Read, Write, Retouch


Q: Just joined the digital-camera revolution, and now I’m itching to start Photoshopping all these precious memories. But the program’s a lot more esoteric than I’d imagined, especially for a neophyte like me. Is it worth enrolling in a Photoshop class?

That all depends on your long-term Photoshop goals, as well as how much cake you’ve got sitting in the bank. The feeling here is that even workshops labeled “beginner” tend to provide too much info for most hobbyists — not to mention that their cram-session styles can tax the sturdiest of noggins.

That said, you’re sure to benefit from a few hours of personal instruction. Lots of New York companies offer night and weekend sessions, starting with Noble Desktop ( Noble’s intro Photoshop course is pretty intense, with one option consisting of three seven-hour sessions. (Users cursed with shorter attention spans may prefer the three-week schedule.) Judging by the syllabus, there seems to be an emphasis on basic Photoshop concepts like color correction and contrast adjustment.

The downer, as with most professional lessons, is the cost — $900. Believe it or not, that tuition is just about par for the course. A bit cheaper is AGI Training’s $695 Photoshop Level I (, which packs a slew of info into two seven-hour sessions. Perhaps the most comprehensive offering is from FMC Training (, which includes the 411 on new Photoshop 7.0 features like the Pattern Maker plug-in. But don’t get thwacked by the draconian cancellation policy; if you back out, you get stuck with a $200 “administrative fee” — for $925 class.

There are oodles more classes to choose from, and you might be able to hunt down some bargains through local colleges. Just be sure you ask whether the instructor is an Adobe Certified Expert (ACE), and ask to see a syllabus before you sign the check. Some courses skimp on teaching the nuances of retouching; avoid these, mein freund.

This being the dawn of the distance-learning era, you’ll find cheap offerings online. Adobe itself gives a series of Shockwave-powered lessons through Nothing fancy here, but the interface is pretty intuitive, and you’ll be able to garner enough knowledge to at least touch up red eyes and — if you’re a quick study — sagging flesh. You can’t ask questions, obviously, but the $60 price tag’s tough to beat.

But do you even need to plunk down those three Jacksons? Perhaps not, if your aspirations are modest. The program may seem scary at first, but the basics are a lot easier to pick up than you might think. Mr. Roboto’s a big proponent of informed trial and error — that is, poking around with a handy-dandy manual nearby. The most popular one is Adobe Photoshop 7.0 Classroom in a Book (list price: $45), published by none other than the good folks at Adobe. It’s a bit of a dry read, but it’s certainly packed to the gills with info — lots of professional classes use it as a textbook, in fact.

You could also try Photoshop 7 Down & Dirty Tricks (listed at $39.99, from New Riders). The book lacks primer material, but it’s got the secrets that amateurs crave. Slightly more accomplished users may prefer Photoshop Studio With Bert Monroy ($40.50, from, a fluid rundown that glosses over the basics but offers plenty of advice for budding artistes.

Saving up for that dead-of-winter jaunt to San Juan? You might be able to make do with the Photoshop guide at It’s surprisingly thorough, though Sue Chastain’s instructions could have benefited from some animated examples. But, hey, what do you expect for zero dollars? Other than your weekly Mr. Roboto fix, that is.

Bad news for those who dream of someday sharing their digital bootlegs with their grandkids. The Dutch magazine PC-Active just studied the longevity of recordable CDs and concluded that manufacturers have been fibbing big-time. Ten years, they say? The magazine found that serious errors started to develop after less than two years. Yet another good reason to back up your music on a hard disk.