Today marks the 25th anniversary of the very first release of Adobe Photoshop. That’s right, friends, Photoshop is 25 years old. Many of you don’t remember a world without Photoshop, but I certainly do. In this article I’ll be reflecting on my history with this amazing program and how it’s shaped my life over these past 25 years.
The very first time I saw Photoshop was in a friend’s attic during summer vacation circa 1994. I was around 10-11 years old at the time and I remember vividly how we played and hacked around for hours. Even though version 3.0 was the most sophisticated version of Photoshop to date (they had just released the layers functionality), most of our creations were simple patterns and pixel stick figures. We had a blast that summer, and I’ll always remember this as the summer that I truly fell in love with digital imaging and computer technology.
It would be a few years later (around 1996) that my family finally put a computer in our home, and with that computer came a new piece of hardware called a scanner. At the time, I had no idea what that machine was used for, but it came with a bundle of software that made me happiest boy on earth. That’s right, we actually got Photoshop 4.0 bundled with our scanner! How cool is that?
Armed with my new PC and a fresh copy of Photoshop I began my self-educated journey into the world of digital imaging. I spent hours at the computer learning all I could about the tools and filters of this amazing application. My dad, who was very into computers & technology, helped feed my addiction by constantly buying me books, magazines, and additional software (plugins, etc.). As much as I tried, however, I never could talk him into buying me one of those really cool Apple computers that we would see every time we went into CompUSA.
Seemingly every time a new version of Photoshop was released, my dad knew about it, and he would buy the upgrade disc(s) for me. Every upgrade was like Christmas morning for me. I’d rip open the package, install the software, break open the user manual, and proceed to read it cover-to-cover. I’ve probably read more Photoshop user manuals than most people have read actual books. Sad, I know.
Finding My Passion Early-On
In 1998 I was in junior high, and as part of our curriculum we had to choose a career and find someone within that industry to job shadow for a day. Fortunately for me, I already knew what I wanted to do, and my mom knew just who to help get me there. My first stop was King’s Publishers in Mayfield, KY with graphic designer Rick Nance. This is where I got my first taste of Photoshop in an actual working environment. I remember this day like it was yesterday. The computers, the sound of the press, and the smell of the ink. All of it captivated me and made me thirsty for more.
Round 2 of the job shadowing project took me to Murray State University and their Graphic Communications Management program. There I met two of my mentors, Steve Horwood and Gross Magee. Little did I know at the time, but these two gentlemen would actually be my professors later in life and inspire me to become an educator. The GCM department was amazing to me. They had an entire lab of computers, all of which were loaded up with top-of-the-line software for both graphic design and commercial printing. I was smitten.
The next few years would see me take a break from the tech scene. This was due, mostly, in part to my being involved with high school athletics, but also because my high school wasn’t exactly up to date in terms of technology education. I wouldn’t use Photoshop regularly again until college, and the release of Photoshop 7.0. I remember this version well because it introduced two of my favorite features in the healing brush and Camera Raw 1.0 (as an optional plugin).
Photoshop on Campus
College was a troublesome time for me, however, as I found myself struggling to find a purpose. The interest I once had for the print/graphic design industry hadn’t necessarily gone away, but I quickly realized that my hear just wasn’t in it like I thought it should be. This would send me into a vicious cycle wherein I dropped in and out of school a few times. I struggled to hold down jobs, and was generally unhappy with life. Through it all, however, the one thing that gave me joy was sitting at my computer and creating something using Photoshop. I realize that sounds cliche, but it’s the truth. When I was at that computer everything just seemed to fade away.
One random afternoon as I was working in the college computer lab, I happened to notice a book sitting on the desk next to me. The book was called “Photoshop CS Down & Dirty Tricks” by Scott Kelby. The book belonged to a classmate of mine and he started telling me about how great this book was and how many amazing things he had learned from it that weren’t in our college textbooks. Then he showed me something on the computer that would change my life forever. He launched iTunes and brought up the podcasts section where he showed me Photoshop User TV, a weekly show put on by Scott Kelby and the “Photoshop Guys”.
The idea of learning by watching a video was foreign to me up until that point, but I felt an instant connection with it. I knew right then and there that this was the future and that I needed to jump on this train while it was still in the station. The year was 2005 and online video was still very much in its infancy, so there weren’t many people doing it besides these guys and another company I hadn’t heard of before, lynda.com.
The Birth of the Podcast
I began the Photoshop Quicktips Podcast in 2006 alongside the release of Photoshop CS2. I’m not ashamed to admit that those first few episodes were a little rough. At the time I still had a pretty thick Southern accent, moved my mouse around while I talked, and no real content roadmap to speak of. Every week I would just ask myself what I would want to learn about Photoshop, and then record a video on it. The concept was simple, but it worked out pretty well.
The big moment for the Quciktips podcast came when John Nack (then product manager of Photoshop) agreed to do an interview with me on the show and to demonstrate new features from the upcoming release of Photoshop CS3. The downloads for the show immediately skyrocketed, and it was propelled into the iTunes Top-Ten, where it would remain consistently until the show retirement in 2012.
The Total Training Days
With the newfound popularity of the show came newfound recognition for me and my teaching style. I was profiled on several blogs and even contacted by a few companies to do training videos for them. One of those companies was Total Training. This was my big break, and it solidified my future as an online video educator.
During my tenure with Total Training I authored four Photoshop courses which contained a whopping 30 hours of video training combined. I consider my time at Total Training as my true education. There I learned more about the business and process of video-based training than I ever had before. While the relationship didn’t end on the best of notes, I still have lifelong friends from those days and I’m so thankful that I got to work with them. I owe all of them a huge debt of gratitude for helping to launch my career.
Then, Now, Forever
Over the next few years I continued podcasting, while at the same time trying to find steady full-time work as an instructor. I had expanded my skills to teach nearly every application in the Creative Suite, and also Microsoft Office as well. I had a true passion for teaching and I loved working face to face with students. However, I still felt like I needed be a part of something bigger. Enter, lynda.com (again).
While Photoshop isn’t my primary focus as a staff author for lynda.com, I still work in the program on daily basis. I’m still amazed by what the application can do, and I’m always waiting to see what Adobe will come up with next.
Even though Photoshop is generally known as a cutting-edge digital imaging application, that’s only it’s most basic descriptor. Photoshop is a common language, spoken by millions of designers, photographers, and creatives all over the world. It’s one of the few applications that you could mention to just about anyone on the planet and they’d know what you’re referring to. Photoshop is a source of inspiration, an icebreaker, and even (sorry Adobe) a verb! I’m very thankful that this application exists, and I’m glad that every time I fire it up I still fell like that kid in the attic during summer vacation.
Happy Birthday, Photoshop!