Thursday, September 24, 2015

Photoshop Videos and The Print

First, a statement of personal bias: I learned darkroom technique from books. Mainly from Ansel Adams' book. I'm a competent printer, but not a brilliant one. A bit brutalist. I can get the blacks and whites and contrast where I want 'em. I can dodge to bring up shadow detail without wrecking the blacks. I can do an edge burn. But I ain't no Fine Printer and I'm suspicious of the idea that a Fine Print is genuinely different from a good work print.

So, we got that out of the way.

I get the idea of teaching through videos. If you're showing someone physical configurations, where the lights go, or physical motions, and you can't do it in person, video's got to be a decent second best. If you want to show someone how to smear paint on a wall, a video is probably pretty useful.

What the fuck is with videos of Photoshop usage? I can never follow the details anyways. There's some tiny mouse bolting around the screen and sliders are moving but I can't see which ones. But then I see that the dude added a layer and is mucking with saturation? OK. That I get. But I don't need a video.

What's actually useful in the video is the before and after shots, and the voiceover. Aha! He added a whatsit layer and frobbed the thingummy 10 degrees, and it did that. Interesting!

What is actually necessary to learn to print, as well as to manipulate digital pictures in Photoshop, is to learn to see specific things. If you don't know what contrast and saturation and everything else look like, then you need to see some before/after, or more/less comparison shots. Stills are fine. With digital editors you can actually go just bang the sliders yourself and find out, but it's probably useful to have a reference to show you what the salient controls actually are. If you can't imagine what a "Vibrancy" slider might do, then you'll probably never slide it to see if it does something useful.

But you don't need some joker making a video. That's just wasting time. You're going to spend 30 seconds watching this guy muck around to show you a concept you can apprehend in an instant from a pair of stills.

Also, you should own a copy of The Print, whether you work in a darkroom or not. The trouble with the web is that it's hypertext. The trouble with hypertext is that you can use links instead of actually organizing your thoughts and your material. Turns out that time is pretty linear, so if you can present your material in a linear way, that works pretty well for people.

So when you have a web page about this stuff, you get links like CONTRAST and SATURATION and you forget to click one or the other. Or maybe you get both of them in a linear page, but there's a link in the middle that you click and wander off to, so you never do see the bit about saturation. Books are remarkably free of hyperlinks, and they're pretty ruthlessly linear.

You'd think that at least a video would be linear, except that even then you're as likely to have two videos, one for CONTRAST and one for SATURATION, as not. And they'll both be way too long and clumsy. And the one on saturation will probably have some weird color banding problem so you can't actually see what saturation is anyways.

Ok, I am conflating "bad videos" with "video as a pedagogical idea" but it's my blog and I'm allowed to do that.


  1. It is far easier to monetize a youtube video feed than anything written, like a blog. So people post videos of anything, because it is what gets them paid.

    1. That is an excellent point. Youtube will pay you, if you can get the views. So throw some crap up there and hope for the best.