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The Photoshop Guys; Un-Retouched

As NAPP’s Executive Director I work in the same building as the crazy guys we refer to as “The Photoshop Guys” and the LayersTV Guys, so you can imagine that one of the questions I get asked most frequently is, ‘what are they really like?’

Maybe you’ve heard that they are exactly like what you see on the podcasts, and that’s true to a large degree, but there are things that don’t come through on the shows and I want to give you a look at some of the stuff that happens behind the scenes.

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Dave Cross (above)
In most ways, what you see on PhotoshopUser TV is what Dave is like… when he’s training. Truly professional. Of all the guys, he is known as “Mr One Take” because it’s so rare for him to make a mistake. But when the camera isn’t rolling, people would probably be surprised how quiet and reserved he is. Even if you greet him in the morning with an enthusiastic, “HEY! How’s it going Dave!?” You can expect his extraordinarily polite, very measured response to be, “good day.” A true gentleman.

In spite of his reserved manner, there are 2 things you can mention that cause that extra little spark in Dave’s eye and he’s absolutely happy to talk about, his family and Canada. He’s a real, proud, family man. And even though his current job as a Photoshop Guy has taken Dave out of Canada, you can’t take Canada out of Dave. His cell phone ring tone is Oh Canada (the Canadian national anthem) and it’s absolutely hilarious any time his phone rings in a staff meeting because whenever he gets a call, everyone in the room stands up immediately until he answers his phone. We all love our Canadian!

But what would a peek behind the scenes be without a funny Dave story. As many of you may know, Dave Cross was the first full-time trainer hired to help Scott with the seminar training duties and writing for the magazines. He (and many others) were freelance writers and trainers but Scott knew that Dave was his first pick, so when he accepted the offer, Scott and the staff were all thrilled. Now, there were about 30 or 40 employees at the time and the only people with marked parking places along the front of the building were the four owners of the company. On his first day at work, Dave made up an exact duplicate of Scott’s parking place sign (but with ‘Dave Cross’ on it) and taped it in place over Scott’s sign. It was not only hilarious, the best thing was Scott’s reaction because he said, “I knew we hired the right guy!”

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Matt Kloskowski (above left)

Another family guy, Matt absolutely loves his wife and kids. Oh, and what you see of Matt on the show, yep. That’s him. He’s a Photoshop and Lightroom expert in real life too, but he’s got that quick sense of humor and he’s just as quick to laugh as what you see on the podcasts.

For being the skinny guy on staff, Matt sure loves food and a good meal out. I remember the entire first year I worked here Matt was regularly arranging lunches with several staff folks, to the nearby Thai restaurant. This guy loves Thai food! Now, he’s not obsessed or anything but I’d say he enjoys a good meal out with friends, enough that he’s frequently the brains behind various after-hours get-togethers with office staff and we all appreciate him for it.

I’m sure exercise and fitness has something to do with his ability to eat well and still stay thin, but he’s not a regular marathon runner or anything. However, speaking of marathons, many of you know Matt did participate in the Disney Marathon last year. He didn’t make a big deal out of it, he just did it. One afternoon a week or so after the marathon was over, I stopped in his office and I talked with him a little about the big run. I was thinking that Matt had decided to start running marathons regularly because that kind of training isn’t something you do on a whim, so I asked Matt, “when’s your next marathon?” He said, “I don’t know. I’ll keep running but I don’t think I’m going to run another marathon.” So I asked him why he ran this one. He said that he wanted to prove to himself that he could, and he also did it for his kids. I wanted to show them that if you put your mind to it, you can do anything.

I’m impressed! Matt’s a humble guy but he sure walks (jogs) the talk.

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Corey Barker
I first met Corey on stage at Photoshop World when I was presenting Guru Awards. He was a NAPP member and a very gifted, multi-award-winning artist. He was on our radar a long time ago and we were thrilled when we were hiring another content writer and he applied, because it’s always nice to know someone’s work before they apply to work here.

