Monthly Archives May 2009



I’ve got a two-headed problem on my hands, and I guess I brought it on myself, so now I have to try and fix it myself. 

For the entire first half of my career as a Photoshop educator, I was probably best known for teaching Photoshop special effects. It started with my “Down & Dirty Tricks” column in Photoshop User magazine, and then that grew into one of my best selling books ever; Photoshop Down & Dirty Tricks (A whole book of nothing but special effects), and every Photoshop seminar I’ve ever done has included a “Down & Dirty Tricks Class.” In fact, I’ve been doing a Down & Dirty Tricks class at nearly every Photoshop World Conference & Expo since the thing started back in 1999. 

So, here comes the problem. For the 2nd half of my career, I’ve been focusing on teaching Photoshop for photographers, or just photography in general (through my “The Digital Photography Book” series), so now most folks probably know me better as a Photoshop & Photography trainer.

I guess that’s why some people are so shocked (or even disappointed), when they come out to my new “Photoshop Down & Dirty Tricks” seminar tour and learn that I’m not teaching Camera Raw, or printing, or color correction, or sharpening.

Of course, it doesn’t mention that I’ll be teaching any of this on the Web site, or in the mailer, or  here on my blog, but some people still showed up expecting that I’d be teaching my photography workflow, and they were kind of cranked when I didn’t, and instead I did what I’ve been doing in the “Down & Dirty Tricks” column in Photoshop User for nearly 10 years—teaching commercial Photoshop special effects.

That problem is now extending to my new book, “Photoshop CS4 Down & Dirty Tricks.” I saw on (link) some really harsh reviews because the book isn’t what they expected. If you read the reviews, you can see they were expecting another Camera Raw/Sharpening/Color Correction book but that’s just not what that book is all about—it’s to teach all the latest Photoshop special effects—the same ones we see used on the Web, in Print, in Ads, in Hollywood, and in magazines and all the techniques are grabbed directly from what you see in that media every day. It says all that right on the book itself (the back cover is shown above—click on it for a larger view). 

One reviewer said that Type effects have no use for photographers (it’s only one chapter of the book mind you, but if you’ve caught my “Designing with Type” class at Photoshop World, you’d probably disagree that type has no use for photographers), but again, it’s just one chapter. Anyway, besides telling people here on my blog, on the Web site, on the front and back covers of the book, I’m not sure what I can do to change people’s perception of what the book is, who it’s for, and why it’s OK to write a book that’s not on Camera Raw, not on sharpening, and instead one that unlocks the power of the other side of Photoshop. 

Any ideas you have to help me get this message out to potential readers (before I have an average review of 1-star, which at this rate won’t be long), I’m all ears.

Should I do a video clip? Should I rewrite the Amazon description? Should I do something else? I’m all ears, because I put so much work into that book, and I’ve gotten such amazing feedback from readers who totally “get” what the book is all about, but I’m also getting some really harsh feedback from people that bought it that shouldn’t have. Any suggestions would be warmly embraced. :)


Howdy folks. It’s Friday—here’s what’s up: 

Lightroom 2 Discount over this weekend
Adobe’s $25 off deal on Lightroom 2 is over on Sunday, so if you were thinking of making the jump; tick, tick! (here’s the link)

A Slew of New Online Classes Posted
I’ve fallen behind on letting you know about new classes. Here’s what’s gone live recently: 

  • Using your Nikon D90 with Laurie Excell. (Link)
  • Adobe InDesign and Photoshop CS4 Integration with Terry White (Link)
  • Mastering Color in Photoshop CS4: Creative Color with Matt Kloskowski (Link)
  • Using Your Nikon D700 with Laurie Excell (Link)
  • Successful Pre-Production for Location Shooting with Richard Riley (Link)

Plus, we’re just finishing up some long overdue classes on how to use your Canon DSLRs from Canon Explorer of Light, Rick Sammon. I’ll let you know as soon as his classes go live (hopefully next week). 

Corey Kicked Some Butt in Richmond
I have heard nothing but rave reviews from Corey Barker’s Richmond, Virginia stop for the “Photoshop Down & Dirty Tour.” He really hit one out of the park, and I have to say; I’m not surprised. After working with him developing the tour, I am still so amazed at his talent, creativity, and mastery of Photoshop. In short—that dude is sick! (In a good way). His next two stops are in Canada (Toronto and Calgary next month). Here’s the link with details. 

