Photoshop World Las Vegas 2013 – My Experience At PSW13

Last week I attended Photoshop World 2013 in Las Vegas Nevada (PSW13). Photoshop World is an event designed to boost your Photoshop skills, which offers the most amazing line-up of Photoshop, and photography training in the world. Some of the presenters included world-renowned Photoshop experts like Bert Monroy, Ben Willmore and Corey Barker.

This was my first time attending the event, and below I will share with you all the highlights of my experience at PSW13.  Unfortunately there was so much information, and so many awesome people, that I cannot possibly write about it all. But I will try to give you a good valuable summary of my experience at this event.

Before Photoshop World

For me, it all started when I decided to attend PSW13 in late July, when Adobe announced that attendees to the conference would receive a free year of the Creative Cloud! So I thought to myself, “It’s a free conference.” I was already paying $49.99 a month, so this was a steal!

A few weeks later, Adobe found out that I would be attending and they reached out to me on my Facebook page to offer me a free training course at the Pre-Con, the day before the event. This was icing on the cake for me!

I flew out of Oakland on Monday September 2nd and spent my first day in Vegas just checking out the Mandalay Bay Hotel and the surrounding areas. The next morning is when all the fun began!


Pre-Con: Top Gun Flight School

My first day at the conference was the day before the actual conference began. PSW has special training courses the day before the conference starts for those who are interested in taking them. The courses are $99 but as I mentioned before, Adobe invited me for free to the “Top Gun Flight School” training course.

This course started at 12 p.m. and it was all about learning how to fly the DJI Phantom quad-copter which can carry a GoPro camera for aerial photography (or film). The course was headlined by Russell Brown who has been Senior Creative Director at Adobe for over 20 years and he also was a key contributor to the launch of Photoshop 1.0.


Jesus Ramirez & Russell Brown


The first part of the course was a 30-45 minute presentation from Colin Guin, CEO of DJI. Colin Spoke about the capabilities of the Phantom, and presented us with amazing footage and stills of what the Phantom was capable of doing with a GoPro camera. I knew I was in for a treat as soon as I saw the first second of the video. It was truly remarkable. (Here’s a similar video to what I saw at PSW13)

Obviously there was a lot of information given, and not enough time to takes notes or digested all.

In short, the Phantom quad-copter is about 7 inches tall and 12 inches wide. You operate it using a remote control and it can fly about 22 miles per hour, but it sure feels a lot faster when you’re flying it indoors as we were doing! The maximum operating range is listed at 300 meters, or more than three football fields–far enough to get beyond the line of sight (that the FAA strictly demands you maintain sight between you and your Phantom at all times.) The FAA also demands you keep it below 400 feet, so I’m not really sure how high it goes (as a law-abiding citizens I couldn’t possibly know), but suffice it to say that it goes really, really high.

I was a bit disappointed when I learned that the Phantoms we would be flying would not have cameras attached to them. And I don’t blame them; there were plenty of crashes and hits during this training! Luckily no one was injured, although some people did get hit!

I got an opportunity to fly the Phantom inside the convention room a total of 5 times. In my first attempt, I failed miserably, and crashed after flying it for a few seconds. While I was not as bad as other people, I definitely did not impress anyone with my flying skills.

After sever tries I started to get a feel of how to fly the Phantom and I must say that I felt like I had some control.

After an hours or so of flying indoors we went outside the hotel (in 95 degree heat!) to fly the Phantom using the GPS mode which was not available indoors. Unfortunately only the instructors were allowed to fly the Phantoms here since there were too many variables and a lot could go wrong if the person flying the Phantom did not have total control of the unit.


The GPS mode essentially sends the Phantom into cruise control, allowing the Phantom to hold its position in mid-air, automatically compensating for wind gusts. Additionally, it kept the quadcopter’s inertia from carrying it forward when coming to stops. It also has a “home” setting where it would return to the place it flew off from (assuming you had calibrated the unit before starting the flight).

Once we went back in the hotel, Russell and Steve (my instructor and leader of my group), ran a contest to win a free Phantom!!! (That’s a $479 value).

The object of the contest was simple (although only 6 of us completed it, in a room of about 50 people), we had to fly the drone through 4 hoops without losing control, or knocking the hoops downs.  I (surprisingly) completed the task in 52 seconds. However 3 other people completed it in much faster times. The first place person completed the task in 23 seconds, while the second and third place persons were in the 30’s and 40’s respectively.


