BEN WILLMORE IS ONE OF AMERICA’S LEADING PHOTOSHOP EXPERTS, and will be teaching a workshop with PNM, Photoshop Mastery, on February 25-26.
We asked Ben to share some of his thoughts on digital imaging and Photoshop.
1) Can you talk about your work as a photographer and Photoshop expert? What currently excites you or interests you?
I like to use the full range of tools available, which means that I don’t think of a feature in Photoshop as being any different than a setting on my camera and I try to think of all those possibilities at the moment I capture an image. That means I might capture multiple exposures of a scene knowing that I will later combine them using Photoshop. The images might vary in brightness, focus point or shutter speed, which will help to produce a result that would not be possible using only the camera. Because my images are rarely anything close to what camera captured (I think of the capture as just raw material waiting to be melded into my vision of the scene), I describe myself as a Photographic Artist. That’s just so people don’t assume that what they are seeing is “straight out of the camera.”
I am very interested in attempting to influence where someone looks in an image and how long they spend lingering in one area compared to another. Knowing that people are usually attracted to areas that are bright, colorful and/or contrasty, I will manipulate those qualities throughout my images to help guide the viewer’s through the image. The key is to be subtle in those adjustments so that the viewer isn’t aware that they are being influenced.
One of my favorite techniques is to start with a completely dark scene and use a flashlight to paint light into the areas I’d like to reveal during a long exposure. I can leave most of the scene completely black and sculpt the image with my lighting.
Being a Photoshop expert allows me to dedicate time to learning areas of the program that I otherwise would have ignored and to push myself to come up with uses for features that don’t have obvious benefits. By knowing how to use darn near every feature and forcing myself to incorporate it into my work, I have become a better teacher and image maker at the same time.
2) What do you love about teaching Photoshop?
I enjoy breaking complex techniques down to their core concepts and figuring out how someone would best be introduced to the topic. That usually involves relating the core concept to something that most people can connect to in their daily lives; like Photoshop’s Curves adjustment being like a bank of lighting dimmer switches. If I can do that, then they can’t think a concept is “over their head,” because I’ve related it to something they use every day and have no problem understanding. Once I’ve done that, then I have to figure out the exact order to add all the details that are essential to using the feature. It’s like a complex puzzle that could go together in any order, but is much better the more you refine it. In the process, I have to understand all the concepts I teach much more than I would if I was only going to use a feature instead of teach it. Finally, seeing someone light up with delight when they get excited about a feature they’ve been frustrated with and are finally starting to understand makes the process very rewarding.
3) What do you see in the future for digital imaging and photography? What is changing or evolving now?
I think we’re right at the edge of a dramatic evolution in photography gear. Your cell phone will eventually replace all those pocket-sized cameras and consumer videos cameras that everyone is using. They just need to produce less noise/grain and need to incorporate zoom lenses before that can happen. I think that smaller camera bodies (like the Sony NEX-7) and lenses will eventually replace the current DSLR cameras. Camera makers need to fill out their lens lines to include wider angle zooms and produce a wider variety of f2.8 professional glass before this can happen, but it’s so close that I can taste it. I think that the current range of DSLR cameras will be reserved for those who shoot hollywood movies and those that would currently shoot medium format cameras or use overly long lenses.