Last week, one of my students was looking through one of the many Photoshop wow-'em books I have in the classroom. We have actually done some of the projects. The student said, "You know Mrs. Pfeiffer, a lot of these examples are really cheesy. They actually aren't very good." She wasn't trying to make herself look superior, she was just giving me her honest opinion. I wanted to say, "Yea, sometimes I think you don't need much actual art training to publish a book on making art on the computer, these days." But, I just said something like, "Yea, I bet you can do better than him..."
So, today I went into Barnes and Noble and just as I was about to give up finding a truly inspiring book, I found this: Creative Photoshop: Digital Illustration and Art Techniques, by Derek Lea. I would say as a whole, it is for advanced students who have taken 2D art classes as well, but you can teach parts of his involved projects to beginners. I find it very inspiring and I suspect it is very appealing to hip young visual culturally literate teens and college students. My 14-year-old has already spied it and said "OH COOL!" and is actually sitting down and really studying it. I haven't shown it to my 20-year-old who is majoring in Communications Design in college. I think he'll say the same thing...or maybe "Awesome". Three-quarters of the book is more appropriate for a computer graphics, or advanced 2D class than for digital photography, because it is mostly illustration, but some of it does involve photography.
Derek Lea is a popular illustrator, not just a computer nerd who likes Photoshop, so this is real eye candy. Here's a link to the book in the Amazon-run bookstore I arranged for us: