Photoshop CS3 Photo Effects Cookbook: 53 Easy-to-Follow Recipes for Digital Photographers, Designers, and Artists
What's Good: Very useful and utilitzarian effects. Nice "Tip" boxes scattered throughout
What's Bad: Busy layout, some examples aren't very inspiring
Verdict: While the book doesn't show off the effects like you might expect, there are some really useful tips and tutorials
Full Text Review
While you can spend a ton of time looking online for the latest photoshop tutorial, sometimes it's nice to have a few cool ones on hand. So something like the Photoshop CS3 Photo Effects Cookbook sounds like a good idea. The book starts with an introduction which covers many of the improvements added in CS3 as well as an overview of the Photoshop tools you'll need to be familiar with throughout the book. It's broken up into "Tonal and Color", "Graphic Art Effects", "Lighting Effects", "Natural World Effects, "Traditional Photographic Effects", "Distortion Effects", "Texture Effections" "Presentation Effects" plus a Glossary
The book is a collection of tutuorials all of which are useful, even if some of the examples aren't pretty to look at. Don't you want to look at the final product and think, "I want to do THAT!" (like on abduzeedo.com which has some stunning tutorials, in my humble opinion) The halftone effect is often used to really cool effects, but the "psychedlic poster effect" tutorial has a pretty silly looking final result that is more like a powerpoint presentation. The books cover shows some of the mediocre examples. Still, the effects are useful and in the right hands would be pretty spectacular.
The tutorial for converting color into black and white is a pretty simple tutorial. The author stresses the importance of not losing the dynamic range. Many pages have a "tip" box related to the "recipe". These are the kind of thoughtful ideas that make the book worth it. Overall, you have a collection of useful concepts and the examples are just ways of teaching the techniques. Your imagination will be required to make them actually useful. They are explained in a detailed step by step fashion. Most importantly, they tell you why you're using these. So you can improve or change the idea presented with that understanding. These aren't just techniques that you would have to always reproduce exactly as shown in the book to ever even use.
The graphic arts section has some really nice end products, some of the best in the book, including Warholing and watercolor. These are very convincing as are many of the lighting effects. The neon sign effect is one of the coolest ones. If you visit the Amazon link and look at the back cover and excerpts you can see more examples.
The nature and world effects will show you how to change the seasons: make leaves change to autumn, rainfall on a sunny day, rainbows, waterdroplets, lightning, snow in the summer. Many of these are really well executed and all are easy enough to follow.
The traditional photographic effects have very interesting introductory paragraphs for each "recipe" explaining how film grain, tinting or whatever it may be would have been done in traditional equipment. This really sets you up to understand what you are trying to reproduce.
The distortion effects will help you do things like clone with perspective, turn a photo into a caricature or add a tattoo. These aren't tutorials that I would use too often, but there aren't many of them anyway. The texture effects are a bit flat. I would have expected more distortion maps which are so easy to use and add a lot of depth and realism. I don't think there were any used however. Flat layer effects seemed to be more favored. That's kind of weird.
If many of these effects sound like ones you might use, then it isn't a bad book to keep hand. I know that there are a lot of really great tutorials on the web, but sometimes it's nice to have a book compiled with consistent quality. This book might fit that need for many readers.
You can visit the author's website at TimShelbourne.co.uk.
This post is part of an ongoing series of book reviews. To suggest a book for review, send a message via twitter @sketchee
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