the joy of Dan Margulis

by Heather Young

So, what have I been doing in these months and months I've been neglecting this blog? Working, of course, but also studying like the big old nerd I am. One of my current Photoshop texts is a certain infamous book by one Dan Margulis.

Dan Margulis is the sort of teacher who doesn't care if he terrifies you. All the lazy, cheap, quick tips you find in online tutorials by hacks who don't know any better fall by the wayside, and suddenly you find yourself in a starkly beautiful landscape where only hard-earned knowledge can show you the way. You're in Dan Margulis' world now. While other Photoshop books are repeating basic shortcuts you should have mastered 200 pages ago, Dan Margulis shows you grayscale images of the different channels of an image in RGB, CMYK, and LAB and commands you to figure out which is which. Without knowing the color of the original image. Note to people who don't know what channels are: this ain't a cakewalk!

Some of my Photoshop professors didn't even mention curves — they thought it was too complicated for us poor distracted college students. (I have clients who are still afraid of curves, bless 'em.) Meanwhile, Dan Margulis devotes chapters to every nuance of curves, and explains why you're a chump if you even think about using the Master Curve.

Dan Margulis is not the type to beg anyone's permission to have an original thought. I was reading a more conventional Photoshop book which blithely assures readers that there's no reason to ever use the Apple RGB working space. Meanwhile, Dan says, "I use Apple RGB! I'll tell you why and when in ten chapters, if your puny little brain hasn't exploded by then."

Maybe this seems a bit too demanding. That's fine, you can have your Auto Color. Me, I'll be over here, learning at the feet of the guy with the technique so mercilessly sharp that he was able to teach a colorblind guy how to color correct.

As if I didn't know it before, reading Dan Margulis has made me certain that I've chosen the right career. Not to say that I've become his obedient follower in everything — but I dearly love his rigor, his unapologetic emphasis on technical mastery, and how goddamn opinionated he is. An industry that embraces such a man is the industry for me.