What is your title, and can you explain what your daily responsibilities are?
I’m an author and public speaker; responsibilities revolve around what day it is. Typically I enjoy coffee in bed, roll into kickboxing class (at least three days a week) and beat the tar out of someone or a bag, and then work on whatever project is at hand until around it’s time to cook dinner (I love to cook Italian meals).
Projects typically include preparing for an upcoming creativeLIVE class (my next one is March 31-April 2 on using Adobe’s Creative Cloud programs together), writing or responding to edit requests for a book chapter (I’m currently wrapping a complete rewrite of iPhoto: The Missing Manual with David Pogue), writing a Macworld Magazine, Photoshop User, or Photographic Elements techniques column, or perhaps recording a short training video. I also volunteer food photography and design work for some Boulder-area restaurants.
My manager and husband, Jay Nelson (also an author and speaker), handles all of our speaking and writing contracts, travel arrangements, and most of our social media, which is a HUGE part of our daily task. Most recently we launched a series of ebooks called The Skinny Books, which are short, to-the-point books on topics that we teach. In fact, we just posted “The Skinny on Lightroom 5” ($9.99) and “The Skinny on Elements 12” ($7.99), which are doing really well www.theskinnybooks.com
What inspired you most to become a Photoshop trainer/educator? Why did you pursue this as a career?
For the most part, people’s photographs are engaging and colorful. What’s not to love? It all started when I had a typing service in Fort Worth, TX (I type about 120 wpm) and people kept asking me to design things. So at 29 I enrolled into the design program at the Art Institute of Dallas and graduated with a perfect 4.0. I also was president of the Cowtown Mac User Group (best little user group in Texas!) and it was through those two connections that I began giving presentations for the group, as well as volunteering for Apple at their annual Macworld Expo in San Francisco (starting in 2000). I found that I enjoyed teaching people a skill that helps them in their hobby or job. I also loved Photoshop because it seemed like real magic (and again, pictures are generally happy so it made me happy to be playing with them).
It was while volunteering at Macworld that I met my two mentors: David Pogue, founder of the Missing Manual book series, renowned technology expert and NOVA host (I ended up being David’s personal assistant for six years), as well as Scott Kelby (founder of NAPP), whom I later began writing and teaching for.
What do you think is the biggest obstacle to pursuing a career in the creative fields?
In 2014, I’d say there aren’t any obstacles. If you asked me before Adobe’s Creative Cloud release and subscription model, I would’ve said it’s the cost of the software; but $50 a month (or $10 for the photographer’s program) is a manageable amount to plunk down while you’re corralling clients. The next obstacle would’ve been accessible training, but with creativeLIVE.com, you can get trained by the pros for free from the comfort of your own home. Of course, there are other fantastic training resources such as the Photoshop and Lightroom group you, Andrew, run on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/pshopandlightroom/
With all the new versions of Photoshop what changes do you personally feel are the most exciting or brilliant?
I adore all the Content-Aware technology and with each new release, more tools seem to take advantage of it. Until we can actually “wish” something out of a photo, this is the next best thing.
I also love the way Smart Objects protectively wrap my content, and let me edit and replace content. I’d be hard-pressed to count the number of Smart Object templates I have, for creative effects as well as labels; I do a fair amount of design work and food photography for local Boulder restaurants, including bottle labels such as “Guillermo’s Homemade Limoncello”!
And, it must be said, the Refine Edge dialog finally makes complex selections possible!
What Photographers & Photoshop artists do you follow, and why do they stand out from others in your opinion?
I love Bert Monroy; he’s the most amazing digital artist I’ve ever encountered (my husband and I were honored to be in his Times Square painting). He is The Pen Tool Sensei 🙂
My favorite photographer might come as a bit of a surprise: G. Brad Lewis www.volcanoman.com I’m absolutely obsessed with volcanoes (have been since I was a kid) and his shots are mind-blowing. We have a Tiki Lounge in our basement and have collected quite a bit of Brad’s work over the years. Lava is a unique subject to shoot because it doesn’t require any lighting; it is, in essence, its very own light source. And the shooting locations are deadly, so Brad has to work under extreme pressure—technically he works on top of extreme earth pressure!—to capture the shot he wants.
For inspiration, I look to André Kertész, a brilliant Hungarian photographer who is widely thought of as the most influential photographers of the 20th century. He was one of the first to capture shadows and reflections, in what others might consider ordinary scenes, in order to tell a photographic story. He also delved into some interesting nude photography in his Distortions collection. When my husband and I toured André’s native Budapest in December of 2012, we were able to see a large body of his original work. We found it mesmerizing, and absolutely all of it was black and white (the height of his career began in the late 20s). I also admire how André stayed interested in his craft; he continued to experiment—even if it was shooting the objects on his desk—until his death in 1985.
What social networks do you like most? Which present good examples of Photoshop and Photography the best?
We spend most of our time on Twitter and Facebook, though we’re enjoying Google+ too. I love seeing people communicate through their photography on Facebook, though for pros, Flickr and Google+ are incredible.
What is your prediction of the evolution of social networks? How do you think these networks will showcase artists and Photographers better in the future?
I think social networks are are great way to stay in touch, stay current, and stay savvy. I love the way folks have access to quality instructors via Facebook Fan pages, and the like, and the video-chat “hangouts” on Google+ are incredibly useful and fun for teaching new techniques. Networks like Behance give artists a safe place to seek critical feedback as well as find inspiration.
What predictions do you have for the future of Photoshop and Photography?
In Photoshop, we’ll likely see more features take advantage of content-aware technology, though personally I’m hoping we see existing features fleshed out and fine-tuned, which seems far more likely now that Adobe gave up the 18-month new release ghost. (How, in the name of Asgard, did they maintain that model for so long?!)
Regarding photography, I love how creative photographers are creating abstract pieces by leaving their shutters open for long exposures and physically moving the camera around. I’m very excited about that right now. As far as gear, I’m excited about better image stabilization (I’m too lazy to carry a tripod), as well as the ability to capture in low-light without introducing swarms of noise. I did a near-dark shoot on Maui recently just after sunset to capture some incredible clouds, and the 5D Mark III captured some amazing shots.
Follow Lesa here! PhotoLesa.com Twitter: @PhotoLesa on Facebook: Facebook.com/Photolesa & on Google+ www.lesa.in/googleplusacct And please join Lesa on creativeLIVE.com March 31-April 2 for Creative Cloud Essentials, where you’ll learn how to get the most out of your Creative Cloud buck! Details here: http://lesa.in/1jwXrxt Lesa is also teaching several classes at the HOW Design Conference in Boston in May: www.Howdesignlive.com