Canon To Release 5d Mark II Fireware Update with Manual Exposure Control
I just saw on PDN online that Canon is releasing a free Firmware update for their very popular 5D Mark II DSLR (which also shoots full HD video), and the update will include the ability to use Manual Exposure (a big deal when it comes to shooting video), and the ability to control ISO, aperture and shutter speed when you’re in video mode. Here’s the link for more details. 

Quote of the Week

“It is no surprise that talented photographers are 99% pain in the ass to work with. They have strong opinions, are stubborn, reckless, and most of the time have an extremely bad character.” (link to full story

That’s it for today folks. I hope to have some reviews plus a photography and Photoshop technique for you all next week (if all goes as planned, but it rarely does). Have a really great weekend, and I hope to see you back here next week! :)


That’s right; in the fine tradition of so many Thursday’s before it’s “Embarrassing Photo Thursday.” This one is a promo photo from the band “The Edge” (I posted a photo of me playing with them on May 14th). This shot was taken about 25 years ago, in a parking garage in downtown Lakeland, Florida, and I must say, I was sportin’ some pretty slick aviator’s sunglasses. (Note: In case you were wondering; yes, that is Big Electric Cat drummer Scott Stahley [2nd from the left], when he was just a mere lad of 18-years-old). OK, you can stop all the snickering now; it’s time for some news:

  • Eddie is Rock Steady!
    My man Eddie Tapp scored big yesterday with a great guest blog, despite the fact that he included a photo of me (during Eddie’s Photoshop Hall of Fame induction ceremony), which was taken before I had lost over 100 lbs. (in that photo, I was in an “I’m Jabba the Hutt” stage of my life—a time that I’d rather not relive), but since he did such a great job, I’m not going to dwell on my previous ginourmousness (or the vivid depictions thereof), and instead I’ll just tip my hat to Eddie, who will always to be known from here on out as the guy who posted my “fatty fat” photo (totally kidding, Eddie—you know I love you man!). :)
  • Quick Photo Walk Update
    Over 500 cities have active walks; over 6,000 walkers already signed-up, and we’ve got some awesome new prizes:Official Photo Walk sponsor Adobe Systems has kicked in ten copies of Lightroom 2, to be awarded to each of the top-10 finalists, and we’re adding more prizes as more sponsors come on board. Sweet!

    If you haven’t signed up for a walk yet—why not? It’s free! Also, you don’t have to be a pro, or have a DSLR camera, or any of that stuff—-it’s not about the gear, or your level of experience; it’s about having fun with a bunch of other friendly photographers. I hope you can join us on Saturday, July 18th (here’s the link).

  • Finally, a monitor just for photographers
    My buddy Terry White broke the news today about a new 42″ television monitor that’s designed especially for photographers (and includes a range based on the Adobe RGB 1998 color space). Jump over to Terry’s Tech Blog to find out the details.
  • Dead MacBook Crisis: Day 9
    As I write this (on my home computer, which is designated only for photography, so it has virtually no software on it, besides Photoshop, Lightroom, and some plug-ins), my laptop is still technically dead. We finally popped in a new hard drive this afternoon (long story), and now it’s trying to Restore from my Apple Time Capsule backup. It’s been just sitting there saying, “Checking Time Machine Backup” for about 40 minutes now (I’m connected direct via Ethernet). I’m starting to get concerned. Anyway; it’s totally my own fault that I didn’t have a bootable back-up of my laptop on an external drive (last time that happens—-I got a 500GB external today), so I have to take my lumps in the meantime. Ouch!
  • Congratulations to Julieanne Kost!
    Adobe’s own Photoshop Evangelist, and wonderful photographer and artist, Julieanne Kost was included in Fast Company magazine’s recent Top 100 Most Creative People list. I’ve known Julieanne for a number of years now, and let me tell you; I’d put her up against anyone on that top 100 list! She is a brilliant educator and creative professional, with insights and vision like few people on the planet, and I’m delighted to see that she’s getting this wonderful recognition, which she so richly deserves. Way to go Julieanne!

  • It’s Back Up Your Hard Drive Day
    Ya know, today would make a great day to back up your hard drive (I know, actually last Tuesday would have been ideal, but barring that; learn from my mistakes and take a few minutes and back-up your hard drive today—right now. Ya just never know). ;-)

That’s it for today folks. Have a great Thursday everybody, and I hope to see you again tomorrow. :)

Portrait of Eddie Tapp / Image © Phillip Charis

Half the Image

There are primarily three ingredients that make a photograph become a part of you. Looking at images from the likes of Joe McNally, you would make a quick assumption that the subject matter is high on the list, and naturally the subject matter itself is what we see. But that is aesthetical rather than technical, and aesthetics I’ll leave for later. Technically, there are three ingredients that bring us into a photograph. I’ll get to that later too.

