Note: This is a proposed handout for second-year journalism students at Kwantlen, covering their intro to Photoshop CS5. Any feedback, through comments, would be appreciated.

One of the big changes that has taken place over the summer is the upgrade to CS5 in the Mac lab.

We’re not going to spend a lot of class time working through the new versions, although we will work extensively with inDesign as we work toward the first of two print editions, more or less at mid-term.

Instead, I’m going to ask you to spend time with a handful of online videos that will run you through some of the new Photoshop features that you’ll find important for your journalistic work.

Photoshop has always had the ability to screw with reality, and some of the new abilities make that easier than ever. As you work through the these, you keep that in mind: journalism relies, for its power, on the presentation of truth. Wandering beyond truth invalidates what you are presenting, calls into question your abilities, and provides another body blow to the reputation of journalism as a whole.

All of the techniques available through Photoshop need to be used with that in mind.The question that needs to underlie every effect we apply in Photoshop is: Does this serve to the best standard possible, the truth of the moment that was captured when the photo was taken? Note: We are never “improving” the truth of the photo; we are only ever improving the technical quality of the presentation of that moment in time. As well as paying attention to the process in the videos below, pay attention to the notes that accompany the link, and consider how the techniques should be used in improving the quality only.

The link to the Abode site where you’ll find these videos is at

Once at the site, read through What’s New in CS5 (HTML) for an overview of the changes. After that, worth your say through these videos. The order you use is up to you.

1. Episode GS05: Introduction to adjustment layers (8:04)

Adjustment layers are vital to such properties as tonal control, because they allow you to work on the image non-destructively. If you are working without adjustment layers, tonal changes you make always permanently change the image. Using adjustment levels, you can apply as many tonal adjustments as you like, using a variety of tools (brightness/contrast, levels, curves, etc.), control the degree of each effect, selectively turn effects on and off, and more, without changing the original image. You can work with as many levels as are needed; they are only applied when you save a copy of the image as a JPEG.

2. Using improved selecting and masking (12:15)

The video shows the process for knocking the background out of one photo in order to combine it with a second image, something we would only rarely do in journalism, and then only for illustrative effect. But masking can also be use to define areas of the photo to which tonal adjustments can be selectively made: think of that as dodging and burning with pinpoint control.

3. Photoshop CS5’s Content-aware Fill (1:36)

Dangerous, but cool. The only reason I’m making you aware of this is so that you’ll know there is a tool that can help you overcome mechanical problems. If, for instance, the sensor in your camera suddenly develops problems and you wind up with lines of dead pixels across all of your photos, this tool can help you save those images. It is not to be used to remove anything from an image that was in the scene at the moment that the shutter was tripped.

4. Getting started: 10 Sharpening the details (5:45)

Pay attention to the main message that sharpening won’t overcome the failure to focus properly, or shoot at high enough speeds to overcome camera shake. Sharpening is intended only to compensate for the failure of most cameras to capture scenes with absolute sharpness. We apply sharpness with a light touch, to help produce a photograph that is of good technical quality.

5. Dodge, burn and sponge colors (6:47)

These tools (which have finally become truly useful in Photoshop CS5), give us the ability to selectively apply tonal corrections to bring an image back into alignment with the reality of the scene we photographed. The guiding principle is what we saw at the scene, not necessarily what the camera captured. Privilege the reality, not the inability of the machine to fully capture that reality.

Feel free to explore any of the other videos at the Abode site. Above all, get in there and play. The more familiar you are with the program, the less time you’ll spend futzing with the tech, and the more time you’ll have to spend with the important part of all this: producing truthful, compelling and affecting works of visual journalism.