They say practice makes perfect, though my experience with the piano contradicts that. Still, there’s no question that practice makes you better. Getting out of your comfort zone and pushing yourself in new directions is a great way to learn and discover more creative options.
With this in mind, we introduce a weekly series aimed at helping you grow as a photographer. Hosted by Ben Long, the series is called The Practicing Photographer. Each week, Ben will examine a different aspect of photography. Some weeks will focus on tools, such as a piece of camera gear or a noteworthy new mobile app. Other weeks will focus on technique, like creative ways to work with light and reflections, or the benefits of shooting with a prime lens instead of a zoom.
The topics vary but the goal is the same: to help you broaden your photographic horizons by trying new tools and taking pictures that you might not otherwise take.
In the first installment, Ben shows you how to choose a camera. This isn’t a look at features and specifications, but at the importance of a test drive: handling a camera before you buy to make sure you’re comfortable with it. How bright is the viewfinder? Are the controls comfortable? How does the camera feel in your hands? Are its menus easy to navigate? These and other important shopping considerations often get ignored in the era of online shopping.
Ben is the author of 19 courses in the lynda.com library, with more on the way. The Practicing Photographer brings his insight and wit to you every Thursday. We hope you like it, and we welcome your feedback in the comments field below.
If you love photography and you have an external flash unit, you need to know about Strobist. This blog, published by photographer David Hobby, has been a rich learning resource since 2006—packed with tutorials, reviews, and do-it-yourself projects.
David has also published a series of video tutorials, and we’re happy to announce that they’re coming to the lynda.com library. In the six-part “Lighting with Flash” series, he shows how to use external flash in a wide range of scenarios, from portraiture to action sports to macro and close-up. These aren’t courses that tell you which buttons to press on your flash. Rather, each course is an opportunity to follow along with a working professional as he uses compact flash units to transform the lighting in a studio, in a gym, on a soccer field, in a blacksmith’s shop, and much more.
The first course, Lighting with Flash: Basics, is available now. Each week we’ll publish another course in the series. The series will conclude with an inspiring course that may just change how you approach photography, whether you’re an enthusiast or a pro.
As a teacher, David Hobby is a natural with an engaging, informal style. I’ve loved his blog for years, and it’s been a pleasure to work with him to bring his video training to lynda.com members.
The last week of May 2012, lynda.com cleared out a Salvation Army warehouse, set up some lighting, pulled up some cool cars (including a Mercedes SLS, a BMW 135M, and an Aprilia motorcycle) and invited 130-plus employees and friends from lynda.com and Adobe to spend the day photographing cars, and learning about Adobe Photoshop CS6.
The content team at lynda.com strives to create courses that continuously help you learn the key technological tools that you need to get your job done, and we certainly aim to make sure you have the best and most up-to-date information on how to use your tools of choice, from Aperture to ZBrush. Over the last several months, we’ve also been working to include more big-picture training that focuses on best practices, core concepts, and widely applicable skills that aim to help everyone, including those who may already be more well-versed in tools and techniques, take their work and skill-set to the next level.
For this week’s collection of featured free movies, I’ve picked a few tutorials that demonstrate this kind of conceptual, ‘beyond the tools’ approach. Although some of these video examples live within courses that are centered around a particular application, don’t be distracted, or deterred, by the application context—these videos all aim to give you foundational information that will prepare you to work thoughtfully before you ever touch the keyboard, and will stay with you long after you’ve stepped away from your computer.
What sorts of larger, more conceptual skills are you looking to develop? If you have suggestions or ideas about ‘beyond the tools’ training you’d like to see, please share them in the comments section below.
1. Finding and capturing a good photo
In this excerpt from our Foundations of Photography: Composition course, Ben Long shares his thoughts on where to find good photos. You’ll find that the answer, if your mind and eyes are open, might be ‘anywhere.’
2. Understanding color as a signifier
In this movie from chapter one of the Photoshop for Designers: Color course, Nigel French takes a birds-eye-view approach to discuss the significance, meaning, and changeability of different colors, including discussion of the connotation of colors, and how there is no such thing as an absolute color. Before you think about how to apply color to your design in Photoshop, you may take some time to consider why a particular color is right for your message.
