Photoshop is kind of like learning a second language; if you don’t use what you have been taught, you will soon lose it. Although most of us can change the brightness and contrast without too much of a headache, the power of Photoshop is often lost without the correct training. When it came to finding an expert, I was first to admit I was a little lost. As I watched YouTube videos to get inspired, I stumbled across Jason Moore’s simple but brilliant tutorials. Less than an hour later, he had replied to my email and was happy to have a chat about all things Photoshop. Despite the time difference, Jason residing in Johnson City, New York, with his wife and two sons, he was quick to share his knowledge with our readers. Convincing me that there was far more to Photoshop than moving sliders and adding filters, there is no doubt about it – this Adobe Certified Expert knows his stuff. As I reached my final question, I ask Jason for his advice for those hoping to follow in his footsteps; he leaves me with the most inspiring answer to this question yet, ‘Don’t; everyone’s path is different – walk your own.’
How did you get into Photoshop?
My dad used to own and operate a multimedia production company and I would work for him over the summers. I first started using Picture Publisher and then moved into Photoshop, starting back with version six. I started doing more and more, just scratching the surface of what it could do. I was pretty sloppy and only had a very vague idea of how anything worked. I basically had the mindset of ‘if it looks ok, it’s good enough’. After a couple of years working full-time, I started soaking up tutorials and learned more about all of the tools, best practices and how to work more efficiently.
I actually remember watching a video once back in 2005 where the presenter used the phrase ‘black conceals and white reveals’ when talking about masks and everything began to click for me. I then went to Photoshop World to learn from the top trainers and immerse myself in a creative environment. Since then, I became an Adobe Certified Expert in 2008 and began writing and producing my own tutorials, series and full courses. Having the ACE certification has helped me land jobs even though I never had any formal education related to graphics.
Do you think the need for Photoshop training has increased in the past ten years?
Absolutely, many people seem to think that they can do anything with Photoshop just by moving a few sliders, adding some filters and playing. And while that is all well and good and ‘playing’ is a great way to explore the program, you need to know how it works together and how to use Photoshop to make an impact. It takes dedication and training to get there.
What is the first thing you teach your students when it comes to Photoshop?
I think that teaching students about pixels and layers is key to the understanding of everything else. Pixels are the basic building blocks of digital images and by understanding that, you can then grasp the difference between raster and vector graphics and how and when to use each. As for layers, everything you do in Photoshop is related to layers in one way or another and it is key to understand what they are, how to work them and what the different types of layers are.
What is the most common problem students have?
The most common problem I see with students is that they don’t take the time to learn the right way. Not that there is always a right or wrong way to do things, but they get stuck because they don’t always take the time to find help. Also, there is a tendency to be a copycat; to limit one’s repertoire to the handful of tutorials they have seen. It’s more important to put a new spin on something rather than to mimic it. Students need to learn, then adapt, then innovate.
What is the hardest part of your job?
As a freelancer, the hardest part of my job is dealing with the business side of things. Most creative people don't have experience with how to set prices, write contracts, deal with business taxes, provide quality customer service, find new clients and so on. So, it's important to learn those things if you are going out on your own so you can be successful. It's hard and frustrating to spend so much time on the non-creative stuff, but it's vital to keeping your business alive.
What is the best part?
For me, the best part is learning new things through delving into the projects my clients throw at me. I always have to take what I know and apply something else to it to make things work. I enjoy the challenge and the satisfaction of figuring out how to do it.
What are the most important skills you need to grasp to succeed in Photoshop?
It really is a skill to be able to experiment. You're not just going in to play around, you're exploring with the purpose of examining everything a tool or feature can do. You need to give yourself the time to try new things and push the limits. You need to give yourself challenges to learn how you would do the same thing someone else did, say, in a recent movie poster. Learn to work efficiently, so that the most common tasks become second-nature so you don't even have to think about them and you can spend more time on the important stuff.
Photoshop often has a bad reputation in the press for just making stars look skinnier or prettier, what is your stance on this?
In general, I think Photoshop is here to stay and publications are going to use it for manipulating images. However, I take issue when post-processing becomes deceptive and the aim is to send mixed or detrimental messages. It's a fine line and very much a case-by-case issue. I think the bigger concern is to change the culture of magazine and tabloid editors because they are the ones that make the choices about what to do with the images in the first place. Finally, I think we live in a fairly media-savvy culture and we have come to expect that what we see has probably passed through some sort of image editing process. That said, I think there needs to be some education to help those who are most susceptible to being affected by the messages sent by such images understand what is going on.
That’s a brilliant answer, in your opinion, what are the most important things to look for when choosing a training course?
It's all about style. You need to understand how you learn best and what style presenter communicates best to you. Are you a hands-on learner? Do you like to watch videos? Do you prefer having a project to work on? Or a more cut and dry ‘this is what this tool does’ type of presentation? Try out a number of different sites that have free trials and see what speaks best to you. What works for someone else might not work for you.
Finally, what advice would you give someone wanting to follow in your footsteps?
Don't. Everyone's path is different. I came to Photoshop and graphic design while I was already in college pursuing a degree in something totally different so I didn't have the benefit of a formal education in the field. I wish I had, but I think my experience has taken me far without it. Learn from experts and how they navigated the challenges they faced coming up because there is certainly wisdom to be found, but you can't find the roadmap for your life by copying someone else. Walk your own path.
If Jason has left you wanting to learn more, why not take a look at the various Photoshop courses on our site and get learning?