Photoshop Proficient (Maybe)
March 20, 2012 11:03 AM   Subscribe

You're hiring interns and one of your qualifications is for them to be "proficient in Photoshop". What do you expect them to know?

Example of a job listing: Disney Photo & New Media Intern. I think I know my way around Photoshop, but maybe my skills are too basic, or aren't what the employer has in mind.

There's the assumption that interns will learn as they go, but what knowledge do you expect them to bring to the job when they first start?
posted by book 'em dano to Media & Arts (13 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
"Proficient" to me says "I can crop and resize photos, do some basic basic retouching, know enough about layers to work with someone else's file, and add text to a photo of a cat".
posted by Oktober at 11:08 AM on March 20, 2012 [3 favorites]

Basic knowledge about color correction, can use the pen tool to precision selections, knowledge of techniques for isolating hair, preparing files for the print and/or web and the ability to realize they don't know a particular aspect about the program and either ask how to solve the problem or quickly figure it out.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:09 AM on March 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

I had a few students hired as Photoshop interns, and they were not only able to do photo work, but they were able to set up new documents from scratch at given dimensions. For example, someone could tell them "I need an 8.5 x 11 flyer with these photos on it, and this text" and they could do it. Nothing super fancy, but they could create a document of a given size and resolution from scratch.
posted by circular at 11:15 AM on March 20, 2012

Crop photos, resize, save as various formats (and what those formats are good for).

Able to work in layers, link them and unlock them is usually good.

Also, if you know all the various basic tools (the difference between Blur and Smudge, between Dodge and Burn), you'll probably be considered a rockstar.
posted by xingcat at 11:16 AM on March 20, 2012

It depends on the job and the industry. Looking at that listing, I think Brandon Blatcher's list is basically on target.

I would expect an intern to have at least a passing familiarity with all of the various tools of the program, and to feel extremely comfortable using it. I would expect them to know how to run batches, how to set up and make use of actions, and how to use layer masks. I would expect them to understand the difference between pixel and print dimensions. I would expect them to have good Photoshop habits, like saving multiple copies of files and labeling them in a comprehensive manner. I would expect them to be able to navigate the server and use our file organization and labeling systems efficiently and consistently. I would expect familiarity with different kinds of image encoding, and which should be used in different circumstances. I would expect them to be able to use the advanced settings on a scanner, and to do basic color corrections and touchups on an imported image. I would expect them to be able to scan large documents in pieces and be able to reassemble them digitally.

For context, I was an intern whose duties were entirely Photoshop-based, and after I was hired full-time I was expected to train and help to manage new interns.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 11:24 AM on March 20, 2012

I agree with the above, but I'd give bonus points, BIG bonus points for the ability to use layers rationally and logically. That means the ability to understand how others might want to use your Photoshop file.

For example, if you are designing a web-page, a very common use of Photoshop, you could organize the layers so that the outer "clamp", of header and side menus and footer are all on one layer.

The header would itself be a sub-layer, the side menus another, and the footer another.

I can't tell you how many times "professional" designers have handed me a lousy photoshop file with layers that make no semantic or logical sense. With one of these lousy files, if I want to isolate an area, I have to manually disable element after element, because the designer didn't bother to think about how others might use the file. So irritating, and it costs my clients a ton of money.

A good designer knows this, unfortunately, most so-called designers aren't anywhere close to competent.
posted by Invoke at 11:24 AM on March 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

If I was testing for proficiency I would give the prospective hire a complex-yet-simple task to complete (say combine stock photos with text, blah blah blah) and then watch to see if they used any keyboard shortcuts. Admittedly this is probably just my hang-up, but I feel if someone is serious enough learn a program then they should be as comfortable using the keyboard as the mouse.
posted by lekvar at 11:33 AM on March 20, 2012

As to that specific listing, it's worth noting that they're looking for proficiency in Microsoft Office. Consider what they mean by that.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:56 AM on March 20, 2012

For me proficiency would indicate that if you don't know how to do something, you would at least have the know-how to look it up online and understand what the instructions are telling you. Though I would say I'm only familiar with a small fraction of what Illustrator's tools, I would consider myself proficient because every time I haven't known how to do something, I've been able to figure it out without too much effort.
posted by taltalim at 1:49 PM on March 20, 2012

The Photoshop Knowledge I Wish Everyone Had:

- understanding of DPI. i.e., why you can't take a 40x40 pixel JPEG and print it out as a poster. This sounds idiotic but you would be surprised.
- related: understanding of color spaces. (This isn't as important these days because digital press technology can usually convert from RGB to CMYK better than a human can.)
- understanding of image file formats, their pros and cons. When to use JPEG and when to use PNG, TIF, etc.
- understanding of what the various adjustments do. Levels, Curves, Hue/Saturation, Black & White filter, etc.
- understanding the value of non-destructive editing. The best Photoshop people do everything they can without permanently altering any pixels of the source image: through masking, adjustment layers, smart filters, layer blend modes, etc.

Remember also to consider who's hiring and what the competition is like. Disney is a media company with a major reputation in art direction/production. The people who would be applying for a Disney internship might have far higher skills in art/graphics than people applying for an internship at, say, General Electric.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 2:02 PM on March 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you everyone! As I expected, I don't know how to do everything mentioned, but now I have a list of things to learn.
posted by book 'em dano at 3:06 PM on March 20, 2012

I wouldn't judge too much on use of key commands. I use Photoshop extensively and have custom reset many of my most used commands. When working on someone else's computer I revert to using a lot more pulldown menus.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 9:46 PM on March 20, 2012

Basics of image work - select/cut/copy/paste/crop/etc.
Understand the different selection and masking tools, how to use them and do so efficiently.
Understand that image size and canvas size are not the same thing, and how to use them effectively.
Understanding of how layers work, and how to use them effectively.
Simple image modifications - contrast/brightness, levels, minor retouching stuff.
Understand different file formats - when to and when not to use them.
Also getting around in the UI efficiently, perhaps even knowing keyboard shortcuts to save time.

I wouldn't say these skills are limited to Photoshop but any image editor in general. So yeah, pretty much what overeducated_alligator said ...
posted by gangsterscience at 2:17 PM on March 21, 2012

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