I think I’ll Keep the Wacom

As many of you know, I purchased a Wacom Intuos Pro small tablet at the beginning of the year. If you didn’t read that post, you can find it here Wacom. Can’t live with them. Can’t live without them.  The first lesson I learned, which I talked about was how I lost about four or five hours of work, all at the press of one button.

Reflections at sunrise down at the Habourfront, Toronto.
Reflections. Taken near the Habourfront Centre in Toronto in the early morning.

It had a setting ‘close application’ assigned to a button and it does a very good job at that! I lost all the work I had been doing at that time. So, lesson one was CHANGE THAT SETTING! So, needless to say, I did and it is now set to ‘switch application.’ No more spontaneous closures for me!

So throughout the winter, I persevered with my Wacom. I learned how to set up the tablet for different programs, Lightroom, Photoshop and then all others. I tried to integrate all the settings so no mater which program I was in, zoom would be found at the same place in each program. I even set up the pen for daily functions I use, like scrolling and back. For the most part it works and flows easily for me, adapted to the tools and areas I use the most. And now it feels very natural in my hand. I fly across the tablet knowing exactly where to press for the screen. I rarely even use my hands anymore I’ve become that accustomed to the pen! (If you are interested in my settings, drop me a line. I can send you a copy of my settings.)

The benefits weren’t initially really clear. It wasn’t until I became more involved in Photoshop that I started to realize the true potential of the Wacom. It is in the photo editing skills where it truly shines. I have so much more control over minute movements, unlike with a mouse. I remember taking an advanced Photoshop course with Adam Merrifield, a Master photographer. His work in landscapes were stunning and he advised he extensively used his Wacom to dodge (lighten) and burn (darken) each individual striation in his photos. A job, he stated, that would take him on average, eight hours. I didn’t really know if I had the patience for that type of detailed work. I guess it is what separates the boys from the men or the girls from the women. It is that time and dedication that creates the works of art that become winners and identify the makers as Masters. But I knew I certainly admired his work greatly and so if I wanted to create anything close to what he accomplishes, I knew I would need to follow in his footsteps and use his techniques and tools.

Now I must assure you, I have yet to sit and dodge and burn a sand scene or a rock scene for eight hours! But I must admit, I have spent my fair time with brushes, painting in and out details, playing with curves and levels and generally expanding my post-processing skills, beyond adding presets from Lightroom, or through the plug-ins such as Nik, OnOne or Topaz software. During that workshop, Adam had said the single element that makes an incredible difference and creates a true ‘masterpiece’, the secret sauce so-to-speak, was sharpening. Master sharpening he said, and you will create beautiful photos. So along with using the Wacom, I studied and learned more about sharpening. I followed those whose works of art I admired, adopting and using their sharpening strategies. I used their formulas. And the more I studied and used the pen, the better I got at post-processing.

I remember when I initially started using the pen. I couldn’t for the life of me follow a line on the screen and was decidedly all over the place. My hand to eye co-ordination was terrible. I blamed the  placement of the tablet, moving it to the right side, then in front of the keyboard and then behind the keyboard. I eventually decided it made the most sense in front of my keyboard where I could easily touch the ‘z’ or ‘v’ key when needed in combination with the Wacom to zoom an image or move it. I also liked that the square screen in front of my eyes was also the one in front of my body so I didn’t have to make mind shifts to figure out where the pen was. And before I knew it, I was following the lines precisely, with little effort. I was truly amazed. My skills had improved.

As I left all those plug-in programs with their presets, choosing instead to work extensively in Lightroom and Photoshop, more and more I appreciated the Wacom and the precise movements I could manage. When my friend started a cookie and cupcake business as a part-time endeavour , she often would send me a photo of her creations and ask me to make it stand out. That meant for me finding a background that would enhance her food without taking away from it. But more importantly it meant practice for me. I spent hours playing with the photos, changing the backgrounds, following the lines that I was erasing and working around the uneven edges of sweet goodies. If you want to see her stuff or my additions to her creations, you can visit them here at Sweets & Treats by Marisa

Then came that day. The time Sue’s computer was giving her problems and I had to play with it. As I grabbed the mouse, I realized I had problems navigating around the screen. I no longer knew how to work it! It took a few minutes, but eventually it came back. But it was then that the realization hit me that I really did like and prefer to use the Wacom tablet and the pen. Wow! And there it was.  I had adopted the tool, hook, line and sinker. And my photography post-processing has improved dramatically. Hence, the photo for this post, taken and edited recently. I fully utilized the Wacom to dodge and burn areas of the photo to enhance it, requiring the fine movements that are capable only with the tablet. Yes, it is a tool I would recommend for anyone seriously interested in taking their photography to the next level. I’m certainly going to keep my Wacom.

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