Kelby Training Review

Kelby Training Review

Welcome to my Kelby Training review!  I started using Kelby Training in March, 2008 and have maintained an Annual subscription. Why? It's the most valuable training resource I've found. Kelby Training maintains a large library of courses with new updates every week. My initial reason to join was to understand how to use Adobe Photoshop. The program seemed intimidating to me. I bought Photoshop eight months earlier and hadn't even used it. I knew that Photoshop was a key factor in creating beautiful photographs, but I had no idea where to begin with it.

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Kelby Training ReviewThere were plenty of books on the market, but I felt as if I would better learn the software if I could see someone use it. Since I didn't have any friends who knew how to use Photoshop, I searched until I found Kelby Training.

The site immediately impressed me by providing the first lessons of each course for free. That helped alleviate my concerns, since I could see the high quality of the video and get an idea about the presentation of the instructors.

Another aspect I liked was that all of the courses were available. I didn't have to pay for them piecemeal. KelbyTraining doesn't force you to sign up for a long commitment, either.

  • The first lessons in a course are free.
  • You can pay a reasonable fee for a month and have access to everything
  • You can subscribe for a year and save money compared to renewing monthly

My initial thought was that I didn't need to sign up for a year.  I just wanted to learn Photoshop and then go on my merry way.  Two great things happened during that month, though.

  1.  I learned how to use Photoshop without freaking out
  2. I watched other courses and learned more than I expected

It didn't take long for me to get hooked. There was more content than I could watch in a week and Kelby Training kept adding new courses every week. So, I subscribed for another month to catch-up, and then I was going to be done.  Except, they kept adding more courses that I just had to watch. That's been going on for four years now.  It's insidious! Eventually, I realized that this was a great service and I subscribed annually…and they're still adding more courses that I just have to watch!

Kelby Training Provides Easy Access to Online Training

Kelby Training has four major components.

  1. Online Training
  2. Live Seminars
  3. Books
  4. DVDs

Let's look at the Online Training for the bulk of information. The first thing you notice is an attractive user interface showing how to get to the content. There's also the remarkable 100% money back guarantee prominently displayed on the screen. Not only can you try before you buy, but they will refund your money if you aren't satisfied with the training (unlikely, in my opinion). That's a good way to build trust.

Kelby Training Landing Page

Once inside, you notice a very clean user interface. Across the top are simple and effective options for search. Your search options appear across the top. The center shows three columns of available training to provide quick access to new courses, your favorite courses, or your most recently viewed courses. While it's great to see the new content prominently displayed, I particularly like the recent history column. It's rare that I watch an entire course in one sitting, so it's nice to have an automatic bookmark to get me right back to the lesson I last viewed.

Kelby Training Online Dashboard

Hover your mouse over the Categories or Instructors menu to see a drop down list filled with choices.

Kelby Training Categories

Kelby Training Instructors

New releases are prominently displayed on the left. Any lessons you marked as a Favorite are in the center, and your most recent lessons are on the right.

The Categories are broken down into three groups:

  1. Photoshop
  2. Photography
  3. Creative and Web

Click on the image to see a larger view and you'll notice there's quite a bit of content.  Keep in mind that each item on that list has multiple courses behind it.

Also, look at some of the names on the list of instructors. Kelby Training has its own staff of excellent trainers, but they also work with professionals in the industry who share decades of experience with you.  You aren't watching videos from weekend warriors. These are people who are working professionals in the field. They aren't just sharing the technical aspects of the course material. They're also sharing their insight, ideas and experience that makes them successful. You'll learn how they approach things creatively as well as technically.

Using the Kelby Training Video Player

Kelby Training Video Player

Courses are broken into lessons, which are displayed on the left side. The video player is simple to use with common controls, including the ability to use a full-screen display. Under the video are options to mark the lesson as a Favorite, and also download any course materials that may be available.  The video quality is excellent and streams seamlessly. You can't download the lessons, so you must have an Internet connection to view the material.

The Kelby Training iPad App

Kelby Training also has a free iPad app that lets you watch courses as long as you have an Internet connection. The user interface is clean and easy to navigate. The left side initially shows Categories of courses.  If you look at the bottom of the left side, you'll see options to browse by Instructor, your favorites, or a search for content.  You have all the same services to watch courses on your iPad as you do in the web version, including full-screen video.