I’m not sure about all the contestants, but at least one man (who came in 5th, right behind me) owns a Phantom, and has had experience flying it. So I didn’t feel too bad, specially since I won a consolation prize, a GoPro lens.

There was also a presentation from Russel Brown, regarding lens correction while stitching images together that were taken from the GoPro. He showed different techniques and explained why certain things worked and why others did not when working with these areal images.

We then had a presentation from Colin Smith from PhotoshopCAFE. Colin spoke about Photoshop’s capabilities to correct lens distortion in video. This was truly amazing to see. I definitely learned a lot from this presentation, and I was also lucky enough to receive a signed copy of his book, Video in Photoshop for Photographers and Designers. I will definitely be doing some more with video in the future, so expect new tutorials on that!

Pre-con Mixer

After the Pre-con course, which ended at 8 p.m., I took a quick meal break and headed over to the mixer where I had an opportunity to briefly talk to some of the other attendees.

I also met Sean, a Twitter follower of mine who contacted me before PSW13. When I joined his group he was speaking to Mark Heaps, who is another amazing Photoshop guy. We talked for a bit, and through conversation, Mark recommended me to attend all of Ben Willmore’s courses. I am now really grateful that I took his advice since Ben is a walking Photoshop encyclopedia.

Day 1: Photoshop World Starts!

In the first day of Photoshop world I woke up a bit late (Doh!) since I was out pretty late at the mixer.

I arrived to the Opening Keynote about 10 minutes late, but I was just in time to catch the opening  video of the Photoshop Guys (Corey, RC, and Scott) poking fun at the movie Top Gun. (You can watch the Keynote presentation here.)

The keynote was about 2 hours long and the most memorable part (at least for me) was the induction of Matt Kloskowski and Jeffrey Tranberry  to the Photoshop Hall of fame. It was a really great moment for these Photoshop professionals. However the thing that was perhaps most talked about was the $9.99 a month price point for Photoshop and Lightroom.

Soon after the keynote, attendees had to choose a class (of 7) to participate in.  I choose Ben Willmore’s Camera Raw essentials. I’m not too familiar with Ben’s work, but since he was highly recommended to me by Mark Heaps I took a chance on him.

Immediately I could tell that this was a good choice. I was impressed by Ben’s teaching style, and his vast knowledge of Photoshop. His way of explaining the histogram was comprehensive yet simple.

Don’t worry, I’ve got some tutorials coming that will utilize some of his techniques, so you’ll soon know what I’m talking about!

After Ben’s course I went over to the Expo, which had booths from many different companies like Adobe, Kelby Media, Photoshop CAFE, Canon, Epson, Wacom, and others.

They also had studio set ups where professional models in full make-up could be photographed. I took advantage of this and took some photos. Here’s a few of them, as you can see, I’m not as good a photographer as you probably are! Also, these photos have not been Photoshopped at all yet.


At the Expo, I also enjoyed a round of “Photoshop Wars”. This was a booth where two people competed head-to-head to complete a project in less than five minutes.  The audience would choose 5 images and a concept and for this round, the project was a CD cover for the fictitious band, The Grunge Giraffe.


As you could imagine, I wanted to compete but they didn’t choose me! Instead, they chose the young lady on the left who was a photography student, and the man on the right who worked as a creative art director.

A bit unfair don’t you think? I’ll let you guess who won!

Then I walked over to the Adobe Codeathon section where Photoshop engineers were actually coding changes to Photoshop. People could come up submit a request, and the engineers would code it in front of you! Or at least make a note of it. I was told by an Adobe rep that the changes would appear in future releases of CC.

I then got the opportunity to speak to one of the engineers, Tai Luxon.(You can see his name on Photoshop CC’s Splash Screen when you first boot it up.) He was extremely nice and approachable. He really took the time to understand my request.

I requested for Photoshop to have some of the capabilities that the plugin Guide Guide has, such as a button that adds a vertical guide and horizontal guide to a canvas, object, or selection.  I told him how Guide Guide was the first thing I install after installing Photoshop, and how I recommend that Plugin to everyone.  I feel that Photoshop has changed a lot since I first started with it back in version 7.0, but guides have remained the same.