Corey is the guy you see on the podcasts, but what you don’t see, unless you read between the lines, is his passion for movies. What I mean is that, if there’s some cool graphic effect used in a movie or on a movie poster, Corey is the guy who is working on deconstructing the artwork and developing a way to turn it into a tutorial. And if he ever comes in to work tired, like he had been out all night the night before, it’s because he waited in line and saw a midnight movie premier.

At the risk of sounding like an old guy, I see Corey as a young, successful artist who still sees everything with wide-eyed enthusiasm. He knows I’m a fan of his work so any time he’s working on a new technique or interesting tutorial, he regularly calls me into his office to ‘try it out’ on me. I’m usually impressed if not completely blown away. Then he says something like, “do you think that would be a good tutorial?” Heck yeah!! And that happens every week. This guy has the gift.

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RC Concepcion
One of the interesting things about RC is that he’s not really what you see on the podcast. And it’s weird because RC is one of the most outgoing, gregarious guys you’ll ever meet. There’s just something about the camera that makes him more reserved and measured than he is in real life. He’s loosened up since the early days, but most of the time in social situations, he’s got a great story and has everybody laughing. He’s not that soft-spoken guy you see on the show.

In case you didn’t know it, RC moved to our offices in Florida and got married all around the same time. And now, his new wife Jen and he are expecting and he’s just beaming (even more than normal).

Scott, Dave, Matt and I met RC as a gifted Photoshop World attendee who was the shining star of a class Scott put on called So You Think You Can Teach Photoshop. Well he sure could, and we called him in for an interview when we needed another content guy. And the great thing is that RC really knows how to teach a LOT of different programs. He’s our Swiss Army Knife of training.

But one of my favorite RC stories happened when we were on a business trip in Manhattan. We had an event at B&H’s store called NAPP Week at B&H and all the guys were there doing training. Now, I am very comfortable with downtown New York because I had been there quite a few times on business and I know my way around. The only thing is, I’m not comfortable driving there and I always walk or take a cab, so when RC offered me a ride one afternoon from B&H to my hotel, I was happy to go, especially since I knew he was a New Yorker. Not only did he do an expert job of navigating, I actually commented how great he navigated the tight clearances of cars in rush hour in Manhattan. He said, “Oh, yeah. That’s because I used to drive an ice cream truck here years ago… when I was fourteen.”

Fourteen!?! “Yep,” and he went on to explain how it was all a pretty regular kind of thing to do. Heck, I wasn’t allowed to drive a motorized go kart in Lakeland, Florida where I grew up and this guy was selling ice cream! In New York City!! Needless to say, we navigated to the hotel in better fashion than any cab I’ve ever been in!

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Felix Nelson
You’ve probably seen Felix now and then on Photoshop User TV as a guest because he runs the graphics department and he and his team are responsible for the look and feel of all the NAPP ads, Photoshop User and Layers magazines, and the look of the books written by Scott, Dave, Matt, and the rest of the crew here. Felix has even co-written books with Scott and writes a regular column for Photoshop User. And talk about a gifted illustrator… he does things with Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop that simply amaze us all.

But Felix is another guy who is a bit more low-key on the podcast than in real life. He not only manages the graphics department, he has a great sense of humor and frequently sports a sly grin. Not the kind of smile like he’s in a good mood (even though he is, like practically everyone here) he’s got the kind of grin like he’s up to something. And about half the time, he is up to something.

I pretty much think of Felix as a talented professional, a great manager, and a big kid. He absolutely loves playing with his kids (his youngest is still in elementary and his oldest has kids of their own). Yep, Felix is a grandfather! But he keeps in shape by exercising practically every single night. He has to be the most fit guy on staff. And the kid thing really comes through when it’s time to play. I remember mentioning to him (in passing) about a cool looking toy I saw online that I would love to have had as a kid called an AirZooka, (it shoots a big burst/puff of air up to 30 feet) so he bought a couple. He was in the office a few days later telling stories of how he and his son were running around the house having AirZooka wars. What a cool kid!… um, I mean, dad.