3. Refining a concept
In this excerpt from Digital Creature Creation in ZBrush, Photoshop, and Maya, Ryan Kittleson shares his practical advice for sketching and experimenting with sketches to make even the most whimsical of creatures. In this video you’ll see how Ryan approaches his doodling process, why he recommends creating lots of types of creatures to give yourself a variety of options, and what character analysis questions he asks himself to get to just the right design for a project, long before he ever launches an application.
4. Focusing and working to make yourself irreplaceable
You might be the office wizz with Photoshop, Word, or Excel, but are you spending your time working on the activities that make you valuable? In this excerpt from Dave Crenshaw‘s Invaluable course, Invaluable: Making Yourself Irreplaceable, you’ll get an introduction to Dave’s system for identifying how best to employ your time and energy at work.
5. Web form structure, and considerations taken when designing
In this excerpt from Luke Wroblewski‘s Web Form Design Best Practices course, you’ll get some big-picture advice on how to think about your web form’s structure, and what considerations you should keep in mind when designing forms for the web. In this video, Luke discusses the fundamentals of sequential, non-linear, and in-context forms, and why you might choose one over the other:
In this blog we talk about color, recognizing photography opportunities, the conceptual sketching process, web form design, and how to make yourself an invaluable asset to your team. These core concepts are just the tip of the iceberg—what sorts of larger, more conceptual skills are you looking to develop? If you have suggestions or ideas about ‘beyond the tools’ training you’d like to see, we’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.
For this week’s featured five new tutorials, I have a sampling of movies from five different Photoshop courses we offer in the lynda.com library, each with a slightly different approach, scope, or focus. With the announcement of CS6, we’ve updated three of our mainstay Photoshop training courses, and when you combine that with our existing content, it can be overwhelming if you don’t know where to start or which course is right for your needs. Here are some quick descriptions and free movie samples of five of our Photoshop offerings, from the encyclopedic to the specific, to help you figure out which one is right for you in your current state of expertise and interest.
Are you looking for more direction on where to start with Photoshop? Let us know what you’re looking to accomplish below in the comments section, and we’ll share our ideas about where to begin.
1. Photoshop CS6 Essential Training In general, Essential Training courses at lynda.com are designed to give you comprehensive knowledge of a software application and a solid foundational overview of the product from a real-world perspective. In the case of Photoshop CS6 Essential Training, this means author Julieanne Kost stays focused on the most important tools for photo editing and compositing, with just the right pairing of ‘how does this tool work’ and ‘why you want to use it and when.’ Essential Training courses are great for watching start-to-finish for the big overview, or if you need focused instruction on a tool, or set of tools, you don’t quite understand. For example, in this excerpt, you’ll see how Photoshop’s Liquify tool can be used judiciously in a variety of different real-world portrait retouching scenarios:
Note, if you’re working with an earlier version of Photoshop, there are Photoshop CS5 and CS4 essential training courses available in the library as well.
2. Photoshop CS6 One-on-One: Fundamentals
The fundamentals course from the Photoshop One-on-One series also covers the core concepts of working in Photoshop, but veteran Photoshop instructor Deke McClelland approaches his training as though he were your private one-to-one tutor. Photoshop CS6 One-on-One: Fundamentals is great if you’re looking for more insight into how tools integrate with one another, or if you prefer to learn through “mini-project” examples that develop over the course of a movie or a chapter. In this excerpt from chapter four of the course, you’ll see a six-minute lesson on blending, and, specifically, how to work with three distinct features: Opacity, the History panel, and blend modes:
Deke has been creating a version of the One-on-One Fundamentals course in the lynda.com library for several years, so if you’re working with an earlier version you can find this specifically tailored instruction for Photoshop CS3, CS4, and CS5 as well.
