Thursday, October 08, 2009

More On My Second Book And Discussing "Why"

GC Bakker wanted to know if the second book would in fact explain why I make changes rather than be another how to make changes book. Despite all the months writing and editing the book, I had to really think about the correct answer to his question. I certainly did show what to change and some basics on how to change it (but it isn't a photoshop manual, despite the one chapter quickie primer).

It would be easy to toss of a glib answer to the why along the lines of "Well, to make the images better, dude!" but of course that is neither helpful or friendly. I do think that anyone can learn from seeing the changes that I make to my images, but I think the short answer is no, this book does go into great detail about why I make a particular change though where there is a problem, it is often identified as to what the problem is - which is a way of explaining the why, all be it in one sentence. What my book does do is point out the problems and weaknesses and what you can do to improve images well beyond simply fixing them.

I wonder if CG really means why make the changes or does he in fact mean that he would like help knowing what to change. It's fairly easy with image problems to say why a change is needed. Over here is a yellow green tinge on the rocks and it needs fixed. The unwritten but implied "why" is that the change is because the yellow green tinge is unnatractive and doesn't balance the colour of the rocks elsewhere in the image. This is an example of what happens in chapter one.

It is a little harder to explain improvements in areas that already looked ok - or at least they did until you see the improved version. I tend to still talk in terms of there being a problem - needs more contrast, should be lighter, highlights need brightening.

Clearly CG Bakker is going to have to look at the book for him/herself to decide if the book is helpful. A few of the chapters are based on previous blog entries in which I took you through the steps in editing an image - all be it improved and edited - but if you check out the previous Athabasca Falls image discussion, you will find the basis for chapter one, the Bowl of Fruit image for chapter 3, for example. Most of the other chapters are similar.

This has been a complex answer to what seemed like a simple question. I look forward to GC Bakker giving us some feedback and further explanation behind what is meant by "Why".


ilachina said...

From the bits I've seen ;-), and in the context of the question that prompted your blog entry, I'd say that your new book sets a new precedent in one important regard: it provides an *artistic* explanation for why (the otherwise "conventional"/tech-speak) photoshop manipulations ought to be considered (and how accomplished). It is one thing to say "this needs sharpening" (as *all* books do, including yours), but your book also includes in many more instances than not, the reason the *photographer* believes "this part needs sharpening". It may sound subtle, and perhaps it is, but IMHO it takes the book to a level that few "Here's how you do this in Photoshop" books reach. I expect it'll strike a chord with many readers.

Len said...

I don't think it's that easy to answer the "why" question. For example, someone may look at your picture and say it's too flat, it needs more contrast. I'd want to know why would more contrast be an improvement. Keep asking "why" often enough, and you come back to the "Well, to make the images better, dude!" , which, as you say, is not helpful, not least because I may disagree with that conclusion.
What is helpful, however, is following your (George's) thought process as you make incremental changes. It doesn't matter so much whether I agree with the need for making the change or if I agree that the result is an improvement. It's just fascinating to travel the journey with you from camera to print.
And then try to emulate that thought process, on my own, over and over again. And after a while, I'm guessing (hoping) a kind of sixth sense takes over, a feel for what works for me and what doesn't. And then I'll be at the stage where I can look at a photo and know what I need to do to make it better according to my own subjective taste.
I have a vague memory that Anthony Robbins advocated a similar approach in one of his books (this is going back years and years).
So I have high expectations from your new book, George. If it's anything like the two examples mentioned in this blog, I will not be disappointed.

GC Bakker said...

Thanks for your extensive answer. You definitely took my question seriously!

It was the Athabasca Falls essay that I referred to in my earlier comment. In fact, the following text touched me when I read it the first time:

"... it seems that what is needed is not a how to book on editing - there are lots of books out there which explain the workings of Photoshop masked layers and other techniques for editing one's images. What does seem to be deficient though is an explanation of the process of looking at an image and deciding what changes are necessary to make it a better image."

That hits the nail on the head. Many Photoshop books fail on this aspect. In one of his books, before explaining how to perform color correction, Scott Kelby writes "this is sometimes necessary because all digital cameras add a color cast to their images". Other books tell you to increase contrast if the histogram doesn't look good.
Also, examples are often trivial and isolated. "Here is an image which is too dark and now we'll show you how to make it lighter."

I think what I miss in those books (and what you do show in the two examples) is the whole process of why's and how's combined. You start with a good image, not one with one trivial flaw. Then starts the evaluation, followed by descriptions of the corrective steps. Most steps are small, but together they change the image from good to great.

I'm sure this will be an instructive book. So yes, I will definitely learn from it. Thanks!