Are you suffering from Photoshop-Frustration???

Written by: Glyn Dewis

Published: January 12, 2012

Category: General

The other day I was on Skype with a friend of mine and we began to talk about editing; compositing in particular and how frustrated he was feeling about it.

We talked and talked and you know it maybe sounds kind of odd but I could almost see the frustration he was going through but when all was said and done…the way he was feeling was completely natural.

Anyway long story short I’m not professing to be a wise man (far from it) but I thought I’d share some of the points we talked through in the hope that maybe you may relate to one or more of them and they might atleast help in some way if you too are suffering from some Photoshop-Frustration…

1. Take your time
One of the best bits of advice I was ever given was not to rush my editing. I appreciate this isn’t always practical for maybe a Wedding Photographer who has a large number of images to work through, but if possible try to take regular breaks during your editing time. Rather than slogging away for hours on end break it down into smaller periods of time when you can step away from the screen, go grab a coffee and give your eyes a break.

Its not uncommon for me to get so far in the editing stage to then save what I’ve done and come back to it the following day. It’s amazing how different you view your images when you do this and also how what you need to do (if anything) becomes glaringly obvious. I’ve eluded to it before but this helps prevent something I refer to as becoming ‘Pixel Blind’

2. One Step at a time
Don’t expect too much too soon and don’t expect to be able to recreate all the wondrous techniques and effects that you see in magazines and online when you’ve only been using Photoshop for a relatively short period. Developing skills and knowledge takes time…alot of time and alot of practice.

I always remember the saying ‘If you’re not making mistakes then you’re not doing enough’ and it’s so true. 

A while back I remember a conversation I had with a friend who was to be photographing a wedding and I asked if he had a portfolio as I only remembered him recently getting his first camera. Amazingly he replied that he didn’t have one and hadn’t had time to do much physical practice however had read lots of books and knew what to do so he’d be fine; reading is great…practicing what you read and learn is vital!

3. Compositing Specific
There’s so much more to a great composite than just cutting out your subject and putting them into a new background. Indeed trying to get everything to look right can be incredibly frustrating however there are things you can do to help with this:

  • Rather than trying to composite a full length subject, do lots of 3/4 length composites and build your skills from there.
  • Have a clear idea of what you want your final image to be like before you’ve shot it. This way you’ll know where you want the lighting to be, model positioned and so and and as a consequence when you come to edit the images you’ll know what you want to do as opposed to staring at the image on screen thinking ‘Now what?’
  • Take your time to get the photographs of your subject right ‘in camera’ so that the time you spend editing is being Creative and not Corrective.

4. Write it down
I’m someone who learns better when I write things down and what I mean here is everything I learn i.e. a new tip or technique I’ll write it down in a note book to refer to later; be it from a book, DVD, word of mouth etc…

It might seem odd that if I’m reading a Photoshop book for example and learn a new technique that I write it down when I could just look in the book again, but this is just what works for me. It’s something I’ve done from day one and infact I have specific notebooks for Photoshop, Lightroom and Keyboard Shortcuts.

5. Keep in the learning zone
There’s so many resources available to us these days in the form of printed magazines, the internet, mobile Apps and so on, so try to make use of one once a day or maybe just take a read through your notebook. There’s no better way to learn than to actually work on some editing or take some photographs but doing something is better than doing nothing so if all you’re able to do is read then your still learning which is always a good thing.

Suffering from Photoshop-Frustration is not necessarily a bad thing; in fact if anything it’s a positive because it shows that you’re not complacent and you do indeed want to improve your skills.

Be assured that everyone goes through it no matter what level they’re at in Photography and Photoshop; Joe McNally, Calvin Hollywood, Scott Kelby, Joel Grimes and so on…all of them, each and everyone will to this day experience frustration with their work but the key is how they deal with it.

So what about you? Is there anything you could add to the list above that helps you overcome this frustration? If so I’d love to hear what you have to say so why not share it in the comments section below.

In the meantime if you have any questions or comments, as always please feel free to add them in too.

Enjoy 🙂

•     •     •

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  1. Jonathan Thompson

    ‘Quietly clears throat’ Great post here Glyn. Frustration can be a big creative killer, I do more of the stepping away from the edit now, it’s very surprising how different an image can look when you come back to it later. Even with shots I may have taken without the final composite in mind I’m taking more time to think through before I even open it in PS. The No1 thing that helps me is talking it through with a friend, preferably, but not necessarily, a photographer, often I find I can’t see the wood for the trees, often it’s a simple solution. I count myself extremely blessed to have gained many new friends in the industry in 2011, unfortunately for them I can talk on an Olympic level, so I’m very grateful for wearing out their ears & patiently listening.

    Keep up the amazing work, have a great trip to Germany. Big thanks for sharing & inspiring.

    Cheers, Jonathan

  2. Mitzy

    I can add one: When you are sitting there tearing your hair out (if you have any left) because you cant remember how to do something you know is possible, YouTube it. Chances are Glyn Dewis or some other wonderful human being has put it out there for you to find!

  3. Tim Pursall

    Great post Glyn!

    There’s many a time I have sat in front of my computer for far too long and become ‘pixel blind’. When I first began blogging I was banging out images for the sake of it I think.

    I am much more disciplined now and will quite happily take a coffee break or even an overnight break and return to editing later.

    Love the ‘notebook’ idea. ‘Now where did I see that tutorial/information/lesson…..? This has happened to me on many occasions!

    • Glyn

      @Tim … Thanks for stopping by and commenting mate and yeah…the notebook is something I have to do otherwise with so much information around I’ll forget it if I haven’t used it in a while.

  4. Myriam De Clercq

    Hello Glyn,

    Your post is over a year old, but still very current.

    I started out with Photoshop CS6 last year in September, and I am very grateful for having found your advice.

    I take evening classes, and, like you, I think it’s very beneficial to actually write out your notes by hand in a workbook.

    I also like your view on the concept of frustration: every negative has its positive side, and here, it definitely implies the desire to improve one’s skills, and search for the best way to accomplish that goal.

    Thank you very much for sharing your excellent advice!

    Cheers, Myriam



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