Internationally recognized expert in digital photography and Adobe
Stephen Ibaraki, I.S.P., has an exclusive interview with Carla Rose, an
internationally recognized expert in digital photography and Adobe
authored or co-authored more than 28 books on desktop publishing,
telecommunications, Adobe Photoshop and digital photography. She is
contributing editor for Photoshop User magazine and has written for
the Atlantic Fisherman, Adobe Magazine and The New Yorker.
reader favorite is her book, SAMS Teach Yourself Adobe Photoshop
CS in 24 Hours.
with your many talents and busy schedule, we appreciate the time you
have taken in doing this interview.
just finished yet another book, (I think it’s number thirty.) so
it’s sort of nice to kick back and answer some questions instead of
doing more “serious” writing.
Q: Can you
detail your most remarkable and interesting history. Please share
the many lessons you have learned and a few interesting stories—both
humorous and thought provoking.
A: I got
into computers more or less by accident. I went to art school and
studied photography and film animation. That led to a job as a film
editor, and eventually they gave me a client who needed a script
written. So I wrote one, and found that the work was easy and I
seemed to have a knack for it. I tried to stay with film and TV but
my life took a series of interesting turns, including managing a
recording studio and writing advertising copy.
was intrigued with everything technical (it was his recording
studio, too) and brought home one of the first TRS-80 computers,
about the same time our second son was born. The computer crashed
every time I walked into the room. I never saw it working for more
than a minute or two, and I thought they were a waste of time. He
kept upgrading, from a cassette tape drive to a floppy disk, and
eventually moved up to one of the very first 128K Macintoshes. He
showed me this thing that looked like a bar of soap and had me roll
it on the table. It drew a line. I drew another line, a wiggly one.
Then a box, then a house. I was hooked. When I found out that it
could also work as a typewriter, I was hooked even harder. That was
19 years, and about twenty Macs ago.
I wrote my
first computer book in 1987. My kids were both using Macs in school,
and I thought there might be a market for a children’s book on how
the computer worked and what you could do with it. I spoke to an
editor at Macmillan, whom I’d met in an online writers’ conference,
and he was interested, but needed one written for adult beginners. I
enlisted my husband as co-author, and we wrote “The First Book of
Macintosh”. The critics liked it, and the editor called and asked if
I could do one on PageMaker. “I said, “Of course, I LOVE PageMaker.”
Then I quickly looked at a catalog to find out what the hell
PageMaker was. I got a free copy from Aldus, spent a week learning
the program, and then six weeks writing a book about it. The book
was another success. And if there’s a moral to the story, it’s that
whatever you don’t know, you can learn.
Q: You have
been involved with many books, including writing articles. What do
you consider your top three-to-five best books and articles; can you
provide some details, shortcuts, solutions, and helpful pointers
“best book” is always a tie between the one I just wrote, and the
one I’m going to write next. Each time I tackle a topic like
Photoshop, I learn a little more, the writing gets a little
smoother, and the explanations get clearer. And of course, the
product gets better too. It’s very exciting to be involved with
software at the beta test level. We actually have a chance to
influence what new features are added.
I do have to
say that my favorite of all the books I’ve written is Teach
Yourself Digital Photography in 24 Hours. It’s out of date now
and probably out of print. Unfortunately, we jumped into the market
too soon, and the camera situation changed too quickly to keep up.
It used to be that a 640 x 480 pixel resolution was pretty good.
Now, you have to have a 5 megapixel camera for anything more than a
snapshot to go on your web page. But that book covered everything I
learned about picture taking in four years of art school, plus
everything there was to know at the time about digital cameras. It
covered composition, lighting, how to shoot things like food and
jewelry as well as people and scenery… it was a very thorough book.
some good columns, a couple for Adobe Magazine that got great
response, and some years ago, I had a monthly column in the
now-defunct Portable Computing that won me a Maggie Award from the
Western Magazine Publishers Association. One of my favorites was an
article about portable printers called “All the Print that’s News to
Fitz”. It was about my friend, a travel writer, who had to give up
his battered typewriter and get a laptop. And he called me to find
out where to feed the paper in…
Q: What do
you consider the key points to consider when selecting equipment for
digital photography, digital imaging, and computer equipment?
one key point is to consider what you’re planning to use it for. You
don’t need to spend a thousand bucks on a camera to shoot pictures
of the new baby or kitty for your web page. You don’t need a 23” LCD
display for surfing the web or reading your e-mail. On the other
hand, you need the best equipment you can afford if you’re planning
to do professional photography. You need the best scanner you can
get if you intend to do photo restoration. And if you intend to do
fine art photography, as I do, you need a good printer that takes
wide, heavyweight art papers and archival inks.
Color is an
issue for me, so I invested in a good monitor and a calibration
system. I chose a Nikon CoolPix 5700 camera because it has good
resolution and a very good zoom lens. I am slightly handicapped and
it’s helpful that I can compose a photo by zooming in or out rather
than walking an extra hundred feet to get closer to a subject. I
also use the Nikon telephoto and wide-angle accessory lenses.
you also have to remember that no matter what you buy and how much
you spend; something both better and cheaper will be out next week.
