatmeal. As time goes by you learn new techniques all the time and this can shorten how things are done. I really respected his honesty for this and highly recommend his new book “Exploring North American Landscapes: Visions and Lessons in Digital Photography”. It will hits stores any day now but you can get it at amazon. http://www.amazon.com/Exploring-North-American-Landscapes-Photography/dp/1933952539/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1295945001&sr=8-1

  15. Hi Steve, thank you for this generous and helpful comment. It puts many things in perspective. The challenge with working with Carr Clifton is that first of all I can’t afford him at his $80/hour rate and he can’t afford to keep doing a lot of extra work for me for nothing. He travels to photograph for two to three months at a time and then returns with 10,000-20,000 new images of his own to process. Many of my father’s photographs would be challenging enough, if they were in perfect condition. Some of them have been extremely difficult to get to look the way he printed them. Dad was a grand master black and white and dye transfer printer and a good to very good Cibachrome printer. In many cases we have been attempting to restore photographs that were made with early Kodak Ektachrome E-3 and E-6 film. These have all color shifted significantly and in many cases unevenly across the image. There are blotches and splotches and all sorts of anomalies that run through the images unevenly. Carr Clifton spent something like 16 hours or more on “Base of Havasu Falls” and charged me for 10 hours. As you can imagine that throws my entire business model out of whack, especially when there are lots of images that take many hours of extra work.

    Before the digital era, Carr Clifton made 10 duplicate transparencies of each of his photographs that he sent out regularly. My father came to making duplicates late in his career through Carr Clifton. For many years he sent out his original transparencies to publishers and lost a good number of them as a result. Also, many of his more published images are beaten to heck. “Mt. Denali, Reflection Pond” was chock full of pock marks, miniature scratches, and all sorts of damage and so were many others. Some transparencies came back from publishers with fingerprints or who knows what on them. The drum scanning process takes out a lot of small scratches and damage, but certainly many of the images still remain full of damage after scanning. So an extra hour or two is necessary just for cleanup on some of the more published photographs. If I could learn just to do this part of the process I would save thousands and thousands of dollars. I have exhausted my resources and invested a great deal in preparing images for printing and printing test prints. Take a look at the Philip Hyde Photography website to see how many images are available as prints. There are over 140 images that are in print production now. Figure $50-$100/drum scan, plus hard drive storage, plus $100-$300 minimum per image to retouch and prepare for printing, plus hundreds of dollars worth of 8X10 and 11X14 test prints, and you begin to see that it could take until 2099 to get the business into the black. Besides every time you go from 11X14 to 16X20 you notice new issues that need to be fixed and sometimes you can’t even use the 16X20 print you made because the galleries I deal with want only the best prints. Same thing goes each time you step up in size again, from 16X20 to 20X24, from 20X24 to 24X30 and so on. Because the collectors are used to buying vintage prints, they literally pull out a magnifying glass and look at each print before they buy it. They are particularly skeptical of digital prints. The market for digital prints is growing, but usually serious collectors would rather pay top dollar for Dad’s original prints, rather than spend much less on archival digital prints. I have invested tens of thousands of dollars in a printing system that I’m sure will pay off in time. The archival digital prints sure look good on the website but their value in the marketplace is still being established.

    From age 27 to 37, while earning a living in sales, I developed my skills and publishing credits as a writer. Near the end of that time I had just begun to get articles into better paying publications on a regular basis. At that point I moved across the country to New England and had to work in sales full-time to get out of the hole that I got into by pursuing writing a bit too much too soon. My father had lost his eyesight and two years later my entire life changed again when my mother passed on leaving my father alone without any good help. I became my father’s full-time caregiver. Now I am just digging out of the mess caused by my father’s loss of eyesight and all that went with it. I am gradually getting my life back in order and am just gearing up again to start writing seriously for good publications again.

    Now the question is, do I stop and invest loads of time to learn Photoshop so that I can become a master of a process that has yet to have a sure, established value? Or, do I pursue my writing that I have already invested the 12 plus years in to become a pro? What would you do? As usual, thinking I am superman, I will try to do both. But both of these are not all that is going on. There are one or two other full-time jobs I am also doing, that I won’t go into because this has already gone on long enough, but they are related to the overall success of this project. So when people ask me when my book about my father will be done, they have no idea what they are asking. Now, depending on who it is, I either tell them to #$@%&! Off, or I tell them it will take 10 years.

  16. One of the reasons I read your blog is all the information you provide and the value it has for me. A smile comes across my face as I realize I follow or have at least visited many of the links you mention.

    I’ve never owned full blown PS but have used Elements for many years. The cost and learning curve of PS was prohibitive for me and I was intimidated by it. At the present time I have PSE6 but almost exclusively use Lightroom 3. I’ve used a couple of Rob Sheppards books and think Martin Evenings book on Lightroom is excellent.

    Great post, David. Thanks!

  17. Hi Monte, your comment is helpful to me and I’m sure others. It seems that if you want to become a supersonic jet airplane pilot, you can take a certain path of training, but some people do just fine and see much, or perhaps more great country by flying a Cessna or Piper Cub, or maybe even a helicopter, or spaceship. Red Hot Chili Peppers say, “Music is my air-o-plane.” I just looked at it and out of all the Lightroom books I could have bought, I did choose the one you mention, yay-yippee, thanks man.

  18. David, have you pursued getting grants to get your father’s work digitalized? I would think you could get a grant for this work, especially if you had a museum in mind to be the final caretaker of it after you are gone or if you had a project in mind that would both benefit a museum and get the work done for you….like an exhibition or a book. Just a thought.

    Sharon

  19. Hi Sharon, thank you for this suggestion. When they had Dad’s archive, the University of California Santa Cruz Special Collections wrote grant applications and applied to a few places on behalf of the archive of black and white photographer Morley Baer. They were turned down and gave up after that on applying for funding for such work, even though applying for grant money on behalf of Dad’s photography might be a completely different scenario than applying on behalf of the work of another photographer. I am sure it could be done. There are many funding sources of various kinds that I will pursue as I can get to it. I am quite sure the possibilities have not been exhausted.

  20. Michael Frye says:

    David, thanks for the kind words about my blog and the critiques, and for listing all these wonderful resources. It’s going to take me awhile to browse through all of these – lots of great stuff! Even though I’ve been working with Photoshop since the late ’90s, the world of digital printing is quite complex, and I can always learn new things.

  21. Hi Michael, thank you for the comment. I was just thinking I need to get back over to your blog again and see what is going on and you appear here. I enjoy the interactive resource you have developed and plan to visit often. I have observed your knowledge first hand and take it as a compliment that you find the information here useful.

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