Without thinking about it, look through a magazine that you’re not so familiar with (and maybe ones that you are). As you flip through the pages, something will stop you and you will give this page your undivided attention. When this happens, chances are something visual grabbed your attention first. (more…)


When you get featured in Nikon World magazine, you get to do something that’s almost as cool as being in the magazine itself; they do a live interview with you (about a month after the feature comes out), where you get to tell the story behind each shot featured in the magazine. Then they marry that interview with the images and it becomes a really cool online audio slideshow and the whole thing is really nicely done. (Here’s the link to the audio slideshow interview).

Nikon did a great job with this whole concept (what a perfect follow-up to the article), and if you’ve got a few minutes I invite you to check it out over at their site (here’s the link to my feature page (shown above); just click the “Audio Slideshow” link or the direct link in the previous paragraph.

Also, I’m equally as excited that Nikon has asked me to do a similar live presentation in their booth each day at the Photo Plus Expo (PPE) in New York City this October (I’ll be including more photos in those presentations), so I hope you’ll catch the ‘live’ version then. Thanks to everyone at Nikon USA, and at Nikon World magazine for these wonderful opportunities. It truly is a honor.


Hi Everybody:
I’m back in the saddle after a wild week out West last week (I missed my “Embarrassing Photo Thursday” so here ya go: It’s from the mid-80s during my short stint with the band “Sneek.” (photo by NAPP member Jay Handler. Who’d a thunkit?). I think we played just one or two gigs before we broke up (dig my Eddie Van Halen knock-off red and white taped guitar).

Now, onto the update, report, and stuffage that’s been stacking up:

  • Down in Downtown
    The day before the shoot, I got to do an impromptu photo walk in Downtown Denver with Jason from the (really great guy—we had a lot of fun, laughed a lot, and had a great dinner with the seminar team). I think I even got a few decent shots, but I’ll never know, because the next morning I accidentally reformatted the memory card (it’s a long story, but suffice it to say, that was the least of my problems in Denver). Here’s why I didn’t back up my images that same night.
  • Crashing in Colorado
    The night before my seminar I’m going through my classes in my hotel room, and I can tell something’s wrong with my laptop. I’m getting the “Spinning Beachball” each time I click. A restart (which usually does the trick), didn’t help. Rebuilding Preference, zapping pram, running Disc Warrior; nothing worked. Finally, it screeched to a halt. At 6:45 am we were scrambling to resurrect the drive, but this was a hardware failure (bad hard drive), and we had to move to the back-up machine for the seminar. Unfortunately, the back-up machine didn’t have Nikon Camera Control Pro on it (I needed this for the tethered shoot that afternoon), so we spent all morning working on that. Anyway, we did finally get it up and running (after a few miscues), and we “got ‘er done.’ The nearly 500+ crowd on hand was awesome; I met lots of great people (including a bunch who read this blog), and then headed for the airport for my flight to Portland.
  • 20 Hours with Laurie Excell
    One of my favorite landscape photographers, Laurie Excell, lives in Portland, and she invited me to go shooting along the beautiful Oregon coast on my day-off between seminars. We landed in Portland around midnight. She picked me, and my buddy Jeff Leimbach, up at our hotel at 3:45 am,  (Zzzzzzzz) and we headed out for sunrise. Along the way we saw some amazing light starting to peek over the hills. The problem was: we were still 23 miles from our shooting location. By the time we got there; the good light was already gone. It was only 5:15 am.  I was dressed in a t-shirt and jeans. It was 36 degrees when we got there (Good planning, eh?)! We still shot, and had a lot of fun (I slipped and fell flat on my %$&, but as Laurie said, “It was the most graceful and soundless slow-motion fall she’d ever seen.” Nothing was bruised but my ego (since Jeff and Laurie were laughing there #*$ off!). Next, we headed down the coastline. 450 miles in all. In crappy light. It was a blast. We didn’t shoot much, but we laughed, and had some great meals, shared stories, and saw some absolutely beautiful scenery along the way. We kept going until sunset (which was around 8:50 pm). At about 8:00 pm the sun tucked into a cloud bank and we never saw it, or any color whatsoever, again. We didn’t care. We got back in the car, and wound up back at our hotel after midnight. We were beat, but still laughing. There is probably something wrong with us.
  • Panic’d in Portland
    The next morning we had more issues to deal with before the laptop was ready for the day (and it came right down to the wire), but everything went pretty smoothly (well, until the last 10 minutes, when not only did Photoshop crash, but upon restarting, it said the serial number was invalid. We just restarted it again and it worked fine, but the audience was just cracking up). Then we had a quick dinner at Red Robin, and then took the train to the airport for an 11:00 pm red-eye home (through Chicago). Thanks to everybody in Portland and Denver who came out to spend a day learning Lightroom. You all made it a lot of fun (and a special thanks to my long time friend, and Mac-book co-author, Dave Gales who literally saved the day by resurrecting enough of my stuff to help the day come off right).