Q: How did
you get into writing and why do you do what you do?
think I already covered the first part of that question. My boss
needed something written, so I wrote it. Why do I keep on writing? I
ask myself that, usually about half way through a project when it’s
three in the morning and the words aren’t coming. But then I get
e-mails from readers thanking me for explaining something they never
understood before, or telling me how happy they are that their
pictures are looking better. And the royalty checks on the books are
Q: Of the
available software packages, why do you focus heavily on Photoshop?
What are the compelling reasons?
simply, it’s the best. I am a dedicated Mac user. I’ve tried Windows
and Paint Shop Pro, and I just wasn’t happy. The people who first
created Photoshop — Thomas Knoll, Marc Pawliger, Chris Cox — to name
a very few of the many, must have spent some time in the darkroom.
They’ve made tools that work the way the “real-world” ones do.
Dodging and burning, for example, are so much a normal part of
making a photo enlargement from a negative… Sponging, too. Many
times, I’d swab fresh developer on a print in hopes of bring up more
detail. Photoshop does the things I used to wish I could do to a
picture, along with many more other options than I’d ever have
dreamed of. The filters… I could go on for days about what you can
do with Photoshop filters.
Q: What is
the current state of digital imaging and where do you see it heading
in 2 years, and five years? [equipment, software, processes,
techniques and so on]
current state is changing as we speak. I don’t know where it’s
going. I almost think we’ve reached the level of what’s practical as
far as resolution. Do we really need more than 5 megapixels when the
monitor’s showing 72 dpi? We have screens that can display millions
of colors. The best trained human eye can’t distinguish more than
about twenty thousand. I think HDTV might bring us much better
monitors in the near future, and that will at least let us see what
we already have.
high-quality ink jet printers are coming down in price, so we’ll all
be doing bigger, better prints soon. That will be a good thing for
road, I am looking forward to hologram cameras. It may be more than
five years away, but maybe not, if we can create a demand for them.
I think 3D imaging is fascinating, and I can’t wait to try it.
Q: What do
you see on the horizon that professionals “must” be aware of to stay
Styles change and tools change, but the fundamentals of art don’t.
Good art and good photography still depend on knowing how to compose
a picture, how to light it, and how to shoot it. Where you go from
there is a function of your own creative imagination and knowing how
to get the picture to communicate what you’re trying to say with
Q: Do you see major changes
on the horizon; new “killer apps”; winners and losers?
A: No, but of
course, I haven’t exactly gone looking. I’m sure there will be some.
I always check out anything new from Alien Skin. Those guys do some
great plug-ins. Flaming Pear and Auto F/X are also doing some very
neat stuff. As far as I’m concerned, nothing’s going to replace
Photoshop, or MS Word, or InDesign for the basic tools of my
particular trade. I guess I’m old fashioned… Heck, I still play
Q: What would be your
recommended top 10 references for casual and serious professionals?
of all, join NAPP, the National Association of Photoshop
Professionals. Whether you’re a novice or a working pro, you can
learn a lot from them. They have a monthly magazine called
Photoshop User, and a members’ web site at
as well as a public web site at
my book — Sams’ Teach Yourself Photoshop in 24 Hours — is a
good start for beginners. For anyone more advanced, Real World
Photoshop is terrific. I also like Scott Kelby’s Down and
Dirty Tricks for inspiration when nothing’s coming, creatively
only six. Google “Photoshop” and there are literally thousands of
places to go, starting with Adobe’s own Photoshop pages.
Q: What are the top ten
specific challenges facing professionals in your field?
the number one challenge for any of us these days is staying sane,
staying alive, and not doing any additional harm to the planet or
each other. Making a living doing something you love is a good way
to stay sane. Staying alive — we learned a horrible lesson on 9/11.
It’s not up to us. Doing no harm is up to us, and we also
have a duty, I think, to do our best to make the world a safe and
healthy and beautiful place for the next generation, and to guide
them in thinking that way too.
Q: For those
who are newly entering your field, do you have any suggestions to
save them time?
like the old joke about getting to Carnegie Hall, “Practice”. Spend
some time every day just fooling around with your tools.
Shoot pictures of anything and everything. Mess around with them in
Photoshop. Use filters you’d never ordinarily try. Liquify something
until you can’t remember what it was. Combine filters. Try
posterizing, inverting colors, all the weird stuff that’s not
immediately practical. Have fun with it. In the process, you’re
learning your way around the program and building your speed as well
as your skill level.
Q: If you were doing this
interview, what three-to-five questions would you ask of someone in
your position and what would be your answers?
A: “How much
are we paying you for this interview?” “I’ve spent three hours at
$75 an hour…” But seriously, I think everything’s pretty well been
Q: Do you
have any additional free-ranging comments you would like to make?
been incredibly lucky. Over the years, time and again, I’ve been in
the right place at the right time, and landed the opportunities that
came along. Some of it was simply believing that I could do whatever
I set my mind to do. Some of it was having an incredibly supportive
husband and kids. Some of it is having a reputation for fast,
accurate work and not missing deadlines. And there are factors
beyond my control. Somebody out there must really like me.
Q: If you
were to do it all over again, would you do things differently?
I wouldn’t have taken a dive off a step ladder and injured my back.
Aside from that, no. I am the happiest person I know.
thank you again for coming in to do this interview and sharing your
in-depth knowledge and experiences with us?
been fun digging back into old memories. Thanks for listening.