I am reviewing two books, Adobe Photoshop CS6 for Photographers, and The Adobe Lighroom 4 Book, both by Martin Evening. As a user of both Photoshop and Lightroom, I keep them both as my “go-to,” essential shelf-reference books. For the growing number of Lightroom-only users, the review is pretty much the same – I recommend the Lightroom book.
When it comes to “power-learning,” I have always been a book guy
I have said before, that we each learn differently. There are many great books and references on Photoshop and Lightroom, though, to my personal dismay, many of the old publishers and the overall selection of text books at my local Barnes & Noble, has seen a steady demise over the years. Some of that is a function of the way we produce written work and the way we read it. I read almost all my novels and pleasure reading books now on my iPad. And there are also some great “U-Tube”-style tutorials for those who prefer a more “interactive” way to learn. I like them, but when it comes to “power learning,” I have always been a “book guy.” I like the quiet time, often with my highlighter and a good cup of coffee. And, my two copies of these books are dog-eared, copiously highlighted, and generously appended with those colorful little mylar Post-it™ flags.
For a number of years, I tended to favor the mainstream “bible” type books (often published by Que, or Sybex, Adobe-Press) as a shelf-references. I also purchased some of the more “special purpose” books, like the “Photoshop For Nature Photographers” series by Ellen Anon and Tim Grey (having read Tim’s “Color Confidence” book on color management and followed his blog, I bought the foregoing book based his reputation, back in its “CS3” iteration). The reviews of the newer additions (CS4, 5, etc., seemed to universally say there was “nothing new,” so I began to look for something else). I picked up one of Martin Evening’s books while browsing the (ever-shrinking) selection at Barnes & Noble, and ended up taking it home. Evening is a professional fashion and portrait shooter, among other things and being a landscape and outdoor shooter myself, I was initially hesitant. But the truth of the matter is that the technical aspects of these programs are essentially the same for the different types of images we shoot. Evening shoots some landscape images himself, and his coverage is well balanced.
Evening’s books strike a nice balance between the “how” and “why”
For many versions back (and probably from the beginning of Lightroom), Martin Evening has been writing these “texts” for photographers on these complex and feature-laden programs. The books are generally logically laid out, starting with an explanation of the best practices for installing and configuring these programs for your working style, and progressing through explaining the various tools and settings, ingestion of images into the programs, color management issues, raw image management and treatment, and basic post-processing techniques. After covering the basics, he covers some of the fine-tuning and special things that can be done with your images from retouching issues to more creative work.
I recently mentioned that I am one of those “look under the hood” types who want to know not only how to do something—but why. Evening’s books strike a nice balance between the “how” and “why” with enough technical and background information to generally satisfy that curiosity–then getting on to the show. He usually ends a section with an illustrated process example, showing how he took an image through a process.
Both books conclude with some image management coverage and a section on output (mainly printing in the Photoshop book; printing, web, book publishing—Adobe Lightroom has a deal with Blurb™—and slide shows).
Evening’s writing style is engaging and understandable, without being too “folksy”
There are, of course, some significant differences between the two. Photoshop is a much more detailed, feature rich program, which, while in recent years seems to be fundamentally targeted at advanced photographic imagery, is also a tool used by graphic artists and other “digital professionals.” Evening sticks to his theme and addresses Photoshop as it is useful for photographers and their post-processing needs. Because Photoshop is a “pixel-editing” program, there is more to write about and the book is longer than the Lightroom book. Coverage of layers, masking, blending, retouching, lighting effects, blurring and other optical effects, cloning, content aware patching, moving and other retouching effects, etc., is essential and adds a number of pages to the text.
I keep the CS6 and LR4 books on a shelf within arm’s reach from my imaging workstation. The CS6 book is my second purchase in the series (having started with his CS5 book). Perhaps obviously, there is going to be a substantial amount of repetition from edition to edition. Unfortunately for the consumer, but maybe fortunately for the publisher and writer, it is necessary to update these books as Adobe upgrades its software with new features and changes. If you have the CS4 version and have now upgraded to CS5 or CS6, you will still find lots of useful information in the CS4 book, but it should be evident that you will also be missing the coverage on any new features.
I keep the books on a shelf within arm’s reach from my imaging workstation
At the risk of repetition, I will reiterate that we learn differently, and find different styles more or less consucive to our learning. I appreciate Evening’s writing style. While he doesn’t engage in quirky humor (ala, the well-known—and well-written—Scott Kelby Books), he does, in my view, go into just the right amount of detail. His writing style is engaging and understandable, without being too “folksy.” I have made these books my primary reference tools for these two essential digital imaging programs.