Photoshop World Experience

Last week, I spent 3 full days in Las Vegas at the 2010 NAPP Photoshop World show.  By the term “Las Vegas”, I really mean “Mandalay Bay”, where the event was held, as I pretty much got out of the cab and into the hotel on Tuesday, and out of the hotel and into the cab on Saturday.  Very full schedule of classes and things, especially for a first timer, like me.  I thought I’d spend today’s blog words on a few thoughts about the experience for anyone thinking of attending in the future.

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First off, PSW seems to move between Orlando in the Spring, and Las Vegas in the Fall.  Just something to keep in mind.  Cost for a non-NAPP member (National Association of Photoshop Professionals) was $599, which included the $100 annual fee for NAPP.  They had a deal at Mandalay Bay for $129/night hotel, which included the “resort fee”, but I found it cheaper to use Southwest Vacations, combining my air and hotel, and paying the resort fee on top.  BTW, resort fees are a rip-off.  They aren’t optional and include such wonderful things like a newspaper daily (got it once) and the workout room (didn’t use) for $12 a day.  In room wireless still costs.

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Anyways, I could never find a real useful printable schedule of all the classes online, but they did have a very cool iPhone app you could use to schedule your week.  Unfortunately, I tried to download the newest version of the app, and my iPhone is V1, from 1957.  It wasn’t until later that I was informed there was an older version of the app to install for older operating systems.  Once I got that, it updated itself with the Las Vegas info, and I was ready to schedule things and get countdowns to the next activity and figure out what room classes were in, and so on.  Very nice.

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Onto the convention.  I got there in time on Tuesday to catch the first time attendee orientation.  Lasted about an hour, and was worth the time, just to get a basic idea how things worked.  After that, I went to a four hour class “Photo-Fusion Revolution: The Future of Photography” with Clay Blackmore and his video team.  They had to come in and sweep up afterwards, for all the names dropped on the floor during this one (movie stars, politicians, Monte!).  Basically, he covered his wedding photo business (with lots and lots of his images), and the video team covered how they sequence their wedding videos (which seem to run about 4 minutes), although it would be applicable to other types of video.  He also covered lighting everyone with the same basic hot light (Spyder lights) set-up.  I can’t say I was tremendously impressed with this.  I questioned at the end of the 2 hour first half whether people who buy wedding video packages really enjoy the type of video shown, where every shot was held for 2-3 seconds, and was basically a music video, or if they wanted a more longer form video (my preference).  He said they were contemplating sending another guy along with a camcorder to capture the whole thing.  Ooookay.  Anyways, the advice from this I can pass along is that marketing is hot, and the best thing you can do it fast turnaround of the wedding to show books and videos at the reception to wow the guests.

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At the two hour break, I met up with iStockers nicolesy, leggnet and sylvanworks who were at a “Tweetup” (sigh).  I stayed out to chat, missing the second part of the presentation.  Maybe I missed something of great value.  I’ll never know.

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Wednesday, the whole thing kicks into high gear.  Checked in at the desk, received my 10 pound class notes book, and headed to the “Keynote”.  Check-in was quick and we got an iStockphoto lanyard for our conference pass.  Sweet!

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Apparently, all these PSW conferences have a theme.  This year’s theme was “rock concert’.  After some humorous VH1 style “Where are they now” videos about the infamous (and fictional) band “NAPP”, Scott Kelby (the guy who runs NAPP) and his band dressed up like KISS, with makeup and smoke and everything, and rocked out “I wanna Photoshop all night and retouch everyday” (sing it to yourself – it’s kind of funny).  The rest of the 1.5 hour keynote was uneven, with lots of “bits” and awards, and was a little too long, imo.  I’ve been to opening events at SIGGRAPH, and it always seemed like there was a definite flow to things, ending with the main speaker.  This is definitely a Photoshop fan convention, and as a first timer, I felt a little like “What’s going on here”?  No big deal though, we left early to get to our first class.

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If you’re wondering about those attending PSW, there were definitely all types and ages.  From 20-somethings to retirement age.  Hobbyists, pros and in between.

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The classes are arranged in “tracks”, like “Photography A, Photography B, General, Photoshop, etc.”  One comment I heard, which I’ll have to agree with, is that these should be ranked by skill level as well.  One of the things I wanted to get some insight into, was compositing.  Things like you see in the steel cage battles on iStock.   So, I would go into what sounded like a concentrated compositing class, and the extent of the compositing was making a circular selection on something and cutting and pasting, or using simple layer masks over other layers.  On the other hand, not sure what to expect from “My Favorite Photoshop CS5 Tips and Techniques” provided a few really useful tips from German photographer/presenter Calvin Hollywood (I think more could have been packed into that one, and it would have been great).

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As I read in the iStock forum, the real photography demos are A+, and two back to back lighting classes on Thursday from Joe McNally were excellent.  He covered lighting with ETTL and speedlights in the first one, and then larger strobes in the second.  I had never really considered using ETTL like that in a studio setting, but it really worked.  Good for beginners and advanced, imo.  He and his assistant worked great together, so it was a plus to see how a good team worked.  However the next presenter’s class on portrait lighting and posing was disappointing, as there wasn’t the same “team” feel or, to be honest, wide range of lighting knowledge, and the posing demonstration ended up looking like something from ““.  I didn’t really connect with the presenter there, and in fact, we left that one early.

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The “Down and Dirty Photoshop” tour was in St. Louis the week before, and I skipped it, so I made sure to get into Scott Kelby’s “D&D Tricks 2010”.  Expecting huge crowds, the room was huge enough that seating ended up not being an issue.  A useful class, and I picked up some keyboard shortcuts to remember, and some design inspiration.  Definitely should attend this one.  I’d like to see more hard-hitting workflow classes exposing techniques you never would have known about.

