How Good Are Your Photoshop Skills?


Photographers who want to improve their landscape photography, to pick up some new wedding photography techniques, or to learn how to shoot children are spoilt for choice. Search on Google for a “photography workshop” and you’ll get more than 67 million results. Whatever kind of photography you want to practice, from snapping models to capturing pets and creating portraits you can always find someone willing to teach it.

Search, though, for a “Photoshop workshop” on Google and you’ll get fewer than 19 million results. That might still make for a pretty big choice but it’s less than a third of the educational content aimed at teaching photography skills even though the size of the demand should be the same. Regardless of what you want to shoot, just about every kind of image and every photography specialty will require a good understanding of image editing and post-production.

One reason that Photoshop classes are so much rarer than photography classes may be that while the need may be the same, the apparent demand for the classes is lower. Learning to take pictures is fun; learning to improve the white balance or remove red-eye not so much. Sitting at a keyboard and choosing tones from a piece of software is certainly a lot less romantic than directing models or even swishing chemicals under the red light of a darkroom.

But the skills are just as essential. Even if they don’t want to change their pictures too much once they’ve taken them, even the best photographers and the most experienced professionals have to spend some time adjusting their images before they submit them. And if they don’t, it’s only because they outsource the work to assistants who can charge a premium for their digital skills.

Learn How to Mix Your Colors

Fortunately, learning those skills has got easier. MCP Actions is one of a number of companies that help people get to grips with Adobe’s over-complicated editing suite. The company started in 2006 providing Photoshop training and selling prepared actions to simplify the editing process, initially for online businesses that needed to upload images. Jodi Friedman, the company’s founder, soon found that photographers also wanted to learn how to edit their photos so she added the image-makers themselves to her mix of customers too.

“Now all my customers are photographers – either hobbyists or professionals.”

The classes are held online through and take place either as one-to-one tutorials or in groups of between five to fifteen students. Altogether, Jodi believes that “a few thousand” people have taken part in her online classes, and “hundreds of thousands” have watched her video tutorials. The customers, she says, range from new hobbyists to experienced photographers and from teens to grandmothers. Although the subjects covered in the class are broad and include lessons on using curves and newborn photography, as well as workshops on elements, the most popular topic by far is color fixing. Those classes are also among the lowest priced workshops at $99.95 for a two-hour live session.

About 85 percent of Jodi’s students are women, though, a surprising dominance that may suggest that men are missing out. It’s possible that Jodi’s marketing is focused on women and it could be that men are more comfortable with a big Photoshop manual and self-learning. But it’s also possible that too many photographers are still seeing photography as starting and ending with the camera.

Wedding Photographers Are Really Wedding Photo Adjusters

In fact, according to at least one survey, professional wedding photographers should more accurately describe themselves as professional wedding image editors. More than 28 percent of their time is spent “editing photos” and completing “other computer tasks,” work that takes up the largest part of their day. Just 12 percent of their workday is actually spent taking pictures. Those proportions may be different in other specialties but they’re unlikely to vary by much.

Photographers who fail to get to grips with the software side of picture-taking are ignoring the work that they’re likely to be doing the most.

There are alternatives to taking online courses though. Even Jodi Friedman admits that there’s nothing wrong with learning from books. (Although she stresses that some of her customers can pick up in an hour or two what it would take them months to learn from a book or a college course.) Outsourcing is also an option. If you’re not in a position to hire an assistant, you can find plenty of freelancers — often photography enthusiasts with digital skills — willing to do the basic editing for you., for example, charges wedding photographers from 13 cents to 19 cents an image for adjusting exposure, white balance, highlight recovery and fill light. They say they’ll even crop and straighten if needed.

But however tedious basic image editing might feel, not all photographers are willing to outsource such an important part of the image-making workflow, especially to companies outside their own studio. Wedding photographers, in particular, tend to want to keep control of the process themselves, ensuring that the product meets the standards they want to keep and leaving room for some creativity even during image adjustment.

For today’s photographers — both professional and enthusiasts — time in front of the camera is even more important than time behind the lens. It might even take up a greater part of the day than old-fashioned darkroom development and while it’s not likely to be the most interesting part of being a photographer, it is important and it is worth knowing well.

And once you know it, not only will you be able to edit faster, cut back on the time in front of the monitor and give yourself more time at the tripod, you could also find that you enjoy it — and that you want to charge classes of students a hundred bucks each for a couple of hours of tuition.

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