A Review of 123di Version 6.2

Library in a Box

If you are interested in photography, you know that you could spend your entire retirement fund on books about the subject.

Although I still have some money in my fund, I also have a huge library of books on a multitude of photographic topics. Until recently, I was constantly on the lookout for up-to-date, authoritative, and understandable references to guide me through the digital-photography maze.

In my experience, most books I've purchased typically have only one or two specialized sections of interest to me. This means that, when I need information about some aspect of the digital workflow, I have to remember which book it's in, put my hands on the book, and then find the right page. Sound familiar?

Wouldn't it be great to have a comprehensive reference and be able to find needed information quickly and easily?

"The 123 of digital imaging Interactive Learning Suite" is a digital manual available either through download or as a boxed set, and periodic updates keep the material up-to-date. The latest version is 6.2 and is better than ever.

123di: a photographer's library in a box

The suite uses animations and encourages user-interactivity. This approach helps photographers at all skill levels learn the digital imaging workflow. Aspects of the digital imaging workflow thoroughly covered in the suite include

Version 6.2 includes useful new content:

Finding Information Easily

As a photographer, being able to find the information I need *quickly* is *very* important. Besides reading 123di like a printed book, 123di offers many alternative ways to quickly find the information through the interactive Photoshop graphical user interfaces, digital imaging workflow diagrams, index, before and after images, frequently asked digital imaging questions, interactive slide show, custom bookmarks, etc.

Capturing the Moment

Capturing the moment with one of those great images
can be loads of fun, but the resultant images can sometimes be disappointing. Nearly all of my digital images need some post-processing after image capture.

When I need information about how to fix image problems and convert the throwaways to keepers — and improve the keepers, too — I want to find it quickly. Image problems I often have to fix with post-processing include

  1. posterization,
  2. loss of shadow detail,
  3. white, overexposed areas,
  4. dust spots,
  5. a crooked horizon,
  6. wide-angle lens distortion,
  7. and distracting flash reflections.

123di makes it easy to find information about these problems. For example, I had an overexposed image I wanted to use for a slide show. The image required a fix for posterization. A quick search of the 123di manual for "posterization" turned up 51 references! Compare this result with what you find in the index of your favorite book on photography!

The "Whys" Explained

There are usually many ways to fix the same image problem. The real trick is to understand *why* the problems appear in our images. Not all problems are as easy to understand as a dust spot or crooked horizon. 123di shines in presenting the *whys* of difficult image problems. The tutorials explaining the theory behind the problems make even the most complex problems understandable.

I frequently use 123di to find the best way to solve image problems. When I research a problem, I start at the "Starter" level, level 1. This gives an easy-to-understand overview of the problem. Next, I move up to the "Essential" level of explanation, level 2. Finally, I study the material presented at the "Advanced" level, level 3. Each higher level enables me to dig deeper into a problem until I find the information I require to understand and/or solve it. Selecting each of the three levels is done with a click of the 1, 2, and 3 icons at the top of most pages.

I find the 1-2-3 approach to learning digital photography particularly effective. The approach gives me 3 opportunities to learn something new and works a lot like the Web 2.0 pages I like to visit best. With a glance, I can find and select a topic from a search or from the index. I can look at the "teaser," the level-1 presentation. Then, I can scan the topic for essential content at level-2. Finally, I can dig into the nitty-gritty at level-3. Best of all, I can often interact with the tutorials — and this is the Web 2.0 way, too.

Honestly, I do not always completely understand a topic without careful study. If all aspects of digital photography were easy, we'd all be highly-paid professionals. Right? I find that some of the theoretical discussions are complex and that the secret to understanding them is to take it slow and work up the 1-2-3 learning curve: from beginner through advanced. At least for me, some of the material takes longer than just a swift glance to absorb. But I know that when I am ready for the nitty-gritty, it's going to be there. And at my age, the good news is I don't have to remember everything because I can easily find it again when I need to.

Using the Index

In addition to a search capability, the 123di manual also has a special section dedicated to how to find topics of interest quickly. This section is found in Appendix B, "How to Quickly Find What You Want in 123di." One of the ways utilizes an "Index of Keywords" that enables me to quickly find the appropriate sections with the solutions to the problems I often have to fix.

I accessed the index and easily found a tutorial on posterization with links to relevant sections for additional information. Solutions to the other problems listed above were also easy to find through the index, including how to remove disturbing flash reflections.

Having access to the index is great, particularly if you have the standard version of 123di. With the extended version, it is possible to search the manual based on multiple keywords and have all of the references visible as links in the search-results box. This single feature makes the extended version worth serious consideration for purchase — even without the the other features included with the extended version. The standard version can be upgraded to the extended version at any time.

Image Editing Techniques

Page 2 of the Suite contains a description of the major sections of the manual. Of particular interest to me is the section, "Image Editing Techniques — 14 Key Software Packages." Clicking the link to "image editing tutorials" from this section links to a list of drop-down selection boxes for problem-orientated tutorials. The drop-down boxes are

The drop-down box for enhancing color and contrast has choices for using levels and curves and for white balance. These are essential topics for image processing with Photoshop and are well covered.

Learning the "Hows"

We are lucky we live in the digital age. Computer software can now save those seemingly throwaway images--and improve the keepers, too. 123di features how-to coverage of several software packages for image organization, editing, and presentation.

Although I use Photoshop for my processing, it's nice to know that is it not necessary to purchase such an expensive piece of software to benefit from 123di. Image editing tutorials in the essential sections are based on Adobe Photoshop Elements, a much more affordable software package that is often included free with today's digital cameras. Other software packages, besides those from Adobe, have similar methods of correcting image problems: if you don't use an Adobe product, the tutorials in 123di can still point you in the right direction

Once the images have been taken and processed, they can be optimized for monitor display and integrated into a slide show. 123di shows how to do all of these things; and, because the suite is available either through download or as a boxed set, periodic updates keep the material up-to-date.

123di is Comprehensive

The suite contains much more than just the practical tutorials for image processing. It has comprehensive theoretical coverage on the technical aspects of digital photography. These sections are great for understanding technical areas that can help you both select your photographic equipment and to use it effectively. 123di explains both the *why* and the *how* of digital photography.


I hope you enjoyed this article.

Royce Tivel

Royce Tivel

Royce Tivel