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PHLEARN MagazinePhotoshop: A Journey, Not a Destination

Photoshop: A Journey, Not a Destination

Photography has forced me outside my comfort zone to shoot places I would not have otherwise journeyed. From jumping out of a perfectly good airplane (with parachute), to shooting stars on a dark beach, to traveling up mountains, knowing full well I am petrified of heights. Tears may roll down my cheeks, but I always keep moving forward, up each mountain…turn-by-turn, tear-by-tear…all, to get the shot.

Photoshop, on the other hand, has shown me that, while I was a good photographer, I could turn a good beach photograph into a great image, a piece of art worthy of any gallery.  If Ansel Adams could learn to manipulate his film images, with re-prints sought by many, why could not my images be gallery-worthy?

Moving to Paradise on Earth, aka Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, in 2002 had challenges every photographer faces, from the magnificent scenery, amazing 363 non-rain days each year, and the warm, colorful people…but someone had to do it, why not me?

At first, I was shooting with an Olympus point-and-shoot, learning the Olympus software program to edit my photos, but quickly moved to my first DSLR with Canon. With Internet access coming forward in the times, I enjoyed finding other software to edit in more detail. And, my passion for editing photographs began.

As explained in email from Bill, my childhood friend and photography mentor in high school, if I was into editing photographs, he had a little program I might like; it was called Photoshop. A few weeks later (as mail to Mexico goes) my first PS CD arrived.

Quickly, I downloaded the program and started trying to ‘figure it out’. Since I only had a pirated version and Internet information and tutorials were still fairly new, my only guide was trial and error.

Imagine having no YouTube, no tutorial, no Facebook…only your own wits to learn this ‘little’ program. Overwhelming, to say the least. Always up for a challenge, I was not going to let this ‘little’ editing program defeat me.

Never being afraid of computers or letting them get the best of me…my first challenge was loading a photograph into PS; piece of cake. Then, what did I do next? Clicked all of the menus, not even having a concept of what any would accomplish. Then, I tried the Image>Adjustments>Hue/Saturation adjustments. Wow! Clicking through the sliders really made my greens pop and my blues were the color of sapphires; so beautiful, yet, as I look back, so unreal.

The first two tools I learned were clone stamp and erase. I knew nothing about non-destructive editing and working at 100% magnification. It never occurred to me that an image that looked good at 15% magnification must reflect all the details, right? Wrong.

It was not until I emailed Bill one of my really cool edits, to see how far I had progressed, that I learned the importance of magnification, brush settings and more. Using the clone stamp tool with a hard brush over trees and water…O-M-G, at 100%…or even 50% magnification, you can see every brush stroke. Actually, I did not know I could even adjust the hardness of a brush. Go figure.

By 2007, there were more and more written tutorials going online advising about editing techniques in Photoshop. I was like a sponge in water learning everything I could about this magnificent program.



As my skills progressed, I kept sending Bill samples of my work for feedback; I was improving little by little. I soon realized that my education in PS was a journey, not a destination, to becoming better and better, improving my images little by little.

In 2011 I made the decision to move back to the United States, and with more Photoshop tutorials coming online, I was able to continue my learning and become more and more creative; it is a process and a journey like no other.

YouTube Photoshop videos, in 2013, gave my PS education a huge jump. There was one guy that I seemed to follow more than others. His methodology, his teaching, and his sense of humor helped me to understand, learn and create more. Since then, I have followed Aaron Nace, his many hairstyle changes/lengths, and his amazing ability to have fun with PS, and truly learn PS like no other time. If I wanted to learn how to manipulate an image from replacing a sky, using layers, about masking or using the pen tool…I knew I could turn to Aaron Nace and PHLEARN for help.

With almost 100 hours of PHLEARN tutorials downloaded to watch and re-watch, Aaron’s method has become my method to teaching others about this amazing and powerful program.

My best advice for any and every photographer, with all of the tutorials out there, why not to turn your good SOOC photographs into great images. You owe it to your clients, but most of all, you owe it to yourself. If you shoot as a hobbyist or pro, landscape, real estate, or portraiture, please learn Photoshop. Spending 15-30 minutes a day learning or mastering a new tool or a new method will create an all-new world for you…and a new revenue stream.

The second best advice I can offer is: baby-steps. If you are new to learning PS, learning to use PS can seem overwhelming, even for a seasoned user. Take one tool, one menu, and one step at a time. Apply what you have learned over and over in your coming photographs. If you want or need help, there are SO many of us out there, including me, willing to help in any way we can – FREE, just for the asking.

We risk it all, even jumping out of perfectly good airplanes, to get the shot; now, let’s turn that shot from good to great.


You can check out more of the author’s work at her website.

Diana Halstead

While Diana Halstead has loved photography since first using her mother’s Rolleicord, her passion has turned to editing images in Photoshop. Many of her photos are specifically shot in order to manipulate into a different image within Photoshop. As she works towards her certification as an Adobe Photoshop Expert, she enjoys teaching others of the program’s power and how it is easily learned one step at a time.

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