A look back at Photoshop's history: from the rise of desktop publishing and digital photography, to the evolution of Photoshop's tool palette and its sometimes controversial but necessary role in modern photojournalism.
- I probably first started using Photoshop in college. I was lucky enough to go to school at at a time when the physical part of designing was transitioning into the digital age. - And then suddenly this software came in, Photoshop, this weird photo shop type of thing. I just remember looking at this and thinking, we've got something really cool here. - I clearly remember the first day that I opened it up and I couldn't figure out what to do. I did have a picture of my mom. So I remember that I used the clone tool and painted a third eye on her forehead.
I picked it up from here, just to do it. And it looked so ghastly and creepy. I was like, OK I'll never do that again. - I was blown away by it, because I could scan an image and there it was on the screen. And in that age of pretty low expectations that was quite a remarkable thing. - We had Photoshop from like version 2 or something like that. It was the one that didn't have layers yet. It was fascinating because you felt like it was kind of magical in a way. - There's this sort of cutoff between people who are pre layers and people who are post layers.
You know, back when drop shadows were cool because they were so fricking hard to do. - Graphic designers are looking for text, graphics, and half tones. But then Photoshop came along, the Noel brothers. We finally had the final ingredient to that equation and the desktop publishing revolution exploded. - When I start working out my ideas, I would use a sketchpad. Now, on top of this I would put tracing paper because if I want to move this little box over to here, then I'd just trace out the box and then see how it would look and move it around.
And once they're fine I'd start tracing in the other pieces, just to form the overall layout. But this was a very labor intensive process and difficult. - There were specialties of people who did layout and people who did typography, and what happened with desktop publishing is that one person sitting in front of a computer you could buy off the shelf could do all those roles. - In the early days we had PageMaker and then Quark Express started taking over. And so when Photoshop came on the scene, all of a sudden we could move from bad clipart into high quality photographs.
- When Photoshop came along, it was a really different beast in that it was a full color program. And they did a great job of ripping off, really in terms of interface, the very first painting program which was McPaint. So we had brush tools, we had familiar selection tools, we had a little lasso, we had all this stuff that we had seen back then. It's just instead of editing basically black and white pixels and that's all, it's 72 pixels pinched, didn't really have resolution control. All of a sudden you have photographic images. - That level of power that Adobe brought to the desktop really was new.
I had never used a turnkey digital editing system before but I had remembered reading articles about, and they weren't calling it the clone or the rubber stamp tool, but seeing demonstrations of National Geographic photographers working with these amazing tools that could copy things from one place to another. And walk into a trade show and see that running on the same kind of hardware I had at home was really different. - Working with large files was so painful that you would try to do a simple transformation, with the free transform tool and to just tilt something around, and when hit enter or return it will ee, ee, ee, and little by little the lines across would show the transformed thing.
- You couldn't have anything else open and then there was that feature, beep when done, because you would likely fall asleep unless you had a beep to remind you that it had been done. - You know, at the time the editorial mag image that was just insanely big. And you would sit there and wait all night for that to render. You would do some stuff on it and then you would just hit the go button and come back in the morning. - So much of working with Photoshop in the early days was trying to find ways to trick it, to use, to do clever things. And that's where calculations and shops, channel operations came in.
- You could select things and move them into different locations, you just had to be satisfied that this is where it was gonna be. You weren't gonna change it later. It was gonna live here. But, I was still very satisfied with the results and I was very satisfied with the edge detail and I was very satisifed with the colors 90 percent of the time. - So Photoshop, from it's early stages, was doing things that were going beyond the limitations of the hardware. So as the hardware got better then Photoshop got stronger. And they started adding things like the layer styles and layers for that matter.
- I think the thing that changed my life more than anything else in Photoshop was the addition of layers. Layers changed my life. Because, prior to then, you were so committed to what you were doing that you would keep like multiple copies of a file so you could explore. And the problem is is if you had a little bit you liked in experiment A and a little bit you liked in experiment C, then you had to spend all day sort of merging those together or redoing it with both of those things in mind. - When adjustment layers first came out, this was unbelievably great.
The idea that you could change like levels, or curves, for an image without messing up those underlying pixels was unbelievably great. - Now we have the freedom to play without any penalty. Right, because back then you know you ran a filter, well you saved it you're out of luck. And then now, you have these smart filters, you have adjustment layers, you have, you know, all of these. There's camera raw as a filter now, which is insane. It's almost like now you have carte blanche on this big playground and no matter what you do, where you go, it's cool because you can always get back to the original, you can always undo your mistakes.
- That's what I probably like most about Photoshop now, is that you can give 10 different people the exact same assignment, and they can come back, each of them, 10 different ways on how they solved it. And I think that's the beauty of Photoshop, is the flexibility to adapt to the artists workflow. - These are simply tools, that's all they are, but what these tools have done is made it easier for you to take your imagination that much further. We've started to see a big change in the advertising industry, because all of a sudden you started seeing these big J. Walter Thompsons and McCann Ericksons starting to lose work to these little studios.
These little design studios started forming all over the place, because people now had these Macs so they could compete with the big guys and do the same kind of work and better. - At root, Photoshop's grammar is really simple. It's like, you've got a stack of pixels, and then you can stack up these other grids of pixels. You can change their opacity and you can put a mask on them. You can make selections and then you can modify what's in the selection, either with a brush or some sort of filter. That's sort of your, you know, Crayola eight crayons. And you'd think, well that's really constraining, but generally just knowing those basics can give you a career.
- And that's really, to me, the story of Photoshop. The things that Photoshop has allowed people to do over the 25 years, is mind blowing because those capabilities didn't exist when I was a kid. It's really something that has changed the fabric of society in a very measurable way. And there's not that many pieces of software out there that you can say that about. So, I love Photoshop. I love what's done for me personally, because you know, I've made a career out of it.
You know, it's just been pretty amazing if you think about it.
- David Blatner
- Anne Marie Concepción
- John Curley
- Richard Koci Hernandez
- Katrin Eismann
- Nigel French
- Von Glitschka
- Jan Kabili
- Ben Long
- Deke McClelland
- Justin Seeley
- Ami Vitale
- James Williamson