    NOTE: As always, I had all my Lightroom Tour files backed up on an 8GB USB jump drive on my keychain. On Tuesday it broke off my keychain, and when I went through security, I had to put it in the gray bin separately. Unfortunately, I forgot to take it out. Figures, eh? Also, luckily, I did have a full back-up of my computer (using Apple’s Time Capsule), which I’m using to restore all my files now that I’m home. I should have had a full bootable external drive with me. I will next time.

  • Quick Photo Walk Update
    While my computer was down for the count, my assistant Brad Moore stepped in and helped me out, getting a lot more cities approved, helping lots of folks, and keeping the flow of info going. He also started a Photo Walk blog on the site (, where we’ll both be giving updates as we move closer to the event. We hoped that this year’s blog would build on what we did last year, but we had no idea it would mushroom to what it already has. For example: 

    Last year’s number of cities active by the day of the walk: 236
    This year’s number of cities active in the first week: 422

    We already have thousands of people signed up to walk (won’t have the exact figure until I get into work tomorrow), and a number of cities not only have full walks, but we’ve added multiple walks in multiple cities to handle the overflow. Also, I just learned that NAPP’s Executive Director Larry Becker is now hosting a photo walk in Lakeland, Florida. If you’d like to join Larry, go to the Photo Walk site and sign up quick.

    Catch “The Laddy” doing Down & Dirty in Richmond on Wed.
    Corey Barker, the man who helped me develop the new Photoshop Down & Dirty Tricks Tour, is going to be teaching the tour himself this Wednesday in Richmond, Virginia. It’s going to be a packed house, so if you want to catch the Photoshop Laddy and learn some really cool stuff from an incredible instructor, here’s the link to sign up.

  • Learning Location Lighting from Joe McNally
    There’s just one spot left for the week-long Location Lighting seminar Joe is hosting on the Island of St. Lucia in the Caribbean this July (I’ll be there, too, doing some workflow stuff on the last day), so if you’ve been on the fence about going; this is “last call,” (here’s the link).

    In other McNally news; Kelby Training Live is kicking off a new one-day Location Lighting Techniques seminar tour with Joe, that kicks off in San Francisco on Friday, July 31st. If you’ve ever wanted to spend a day learning from Joe; this is your chance. It will change the way you light forever! The one-day workshop is only $99 ($79 if you’re a NAPP member). Here’s the link with all the details.

    No Indy For Me
    Remember that shooting gig I dig for the Indy Racing League for the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg? Well, right after that gig they contacted me and offered me the gig of shooting the entire Indy 500 weekend (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday), as part of the Indy Staff. There was only one problem: Friday I would be doing my Lightroom tour in Portland, and I looked at flights and I’d pretty much miss Saturday, too and everything but the actual race itself on Sunday. But after having been away from my family Tuesday through Saturday, I thought I’d better pass on shooting the race this time around and head home to see the kids. It was tough missing the opportunity to shoot the Indy 500. Well, it was until my daughter jumped into my arms on Saturday, and my son came running to hug me so fast that it literally almost knocked me over. That just reminded me once again that I had totally made the right decision. There isn’t a shot I could have taken that would have put that feeling in my heart, and that big a smile on my face. It’s great to be home.

    Tomorrow’s Special Guest Blogger is….
    Photoshop Hall of Famer, Canon Explorer of Light, Photoshop World Instructor, and one of the nicest, most genuine guy’s you’d ever want to meet; Eddie Tapp.

    If you’ve ever been lucky enough to catch one of Eddie’s classes at Photoshop World, or his online courses, then you know you’re in for a treat any time Eddie shares, well… anything! So join me here tomorrow as we check out our very special guest blogger, our good friend Eddie Tapp.

That’s it for today folks. I hope to have lots more to share on Thursday, so have a kick-butt Tuesday and Wednesday, and oh yeah, did I mention you should back-up your computer? ;-)