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So one day I get this email from a guy I've never heard of who tells me he's a Photoshop instructor and wants to teach some sessions at the Photoshop World Conference & Expo. I'm the Conference Technical Chair for the event, so it's my job to find the very best instructors for what has become the biggest Photoshop event in the world today. The instructor roster includes only the best-known names in Photoshop training—people like Deke McClelland, Jack Davis, Ben Willmore, Julieanne Kost, Bruce Fraser, Katrin Eismann, and Bert Monroy, just to name a few.

I was pretty darn certain I'd never heard of this Dave Cross guy, and over the years I'd gotten dozens of emails like his, from Photoshop experts who want to teach at Photoshop World. So I sent him my standard response, which basically states our policy for new instructors—we first have to see you training before we can consider you as an instructor. We learned this the hard way, when early on we hired some trainers who had incredible resumes and vast technical expertise, but when they stepped onstage in front of 2,000 people, they fell flat on their face. So since then it's been our steadfast rule—if we can't see you teach first, we can't hire you. So, like my responses to similar emails in the past, I invited him to send a video of himself training, and we'd see if he was what we were looking for.

As I've learned over the years, there are lots of Photoshop experts out there, but there are literally only a handful who have that “it”—that rare combination of creativity, talent, and humor that can electrify an audience, and deliver highly technical training in a way that makes it easy to understand and fun. It's tricky business. So normally when I email back and say, “I need you to send me a video of you training,” I get an email back that says, “Great, I'll send it right away,” but almost invariably the video never arrives. In fact, in nearly 12 years, only two people have ever actually sent in that video. Dave Cross was one of them.

When his tape arrived, we popped it into the VCR and hit play. We watched him for about 90 seconds before I turned to my business partner and said, “Hey, now this guy is good!” So we decided to give him a shot. Because it was his first time, we went with another longstanding policy—the first time you train at Photoshop World, you only get one session, and we put you in one of the smallest rooms, with a niche topic; that way, if the trainer bombs, it's only one bad session out of the 80 we offer (we have six tracks running simultaneously).

So he arrives at Photoshop World, and I get to meet him for the first time. I have to admit—I was a bit worried. He's the most unassuming guy you'd ever want to meet. He's so quiet and polite—nothing like your average “larger-than-life” Photoshop guru. But I kept reminding myself of how good he was on that videotape, so I had to trust my gut instincts. Besides, he was already there—I had to give him a shot.

I didn't get to see his class myself (I was training at the same time on another track), but I did get a written report from each class moderator on how the instructor did, how the crowd reacted, and their general thoughts on the session. The moderator for this class was Lesa Synder, and she had been moderating sessions with us for years, so I knew she'd seen the best of 'em—and as a trainer herself, she'd know whether this guy pulled it off or not. Generally, the reports I get from a class moderator are pretty brief. They tick a couple of checkboxes and write a line or two about the instructor.

Well, later that same day I get her evaluation form, and she's covered the entire front and back with comments. “This guy is amazing!” “He has an incredible connection with the audience.” “He's dynamic and engaging.” “He's absolutely hilarious!” “We need to give this guy more sessions!” I'm reading these and I'm thinking, “Can this be the quiet guy I met a few hours earlier? Hilarious? Dynamic?” I saw Lesa later that day in the show office, and I asked her about his class. She was just gushing. She said he was, without a doubt, one of the best Photoshop trainers she had ever seen, period! She said we were making a big mistake by not having him teach more sessions—he's that good!

So later I ran into Dave and told him how Lesa had raved about his class, and he was very polite, smiled, and just said, “Thanks.” During the next few days I'd see him in the instructor lounge or on the show floor, and here was this quiet, friendly, “aw-shucks” kind of guy. I just smiled and shook my head.

After the conference, when I read the evaluations from the actual students in this class, they made Lesa's comments sound subdued. They were raving about him, and they too were filling up both sides of their evaluations trying to convince me to give this guy more sessions next time.

So, the next Photoshop World I scheduled him for more sessions, and I made it a point to go to one of his sessions myself so I could see what all the fuss was about. I have to say, my jaw just dropped. When this unassuming guy hits the stage, he transforms into that dynamic, engaging, and absolutely hilarious trainer Lesa (and all the students) talked about. He just flat-out rocked. The crowd loved him. The moderators loved him. Hell, I loved him, so I put him to work with even more sessions at the next Photoshop World, and he was literally knockin' 'em dead.

This guy just has a way of teaching Photoshop that really connects with people, and he's so charming—and so funny—that he really makes the learning fun. The one-hour sessions just fly by, and he keeps them packed with so much cool stuff, you leave thinking, “I can't wait to try out all the new things I just learned.”

In fact, Dave was so good that I asked him to join me on my Photoshop Down & Dirty Tricks one-day seminar tour. For the first couple of cities, Dave and I split the day, but it wasn't long before I sent him out on his own. I read the reviews from Dave's first seminar and they were nothing short of stellar!

Since we first met, he had become a contributing author to some Photoshop books, and his writing style was as good as his live presentations, so I asked him to write some articles for Photoshop User magazine. Sure enough—he was a hit there, too. I soon realized that this guy was going to be the next big Photoshop star, and I wanted to find a way to work even closer with Dave, so we (the National Association of Photoshop Professionals) offered Dave a full-time position as Senior Developer, Education and Curriculum, which would require him to move his entire family from his home in Ottawa, Canada, and start a new life at NAPP headquarters in Tampa, Florida. Luckily, Dave was ready to trade his snow shovel for season tickets to the Tampa Bay Lightning, and he made the big move.

Not surprisingly, Dave fit right in with the NAPP crew, and he's become such an integral part of our organization, it's hard to imagine what it was like before he came on board. He has such a broad knowledge of Photoshop—from its inner workings to all the little things that make it such an amazing tool—but beyond that, Dave has the most important ingredient for any Photoshop trainer, and that is he loves to teach. He truly loves to help people learn Photoshop, and you'll find Dave constantly in the NAPP member forums, on the PlanetPhotoshop.com forums, and helping people one-on-one during breaks at the seminars and at the Photoshop Help Desk live at Photoshop World. Helping people learn Photoshop is what makes Dave tick, and I seek Dave's advice, input, and opinions every week in my work with NAPP, in my books, and in the seminar tours we produce.

Since our first meeting, Dave has really made a name for himself in this industry as one of the brightest, most creative, and most gifted trainers out there today. Each year Dave trains thousands of professional Photoshop users through our one-day seminars and his sessions at Photoshop World, and the guy just somehow gets better and better each and every time we send him out. He's also become a fixture to NAPP members around the world with his online video training tips, his NAPP training DVDs, and his column in Photoshop User magazine. Late last year I called Dave into my office and said, “Dave, you've got to write a book,” and Dave knew exactly the book he wanted to write. He wanted to do what he does best—help people find solutions to the problems and challenges they face every day. For years he's been answering their questions through emails, through the online forums, and through his live sessions and at Help Desk live, and today I couldn't be more delighted to introduce a new audience to Dave, so even more people can benefit from his years of experience, his gift for writing, his knack for knowing what people want to learn in Photoshop, and his humor and humility in his delivery that have won him legions of fans around the world.

I think you're really going to love this book, and thanks so much for giving me the opportunity to give you a little insight into the amazing man behind the pixels—my friend, and a true gentleman in every sense of the word, Dave Cross.

—Scott Kelby

  • Author of more than 26 books on Photoshop, including author of the Photoshop Down & Dirty books and co-author and Series editor of the Killer Tips series

  • Editor-in-Chief, Photoshop User magazine

  • Editor-in-Chief, Layers magazine

  • Creative Edge
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