Tai and I exchanged info so I’ll keep you up to date on this or any other new things that come up!

Tai Luxon & Jesus Ramirez

Tai Luxon & Jesus Ramirez


I then spoke to Lee Fraser who was at the Wacom booth, but he was in fact an Autodesk employee. Lee took the time to show me the Cintiq 22 HD Touch, a beautiful touchscreen tablet (which Bert Monroy uses) that was simply amazing!

Lee showed me how the tablet worked with Autodesk’s Mudbox 3D modeling software. And I must tell you, I was truly impressed on how far 3D has come. I dabbled into 3D while I was a student, and I became proficient with Autodesk’s Maya 4. But things have really improved in the last 7 years and after watching Lee use Mudbox, I think I might start playing with 3D again. It is surprisingly easy to get started and create pretty decent 3D models using some of the presets and distortion tools.

Lee was such a great guy, really friendly, knowledgeable and most importantly passionate about his work. Which is why I would highly recommend you check out Mudbox, and Lee Fraser if you’re interested in 3D. (Here’s a presentation Lee gave on Mudbox so you can get a better idea of the capabilities of this amazing tool.)

Jesus Ramirez & Lee Fraser


After talking to Lee I walked way over to the side; towards the edge of the expo where there were no booths or people (I have no idea why), then I see coming my way, a man whose work I’ve followed for over a decade, and who inspired me to get into Photoshop! Mr. Bert Monroy.

If you don’t know Bert Monroy, then know this, if I were half as good as he is, I would be twice as good as I am now. To me, the man is a living legend. Bert has been using Photoshop before Adobe even owned Photoshop. Bert co-wrote, with  David Biedny, the first book ever on Photoshop back 1991, and it was the only Photoshop book for almost two years.

I felt like such a child asking him politely to excuse me for interrupting him.  I explained what a big fan I was, and how my first Photoshop book (and purchase) was his “Bert Monroy: Photorealistic Techniques with Photoshop & Illustrator” Book!

Bert was very nice, he asked about me and what I did; I told him about PTC and some other work I’ve done. After finding out that we live about 20 minutes from each other, he was kind enough to offer me a tour of his studio, and also offered to sign that old book that I bought so many years ago.

Bert then asked if I was Mexican or at least Latino. I told him that I was Mexican, and he replied by saying “me too!”, and started speaking to me in Spanish! This caught me by complete surprise. We then had a very pleasant conversation in Spanish about our Latin backgrounds.

Bert then gave me his business card, and asked me to call him the following week to set up a meeting to visit his studio.


I took Bert’s offer and went up to his studio! He was kind enough to sign my old Photoshop book for me, and he also gave me some sign copies of some of his other work. He was very generous.

Bert Monroy Signature

Bert then gave me a tour of his studio, and home. We spoke for about 3 hours about Photoshop, family, and the things we enjoy doing.

One of the highlights of the day (or perhaps my professional life) was that Bert wanted to see my site (Yes! This very website you’re reading right now!). He had nothing but positive comments, and he even bookmarked my site and subscribed!

It was truly amazing to have someone who I admired for so many years, be so kind and supportive of my work. I cannot stress enough the sense of gratitude and admiration I have for this man, but most importantly I’m impressed at how humble and friendly he was to me.

I unfortunately had to leave since I had other plans that evening but we made plans to hang out again in the coming week.

The funny thing is that I forgot my camera’s lens cap at his studio, so later that night I received a text from Bert telling me about the lens cap! I never thought I’d receive a text message from a true legend!

OK, back to Photoshop World! On the last part of the first day, I attended Bert Monroy’s Filter class. Most of the stuff he talked about I already knew (not to say that the class was bad, I have just followed Bert for so long, that I am very familiar with his work and what he does.), but I really got to experience Bert’s thought process that goes into creating images from scratch.

Bert did a great job explaining how to experiment with filters to get the results you want. He also spoke a lot about his process and how the key to creating massive works of art is to focus on very small areas at a time. If the whole scene contains buildings, and many people, then just focus on a single person’s eye, then move to their face, and so on.  Things become much more manageable that way.

Actually now that I think about it, Bert did teach me one technical thing in that class that I probably would have never known. I made a Tip of The Day out of it. See it here! (Did you know it?)

