Saturday, April 25, 2009

REVIEW: Adobe Photoshop CS4 Book for Digital Photographers

If you’ve been a follower of my blog, then you’ve probably seen my references to the previous version of this book called The Adobe Photoshop CS3 Book for Digital Photographers. It’s another great book by Scott Kelby and this is a simple update for CS4. If you have the CS3 version and haven’t moved to CS4, then you don’t need to upgrade but CS4 users will find some of the new chapters appealing.

This book is what I call a recipe book. If you have a problem, this book will usually have the solution so you don’t have spend time searching the internet for answers. It’s also easy to follow along with Scott’s examples, so it’s a great resource to have handy. In addition, if you decide to read it cover to cover (as I did), you’ll have an arsenal of cool tricks at your disposal with a book handy to help you recall them when you get rusty. This is how I use my copy and it’s the only book that is always sitting next to my computer.

Chapter by Chapter Comments

Here's my thoughts on each chapter of this book:

Five Quick Things You'll Wish You Had Known Before Reading This Book

In this version Scott has cured his multiple personality disorder and no longer interviews himself as he did in the CS3 chapter entitled An Unexpected Q&A Section. This is an important chapter where he sets expectations about how you should use this book.

London Bridge: Bridge Essentials and The Bridge: Advanced Bridge Techniques

These chapters are an updated version of the previous book, but once again I feel they are a must read if you really want to appreciate what Bridge CS4 offers. This is the best version of Bridge to date, and even though it can’t replace Lightroom it can teach you about what a pleasure it can be using some of the features of Bridge. After getting CS4 and reading this chapter, I now use Bridge CS4 as my file open dialog for Photoshop.

Raw Deal: Camera Raw Essentials and The Next Step: Camera Raw—Beyond the Basics

This book now has two chapters on RAW, but The Next Step chapter is really  just the second half of the Raw Deal chapter from the first book. There’s lot of stuff to cover as Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) gets more powerful, so there’s lots of detail here. ACR is the force behind the Develop tab in Lightroom, so as Lightroom gets more complex so does this feature.

Scott is great about showing some really great shortcuts using the ALT key to make doing adjustments much easier and more effective. I love learning about shortcuts I never knew existed, or had forgotten since the last time I read this book. Even if you think you know (or don’t care about) ACR, I recommend you read every word of these two chapters as I’m 100% sure you’ll learn some great new tricks.

Show Stopper: Adjusting Selected Areas

This is a new chapter for this series and it is really a third chapter on ACR as it discusses the new adjustment brushes/features of ACR. If you are an avid Lightroom user, or have read Lightroom 2 for Digital Photographers, then you might be interested to learn how ACR is similar but still quite different in its implementation of these features. You’ll also be jealous about how much faster and reliable ACR is when doing brush adjustments.

Resized: Resizing and Cropping Your Images

This is great stuff in this chapter. While I prefer using Alien Skin Software BlowUP 2 for resizing, Scott will show you how to get excellent results using the native Photoshop resizing features. He’ll also help you to crop your images in the proper aspect ratios for popular photo sizes. Good stuff here.

Local Color: Color Correction Secrets

If you don’t know anything about color correction, or are still confused about this topic then look no farther. This is a great short, but comprehensive review of the topic with good instructions on how to just set your system up properly and avoid common pitfalls. If you print your photos (and who doesn’t), then you owe it to yourself to read this chapter!

Black & White World: How to Create Stunning B&W Images

If you can’t get Silver Efex Pro, then this is the next best thing to show you how to get killer black and whites.

High Times: Creating HDR (High Dynamic Range) Images

This is a new and exciting chapter as the web is full of HDR tutorials, but I’ve never been able to get the same results as what I see on the web. Scott first starts by showing how to do HDR with Photoshop, but surprisingly he also demonstrates how to do it with Photomatix Pro too. While I am not super excited about the samples he used or the results he achieved, I was glad to see Scott address this popular topic. While I wish he could have done more here, hopefully the feedback on this chapter will encourage him to cover this topic more in depth in future releases. If you’ve never done any HDR, then you will learn an a lot and appreciate what he discusses here.

