I went to Photoshop World in Las Vegas this week. It was an interesting opportunity to meet a bunch of people who spend their days working in Photoshop, trying to take advantage of all of the powerful features in the application. I've come to a conclusion about them. They are User Experience Masochists.
It isn't that they aren't smart -- they are very smart and creative people -- but they seem to relish the gyrations they need to go through to accomplish what seems like simple tasks. Scott Kelby gave a talk on Photoshop Down & Dirty Tricks where he repeatedly said that the most obvious way to do something in Photoshop is invariably the worst way to do it. His mantra could be "why do it in 1 step when you can do it better in 12?" In fact, over and over I would hear about people who chose a wrong button accidentally at some point and stumbled across a completely incomprehensible dialog full of sliders and buttons and by twisting the odd control on a layer had discovered the most amazing duotone effect.
It kind of reminds me of playing Worlds of Warcraft (which I have been doing so much that I haven't been writing much here lately). They go on long quests to find the different parts of a process and try to remember the secret combinations that give them the most realistic shadow under a product shot. Their gaussian blur has 12% more stamina than any one they've seen. They have the Enchanted Blending Mode of Witherbark (+28 Frost damage!) which is only available to a Level 38 Photoshop Mage but can actually defeat the Dodge & Burn elite quest in Stranglethorn Vale.
They chat amongst each other in their guilds and swap war stories of how they created a star field out of pure noise (no--- really!) and gave their house a faint yellow glow against a purple sky which really made it "pop"! They are proud of the hours or days they spent figuring out how to make something work and equally excited to learn more arcane usages of layers, masks, filters and curves from other warrior quests.
Now I know that this doesn't work for all people, but I wonder if the ultimate imaging application would be one where there was a whole set of dialogs that all had scrolling lists of checkboxes, sliders, buttons and dial controls with names like "Fidget", "U731", "Quantitude", and "Mud Saliency" but no documentation about what any of them mean. Get the right combination and you have the most remarkable red eye removal for a digital photograph. Change the "Tremble Factor" slider on the third tab of the "Luminescency" dialog to 1014 and you can remove all motion blur from a photograph taken during an earthquake! (Don't try 1013, though, it will look like crap!)
Then you can create recipes of all of the best combinations and if you add just a pinch of Goretusk Snout you've got the cover of your next book!