Pixel Perfectionist – Part II

This post was originally published on my previous blog, “Sara Cheats in Photoshop” (click here to visit) on June 25, 2014

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As suggested in the previous post, my fortune began to change in mid-2012 when I was hired by Los Gatos-Saratoga Community Education and Recreation (LGS Recreation). It was a temporary assignment to work on the Christmas Parade the organization sponsors every year in early December.  Initially, I was hired for my MS Access expertise (thanks to those Community Ed classes back in ’06)  but my manager soon discovered I was capable of far more than just entering the data from parade entry forms.

Ultimately, my manager leveraged funds in the budget to keep me on past the Parade. By then, there had been turnover at LGS Recreation so I was given the responsibility of creating their Constant Contact e-newsletters.  I was a happy little clam working at LGS Recreation and, more importantly, I decided to purchase some books so I could finally learn some of the new (at least to me) features in CS5.

Let the Cheating Begin
One of the books I purchased was How to Cheat in Photoshop,  6th ed., by Steve Caplin.  I bought the book because the reviews on Amazon said while it wasn’t for someone who had never used Photoshop, it was a great book to learn new techniques for a more advanced user. While I was working at LGS Recreation I did not have time to do more than just thumb through the book and try out a couple of the techniques Caplin writes about.

Alas, my manager (who I loved working for) was unable to squeeze me into the budget for 2014 and my temporary job came to an end after the 2013 Parade. However,  like the Chinese saying, “within every disaster is an opportunity,” I decided to use my time out of work to actually work through the How To Cheat lessons from start to finish.

I highly recommend How to Cheat, as it has really helped me improve my skills. However, the best thing about the book is that Caplin didn’t just publish it and go back to doing freelance work for The Guardian. Instead, to accompany the book, Caplin created an online forum, which he actively manages. If you get stuck on an exercise, you can post a question on the forum and Caplin usually responds within 48 hours, even if one of the other forum members has posted an answer to your question.

New Challenges Lead to a New Title
Caplain also posts what he calls “The Friday Challenge.” These generally consist of a photo that he asks forum members modify in some fashion, such as making a statue come to life. But, Caplain doesn’t give any other instructions, leaving it up to your imagination and creativity to figure out. As forum members finish their versions of the Challenge, they post them to the forum. The following Friday, Caplin posts a critique of each person’s submission.

I have never owned a book where the author stayed so involved and was so willing to communicate with his readers. I have no idea how he finds the time. A forum member offered the suggestion that Caplin has robots handling all his day-to-day minutiae.

Regardless, after a forum participant completes and submits several Challenges, Caplin awards them an appellation that reflects his impression of their work.

And that’s how I came to be known as Pixel Perfectionist

Next: Just Thumbing Through

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