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Scott Kelby
I’ve known Scott for a lot of years, and I can tell you that he is what you see and what you imagine when you’re reading his books or listening to a video he recorded. In several of his books he wrote things like, ‘This book is just what I would say if you were sitting here. I wouldn’t overwhelm you with all kinds of theory or details you don’t care about. I’ll just tell you what you need to know. Nothing more. Like one friend to another.’ It may sound silly but when I read Scott’s first Digital Photography Book, as I read each page I could remember Scott having told me each of those things in real life, and I could usually remember which photo shoot we were on and what I was doing when he told me. So reading that book was just like if I had taken notes every single time Scott and I talked about taking pictures.

Scott may be a born trainer but he doesn’t just teach. Scott loves learning and regularly attends seminars and spends one-on-one time with some of the greatest experts in the world. And since he loves to learn and he’s a natural trainer, I’ve discovered that the best thing to do is stop by Scott’s office the day after he gets back from a seminar and ask him what he thought of it. Then I get a condensed seminar myself and it’s absolutely great! In most cases I feel like I was there myself and I can apply what I learned right away.

And when it comes to the sheer volume of work this guy can crank out, even though I’ve been around him for years, I’m still absolutely amazed! Sure, there are editors and book and magazine layout people and web designers, but if you just look at the bizarre timestamps on all the emails I get from this guy you’ll know, he doesn’t sleep much.

It’s extra fun to be around Scott while he’s learning, experimenting, and especially while he’s using new toys. That’s because he shares his toys. You remember that kid in your neighborhood whose parents always got him a ton of cool toys at Christmas? Well, that’s Scott. (Only it doesn’t have to be Christmas, and usually he buys them himself, or his wife or a friend gets him something cool, and occasionally a manufacturer sends along some cool new gear for him to try out, but that’s not the point). No matter what the equipment is or where it came from, Scott’s frequently really excited to try out new gear and he’ll stop by an office or two here in the building and say, “hey Larry, I just got some new lighting equipment and RC, Matt, Dave and I are going down to the studio for a while to see what we can get out of it. You busy now or can you come with us?” For me, 35 years ago it would have been a Hot Wheels track and a suitcase full of cars and today it’s cool camera gear. And the really cool thing is that he says stuff like, “I’m gonna keep this stuff at the studio so if you ever want to borrow it, go ahead.” For me, that’s way better than fifty feet of orange track and a motorized Criss Cross Crash set!

But the really cool thing about Scott is the kind of friend and family man he is. If you’ve read any of the forwards in his books, you know he treasures his family. That’s really who he is. And if you’ve read this blog, you know he says, “My buddy Dave, or my buddy Terry, or my buddy Rod.” He says, “my buddy” a lot because he has lots of real friends.

And you know you’re a friend if Scott teases you. (I must be a really good friend.) For instance, it’s a tradition in our office that someone puts up a Happy Birthday banner above your door on your birthday and then everyone in the office says, ‘happy birthday’ when they come by that day. Not Scott. After hearing no fewer than a dozen people throughout the day say, ‘happy birthday Larry,’ Scott stopped by my office and said, “What kind of sad, pathetic, cry for help is this?” and pointed to the birthday sign. He kills me.

The Team:
You know, one of the really cool things is how each of these different personalities can come together to make up an incredible training team, where the group together is much better than the sum of the individual trainers. Kinda like Mighty Morphin’ Photoshop Trainers. I may be the Executive Director of NAPP, but I love learning from these guys too. I’m a fan and I look forward to new tutorials from these guys each week.

So that’s a peek behind the scenes when the cameras are off, but these few short paragraphs are only a peek, not a mini bio. I didn’t even mention Scott’s musical talent and how he still performs with his band, or his fanatical devotion to football and especially the Bucs. I didn’t tell you about how RC’s talent as a photographer has gotten him commercial image sales of the Manhattan skyline. And I didn’t tell you any funny stories about whose office got completely wrapped with aluminum foil one time while he was out. It’s truly a great place to be, hanging out with friends at work.

There are more stories about each of them but I guess you’ll just have to check out my new book, The Real Photoshop Guys; Under the Adjustment Layers.

Kidding. Totally kidding.

–Larry Becker