Kelby Training iPad App
The iPad app has an additional feature that the web interface lacks, though.  If you have an Apple TV, you can use AirPlay to watch your courses on your TV.  Personally, that was my favorite reason for using the iPad app. Instead of sitting at my desk watching training on a computer screen, I can go into my living room and watch on a 50″ plasma while plopped on a comfortable leather sofa. Now that's education!

Kelby Training iPad App with Airplay

Kelby Training Live Seminars

I get the bulk of my training online, but Kelby Training also offers live seminars that tour the country and sometimes other parts of the world. The most recent tour I visited was Scott Kelby's Light It, Shoot It, Retouch It (LSR) tour in Orlando.  Just as the title says, Scott takes his audience through different photo-shoot scenarios to see how he sets up the lighting, go through an actual photoshoot on stage, and complete the results in Photoshop. I was amazed that he could go through five different scenarios in the day without rushing, but everything flowed well with plenty of time for breaks.

The LSR tour had one different aspect of it that I haven't seen before.  Scott taught a very small hands-on workshop in the Tampa area and I was able to attend.

Kelby Training Live with Scott Kelby

The great part of the smaller workshop was being able to practice the lessons right away, and also to be a bit more interactive with Scott than is possible at a 400+ person seminar. A week after this workshop, I went to the Orlando stop of the seminar tour (since I signed up for that one first). Getting a chance to see this same material presented in two different forms gave me a bit of insight.  Here's what I noticed:

  • Scott is very consistent.  Everything taught in the workshop was presented in the seminar, right down to the jokes.
  • You can still get your questions answered at the seminar. During the breaks, Scott (or whoever is presenting the seminar) invites people up to answer questions one-on-one.
  • The seminars are also a social event. I found plenty of local photographers that I knew attending and met some new folks, also.
  • Vendors also attend the seminars, so you have a chance to check out some new goodies or ask questions of them. During the lunch break, vendors may give a session on stage.
  • It's amazing how much you can learn in a day. Scott did a fantastic job of teaching studio lighting and portrait retouching on his tour.  I've been to past seminars (such as Down & Dirty Tricks) and felt the same when I walked out.  You get a workbook covering the material so you don't have to furiously scribble notes all day.
  • The time flies. Scott is an excellent public speaker, but so are the other presenters of the tour.  Although I haven't seen every tour, I have watched the same presenters on Kelby Training Online and in person at Photoshop World.  These folks know their material and deliver it in a friendly manner.

What about results? Did I learn something from the workshop and seminar that I could put to use later?  I'll let you decide. The first photo below is of Lauren, one of the models in Scott's workshop.

Classic Beauty Shot of Female Model

The next shot is of a local model using the lighting techniques from Scott's LSR workshop, as well as most of the re-touching. I made the image below a bit more high-contrast than the one above, but I have this habit of pushing things a step beyond where I should stop.

High Key Headshot of Female Model

The lessons from the LSR tour were easy to understand and implement after I got home. That's more than I can say for a great deal of training I've had in the past. Tell me if this sounds familiar.  You're in a course watching the instructor and you're blown away by what you see.  “Man, that looks great!” Then you get home and discover you can't do the same thing.  Maybe the instructor left out a key piece of information inadvertently, perhaps assuming you already knew it or had a tool to make it work. Then you feel totally deflated.

That doesn't happen with Kelby Training. They show you everything and write it down in a workbook. If you don't have studio lights, they show you how to achieve the same thing with small flash. When you walk out, you know you can do the things that you just saw on stage.

What I like About Kelby Training

Since you can see I've been a subscriber for several years, there's no question that I like the service. Here's a bit more on what I like and why I like it.

