Dave Cross Interview: Understanding & Learning Photoshop Like a Photoshop Junkie

Don’t you wish that learning Photoshop was as easy as snapping on a lens? Unless you’ve been stuck under a rock for the last 20+ years, you already know that learning Photoshop is one of the things about photography that you either enjoy completely or avoid at all costs. It’s difficult, time-consuming, and complex.

Dave Cross, a Photoshop instructor based in Florida, would agree. Learning it takes a great deal of patience, but if you were to really stick it out, the rewards could be boundless. Since 1987, he has been teaching Adobe products to photographers and other creative professionals and has taught an easy-to-understand approach to the mastering it. He’s one of most prominent — and one of our favorite — educators around.

In this interview, we asked Dave a few questions about his beginnings in Photoshop and got him to explain why using layers can make Photoshop much easier to use.

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You’ve been teaching Photoshop since 1990. You’ve seen its technology expand and grow popular. What would you say to anybody who is still hesitant to learning it?

Photoshop has become such an important tool that there should be no hesitation in learning it. Having said that, it can seem a little overwhelming to know how to get started. I always tell people not to worry about learning every single tool and function: just the core functions you need to get started.

Is there a specific way to think of Photoshop to make it easier to use?

Since using Layers is such a vital part of working with Photoshop, it’s helpful to think of layers as sheets of acetate. Layering these sheets on top of each other is the simplest way to build very flexible and editable documents.

What led you to Photoshop all those years ago? Did you think the program would become as powerful as it is today?

I was teaching other software programs and when Photoshop first came out someone needed to teach it, so I volunteered. I’m sure glad I did! At that time the only people using Photoshop were printing companies, so I never really expected it to become as powerful – or as widely used as it is.

One of the bad habits you like teaching against is using the eraser tool. You prefer using layers and masks instead of deleting pixels. What makes this approach easier for you? What specific advantages does it give a photographer?

Yes, using Layers and Masks is extremely important! The reasons include giving you more control, more flexibility and very often the ability to be more accurate and work more quickly. They can also give you the opportunity to repurpose work you’ve done previously.

When do you know you’ve gone too far in Photoshop? Is there any hard and fast rule to keep photographers from overdoing their retouching?

Sometimes it can be challenging to know if you’ve gone too far with your editing. One tip is to save your work (with Layers) and leave it for a while to work on something else. Later, re-open your edited document and look at it with a set of “fresh eyes” and see if anything jumps out at you.

What’s one tip you’d like to leave with our readers?

Use Layers! Save your document with all the Layers. Don’t ever Flatten and Save – Save a Flattened copy! Here are some great adobe photoshop lessons.

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