Tag Archives: photoshop elements

Not Perfect, Just Better

Do you have goals you would like to pursue, but you don’t because they just seem too difficult? Say, learn another language? Learn money-making skillz? Lose those extra LBs?

When you try to achieve goals but aren’t successful as quickly as you would like, do you get frustrated and give up?

I know I have.

Not Perfect Just BetterLet me tell you about one of my failures.

I had thought for years that I should learn to use Photoshop so I could give my photos a little extra punch.

I even purchased Photoshop. Actually, not full Photoshop, but Photoshop Elements, a powerful but simpler (and less expensive) photo editing program.

But when I opened the program, it looked dauntingly complicated. There were lots of strange terms such as “layers” and the screen had so many icons, menus and selections that it looked like the cockpit of a jet fighter.

I froze. Because I didn’t think I could master Elements, I didn’t try. The program sat on my computer, unused.

Recently, I decided to try again to learn Elements. This time, thought, I tried a different approach. I changed my way of thinking.

And it worked!

This time, instead of focusing on my ultimate goal of mastering Elements, I decided to just learn one skill. I just concentrated on getting better than I was (which wasn’t difficult).

Guided by a YouTube video, I learned how to remove an object from a photo. Using something called the Clone Stamp Tool, I removed a distracting telephone pole from a picture. These are the before and after photos.

Old car and pole

Old car without pole

Even though it was a pretty clumsy job, when I learned that skill, I was jazzed. At that point, I knew about 1% of what there was to know about Elements, but I felt a tremendous sense of accomplishment. I was inspired to learn another skill. So I did.

And then another.

Persistently getting better, skill by skill, was empowering.

Instead of being frustrated because I was miles from “perfecting” my use of Elements, I was energized by my progress.

I kept thinking: “You don’t have to be perfect, just better. Just keep at it. Make persistent, incremental improvements.”

Using this approach, I have now learned quite a few Photoshop Elements skillz and I’m still inspired to learn more.

In addition to learning Elements, I stumbled onto a strategy that I can use to achieve other goals.

Whether we think we can or we think we can’t, we are probably right. That is, our expectations are powerful predictors of whether we will succeed.

When we focus on gigantic goals that we don’t relieve believe we can achieve, we probably won’t.

Instead, we have to focus on goals we think are achievable. Making some progress, getting a little better, is achievable. So that is what I focused on.

It’s really this simple: To achieve your goals, forget about being perfect. Just be better today than you were yesterday. Then, do the same thing tomorrow. And don’t give up.

I’m Like A Kid With A New Toy

Although I don’t now, I have had a boat much of my life. Just a small bowrider for skiing and enjoying the sun and the water on a pretty day.

One of my favorite boating activities is teaching beginners to water ski.

When the beginner “gets it,” whether on the first attempt of the fiftieth, the fun begins.

When they get back in the boat, the newbies are usually euphoric. They babble on and on about the experience, as if they were the first person in the world to ever experience water skiing. They grin. :) A lot. :) :) :)

I tell you this so you will know I am aware that I am not the first person in the world to learn how to edit photos using Photoshop or, in my case, PhotoShop Elements.

But even though I know that, I can’t control my enthusiasm. This is so @#&^ cool.

Look at these two photos of a windsurfer. I scanned the first one into my computer and, as you see, it had “warts” all over it. You can’t make out the windsurfer’s face and there are extraneous blemishes all over the photo.

Windsurfing

Now, here’s the same photo after I fixed those problems.

Windsurfing edited
Pretty neat, huh?

Have I become an expert at using photo editing software? I don’t think so, but I guess it depends on your perspective.

Learning a new skill is like marching in a parade. You are ahead of the people behind you, but behind the people ahead of you.

So, if you are behind me in learning photo editing, I hope you are inspired by this illustration of what even a beginner can do. And if you are ahead of me, well, sorry for being such an obnoxious newbie. :)

Is Photo Editing “Cheating?”

There are some old school purists who believe that using photo editing software such as Photoshop is cheating, that it manipulates reality and therefore results in a lie. Their view is “get it right in the camera or delete it.”

I don’t agree.

The fact is that photographers have edited their work since long before Photoshop existed. On their lenses, they attached filters that altered the image. In the darkroom, they used techniques such as dodging and burning. With the advent of digital cameras, the camera did in-camera editing. And what about flash? Doesn’t that edit the image by making it more visible? If photo editing is cheating, then photographers have always cheated.

And photographers certainly aren’t the only artists who edit their work. Don’t you think that the recorded music playing on your iPod was edited in the studio? Of course it was.

I do not think it is ever cheating for an artist to alter the image they want to present to the world to make it exactly what they want. A photograph is the photographer’s attempt to present an image that is beautiful or interesting, and whatever the photographer can do to make the photo more interesting or beautiful is fair.

Here is an example of photo editing.

I made the first photo at a lake in Grand Teton National Park. It is a perfectly serviceable, if uninspiring photo. But it does not show what I remember seeing. So I did some editing — what photographers call “post production” — and turned it into the second picture which I like better. It more nearly evokes in me the emotions and feelings I had when I viewed the scene.

Grand Teton National Park Lake

Grand Teton National Park Edited

Using Photoshop Elements, I made 3 main edits. I added a little blue to the sky and to the water. Using the clone stamp feature, I darkened the distant mountain. And I darkened the rock in the left foreground because I thought the bright white of the original was distracting and drew the viewer’s eye away from the subject of the photo.

Although I don’t think photo editing is “cheating,” there are still many questions raised by this example, such as . . . Is there too much editing? Are the edits poorly done? Which photo is more pleasing or tells a better story?

What do you think?