By Joshua Langston

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For a while now I have been wanting to take a course to boost my photoshop game. When I was searching online, all the courses I found had much larger time commitments than I was comfortable with. This was until I discovered my friend Bria Lear had launched Digital Darlings Creative. She offers a Photoshop Bootcamp that will teach you to “Kick some serious photoshop butt”, like some sort of digital ninja. HI-YA.

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Let me preface this by saying that I already had familiarity with photoshop previous to the course, having used it on the site for the last couple years. While I already had a level of comfort with the program, there had been several instances I have wanted to do something very specific, and found myself drowning in a sea of youtube tutorials voiced by people that sounded like republican candidates. The course is offered as a 2 day weekend bootcamp, which was very appealing with my already insane work schedule. When I signed up for the course I was a bit concerned that giving up a weekend off, to sit in class all day would be daunting, but what I got was a fun weekend of discovery with some new friends.

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The location for the November bootcamp was at Leah Alexandra’s studio, right in the heart of the iconic Gastown. The studio was flanked with several coffee shops which would provide us with enough caffeine to make anyone feel like a superhero. Leah Alexandra is a notable jewelry designer who’s designs have been featured in top publications like Vogue, Elle and Glamour. The space was very open with tons of natural light, something I never had in my previous school  settings.

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The class size was only 11 people, which allowed everyone to ask questions and get plenty of one on one time. The first thing we did was have a portrait taken of us that we would be editing on day 2. I opted to not shave my face and to wear a hat, because it was the weekend, early in the morning, and the last thing I wanted to do was lift my razor.

Day 1 was all about learning the essentials and the basics, which for me was a bit easier with my previous knowledge of the program. What I didn’t expect to learn is how inefficient I was using the program. We recieved a booklet that had a breakdown of what we would be learning and a ton of tricks along the way. One of the most mindblowing things I learned was all the shortcuts I wasn’t using that would speed up my photoshopping exponentially.

The class was filled with people from various backgrounds, from holistic nutrition, jewellry designers, lifestyle publications to the creator of PUF, the most incredible organic cotton candy in flavours that are to die for. Most of the people in my class had only just downloaded photoshop in the days leading up to the course. I was impressed with how Bria was able to find ways for everyone to understand the topics she was covering, offering additional help one-on-one to those who needed it.

When it came time for lunch, the caterers arrived from Boy with a Knife, yes I said caterers, and our minds were blown again.

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Day 1 Menu:
SPINACH & WATERCRESS
Button mushrooms, crispy fried shallots, baby spinach, crisp watercress and a maple balsamic vinaigrette.

GRILLED FLANK STEAK
Tomato confit, balsamic reduction , crispy fried shallots

ARTISAN BREAD BASKET
With charred onion butter

When two really cute guys came into the studio, with a waft of incredible food following them I assumed I had slipped into a day dream. I assumed this was mostly because like Bria, photoshop makes me really hungry. They were so friendly when setting up all the food, even with Bria and I getting in the way trying to snap photos before the troops were sent to eat ALL THE FOODS. The salad had great layers of textures from the crisp greens, to the soft break of the mushrooms and the crunch from the crispy shallots. The maple vinaigrette had a mellifluous balance of sweet and acid. The steak was cooked to a perfect medium rare and was incredibly tender. For me my favourite part about the meal was the charred onion butter and artisan bread (shocker, I picked the carbs). There was so much depth to the flavour of the charred onion butter, with so many incredible notes, it was like a symphony for my palette.

day1-menuDay 2 was when we kicked our photoshop game into overdrive and got to get down and dirty with editing and retouching. We took our portraits from Day 1 and got to learn how to edit them. From adjusting the lighting levels, to hue saturation, colour balancing it was a ton to take in, but Bria’s teaching style allowed us to not be overwhelmed by the experience.

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Last night when I finally fell asleep I started dreaming, and I guess because of all the photoshop work we were doing that day, it became a part of my dream. I don’t remember all of it but basically I was walking around the city and I was able to photoshop real-life things with my eyes. From changing the colours of cars passing by, to photoshopping outfits onto people like living paper dolls, it was pretty surreal. Aparently day 1 left me a bit inspired to say the least.

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The first photo above is the raw photo Bria took from Day 1, and the one below it is the one I adjusted. I didn’t make a ton of changes but I challenged myself to try things I wasn’t familiar with. The first change I made was removing my stubble, yep, that’s right, I digitally shaved my face. For a first attempt it turned our quite well, but now that I’m more comfortable with it I can see ways I can improve on the final result. I also brightened up my eyes because my glasses casted a shadow across them and also did a minor teeth whitening.

For my next attempt I took a photo of one of my bestfriends, Charlie, and started playing with a few differant techniques we learned.

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Now watch the step by step transformation in this GIF I learned how to create during class.
Watch the step by step below:

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There’s a noticeable difference between the original raw photo and the edit. In the real world I would probally not use all of these edits in one photo, but it gives you an idea of some of the things I learned in the course. Below I listed off all the changes that I did in the bubble.

CHARLIE EDIT

We broke for lunch and yet again I slipped into a daydream and 2 cute guys came in with a waft of deliciousness following them, our caterers and new favourite people from Boy With a Knife. If you thought yesterdays menu was incredible, they found a way to once again up the culinary ante with todays lunch.

Day 2 Menu:
SOUTH WEST QUINOA SALAD
Bell peppers, roasted corn, black beans, cilantro and tequila lime vinaigrette

GRILLED CHILI LIME CHICKEN
Platter of marinated grilled boneless chicken

FRESH PICO DE GALLO
With blue corn chips

This lunch was packed with flavours from the Southwest, one of my favourite styles of cuisine. The Pico de Gallo had a ton of bright falvours to it and a great balance of spice. The chicken was moist and packed a tasty punch, with the perfect amount of char on it to really kick up the spices. The Quinoa Salad was one of the best I have had, and the tequila lime vinaigrette was the perfect accompaniment. I will say I had one disappointment, it left me really wanting a margarita, or 3.

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We ended the day with some free time to ask Bria about anything we wanted to learn specifically for what we are planning to do with this course. By the end of Day 2, people that had never used photoshop were creating visually impactful moodboards, retouching photos like a champ and creating personalized branding materials effortlessly.

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There were so many laughs along the way, which made this course less of a daunting experience and turned it into a creative outlet we wanted to use. I forsee myself spending a lot more time geeking out in photoshop. One of the coolest parts about the course is that it never actually ends. Once you’ve completed the course you get to join a secret online community called “The Afterparty”, where fellow bootcamp alumni can share and post things they have created, new tricks and tips, or network for help. Bria also actively posts in the group new tips and tricks to try out, and also tools like where to find free fonts to use.

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Bria has really created something special with her Digital Darlings Photoshop Bootcamp course. She is a natural born teacher with the ability to recognize someones learning style and adapt her lessons to make sense for differant people. From the cozy work environment, to the incredible food, helpful teaching materials and “The Afterparty”, Digital Darlings is a one-stop-shop to tapping into your creativity and making your dreams a reality using photoshop.

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For more informations on Digital Darlings check out their website here
For more information on Boy with a Knife check out their website here

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