When I first learned to use Photoshop, there was no Bridge, no Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) and no Lightroom. Even so, it took several books and advice from more experienced users to get a handle on the software. As new features were added, I had to keep working to learn how to edit images. Now Stephen Laskevitch proposes to initiate the new user to everything Photoshop in one swoop in "Photoshop CS5 and Lightroom 3: A Photographer's Handbook." For those not familiar with the software, Bridge and ACR are included with Photoshop but function much like separate pieces of software. Lightroom functionality overlaps with ACR and Bridge.
The book begins by defining the terms and concepts the author considers necessary to master Adobe's image processing tools, followed by the configuration settings he considers essential. Next the author tours the screens of Photoshop, Bridge, ACR and Lightroom and considers the steps to take to import images and organize them. There are chapters on global adjustments, local adjustments, cleanup and retouching, creative edits and output. His method is to describe similar functions in each of the pieces of software at one time.
This is an interesting pedagogical approach. There are many functions that are similar in adjusting images in Photoshop, ACR and Lightroom. For example, tone can be adjusted in all three tools with a form of the curves tool. But each of these curve tools has just a slightly different way of being applied. For the new user, covering these subjects together can easily generate confusion. Moreover, probably because a book ultimately must have some page limits, specific instruction for any one particular mode was sometimes scanted. I would think that for the new user it would be better to deal with Photoshop, ACR and Lightroom separately, and to use one piece of software well before trying to learn another, especially since both ACR and Lightroom on their own can probably handle most of the adjustments that a new user would need.
Add to that the fact that the new user probably would benefit from plenty of practical examples of using the functions. While the author does give a few practical examples, most of the instruction is of a narrative sort. Moreover, some of the narrative just skims the surface, such as the discussion of noise reduction in ACR and Lightroom, which presents the luminescence and color sliders but doesn't discuss the detail sliders that go with them.
Like virtually every book that introduces beginners to photo-processing, Laskevitch discuses the effects of the various buttons and sliders on images, but doesn't suggest when a certain adjustment would be most appropriate to help the photographer achieve his or her vision and that's too bad since it could be a strong motivational factor for the beginner.
It's easy for a tyro to get discouraged trying to learn to use image processing software. Bundling interwoven explanations of several different pieces together in a single book makes it just that much harder.