Photoshop CS5 and Lightroom 3
by Stephen Laskevitch
The phrase “formal education” is used in some circles with a faintly superior air, whereas at the other end of the span of possible meanings it is sometimes used in a mildly disparaging manner. It is often useful to look at antonyms when checking meanings, and many of us will have experienced “informal education” in circumstances where little gets done and not much is achieved. Equally, many of us will have experienced those educators who have lost whatever excitement they ever had for their subject — educators whose presentations are at their best when mercifully they end.
If you check out Stephen Laskevitch online you will find that he has been teaching his subject for many years and cofounded Luminous Works, a training and consulting company in Seattle, WA. It would be a surprise if such background did not directly influence the structure of his book. As you might expect there is an underlying formal structure, and that is a good thing. The author remains animated about his subject, and together these things gave this reader a very positive and enjoyable experience.
Publishers are doing a great job of providing potential readers and purchasers of their books with in-depth information to help them decide if a book suits their needs and tastes. The down side for reviewers is that padding out the review with a summary of the contents is no longer an acceptable option: so here is the “Table of Contents” as a PDF on the publisher’s website. Another useful option from the publisher is to read a whole chapter as a free sample. Whoever decided which chapter to offer may just have defaulted to the Chapter One without further ado; on the other hand, “Terms & Concepts” may have been a carefully judged choice.
Either way, as a potential reader you may experience first hand if the book is suitable for you. In the tradition of after dinner speakers the chapter starts with a good joke to settle everyone down, and then lays out the scope for the narrative. If everything in the chapter is familiar ground for you, and you feel confident that you could score full marks if you had to answer questions, then the book may not be for you. Similarly, if you are the sort of person who likes to jump around from one topic to another, you may be better served by a less formal book. If, however, you are the sort of person who learns successfully from structured tuition then this book will have a lot to offer you.
It’s tempting to think Photoshop CS5 and Lightroom 3 is aimed at the beginner, because all of Section One seems like beginner’s instructions with detailed what, why, and where for Photoshop and Lightroom. If you learned your pixel wrangling skills in a formal, structured environment then this may be the case. However, if you learned your skills by poke and hope, or piecemeal one function at a time as the need arose, then this book might be a good way to gain an integrated understanding of the overall functioning of the behemoth software that is the Photoshop family.
The layout is very open, and outer covers are flapped so they double as place markers, something that I find very useful. Lots of white space is not just used extravagantly for conspicuous consumption though; the illustrations project beyond the text, and the whole effect makes for easy reading. The layout and type are by the author. The decorative full page photographs between chapters are either spectacular or less so, and it’s hard to know why the less-so ones were chosen; perhaps some pictures that looked good as a fine art print didn’t survive the transition to commercial book printing. Faux thumb indexing for the various members of the Photoshop family will be helpful or almost redundant depending on how you use the book.
The range of training and instruction books for the Photoshop family of software is huge. The standard is generally high, so it’s hard to differentiate one title from another, except the few that are either exceptionally good or exceptionally bad. One way to look at this particular book is to imagine that you are considering a two or three days classroom based training course. Then imagine if you are the sort of person who could get some similar benefit for $25 by reading a book written by the trainer whose course you had under consideration. I think Laskevitch has probably put the same sort of effort into his book as he puts into his courses, and probably even more work! Viewed in that light this book is a bargain.
MyMac Review Rating: 9 out of 10
Read the review of this book on Pixiq by John Nemerovski
Listen to an interview with author Stephen Laskevitch