For many of us photographers, making Photoshop (PS from now on) work FOR us instead of the hard and difficult process it can be, is a task we seem to never be able to accomplish. PS is constantly changing and much is for the best. We only seek to bring out images to life, make edits that make sense for the composition, and output them for our printed images for clients.
Many, like me have gone online, watched hundreds of videos, taken courses, and worked at creating what the instructor created and not really understood the HOW or WHY he or she did things as they did. “Just do it this way” and it should work for you. It usually doesn’t quite come out as we expected. Sure, that instructors work is fabulous, but what about MY work? It doesn’t look so fabulous.
So who is this Damien Symonds guy and why should you care?
He is perhaps one of THE best PS masters of all time. And he offers a few PS courses that honestly, will turn your hate or fear of PS into a LOVE of PS in ways that will astound you. His teaching methods are simply the easiest to comprehend, the simplest to master, and don’t require a learning curve that is unobtainable. And he is not a photographer, but a retoucher and restoration expert from Australia.
His first and most recommended course from me is his RAW Class. Shooting in RAW format is often misunderstood and the reasons WHY you should be taking photographs is RAW is explained in depth in his course. But once you have a RAW image, processing it, setting white balance, properly adjusting exposure and all the other settings requires a foundational few steps to start your masterpiece. I know that in my wedding photography, I sometimes have hundreds of images to sort, cull, and process. I KNEW there had to be a better way to quickly accomplish that task and honestly, dreaded it. Not any longer! Damien’s RAW class turned my entire workflow upside down, inside out, and sped things up so much I love doing RAW processing now. And I have images that are ready to do the magic touch in PS using Damien’s NEXT CLASS, his Levels and Curves class.
We ALL want to make our images have that special, one of a kind POP to them. Levels and Curves can do just that once you understand how to use them, how to make them work FOR you, and how selective editing can be your best friend. To learn Damien’s technique is so darn simple that once you go through his course, apply his methods to your own images, you’re going to wonder yourself, WHY did you spend all that PS Course money?
Now for the caveats. First, you MUST have a color calibrated monitor that you edit on. Don’t even think about taking either course until you do. Without that, you aren’t serious enough about your photographic work to even consider the investment in these courses. You can’t trust what you’re seeing on your screen and what your final prints are going to look like without calibrated monitor(s). So before you do anything, invest in that and get your screen calibrated to your prints.
Second, you will need Lightroom and/or Photoshop. You can get by with just Photoshop and Bridge (it comes with Photoshop) so you can do RAW edits. Adobe Camera RAW comes with PS, and it is a powerful RAW editor as Lightroom is. They are actually almost identical. BUT, again, a calibrated monitor is necessary for proper RAW processing!
Your first course should be the RAW Class. A good, well exposed, properly White Balanced photograph starts you down the path to creative excellence. I often struggled before this class to get a photo looking its best and worked hard in PS to make it better. Now, I have an EASY way to take an image and process the RAW file into something that makes the PS edits a walk in the park. You’re going to learn exactly the proper steps to take, in what order to take them, and the end result will amaze you. I took a couple of photos in Lightroom, made Virtual images out of them, reset them, re-edited so I could compare, and the difference is huge. The edit took all of 2 minutes and the comparison was astounding. Colors correct, skin tones nearly as perfect as I could ever have wanted, contrast and lighting is perfect and well, images I can work with in PS with ease as the result. Add to it, the amount of PS work is reduced dramatically as well.
There is another course you should follow with and that is the Layers and Masks Class. IF you have a good solid understanding of how to use Layers and Masks, have no difficulty in adding them, editing on them, and know how to create them, you could skip this. If you are confused or feel you need to refresh yourself, by all means take this one. Masking is a fundamental skill many do not fully understand, but after this class you will. If there is any question in your mind that perhaps you could be better, take this class next.
Now comes the best part! The Levels and Curves class. I’m going to tell you right up front, you are going to complete the RAW class and see a huge difference in your photographs. But the best comes next. When you take that properly processed RAW file into PS and apply the methods Damien teaches in this class, your entire world is going to change on how you approach PS editing. You will probably never reach for a Magic Wand, or a couple of other tools ever again (well, there are times you do need them!). You will discover how the slightest enhancements will turn your photos into masterpieces in a few short minutes. Your entire view of your images will change as will the way you edit them. You will even discover that a few of your “not so hot” images can be turned into some beautiful work with a few simple levels and curves adjustments as well as using other layer types to make them really come to life.
Here is what I promise you- YOU can learn how to use Lightroom and/or Adobe Camera RAW and PS in ways you never believed you could. Damien’s easy to follow, easy to learn methods are something that I honestly believe anyone can learn to do. If you can open PS, can make a few basic adjustments, can fumble around a bit and understand where your tools pallet is, your layers panel is, and can open an image inside of PS, you can do this. Even Adobe has some nice, free video tutorials that you can learn these basic tasks from.
So if you want your editing skills to take a light year leap in a few short hours, I can’t recommend this enough. Go visit Damien’s Website, click on his Photoshop Training class links if this doesn’t open right to them. But let me warn you in advance- by his own words, he describes himself as this;
Hi, I’m Damien. I’m short-tempered, ill-mannered, narrow-minded, and have questionable personal hygiene. But I know a lot of stuff about post-processing, monitor calibration and colour-management.
So if you’ve ever wished there was somebody sitting beside you while you tried a new editing technique, or grappled with a Photoshop error, or fumbled through your first monitor calibration, or whatever … I try to be that somebody.
And if you need somebody to slap you upside the head and drag you screaming by the hair into a better workflow and better images … I’m that somebody too.
Spades shall be referred to bluntly as spades, and smoke shall be blown up nobody’s ass, ever. But we have a lot of fun, so I hope you’ll join in.
But don’t let that fool you! He KNOWS PS and teaches in a way you will love and come to understand that he really is a nice guy. He just doesn’t have time for those who won’t listen.
Take his classes if you want to really become good with Photoshop and RAW file processing. Tell him Mike sent you and buy him a couple of beers too. They are worth every cent you will invest.