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A Fresh Look at Photoshop
Interview with author, Microsoft designer on a simple approach to digital.

Brad Hinkel

Brad Hinkel

Brad Hinkel

Brad Hinkel

Brad Hinkel

Brad Hinkel

Brad Hinkel

Brad Hinkel

Brad Hinkel buzzes passionately into his cell phone about his latest project as the snow crunches beneath his feet on Microsoft's campus in Redmond, Washington. He seems oblivious to the blistering cold January day.

An "experimental" photographer, Photoshop expert, teacher and software designer, Hinkel has just published his third book on digital photography.

Color Management in Digital Photography: 10 Easy Steps to True Colors in Photoshop, recently published by Rocky Nook, tackles what is perhaps the most confusing subject when is comes to photographers learning Photoshop: getting true color. At just 100 pages, the thin book has had its critics. They say color management can't be taught so easily. But Hinkel prides himself on the tome's svelteness and argues that "simpler is usually better."

"[It] should be easier [to learn] than it is. It should be enabling, not difficult," he said.

The key to making color management simple is understanding what color space is and redefining it a little, he added. "This is the single most important lesson for pros." (See chapter on Color Spaces at easycolormanagement)

He discourages the use of AdobeRGB for everyone. "This setting just makes things more difficult for most photographers," Hinkel said. "If you don't worry about that, suddenly everything becomes easier."

For most, sRGB makes life much easier and most computers default to the Adobe setting anyway, the author said.

"These classic values [RGB] have more to do with the internal technology than it does with the actual work of photography," he said.

The book is based on classes and workshops Hinkel has taught to hundreds of students over the years at the Rocky Mountain School of Photography and the Photographic Center Northwest. At the dawn of digital Hinkel was hired by Rocky Mountain to help create the school's original digital photo program. This gig eventually led him finding his second calling and becoming an author.

"My digital experience was really in sync with my computer expertise," he said.

Hinkel, who uses a Nikon D1X in his own digital work and prefers snapping nature, has been working on computer graphics and software design for more than a decade. He spent nine years working in Microsoft's gaming division, creating video games and "playing" them as well. His most recognized work is Microsoft's Flight Simulator game, one of the best-selling computer games of all time.

As interface designer of the game, he had to take flying lessons to insure the "user experience" was accurate. "That was a real useful tool for me," he said.

After teaching for many years, Hinkel recently rejoined Microsoft as a project manager. His new role overlaps with his love for Photoshop as he's looking to create a "next-generation software for designers; using a new definition and new ways of looking at design."

When he's not playing with digital he loves shooting landscapes with pinhole and large-format cameras but often ends up using a digital back.

A renaissance man of sorts, Hinkel has been able to bridge his depth of technical knowledge to a simple way of communicating difficult software to artists who'd rather be creating something else.

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