Help me with my digital darkroom technique
January 29, 2008 6:05 PM   Subscribe

PhotoFilter: Help me find an affordable alternative to Photoshop Channel Chops.

I know there are some exceptional photographers in the hive!

I'm an amateur who loves learning about photography. I would say that I'm Photoshop fluent: I understand and can apply layers, adjustment layers, masks, blending modes, filters, etc. I'd like to learn some advanced technique and especially more about how Photoshop works.

Someone recommended Photoshop Channel Chops to me, but I was dismayed to find that it is out of print and selling used for $120+. A quick email to the publisher revealed that there are no plans for either a reprint or new edition.

I'm thinking about saving up and buying the book, but perhaps there's a less expensive book (or website) with similar information that I'm overlooking. With the library's help I usually spend some quality time with photography books before purchasing them, but there is a dearth of advanced Photoshop books in the catalog. So, I'm kind of dependent on Amazon reviews at this point.

So, can anyone recommend a good technical book on Photoshop? Actually, I'd love to hear about any book that you've found valuable.

Thanks so much!
posted by red_lotus to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (18 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Perhaps you might wish to take it out of the library?
posted by Philbo at 6:38 PM on January 29, 2008

I don't know if it is what you are looking for since it is not as advanced technically as the book you are talking about, but if your goal is to simply learn how to effectively develop your photos in Photoshop, a good starting point might be Scott Kelby's book 7-Point System for Adobe Photoshop CS3. But before you buy, you can listen to him talk about it on The Digital Photography Show Episode 74.
posted by daser at 6:39 PM on January 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

Sorry, that was a little shorter than it needed to be. Most libraries can order books through interlibrary loan, or you can find a copy near you using worldcat (the link above)...
posted by Philbo at 6:40 PM on January 29, 2008

@ philbo, thanks for the link! I did a search on the interlibrary loan libraries affiliated with my library but none of them had it. I didn't ask a librarian though, maybe one could help me find a copy.
posted by red_lotus at 6:42 PM on January 29, 2008

Dan Margulis's Photoshop LAB Color: The Canyon Conundrum and Other Adventures in the Most Powerful Colorspace taught me a lot, both about LAB color and just random advanced tricks and stuff. Stuff that's good for photo processing.
posted by aubilenon at 6:47 PM on January 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

If you really are fluent with layers and masks (congratulations!) then maybe you don't need the how-to information (Photoshop tech) as much as you need the why-to. For example, if you already know how to bring out shadow detail, maybe you need to work on knowing when to do that, why you do that, and what makes a good picture. Make your research more about photography than about photoshop. So maybe you should look for books on printing photographs and for that start with Ansel Adams' "The Print," as well as his two companion books "The Camera" and "The Negative."

It's also very important to go to museums and galleries to see great photographs in person - you can learn a lot that way.
posted by conrad53 at 7:44 PM on January 29, 2008

Seconding Margulis. He's also got a regular photoshop book, 5th edition.
posted by notsnot at 7:50 PM on January 29, 2008

Actually, Scott Kelby has an excellent book dedicated to Channels, which is $23. I am not a big fan of his 7-point system book, as it completely ignores the idea of non-destructive editing and has lots of instructions like "now flatten the image" that make it impossible to go back and undo what you did. That sort of thing makes it difficult to apply to a real workflow where you might want to try out multiple variations.
posted by Caviar at 10:02 PM on January 29, 2008

"Chops" (channel operations) is how you used to have to do things before Photoshop had layers. That's why the book's out of print. Everything in it can be done more easily now.
posted by kindall at 11:04 PM on January 29, 2008

One more vote for Margulis.
posted by A! at 2:47 AM on January 30, 2008

Well, I suppose I should chime in here...

