Experiments in Photoshop

So this week I actually delved into Photoshop – and became a little less scared of it. Beth’s comments from before Spring Break were very appropriate. It turns out you really do just have to jump in and try some things to figure out a) you cannot break it (I always ensure I save the original as a distinct name, because I’m paranoid that I will lose it forever if I don’t) and b) you can’t really understand some of the concepts until you try to employ them.

The Lynda.com videos definitely helped, since they guide you through many of the functions step-by-step, and show you what each tool looks like along the way. This significantly increased my comfort level with Photoshop, and encouraged me to try a few of the tools. To build my collection of images, I went to the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs website. For photos, I searched for women in the military, and found many World War II images of women working, whether actually in the military or in wartime production plants, etc. For the engraving, I broadened my time period (for obvious reasons) and found some images from the Civil War era that were interesting. So, I have a group of images with which to work.

Wading into the shallow end of the pool, I went for the cropping function first. I purposefully kept my expectations low. As a consequence, it was almost impossible to be disappointed with the results! With a sufficient amount of confidence-building done, I kept going. I quickly understood what Tim Grey was talking about when he said that you could conceivably spend an inordinate amount of time “fixing” an image. Instead of asking how good he wanted an image to look, he took the approach of how much time do I have to work with this image, and what is an acceptable level of improvement. This helped to scope his efforts, and prioritize where the image needed the most help. I think this will prove crucial in our projects.

Next, I tried my hand at an engraving. Again, I kept my expectations low since I was just starting to work with the application. I successfully navigated the steps contained in the reading, and was pleasantly surprised to see significant improvement in my image. (see below)

 ImageImage

One of the things I noticed as I went through the images – I started looking for the message I wanted to convey. Cropping an image to focus on a particular aspect, highlight some portion of an image or sharpening the focus to highlight another feature became a central part of the process. Photoshop does not seem to be just about “fixing” pictures, which is always what I had assumed it to be. Making images better is an obvious, and should not be understated, use of Photoshop. However, there is more. Using the tools (and I have not even scratched the surface), a person might convey more meaning and more context than the original image alone may have done. 

See my comments on Beth’s blog.

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About bmwolny

A U.S. Marine Corps Reserve logistics officer who is currently full-time PhD student at George Mason University, focusing in military, women's history and public history applications. View all posts by bmwolny

4 responses to “Experiments in Photoshop

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