CC Command + SHIFT + 4 

Why I’m Finally Learning Photoshop

Plus reflections on a year at Lift

Erin Frey
Erin Frey
Oct 3, 2013 · 5 min read

How cool is the internet? We can learn anything just by googling it.

This morning, I only knew how to crop photos, add text, and add layers to photos in photoshop (without really knowing what to do with a layer that wasn’t a text layer).

One googled web tutorial and a couple of hours of fiddling later, I can change someone’s hair color (or any part of an image any color) in a photo.






Brunette: the layer I used also took away my skin’s orange-y glow. FTW!

No big deal and it’s definitely not professional-grade work, but for an amateur like me that is a BIG deal. As I write this I can’t get over the fact that the internet let this happen (and is so awesome). The people who put free learning materials online are awesome. The folks who answer questions from novices like me in forums are awesome. I didn’t produce this brunette photo myself at all.

But maybe more importantly, the people in my life who encourage me and inspire me to keep challenging myself are awesome. They’re the real reason I’m writing this not so humble bragpost.

Photoshop has been on my computer for 1.5 years. I’ve opened photoshop and closed it immediately, out of frustration from failure, 100x more than I’ve opened it and finished a project. This is frustrating, especially because I love photography and my lack of photoshop skills makes me feel handicapped.

So what changed? How did I get the confidence today to keep trying until I finished this photoshop project? Well, until this morning I didn’t have it!

I died my hair brunette last week from bright blonde. I wanted to update my profile photos (so when I meet new people they aren’t confused) but didn’t want to take new photos, so I asked my teammate Alicia if she could change my hair color in photoshop. She said sure (because she is awesome, too).

As I was about to email her my photos this morning, I thought, “Why am I not trying to do this myself?” I have the software. I have a brain. I have google. So I tried it. I got stuck and failed a lot as I went through the steps in the tutorial but that just gave me more determination to keep going. And I did it!

I think the determination and confidence came from two experiences I had this week at work:

Experience 1:
The engineers at Lift completed a two day time-boxed project. It was the first time we tried this hackathon-style method to get an MVP off the ground. When they sat down at the beginning of the time-box on Wednesday, nothing was planned out or known except for the end goal, but they just figured it out. I think their energy and JFDI-ness* rubbed off on me.

Experience 2:
Thursday, I nervously played in photoshop to make a cover photo for Lift’s facebook page. I got stuck a few times, and when I did, my Lift-mates stopped what they were doing to teach me some tricks.

Here they were, with a 2-day death march looming (kidding!) and they took the time to help me, and not just help me but teach me. It would have been so easy for Alicia or Herzog to just sit down and plop the right layer on the photo instead of walk me through it.

In fact, this is part of the culture at Lift: even the two founders have taken time out of their schedule to teach me basic computer literacy skills that help me perform my job. When I first joined, Tony taught me basic SQL and Rails so I could input commands into the database and grab things like emails and habit data. Jon taught me some intro to computer science when he installed Virtual box into my computer (virtual box is like a computer inside of a computer…). I’m encouraged to ask questions whenever I don’t know something in meetings and they’ll take the time to explain it, even if it’s something like BSD. This week’s Tech TIL was death march (good reflection of the company that I didn’t know what that term meant!).

There’s this weird divide in Silicon Valley that pits engineers against nontechnical folks. We can’t get along, they’ll say, or make up some story about engineers and marketing people having competing goals. I’ve never felt that at Lift. We’re all working toward the same goal: to create a universal support system for everyone and every goal. To build a positive experience for our users and a sustainable company.

We all want to see Lift succeed. We all want to see the people using Lift succeed (and do they succeed! Read this and have your mind blown). We all also want to see each other succeed.

We trade tips on things work and non-work related: running, writing, cycling, coding and, of course, photoshop. The engineers pair program (even I pair programmed with Matt once to make a new type of user email — he did all of the coding.) I took my first spin class with Sonya. Alicia went running with me in the morning and pushed me to run my first 3 mile run without taking a walking break. Tony and Herzog cycled home with me the first day of the BART strike which was also my first day road cycling during rush-hour traffic. Jon, Alicia and Tony have all had one-on-ones to teach me SQL queries. One of my favorite moments at Lift was watching Jon teach Herzog some guitar tunes during our company retreat at Yosemite. Becoming better people — it’s what we help our users do and what we help each other do, everyday.

Funny, this whole week I meant to write a post about my one year anniversary as Community Lead at Lift. I’ve written a few outlines for posts. And today in what I meant as a simple before and after photo post to practice writing (why I even started this blog) and hit my “Write for 30 Minutes” goal on Lift, this just came out.

So, TIL: How to Change Hair Color in Photoshop, and something I already knew, that I work at the best company and with the best people in the world.

*Just Fucking Do It

Thanks @wynlim for the nudge to post this.
Shameless plug, but now Lift lets you get coaching and be a coach for others as they reach their goal.
Check it out. And someone, please make a coaching plan for practicing photoshop skills, I’ll take it!

Drafts Personal

Go to the Comedy of Error collection. 

    Erin Frey

    Written by

    Erin Frey

    Cofounder at Not your average therapy service. Y Combinator W16. Yale ‘08.

    Drafts Personal

    Go to the Comedy of Error collection. 

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