Over the last few months I’ve had a series on conversations that have made me think that perhaps one of my next tutorials should be on how to watch a tutorial – or perhaps how to take best advantage of a tutorial.

For example, in a past seminar I showed a technique to make a movie poster. Realistically, not many people in the audience will ever have the need to make a movie poster. But I bet they’ll need to extract someone from a background, experiment with filter effects, blend someone into a new background, tweak the lighting to match, etc. I think many of us have become a little too “passive” when we watch a tutorial – instead, let your mind race as you think of all the ways that you could experiment with a technique.

I believe that perhaps people get a little too caught up in the name of the tutorial and they focus on the end result, rather than really watching the steps it taces to get to that end result. As I’ve said for years, if you’re always following the steps exactly when you’re trying a technique, that means you’re getting really good at following instructions. Instead, look beyond the specific example and think how you can apply it to your work.

Does this mean you have to work a little harder? Yes it does. But I think it also will help you gain more from more tutorials – including ones you may have ignored up until now because “it’s not for photographers” or “I’ll never use that technique”.

In a nutshell, here’s how I’ve tried to take advantage of every tutorial, technique or Photoshop article I’ve seen:

  1. Read or watch the technique and simply try to digest the overall idea
  2. Watch or read a second time and try it yourself, following the instructions as closely as you can
  3. Try the same technique again, but this time be a little more adventurous, trying a few variations
  4. Let your mind run with it and see what you can come up with.

This may sound like it takes a lot of time, but it really doesn’t have to. Very quickly I think you can start to zip through these steps, even skipping the first steps and jumping right to the ” Let your mind run with it and see what you can come up with” step.

My challenge to you is the next time you look at a tutorial and think “this isn’t for me”, pause and ask yourself “How can I make it applicable to me?”