Photoshop: An Essential Photographic Tool

Posted Tuesday, 24 April 2007 by Tormod Rossavik in Photography, Inspiration, Interviews, Technology
Mikael Damkier, aka mikdam, is one of those photographers that have embraced Photoshop as an indispensable tool. Here he tells us how Photoshop has helped him develop his signature style.
Venice cityscape after and before Photoshop
Venice cityscape after and before Photoshop
Car after and before photoshop
Car after and before photoshop
The Christmas Cottage
The Christmas Cottage
I recently caught up with Mikael between his assignments and Photoshop sessions. Occationally Mårten (his pet parrot) would contribute some unintelligible replies, but we managed to have a good chat between the bird's hungry cries for biscuits.

My poison.
- I really can't say how it started, because there was a long period of aversion towards Photoshop on my part. Approximately 4 years ago I started small time. My mates used it, but I was an old school photographer still using a Hasselblad and fiddling in a darkroom. Still, I was willing to give Photoshop a chance, but found it slow and tricky to begin with. Now I would not be able to work without it. It is my poison of choice, and I completely depend on it.

There's only one restriction and that's your imagination.
- I began step by step. Didn't do anything fancy, but soon I found that this amazing software could actually make my pictures look just the way I wanted them to look, that I could add my particular signature to my portfolio. I am self taught, I've had no education in this – I have just worked my way around it, and found out how to do things by trial and error. It must be said that I've browsed the net for inspiration and tips, but most importantly, what really made me serious about Photoshop was the emergence of microstock. When I found out that I could really submit my own photos like that, it just exploded. Microstock really got me deep, deep into it.

Working rough.
Mikael is now a full-time photographer, dividing his days between microstock and other photo assignments.
- I was doing heavy-duty building work. I had to in order to have a steady income, but it was hard managing both sides – thinking creatively and trying to build a portfolio at night and working on a construction site during the day. There's nothing wrong with construction work, but I am glad that I'm now out of it. Where I'm at now, that's where I want to be.

Layers and lasso.
- Many photographers have their own way of using Photoshop. My preference are the clone tool, layers and lasso functions, I use those a lot. Earlier on I frequently over-photoshopped my images, but now I try to emphasize the important elements in the image and downscale elements that aren't as important. I want the image to be clean, filtered. Before a session I always draw a sketch of the image I want to shoot, then I go and take pictures. I will analyze the picture during the session, and work 'till I've got it right in camera, then I'll take it further in Photoshop after.
If I was to choose a specific image that I'm particularily happy with, it has to be my "Christmas cottage" image. I worked so long on this to get it right and I still think today that it's a good piece of Photoshop work.

A portfolio reflects your personality.
- My portfolio is somewhat melancholic, and I work hard at having a consistent and recognisable image collection. I just want to show life like it is, well, from my perspective that is. But I've been told that people recognise themselves in my pictures, and understand what I'm getting at. It's so nice when you hear that other people mirror themselves and see their history, or parts of it in my images. That's rewarding!

What's driving you?
- Well, there are so many possibilities in Photoshop that finding new ways to work with the images is a driving force in itself. It is limitless, and in my case I am curious and eager to get the image right, that's my main motivation. It's like a good old fashion tool. In fact, I'm so dependent that from time to time I force myself to do something else and lead a normal life. You can surely say that I've found something that really suits me well, and without it my portfolio would have looked very different.

Never give up.
- Eventually you'll reach the point where you don't develop any more – Photoshop is complicated, and I've been there myself. I think the way to overcome that is by continously challenge yourself and not give up.
After all Photoshop is like a candy store, where the good stuff is everywhere, it is just a matter of knowing where to find what you like. To achieve that, you will have to start with the basics. Nobody expects you to manage it all. You could start by working with colours, retouching or whatever, one thing at the time, not too much at once. Start with the sky, or any other single element in a picture. Teach yourself the basic features first, then take it from there.
Russell Brown's web-tutorials really opened my eyes, and I recommend you check out his pages at www.russellbrown.com.

Check out Mikael's Crestock portfolio here


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