After Bert’s class I headed over to the House of Blues where the official Photoshop World party was held. It was a lot of fun and it was interesting to see the Photoshop guys in a social environment.


The band playing is actually Scott Kelby’s band!

Day 2: Halfway Through Photoshop World

In day 2, I first attended Ben Willmore’s “Hidden & Hard-To-Find Tweeks” course and I was not disappointed at all. Ben is essentially a walking Photoshop encyclopedia! His knowledge of Photoshop is second to none. I must say that in terms of technical knowledge I picked up more from Ben, than anyone else at this convention. I will share most of what I learned here as Tips of The Day so make sure you’re getting them on Facebook, Google + or Twitter.

The second class I attended was Richard Harrington’s “Using and Creating Better Actions”.  This was my first course with Richard, and I was surprised that I picked up a few tips from this course. I thought I knew all there was to know about Actions but Richard surprised me with a lot of neat tricks. Richard has a great teaching style and was very knowledgeable, you should check him out!

My third class was again with Bert Monroy. His course titled “It’s not as hard as you think” was really good. In this course we got another in-depth look at how Bert thinks, and the way he figures things out. The amazing thing about Bert is that he uses simple filters, masks, layer styles, and shapes to create remarkable images. His genius is in how he combines these basic techniques to create something truly extraordinary.

Bert showed a photograph that summed it all up for me. He folded a piece of paper into steps; he then used a lamp to cast the shadow of a pen onto the paper steps so he could see how the light bends on steps. He then recreated this in Photoshop on an image of actual steps. Sounds simple, but it’s truly brilliant! No wonder his stuff looks so real!

The quote of the day for me was when Bert said, “don’t try to figure out how I do things, instead try to figure out why I do things.” Which I think is great advice, and I think I’ve said similar things to people on this website. The point is not to get the exact same settings on the filters or tools I use. Instead, figure out why I chose to use those tools to begin with.

My final course of the day was with Aaron Blise, a former Disney animator who designed Raja from Aladdin and Young Nala from Lion King.

Aaron was a true master with the tablet. He quickly created characters from scratch. It’s hard to learn what he does since it requires A LOT of practice, but his concepts are well worth noting. Aaron has some good tutorials on creating characters in Photoshop in his YouTube channel. You should watch them if you’re into drawing in Photoshop!

Day 3: My Last Day At Photoshop World

My first class of the day was Video Editing with Richard Harrington. Richard showed the proper workflow to do non-liner video editing in Photoshop. He took several video clips he filmed while on vacation with his family, and created a nice little movie out of them. Richard then took the same project files and re-created it in Adobe Premiere. I consider myself an intermediate Premiere user and in 20 minutes he taught me some nice shortcuts that will definitely save me a lot of time in my workflow. I’m really glad I attended this course.

My second class of the final day was “Using Photoshop & Illustrator” with Corey Barker. I have seen a lot of Corey’s tutorials online, and they’re all high quality, specially his 3D stuff. Which is why I was slightly disappointed with this course.

There were several technical issues, with a few things he wanted to show us that were not coming out the way he intended. At one point he said it was because one of the files he was using was too big which cause the effect to take a long time to render, which made me think he was a bit unprepared, otherwise he would have had a smaller file.

Having said that, he did have some very interesting and useful techniques for those who work a lot with vector graphics and Illustrator and who want to bring their work over to Photoshop. Corey really knows his stuff and it’s obvious when you see him teach, unfortunately I only attended one of his courses. I heard from other attendees that Corey’s 3D and Motion Graphics course was truly amazing!

The final class I attended at Photoshop World was “Layer Styles” with Jack Davis. You’ve probably read above how Bert Monroy co-wrote the very first book on Photoshop. Well, Jack Davis literally wrote the second book on Photoshop. This man is another of those old masters who continues to amaze. I really did learn a lot more than what I was expecting from this course. Jack was not only a great instructor, but he had a really good sense of humor which kept everyone laughing the whole time. I really had fun and learned a lot about the old boring Layer Styles panel. Again, expect tutorials on this subject!

After this class I attended the closing ceremonies, which was more of the NAAP team saying thank you and goodbye. Several prices were handed out and unfortunately, I did not win any of them!

Hope you enjoyed reading my experience at Photoshop World! Let me know your thoughts and comments below!


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