Photomanips for Beginners pt4 – the daunting task of getting started

All beginnings are hard, make no mistake. I for example am currently trying to get a grip on Adobe Premiere Pro and After Effects and sometimes it feels like I am getting exactly nowhere… kinda reminds me a bit of when I started with Photoshop over 15 years ago.

The difference now is though that I am older and I don’t have as much time (and energy) to spend on my hobby. There are so many more resources out there to use, that it feels overwhelming at times. So how do you go about learning a new program such as Photoshop without getting completely frustrated?

Don’t strive for perfection

Ok, so it may sound like an overused phrase, but I promise there is truth to the saying “practice makes perfect” – just that perfection is not what you should strive for at this point. When you start out with a new program, aha-moments can be plentiful or completely elusive. I think the difference between the two can be a tiny tiny line that often depends on your personal attitude.

If you constantly look at what you still don’t know as opposed to what you have already learned, motivating yourself to keep going will be super hard. Also, if you just look at the work of people you look up to who have been doing this for a long time (or maybe are super talented) and then look at your own stuff with the overwhelming thought that you will never be able to do anything like them, so why bother… You can probably see my point.

Do practice – don’t just watch youtube videos 😉

With all that in mind, the hard thing is to get yourself to actually start. But if you don’t start, you won’t practice and you won’t get any aha-moments ever. That brings me to my next point: it is sooooo easy to watch tutorial after tutorial on youtube and not actually put any of what you’ve seen into practice at once (or at all). It is so easy to say that this gives you ideas and you will remember what you have seen and can rewatch the video if you need it…

BUT you won’t magically retain that knowledge if you don’t use it. You sometimes won’t even be able to find that video with the super great technique again as fast as you thought – and then just stop searching because it’s not worth the time anyway…

There are a million ways you can fool yourself into thinking you have put in endless hours of practice when in act all you have done is let yourself be entertained. Or would you say you could become a great baker if you never enter the kitchen and instead watch baking videos all day? I didn’t think so…

Try to get to know the principles…

When you start out, try to get the basics down (by watching or reading tutorials for example) , such as

  • how is the workspace organized?
  • what is the most important principle I should be learning for the program?
  • what is it I want to be able to do, what is the most important thing I need to learn to be able to do that?

…and give yourself time to practice them!

While the first two questions should lead to a universal answer for the program you want to use, the third one will look depend on the person asking – you!

Not everyone wants to do the same things. Take for example Photoshop. People who are into designing websites will probably start more with the vector-based things, to create scaleable buttons etc. A photographer wants to know how to remove trash cans or people from their images. And a photomanipulator will probably look at how to blend multiple images into one so it looks seamless.

Start with what you know

You would be surprised what you might already know, even if you have never opened a specific program before. For example, you may know how to draw with an actual brush and like to do it “offline” – so why not start by using the brush tool digitally? Or you have some experience with photoeditors – why not start by finding out how to edit images in Photoshop (or any other graphics editor of your choice)?

Of course everyone will learn at their own pace and in the sequence they choose. This is another reason why constantly comparing your own progress to others will lead you nowhere: even if you have the same talent and imagination as someone else and have been learning for the same amount of time, the outcome will be different.

Reverse engineer

Once you have some basics down (and those could be the bare minimum or an advanced status, depends on your personality) I highly recommend to do some reverse engineering. That means that instead of watching and following a tutorial you find an image you would like to recreate.

“But!” I hear you say, “won’t I be copying other people’s art?” Well, yes to a degree. However, I didn’t say you should upload your final image and claim it was your own idea 😉 In my experience, as long as you give proper credit and do not copy every detail, people won’t be upset with you. Though to be honest, there will always be some who are – if you feel unsure, you can also ask the artist if it’s ok to try to recreate their work, maybe with different stock. You are welcome to try recreating my art if you like, but do be sure to give credit where it is due.

By recreating something (and that could be the complete image or just an aspect of it, like the light or the colour choices) where you know well what it should look in the end, you are forced to figure out how to get the effects you see from scratch. Maybe you will need to watch some tutorials to get there, maybe you can do it by experimenting – in any case you will get a lot of experimentation done which will help you with your next project.

This, by the way, is how you develop your own style. Funny story: I used to be so upset when what I was aiming for wouldn’t come out exactly as I had envisioned it. I thought I was doing something wrong because I could always see that I had created it, not someone else… turns out that is what is called a personal style… ^^;

Outlook

In one of my next blog entries, I will collect some great youtube channels and point out some great videos for you to get started on your photomanipulation journey. It was very important to me to point out the things outlined in this entry though before I did so, because to be honest, I have fallen into the same trap before and it is as much a reminder for myself as a sharing of lessons learned…

So see you around!

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