Adobe Photoshop CS4 for Photographers

Author: Martin Evening

Publisher: Focal Press (Elsevier)

Review by Conrad J. Obregon

Blame it on Adobe. Each version of Photoshop (PS) gets more and more capabilities, and, as a result, each time Martin Evening writes a book about PS it gets longer. In fact not only has this book reached over 650 pages, but Evening tells us that he’s writing a second book to tell us how to use the software because this book just tells us what the sliders and button do.

Evening starts with a general introduction to PS CS4 and tells the reader how to configure the software. He then discusses every aspect of the latest PS version from the use of Camera Raw to printing. The chapters are organized along conceptual lines. For example, there is a chapter on sharpening and noise reduction, right after the discussion of Camera Raw, because of the input sharpening facility in Camera Raw. Even though the sharpening filters are part of the filter menu the author doesn’t mention them when he talks about filters, but he then returns to output sharpening in the chapter on printing.

He discusses every one of the sliders and buttons that a photographer might want to use but because there are now so many of them in Photoshop, the explanations come out fast and furious, crisply and succinctly without being overdrawn. The details came so quickly in the first chapter about the basic interface, introducing capabilities that I had not know existed, that at first I despaired of learning anything at such a pace. Fortunately, the pace slowed down a bit in subsequent chapters and the excellent illustrations helped make the vast quantity of information manageable.

The book is more lecture than practical exercise, although the accompanying DVD contains most of the images that Evening uses to demonstrate his points, so that one could follow along with the image in PS if he or she were so inclined. On the other hand, this is not a book of tutorials, and I would not recommend it for the beginner who is just learning PS. Instead the book is aimed at users who have some knowledge of what the tools, menus and panels do, but want to learn how to use all of the options. There were discussions of ways of configuring and applying tools whose capabilities had been in PS for the last few versions that I had just never learned to fully utilize.

The accompanying DVD contained images from the book so that one could follow along with the text. There were Quick Time movies that repeated a few of the lessons from the book, as well as supporting PDF extracts from the book. There were also several PDF files of material not included in the book. In addition, the DVD includes a PS help file that one can transfer to one’s hard drive and open in a browser, which shows each of the tools, menus and panels. When an item is clicked, help was provided for that item. It’s too bad that that file is not accessible from the PS help menu.

There is not much here about the art to be created using PS. Presumably that will be in the second book.

Since there is so much information in this book, it is almost impossible to just read front to back in a continuous fashion. Instead I read several of the chapters on general subjects and then returned to specific chapters that dealt with areas where I knew I was having problems or thought there had to be better procedures than the ones I was using, and sure enough, found detailed explanations and ways of doing things that I hadn’t known existed. I skimmed the remaining chapters so that I knew where I could return when I encountered problems. This is one of those books that I expect to keep on the small bookshelf of reference works next to my computer.