For someone who has mainly read the O’Reilly animal books, Adobe Photoshop CS and Digital Photography: Expert Techniques have been a completely different experience.

Both books are beautifully produced, rich with graphics and using the glossier paper that is typical with highly graphic publications. However, like the animal books, both are rich in detail with lots of examples and tutorials.

The Adobe Photoshop CS: One on One book is by a well known Adobe trainer, Deke McClelland, and includes a 2-hour tutorial on CD. As you step through the video you can follow along with the examples (also loaded on the CD), as you learn all the ins and outs of Adobe Photoshop. Though the book is focused on the newest Photoshop, CS (version 8.0), I found that most of the examples worked equally well with my Photoshop 5.0 on Windows and Photoshop 6.0 on the Mac.

I really liked the comfortable writing style, and the fact that the author embeds his own opinions into the text. That’s important – you don’t want someone to just tell you how to use Unsharp; you want someone who will tell you why you would want to use Unsharp over the other Sharp filters (even though he will also demonstrate these, too).

Photo correction is a major component of the tutorial, but much of it is focused on some pretty extensive photo retouching, in addition to building rich graphics for publication. This book will be particularly good for someone who wants to learn some nifty new tricks with Photoshop–including good examples working with the layers, which I don’t use probably as much as I should. However, I did use the book to help me tweak the production quality of some images I was trying to print out (to inkjet).

The images in the book are wonderful, and the production quality is above average. This is not a cheap book. If I have one problem with it, it’s that each chapter has an introduction and summary section associated with it. You know what I’m talking about: “Here’s what you’ll learn…” and “Here’s what you learned” with questions and answers. I’m not a kid, I don’t need this type of assistance. However, this is only a couple of pages in each chapter, and easily ignored. So ignore it, unless you like that sort of thing.

Good book, could definitely recommend for all beginning to beginning/intermediate Photoshop users.

The next book, Digital Photography: Expert Techniques had a little more appeal for me primarily because I don’t necessarily use all the nifty tricks of Photoshop, but I would like to improve my use of the digital camera.

This is an unsual book. As with the Photoshop book, it’s full of beautiful images, but the focus of the book is how to set up and take the best image directly, rather than using Photoshop later to try and recover the image. And it covers everything, including the equipment you’ll need, why, and basic photography how-tos and information such as focal lengths and the use of gray cards for accurate color balancing.

Once you have your image, the book then gets into basic digital photo manipulation and correction, but with an assumption that you have had some exposure to Photoshop. The reason for this is that the two books are meant to complement not compete with each other.

Digital Photography has chapters such as “Retouching and Rescuing Photos”, “Sell it on the Web” (which includes some good advice on creating portfolios and how to make animated images), “Bringing out the Best Picture”, and so on. It also has a chapter called “Creating Fictitious Photos”. For the photo purists out there, “Creating Fictitous Photos” will drive you crazy. The chapter focuses on how to create images by merging multiple images, or removing entire objects–even how to create a collage! This is a twisty chapter; if you like to play around with your images, you’re going to like this chapter.

All in all, if you’re not experienced with photography and have or are planning on buying a digital camera, and then investing in either Adobe Photoshop or Photoshop Elements, this book would be a very good use of your money and time. Even if you’re fairly experienced with photography, there are some interesting tricks in the book that should make this is a good buy.

I think that O’Reilly’s going to do well with these new brands. I believe that digital photography is going to open photography up to a whole new audience, and the members all going to want to know how to do great photos. The book packaging– covers, graphics, and the production quality– are perfect for selling the books.

(Once you convince people that O’Reilly books aren’t just for geeks, anymore. )

Now, would I write for either of these series? Not a chance.

I am in the midst of taking my photos in a new direction, and taking a lot of my work back to ground zero. Writing for a book like these is best left to those people who have had their ground zero moments. Additionally, I’m not a heavy hitter with Photoshop, having just started mastering Unsharp. So it would make no sense for me to work on this series, I couldn’t do the books justice.

They sure are pretty books though. I wonder if I can convince O’Reilly to do a second edition of Practical RDF, but using photographs? I can demonstrate an RDF Photography Finder.

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