If you're looking for a book with good coverage of channels and masking, get the Katrin Eismann Masking & Compositing book, it's really quite comprehensive and gets into a lot of the practical applications of channels with regards to creating elaborate masks. It's the closest you're gonna get to PCC at this time. The catch is that the bluescreen/greenscreen math in the chapter in PCC covering that topic, is not duplicated in any other book - much less the Scott Kelby pap, which is the product of a frustrated comedian who is as funny as an inflamed carbuncle. Sorry, I know it's not a nice comment, but Kelby is, IMO, a prolific author who I consider to be the Danielle Steel of the Photoshop world. His channels book is a weak attempt on the part of his publisher to capture the intense interest in PCC, and his lack of knowledge of the topic is something to behold. Many like his stuff, I find it to be practically useless.

As far as channels being superseded by layers, there's another misconception that should be laid to rest - layers are an extension of channels, but still rely on the inner workings of channels in order to do their thing. PCC has a couple of chapters devoted to layers, and how the theory of interchannel relationships applies to getting the most of layering techniques (such as the creation of layer masks from doing interchannel math). A great example is bluescreen mask derivation and blue spill suppression, two techniques that absolutely require using the Calculations command, and which could never be duplicated with layers alone.

Dan Margulis is a true Photoshop genius, and his LAB book is a wonderful way to deeply grasp one of the more obscure Photoshop color modes and all of the truly innovative techniques that spring forth from that understanding. Dan is one of the only people in the imaging industry I truly look up to, and I was thrilled and honored to write the forward for his LAB book. Dan requires some discipline, patience and effort on the part of the reader, but the experience is rewarding and enlightening.
posted by dbiedny at 6:28 AM on January 30, 2008

I forgot to to mention Barry Hayne's excellent "Photoshop CS Artistry" book, which is one of the strongest overall books for people approaching Photoshop from the photography field. It's a strong blend of photographic theory and Photoshop practice, and Barry is a very accessible writer.

Someone else mentioned Margulis's "Professional Photoshop" series, and while you want to get the latest version, the truth is that any of the last few revisions is quite good, and can be had for much less $$$.
posted by dbiedny at 6:35 AM on January 30, 2008

I really liked this book on Masking and Composting.
posted by prophetsearcher at 6:44 AM on January 30, 2008

as did dbiedny, appparently
posted by prophetsearcher at 6:45 AM on January 30, 2008

Sorry, I know it's not a nice comment, but Kelby is, IMO, a prolific author who I consider to be the Danielle Steel of the Photoshop world.

I give Kelby the benefit of the doubt because his Photoshop CS[1/2/3*] Book for Digital Photographers is still the single most accessible book I've ever found for introducing newbies (myself included) to the vast array of ideas in Photoshop beyond simple painting with a brush and "Levels". He may not be as sophisticated as the others (and the Eismann and Margulis books are truly serious stuff for professional level work), but he's got the value of being easily understandable. I've had a number of people tell me that they couldn't understand any of the Photoshop core concepts until they picked up that book.

* There seems to be very little practical difference between the editions of this book, despite massive changes in Photoshop.
posted by Caviar at 6:50 AM on January 30, 2008


I usually recommend David Blatner's "Real World Photoshop" for folks new to the program; David is both a better writer and more knowledgeable Photoshop user than Kelby. I also think that total newbies are better served by "The Photoshop Bible" - I just noticed that Deke is apparently no longer involved with it, might be a good thing given that he's another Photoshop author that suffers from the frustrated comedian syndrome. It's a reference book, not a step-by-step tutorial, but it's always been fairly comprehensive (qualifier: I have not seen this latest version).
posted by dbiedny at 7:10 AM on January 30, 2008

Hmm.. I'll have to check that out. I do love Blatner's Real World Scanning and Halftones book.
posted by Caviar at 7:13 AM on January 30, 2008

Thanks everyone! I have a great list of books, now. I'm definitely going to look at the Margulis book at some point.

@dbiedny, I do have a copy of Photoshop Artistry which I love. It's the first place I look when I don't understand something. I'll definitely get the Eismann book, and thanks so much for your clear, insightful description of the Channel Chops book.

My $.02 on Scott Kelby, I found his books very useful when the $60 Adobe Classroom in a Book left me unclear about anything I was doing. He may be the "Danielle Steel of photoshop" (hahaha, dbiedny) but his ramblings never bothered me, he does fill a niche.
posted by red_lotus at 8:42 AM on January 30, 2008

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