Photoshop is an extremely versatile tool, that allows you to enhance the quality of images to show exactly what you want to show even where the original conditions of capture were imperfect. Refining images in this way is not "cheating" - it's more a matter of "finishing" or completing the image, refining them to the point where they better reflect the reality as the photographer envisioned it when it was shot. Sometimes, though, you want to do more than just enhance what's there, and Photoshop has gotten better and better at allowing you to create things that don't exist, or to combine things that were never combined in reality. There's a word for that. It's called "photoshopping." When we say an image has been "photoshopped" we mean that someone cheated. But that's not at all a bad thing. It's a great thing, and it's the ease with which Photoshop allows you to manipulate and invent with images that makes it an indispensable tool for designers and artists. The aim of this book is to show you how to take advantage of that tool, starting with the basics, but moving quickly into some very cool stuff.
Steve Caplin's "How to Cheat with Photoshop" is easy to read and easy to follow. Rather than get bogged down in specifics, and telling you exactly how to do a specific thing, he lists the steps for how to do a certain kind of thing, but then he gives a specific example that you can follow along with (using photographs included on the dvd that comes with the book, or your own photographs) to be sure you get the concept. For the most part this works great - even though for a couple of examples I wanted him to be a bit more specific, since it took me a moment to figure out how to do what he suggested, the process of figuring it out helped me to gain a better understanding of the principles. So this is a good teaching guide, and taught me several new things, even though I'm not new to Photoshop.
One nice feature of the book is that each section is clearly marked as to who can use it. There are chapters that apply principles possible with every version of Photoshop and others that make use of features specific to CS3, CS4 or CS5, for example. This makes the book usable for those who don't have the latest version, and in principle those with the latest version should be able to make use of every feature. In practice that's not quite right, though. Even where he adds in new features, he keeps old things intact and doesn't always explain that some of things he describes are obsolete or inaccurate for CS5. For example, where he gives instructions for how to use the "Revise Edge" feature of the selection tools, he illustrates these with the "Revise Edge" panel from CS4 even where it has been changed for CS5. Occasionally, the diagrams are just wrong (for example on p. 81 he shows the black slider moved for the underlying layer, but he says to move the white slider, and that's what works). Also, sometimes the shortcuts he identifies are no longer functioning in CS5.
Still, this is a very helpful guide to manipulating images in Photoshop and creating realistic photomontages. I haven't mastered all of its exercises, but expect to have it on my desk and it's a great reference guide for a wide range of the very cool things you can do with Photoshop. Unfortunately, it gives me the impression of having been hastily revised to reflect changes in CS5, without having been thoroughly checked to be sure that all sections are up to date and accurate. Still, most of the mistakes are minor, and on the whole I learned a lot from working through this book. It should be said that this is not really an introduction to Photoshop and presupposes that its readers have a basic familiarity with how it works (with layers and masks and adjustments, etc.).