In the short but crowded history of consumer technology, only two products ever became so common, influential, and powerful that their names became 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 Sometimes, the editing actually changes the photo so that it no longer represents the original, and all kinds of ethical questions arise.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 body? When Time magazine darkened O.J. Simpson’s skin to make him look more menacing on the cover? Or when National Geographic moved two 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.
Trouble is, Photoshop is a monster. It’s huge. Just opening it is like watching a slumbering beast heave into consciousness. Dudes: Photoshop 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 was Photoshop. And yet, despite having published over 100 books since I started this series in 1999, we had never tackled Photoshop. It was the elephant in the room for all those years, and it had been bugging me.
Frankly, we were terrified.
But no longer. In 2009, the beast was tamed at last by its new master, Lesa Snider: a natural-born Missing Manual author with Photoshop credentials as long as your arm.
She had 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 howto 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”).
The result of all that training was that the Missing Manual mantra ran 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.)
The resulting Missing Manual about Photoshop was a critical and popular hit. Two editions later, Lesa is back, thank heaven, with a new edition to demystify Photoshop CS6.
Now, I’ll be the first to admit that this book isn’t for everybody. In fact, it’s 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 CS6’s new features. Some of them are pretty sweet indeed. (Content-Aware Move, tilt-shift blurring, text styles, video editing—mmm.)
Heck, you might need this book just to find your way around Photoshop’s massively redesigned interface. It’s quite a bit different. It’s like coming home from college to discover that your parents redecorated your room without telling you.
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 NOVA on PBS), and the creator of the Missing Manual series.