A present I received lately was a bookstore’s gift card. It’s pretty common knowledge among family and friends that books are a passion of mine and it’s never in poor taste to give me the means to acquire more. I can see an e-reader in my future but there’ll always be something about the physicality of a book in hand that can never be duplicated by electrons.
Naturally I wandered into the photography section and browsed around looking for some advanced Photoshop guides. It’s good there are so many different tutorials on PS basics but I was looking for something more meaty, new techniques to stretch my understanding of this tool. Until my composition skills get much better I continue to live in the alternate reality that if I only find the right application or use my tools in the right way, my photographs will suddenly leap to unseen heights. With that, it was rewarding to find Matt Kloskowski’s book on layers.
This aspect of PS was one of the hardest for me to grasp but once I got it suddenly it just seemed the only way to go. Yeah, it does add an element of non-destructive editing to your PS workflow but that’s really just a small benefit. The real features are the blending modes, masks, filters, etc. you can use to really control how an image develops. This book goes much deeper than the basic treatment of layers with examples of truly cool blending (and how works function), adding graphic elements, using transparency to your advantage, etc. I’ve only gotten through the first four chapters and have already learned three new applications I know will become part of my ongoing workflow.
More knowledge tends to give me the confidence to explore new ideas so I wasn’t surprised when a visual popped into my head that would really stretch my layers understanding. I’d seen this application before and felt I understood how to duplicate it with one of my images. After much trial-and-error I finally got the look I wanted.
This took about 6 layers, each contributing a specific role in the construction of the final image. Not surprisingly, I learned how important it is to have a clear vision of the final image before you start punching buttons, lest you get lost in the process and end up with crap. This is a pretty simple graphic treatment – child’s play to a PS expert, head-scratchingly difficult for me – but what pleases is knowing I can visualize, create using the tools at hand, and deliver a very close version of what was in my head originally. Hopefully this will propagate backwards in the process and help me to see compositions more clearly in the field.