Took An Online Photoshop Elements Class From Nicole’s Classes

by Nancy on March 1, 2013

I took the photo at left for my post about my new jewelry organizer. I used the skills I learned in the Photoshop Elements class to improve the picture.

I took the photo at left for my post about my new jewelry organizer. I used the skills I learned in the Photoshop Elements class to improve the picture. I’d say it’s a big improvement.

As bloggers, one thing Joan and I bemoan over and over is our lack of photo-taking and photo-editing skills. It all seems so complicated. Our heads spin over apertures and ISO. Is it because we have crappy cameras? Does one magically take fantastic photos if only they own a $1000 camera? (Answer: No.)

We both own Photoshop Elements (PSE) but it makes our heads hurt. SO many tools with unintuitive names like “multiply,” “magic wand,” “brushes” (in a dizzying array of sizes,) “masks,” “adjustment layers” and “artistic filters.”

But, in an effort to perk up our blog with better photos I resolved for 2013 to learn more about my camera and how to use Photoshop Elements. Enter, Nicole’s Classes, a website that offers online courses in photography and design. To my delight I discovered they offered a 4-week course for Photoshop Elements newbies. My course started December 31st and ended on February 4th (you get a one-week grace period to catch up if you fall behind.)

My course consisted of online video tutorials broken down into basic topics. If you purchased Photoshop Elements you’ve discovered it  comes with Photoshop Elements Organizer, a program I had no idea what to do with, so I appreciated that the first tutorial in Week 1 reviewed how to use it. Each week’s lesson consisted of 5-10 tutorials which ranged in length from 5-15 minutes (give or take a few.) Each week you have homework. Using photos they provide, or your own, you apply the lessons learned in the tutorials and upload them onto the class site for instructor review.

Everyone’s learning style is different but I found by Week 2 that the easiest way for me to learn was to open up the photo they were using  in the video tutorial and apply the changes alongside the instructors. This involved lots of starting and stopping the video. It was a pain working on my laptop. Here is a case where a big monitor would have been helpful.

So would I take another online course? Hmmmmmm. Not sure.  I was seriously committed to this class. I spent about 10 hours a week going through the tutorials, taking notes and doing the homework. Here is my pros and cons list from this first experience:

What I Liked

  • The video tutorials were professionally done. 
  • I’m no longer terrified of opening up Photoshop Elements. I know I can do some basics.
  • I liked having a structure that moved me along through the class.
  • I liked receiving feedback on my homework.
  • I now have a simple checklist of editing steps to improve my photos.
  • The instructors emphasize using a light hand in photo editing.
  • I learned the best way to get good pictures is to take good pictures. If you take good pictures you only need to do a teeny bit of editing or formatting.

What Frustrated Me

  • Not all the photo examples they used in the videos were available in the photo file folder. This was especially hard for me when they demonstrated how to create a photo collage (something I REALLY wanted to learn.) Because the photos they were using were already correctly sized I had a difficult time using my own photos to follow along.
  • You only have access to the class for five weeks. After finishing Week 3  two major things happened. 1. A family member was diagnosed with a life-altering illness that threw everything into a tailspin AND 2. one of my dogs knocked something on top of my computer and broke my screen. I emailed to ask if I could have access to the classes a little longer. I received a polite “no” reply.

Here’s a picture of my laptop. Kind of hard to do photo editing when you can’t see a third of the screen. On the plus side I used a technique I learned in the class to crop and straighten the photo.

The online PSE class cost $125. When I started trying to edit on my own I realized there were steps I was missing but I couldn’t go back to the video to see what it was. I tried online tutorials but was frustrated by the amount of time I spent searching for exactly what I needed to know. Finally I ended up purchasing Photoshop Elements The Missing Manual to have as a reference. That set me back $25.00. Guess since I’m $150 into learning this dang program I’d better use it!

If you are thinking of taking an online class I’d say:

  • Consider how much time you’ll have to complete it.
  • Find out how long you have access to the course materials.
  • Find out if there are accompanying print materials.

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