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Live: PrairieFire @ Photoshop World 2010

Live: PrairieFire @ Photoshop World 2010

I’ve said it often, “Photoshop World is my favorite professional conference. By far. Bar none.”

Why, is a bit hard to say. I’ve learned amazing things at Imaging USA. And, Texas School gave me the base upon which to build everything I do. But, at this time in my career, PSW is the place where my vision is enhanced and my horizons are stretched.

Perhaps, it’s because here, I’m a fish half out of water. I know a lot about the technical side of photography. And, I’m not bad in post-production. But, “not bad” puts me at the back of the class at PSW. There are people here who are incredible — what they can do with Photoshop spins my head.

Lest anyone misunderstand, PSW is not only for people who can spin heads. PSW is for all of us. There are classes at every level taught by people at the top level of what they do. This is my third PSW. At my first, I took a lot of “beginner” courses. I learned a lot. More than I thought I could learn in 4 days. Now, I’m taking some tougher classes — but I feel fully prepared. Since my first PSW, I’ve taken seminars, lectures, and joined Kelby Training. I’ve read books and watched DVD’s. I’ve hosted seminars featuring Dave Cross, Jim DiVitale and Janice Wendt. I’ve worked hard and when I look back at what I was doing before my first PSW to what I can do now, I feel like the guy who went from driving an old John Deere in the fields to a guy who drives a Ferrari on the track.

To me, PSW strikes the perfect balance between “practical learning” and inspiration. And, that’s what I’m going to write about this week — the things that will improve both my technique and my vision. I’ll try to post something every day. And, when I get home, I’ll do some in depth posts tips and tutorials.

One of the things I like most about conferences is that I get to see and spend time with my friends who don’t live in Texas.

Today, I had lunch with Janice Wendt. Janice is known to most of us as the “Nik Diva”. She’s the woman at all of the trade shows and schools who shows us how to use Nik’s incredible suite of software. She’s the go-to- Nik-woman — the best Nik teacher I’ve seen and one of the best retouchers in the world.

Janice has recently been on the road teaching at photo and art schools. Many of my friends who have been on the road teaching at conferences and trade shows have reported back to me that in this great “sea change” in the world of photography, there are many of us entering the profession with very little training. The demand for knowledge is everywhere. One would think that the key to servicing this new group of photographers would be to focus on the “nuts and bolts” of the profession. So I asked Janice how she was reaching out to this group and what her goals were.

Her answer — “I teach them inspiration. That’s the most important thing I do. I teach them to see how much better things can be. That what is good can be great.”

I think that is the right message for the times.

All over this web site are articles and comments about the current market for professional photography. A few themes resonate:

With cameras getting better and better, and capable of taking very good images, technical mastery is becoming a thing of the past; another way of saying the same thing is to say that it is easier to enter the profession, today, than it was before.

However, it is harder to survive.

The more photographers, the more competition we all face. Competition can be good. Or, it can be destructive. No one wins in a “price war”. Lower prices. Lower profits. No profits. Out of business. That’s the risk when we choose to compete on price.

But, we can all win in a “quality war” because it will force us to grow and do our best work.

To succeed in a “quality war”, we have to be better. We have to differentiate our work. We have to sell that difference. Our clients have to see it. And, they have  to be educated to the point where they are willing to pay more for better images.

And, that’s why Janice is right on track when she says that she teaches “inspiration” and “vision”.

Yes, it is important that we master our tools like those in the Nik Suite. But, according to Janice, the woman who knows them best, until we expand our vision, until we see that “good enough” never is, until we challenge ourselves and our software to go beyond what seems OK, we will not be great. And, great is where we must be. To be satisfied. And, to survive.

And, that’s why I’m here at PSW. To challenge myself. To expand my vision. And, to share the experience with those of you who could not get here.

(Copyright: PrairieFire Productions/Stephen J. Herzberg — 2010)

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