3. Photoshop CS6 for Photographers
Using Photoshop can mean different things to different people and this course is notable for it’s focus on the needs of a particular set of Photoshop students—photographers. In this course, Chris Orwig, a noted photographer and photography teacher, details the features and techniques surrounding photo enhancement and retouching, preparation for print and online publishing, and much more. He also teaches some of the foundational science behind digital photography, including this discussion of pixels and bit depth:
5. Photo Restoration with Photoshop
In this course, professional photo restorer Janine Smith describes how to use Photoshop specifically to restore, retouch, and enhance old or damaged photos. In addition to covering methods for fixing everything from exposure, to stains, colorcast, scratches, and tears, Janine also shares how to evaluate damaged photos before beginning the restoration process. A course that offers lessons through exploration of an example project, this course includes a hands-on photo restoration that takes an image from a damaged start to a restored finish. In this video from chapter nine of the course, you’ll see a before and after of the course project restoration, and a run-down of the improvements Janine will help you tackle, including, the restoration of a major crack through the subject’s face, color alteration, and the removal of several major damage spots:
The course was recorded in CS5 but it’s real strength is the best-practices approach that Janine takes to photo restoration, so you should find valuable information here even if you’re still working in CS4, or if you’ve just forayed into the brave new world of Photoshop CS6.
Photoshop is a complicated program that can be used in infinite ways for a variety of creative endeavors. The team at lynda.com is dedicated to making sure you can find a course (or maybe three) that really provides the depth of coverage, level of context, and variety of specific interest that you need. Are you looking for a place to start with Photoshop? Let us know here, and we’ll share our ideas about where to begin.
This year, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences decided to commission portraits of each of the 20 2012 Oscar-nominated actors and actresses.
Who did they call? Renowned photographer (and lynda.com author) Douglas Kirkland, who has photographed hundreds of actors and performers in his storied career. The resulting portraits form an exhibit called Out of Character, which is on display at the Academy’s Beverly Hills headquarters until March 18.
Last Friday, Douglas gave a few of us an exhibit tour, during which he talked about the portraits and his process. We’re pleased to be able to share it with you. Check it out, then check out his Douglas Kirkland on Photography series.
Perhaps you’ve heard the saying “the best camera is the one that’s with you.”
For millions of people, that camera is an Apple iPhone. The iPhone’s popularity has led to a flood of photography-related apps and a thriving community of iPhone photographers who meet up in person and share photos using the wildly popular Instagram site.
When we set out to do a course on iPhone photography, it was obvious that we needed to cover shooting tips and cool photo apps, but we also wanted to celebrate the iPhone photography community. We wanted to show the fun and mutual inspiration that comes from sharing visual stories with other people. We wanted to capture the spirit of communal creativity that happens when photographers get together and interact.
Our opportunity came last October, when the world’s first iPhone photography conference took place in San Francisco. We attended the conference and shot video of the sessions and then enjoyed shooting a morning photo walk through San Francisco’s Mission District. We even used the iPhone 4S to shoot some of the photo walk video.
Shooting with Richard Koci Hernandez during the 1197 Conference photo walk. Photo Credit: Jim Heid
After the conference, we hit the road with author and multimedia photojournalist Richard Koci Hernandez. We tagged along as he went shooting on the streets of Los Angeles, and then we returned to the studio, where he shared tips for his favorite photography apps as well as insights on the art of visual storytelling.
We think the course reflects the creative excitement surrounding the world of iPhone photography. It was a fun course to work on, and we hope you’ll find it a fun course to watch.
Earlier this week, Adobe released a public beta version of Lightroom 4, its popular photo-editing and asset-management software for Macs and Windows PCs. The new version is free for the testing: you can download it, try it out, and provide feedback that may influence the final version.
To help you get up to speed with what’s new, we’ve published Photoshop Lightroom 4 Beta Preview with Chris Orwig. It’s a two-hour tour of Lightroom 4′s new features including its enhanced photo- and video-editing features, its ability to tag your photos to a map, and its Blurb book-layout module.
And because free is a very good price, we’ve made the entire course free, meaning, you don’t have to be a lynda.com member in order to watch it. But as they say on the TV commercials for knives that can slice through Kryptonite, act now to take advantage of this limited-time offer. The Lightroom 4 beta software expires at the end of March, and when it does, we’ll retire this course.
We will be updating the blog periodically with posts that spotlight some of Lightroom 4′s new features, but if you’re curious to see what’s new right now, download the beta preview and check out Chris’s course. Just keep in mind that the software is in prerelease form. It likely has bugs, and you shouldn’t use it for anything critical, including slicing through Kryptonite.