99 Problems: Dealing with Common Digital Image Problems

If you are new to Photoshop then this chapter will blow you away – this is the good stuff. This chapter features the stuff you will have to do all of the time when you edit your photos, but it offers quick and easy solutions to those problems. You must read this chapter!

Special Delivery: Special Effects for Photographers

This picks up where the last chapter left off and once again offers some great stuff. In fact, it offers several of the really awesome techniques you learn in Scott Kelby's 7 Point System. You owe it to yourself to read this chapter as it will help you kick your pictures up a couple of notches. In fact, if you’ve always wondered why pros colors have such rich and vivid colors without looking really nasty and oversaturated, then you’ll love learning how they do it in this chapter.

Look Sharp: Sharpening Techniques

Who doesn’t love sharp pictures? Scott does a lot to demystify the stupidly named unsharp filter and gives you lots of great info (and fortunately exact numbers) to help you solve a wide variety of sharpening issues. Scott is a master of sharpening, so there's some really great stuff here that justifies keeping this book within arms reach at all times when you are doing digital post processing.

Fit to Print: Step-by-Step Printing and Color Management

Unless you live and breathe color management, most people will find that this chapter is everything they need to know and have wanted to know about the topic. There's some good stuff here that will increase your odds of having a true WYSIWYG experience when comparing your monitor output to your printer (or print service) output.

Scott also discusses how to do display calibration using the Xrite Eye-One Display 2, but if you are going to be doing your own printing on a mid to high price printer you might want to opt for the more advanced X-Rite ColorMunki Photo Color Management Solution. Personally I find the Pantone HueyPRO to be sufficient for my needs as I always use a third party for printing, but all of these are excellent solutions and at least one is mandatory to avoid printing disappointments. I should also note at the time of this writing that Pantone is offering its own Color Munki Create, but that is NOT the same thing as the X-Rite system. While it might be a good upgrade/replacement for the Huey, it should be noted that X-Rite system is still far superior for those doing advanced printing.

Best in Show: How to Show Your Work

This is similar to the previous book and just shows you how to create some nice digital matte’s for your photo to help them look their best when doing gallery style prints.

Working for a Livin': My Step-by-Step Workflow

The CS3 version of this book had a chapter called Faces: Retouching Portraits, but this section really incorporates the content from that chapter in a more practical application. In some ways I prefer the way the previous book worked for this important subject, but it’s always fun to see how Scott’s workflow works so this chapter is very helpful for demonstrating a typical portrait workflow. It’s much more exciting than what he demonstrated in his previous book, so this is definitely an improvement.


While it’s more of a recipe book that you'll use as a reference, I find myself using this book at least once a month for some tricky challenge I face. 

Skill Level: Beginner to Advanced
Value: Excellent (worth every penny)
Recommendation: Highly Recommended, but if you can't afford this and Scott Kelby's 7 Point System for Photoshop CS3 then I'd say your best best for learning is to go for 7 Point System. Even if you are a very advanced Photoshop user, you'll probably find some good nuggets in this book that make it worthwhile to own, but as a beginner you’ll constantly refer to it when you face challenging problems with your photos. I love this book and wouldn’t live without it.

I own the CS3 Version, should I get to the CS4 version?

If you have the CS3 version and are wondering if you should upgrade, I’d say – it depends. You aren’t missing much by sticking with the CS3 version, but this is oriented towards the new CS4 features and has some great improvements so I think make it worth the upgrade. I’m glad I upgraded, but everything in my previous book still applies to CS4. Times are tough, so if you are short on cash, don’t lose any sleep if you can’t do the upgrade right now.

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1 comment:

website design said...

this looks like a very good book! i really want to master photoshop and with this book., i'd be one in no time. great post!

mike c