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Zach Arias was presenting his “seamless white background” class, so, not having seen him in action (though we met in St. Louis), I sat in on that.  Definitely useful for beginners who want to ace the “isolated” look, I even picked up a thing or two.  Zach also picked up a new lightroom hot key, thanks to my vociferous seat mate 😉 .  Zach has a very personal and relatable style and the tips on keeping it cheap, but correctly done, were right on.

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The other very interesting workshop was ex-Kraft foods guy, Joe Glyda.  I had caught him in his talk on the expo floor, which was more about composition and layout tips, but I definitely wanted to see the “Live Food Shoot!” on Thursday (note – if you’ve heard him speak before, he details his Kraft history in each talk, so you can miss the first 5-10 minutes if you’re late).  He had a food stylist with him, and he talked about how he works with the stylist on his shoots.  While he was talking, the stylist was setting up sliced vegetables on a glass plate for Joe to shoot.  They spent some time arranging the produce, and ended up with a neat shot he called “flying salad”.  There was also a foot tall sandwich they shot, while discussing backlighting food.  I was interested in how the stylist was helping in a way that we weren’t sensing, so my question got some answers about pinning the meat into the sandwich, and using cream cheese to stop slippage, but I sure would have liked to hear more cool tips.  One thing to take away is that Joe is strong on using real food for the star of the shot, and no fakery.

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I ended up with a ticket to get into “Midnight Madness” on Thursday, described as “You’re not going to learn a darn thing about Photoshop and you’ll have a blast doing it.”  I have to say that this was one of those “fan-centric” things I didn’t quite get.  There were about 200 people in there, and after some sort of inside-humor (I think), with various people staging an Olympic opening ceremony, they picked 3 people from the audience to compete.  Each person had to follow a group of photoshop tasks given to them to see who had the fastest time.  For a while, it was funny to see how hard it was for someone to find auto-levels, but then you felt kind of bad for them.  One was eliminated, and they did it again, and then the winner got to play a staff member a game of ping pong to see if he was the champion.  After an hour to get this far, we checked out.  So, it was just kind of odd.  I would have thought it would have involved more of the audience.

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The expo floor was really excellent.  iStockphoto was there and some other unnamed micro-houses ;).  There were two main presentation areas doing extra live classes on all kinds of lighting, Photoshop, illustration, etc. tips and workflow things.  You could be walking, hear something interesting and just stop for a bit.  Quite a few equipment sellers and re-sellers, like Adorama and B+H, as well as Westcott, Manfrotto, Hoodman and the like.  Lots for the portrait photog too, like different printing services, backgrounds and even a cool lenticular 3d service.  I met some staff at Peachpit books, where fellow iStocker nicolesy did a presentation on her book “Canon 7D: From Snapshots to Great Shots” (boy, that should be a series!).  The demo for Nik Software‘s Complete Collection won me over (Congrats Nik!), and they were offering it at a special show price of $475.  However, my old favorite, B&HPhoto discounted it to $375 for me.  Woot!

The coolest thing on the floor was Adobe’s 10 year celebration of Photoshop, with every version of Photoshop running for you to try out, starting with a Mac Classic (?) and Photoshop 1.0 .

Attended the “After Hours” party at the House of Blues for a while, noshed on some salads and fajita style chicken, drank one of the included drinks, and left before Scott Kelby came out with his band, as we had to met up at a scheduled iStock get together at the minus5experience ice bar elsewhere in the hotel.  No more to publicly say on that, except to avoid Jeremiah and his $15 drinks after you’ve already had a bunch of shots.

Went to the wrap-up on Friday afternoon which included a mini 5 minute “class” from John Paul Caponigro on the use of color in your work, sort of a tiny version of his earlier “Colors of the Rainbow” class.  This guy has a great breadth of knowledge on color theory and composition and is a really pleasant presenter.  There were also a retrospective video and slideshow of the week, and then they gave out some prizes, pulling names from those who had turned in final evaluation forms.

So, I had a good time, and learned some things.  My main goal for this week was just to be exposed to some of the other working creative people out there, to maybe gain some inspiration for my stock work, and I think I accomplished that, both in the classes and outside.  No need for me to immediately go back to Orlando, but maybe the year after that.

4 thoughts on Photoshop World Experience

  1. Nice honest write-up! 🙂

    Also, I sent NAPP an email asking about labeling the classes based on skill level, and he (Larry Becker) said: “Because there’s no official definition of ‘Beginner’ or ‘Advanced’ user, everyone would have to define themselves.” I see his point, but also feel like there are very clear lines to what is “beginner” and what is “advanced” … most of the classes would fall in the middle somewhere. Oh well, I tried. 🙂

    • Beginner: never touched Photoshop
      Intermediate: master of basic functionality
      Expert: guru of hot keys, shortcuts and most available functions

      Something like that…

      • Yeah, that would work. Maybe it just seems like most of the classes are aimed at beginners, but if that’s their market (and most of the people that attend PSW) then it probably works well for them. 🙂

  2. Liked your write up! I went to Orlando this year as, a newbie to photoshop and photography but the hubby liked the idea of playing golf with his cousin for 3 days.

    I also came to Las Vegas because I live in NM and except for the addition of CS5, much was the same as Orlando. Enjoyed both of the overwhelming experiences but plan to stay on the West Coast track as it seems that many of the same classes were available both places (and I can drive).

    The 10 lb. books are nice to have around when I forget things (most days) and I always like new t-shirts and free give aways. In Orlando, I walked out of a few classes because they were over my head but in Vegas I had a better feel for what I needed to learn and what I would understand as well as which classes or expo classes covered it.

    Thanks again! 🙂

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