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Not quite what I was expecting
on 13 April 2013
My first impression is that this book was smaller than expected physically. I know this is an odd comment but this looks more like an oversized small book than a typical software book. I bought it primarily for digital photography after having bought a book on Lightroom. I am a little disappointed with content in this regard. It only really covers what I can already do in Lightroom. Other content is not really applicable so much to the digital photographer. I have not marked this book down because it does not claim to be what I was hoping it would be.
There is a DVD with tutorial files on which makes this well worth the spend. I started with Photoshop in the early 90s with version 2. I have not kept up to date beyond CS3 so this book was also purchased to bring me up to speed with some of the more recent tools, not least the content aware fill, which would have had the entire Adobe staff hung, burned or drowned for witchcraft had this tool been available in medieval times. I was at an Adobe conference and their message is that a lot of these tools are intended to save time which can still be billed to a client. I firmly believe with this release they have achieved that.
Having written courses myself, I know the importance of covering off the fundamentals and getting timing right, to allow students to solidify their understanding. On that note I believe this book is presented well, introducing more basic concepts earlier and advanced topics separately. Tutorials are about an hour per chapter which is about the right amount of time.
Where could the book be improved? Well my main criticism is that where students are presented with a group of settings, the book often lacks detail on these settings. There is no science behind many of these; they will vary for each image. They do provide their recommended values and what I like to do is try myself first and then compare the results with these recommended settings. But beyond a cursory level, there really isn't sufficient detail and that was something I had hoped from this book. I had recently gone through Lightroom training and was expecting this Photoshop book to cover the same settings in a lot more detail, given the target audience. Saying this, there is plenty of opportunity to experiment, and some research will build upon the detail presented in the book, so I can hardly be disappointed. I would have liked more advanced content but I believe this would have led to a much larger book and one which would have had novice readers scratching their heads. As a basic introduction it is really very good and even though I consider myself a rusty veteran of this tool, I have not yet completed a tutorial without feeling that I have learned a lot. So not to be underestimated as a 'fundamentals' style course not exclusively aimed at novices.
My only other observation is that when following step-by-step instructions, I find there is quite a bit of superfluous text. This is the very area where it would help to be as concise as possible, perhaps using the sidebar for additional detail. They do this already, but I find the general content a bit word-heavy when following tutorials at times.
Saying this and with hindsight I would have little reservation in choosing this book again. For a teach yourself guide there is benefit in sticking with Adobe. I tend toward independent writers where I am looking for workflows, but for a book you can go chapter to chapter and ensure you don't miss anything, this would appear to be it. The book does claim it's a reference book as well. I am not sure it serves more experienced PS users as a reference; more an aide memoir. More detailed reference style books are available and I would think this book could easily live alongside such books.
If you're a novice or more advanced user who has not studied a 'fundamentals' style course in Photoshop, I would heartily recommend this one. If your goal is to learn more advanced techniques then there are other books and video courses available which are more suited. But I doubt anyone going through this book would end up disappointed. There is always plenty to learn no matter how experienced the reader. And it's always the fundamentals that if not learned thoroughly or at all, end up costing the user (or worse still their client) time and money.
Update: I am starting to find the book frustrating. Having just completed the exercise on Masks, at least one part of the tutorial has errors and continues the tendency to just regurgitate values instead of attempting to explain (even in basic detail) what various settings do, makes me question the value I am getting out of the course. Unless you understand what you're changing, and unless you can clearly see the changes, there is risk of damaging your work. The point about Photoshop is it's a significant step up on Lightroom and other entry level packages. I had hoped that this book would furnish some level of detail. Although the tutorials do cover advanced level techniques, they skip over detail. They would have been better using simpler tutorials and allowing more space for additional reading. To their credit they do have summary boxes through (yellow) but these are very basic.
So far I have downgraded the rating on this book. I have left my original thoughts and update because I believe at first glance it looks good, but becomes frustrating. I am no novice and I am even getting confused with their explanation of topics I know quite well. This is in part the limitation of learning from a book instead of video where you can watch the process and then go through step by step. They do however provide the finished work so you know where you're aiming. But in going through some of the tutorials I am finding most of my effort is in making sure I don't miss a step and not really understanding what I am doing. Perhaps a lot of experimentation on my own with occasional reference to the book will help, but that defeats the purpose of it.