In the short but crowded history of consumer technology, only two products ever became so common, influential, and powerful that their names become verbs.
Google is one.
Photoshop is the other.
(“Did you Google that guy who asked you out?” “Yeah—he’s crazy. He Photoshopped his last girlfriend out of all his pictures!”)
It’s safe to say that these days, not a single photograph gets published, in print or online, without having been processed in Photoshop first. It’s usually perfectly innocent stuff: a little color adjustment, contrast boosting, or cropping.
But not always. Sometimes, the editing actually changes the photo so that it no longer represents the original, and all kinds of ethical questions arise. Remember when TV Guide Photoshopped Oprah’s head onto Ann-Margaret’s body? Or when Time magazine darkened O.J. Simpson’s skin to make him look more menacing on the cover? Or when National Geographic moved one of the pyramids closer together to improve the composition?
Well, you get the point: Photoshop is magic. Thanks to Photoshop, photography is no longer a reliable record of reality.
And now, all that magic is in your hands. Use it wisely.
There’s only one problem: Photoshop is a monster. It’s huge. Just opening it is like watching a slumbering beast heave into consciousness. Dudes: Photoshop CS4 has over 500 menu commands.
In short, installing Photoshop is like being told that you’ve just won a 747 jumbo jet. You sit down in the cockpit and survey the endless panels of controls and switches. Now what?
You don’t even get a printed manual anymore.
If there were ever a piece of software that needed the Missing Manual treatment, it’s Photoshop. And yet, despite having published over 100 books since I started this series in 1999, we’ve never tackled Photoshop. It’s been the elephant in the room for all those years, and it’s been bugging me.
Frankly, we were terrified.
But no longer; the beast has at last been tamed. I’m delighted to introduce its new master, Lesa Snider King: a first-time author with Missing Manual credentials as long as your arm.
She worked on Missing Manuals, side-by-side with me in my office, for four years, in all kinds of editorial and production capacities. And when she wasn’t at my place, she was out in the real world, teaching Photoshop seminars, writing Photoshop how-to articles for the Web, retouching hundreds of photos in Photoshop, and eventually becoming a Photoshop master (which I would define as, “anyone who knows what more than 50 percent of those 500 menu commands actually do”).
Even more important, the Missing Manual mantra runs through her blood: make it clear, make it entertaining, make it complete (hence the thickness of the book in your hands). And above all, don’t just identify a feature: tell us what it’s for. Tell us when to use it. (And if the answer is “you’ll never use it,” tell us that, too.)
Now, Photoshop CS4: The Missing Manual is not for everybody; I’ll be the first to admit it. In fact, the book is aimed primarily at two kinds of people: Photoshop beginners and Photoshop veterans.
But seriously, folks. If you’re new to Photoshop, you’ll find patient, friendly introductions to all those nutty Photoshoppy concepts like layers, color spaces, image resolution, and so on. And, mercifully, you’ll find a lot of loving attention to a time-honored Missing Manual specialty—tips and shortcuts. As Photoshop pros can tell you, you pretty much have to learn some of Photoshop’s shortcuts, or it will crush you like a bug.
On the other hand, if you already have some Photoshop experience, you’ll appreciate this book’s coverage of CS4’s new features. Some of them are pretty sweet indeed. (Continuous zoom, content-aware scaling, and flick-panning—mmm.) There’s a redesign to contend with, too; CS4 can be like coming home from college to find that your parents have moved around everything in your old room.
In any case, get psyched. You now have both the most famous, powerful, magical piece of software on earth—and an 800-page treasure map to help you find your way.
The only missing ingredients are time, some photos to work on, and a little good taste. You’ll have to supply those yourself.
David Pogue is the weekly tech columnist for the New York Times, an Emmy-winning TV correspondent (CBS News and CNBC), and the creator of the Missing Manual series.