  • Excellent presentation – The trainers know their material very well and they're good presenters. You won't hear them mumbling through their presentations, saying “umm” every few minutes or engaging in sloppy presentation. What you get are knowledgeable trainers who show you how to do something while simultaneously speaking to you as someone you know & trust.  It's like having a buddy show you something.  You can concentrate on learning because you aren't distracted with poor presentation.
  • It's not hard – I started with Scott Kelby's introductory class on using Photoshop and realized that I could do it.  All of the things that intimidated me about the program no longer mattered. That encouraged me to check out more courses and I realized that none of this is difficult. It may take practice or repetition to master the techniques, but it's within reach of anyone.  They do it.  I can do it.  You can do it, too.
  • Little moves, big results – Whether you're training on Photoshop or Studio Lighting, it quickly becomes apparent that the key to success is this – take small steps to tweak and adjust.  If you swing for the fences, you just keep missing your target.  Moving a light just an inch or two may have a dramatic result, where moving it a foot may have a tragic result. The same could be true of using the Liquify filter in Photoshop.  Small moves work better than big ones.
  • Continuos improvementKelby Training is always looking out to ensure they're giving the best presentation and courses to their members. The list of classes grows each week, but they also revamp the site to take advantage of new technologies.  When the iPad app came out, they had to re-encode all of their video to make it compatible.  That's a huge effort, and they did it to support a free app.  There was no immediate payoff or charge to customers.  The folks at Kelby Training realized it would be a good thing for their customers and made it happen.
  • I'm better off with it than without it – I've realized that knowledge is the most valuable tool I can have as a photographer. When I started, I thought that I had to buy better gear to get better pictures. It doesn't really work that way most of the time. The best gear is useless if you don't understand how to use it well, and that knowledge means you can also do very well with less than ideal tools.  As RC likes to say, “It's the Indian, not the arrows.” That knowledge continues beyond my photography and into other creative aspects of post-processing, web development, and design.

What I'd Like To See Kelby Training Change

Although I'm quite pleased with the training, I want more. By that, I don't mean there is a specific course that I want to see. They quite often surprise me by introducing new courses that I didn't even know I needed, until I saw it. However, there is something I want and I suspect others would have a similar interest.

I want to see more foundation courses for beginners in a field. They have some, as you can see “Beginner” in the Photography category. I don't see that in the Creative & Web or Photoshop lists, though. In my case, I would particularly like introductory courses in design topics to better understand layout, color, or typeface decisions. Many of the courses at Kelby Training are product or devices specific, so where do conceptual topics fit? Perhaps they need a new top level category.

A course on InDesign or DreamWeaver doesn't help me if I don't understand the first thing about the problems they solve.  I want to know how to make a beautiful poster or web page.  I know tools like InDesign or DreamWeaver can assist in that process.  Unfortunately, I don't know the process or decisions to make and the product course is not the place for me to start. Likewise, a designer may find great information in courses on those products, but there's nothing that gives a fundamental photography course on exposure.

Learning is much easier when you start at the beginning. I could start from scratch with Photoshop, but I already had an idea of what I wanted to accomplish and I just needed to understand the tool. With design, I don't have that base of knowledge to start before I can truly grasp some of the tool training available. Kelby Training could effectively provide these foundation courses which would lead to greater demand for their intermediate and advanced courses.

The good news is that I'm starting to see these courses enter the catalog. Scott Kelby recently released a course on photographic composition. Then two more courses on composition followed with David Ziser & Rick Sammon. The Light It, Shoot It, Retouch It courses are providing foundation lighting lessons for photographers. This is a growing trend.

Knowledge is the Most Important Tool

Without a doubt, Kelby Training is the most valuable investment I've made in photography. Moving up from a Nikon D70 to D200, and then to a D700 didn't have a dramatic impact on my photos.  Switching from the kit lens to Nikon's trinity of professional zoom lenses didn't improve my composition or exposure. The thing that helped me the most was getting the knowledge to use those tools.  Don't get me wrong, I love my D700 and fast glass.  They're great tools and have more capability than my previous gear selection.  It's just that those improvements meant nothing without an education to let me develop the creative vision in my mind.

Kelby Training has a wealth of material and every online course is available while your subscription is active. You could start with a monthly subscription and check it out, like I did, but I think that would be a mistake. You can look at the list of courses for free. There's also a 100% money-back guarantee if you decide it's not for you.  That money-back guarantee is why I recommend the annual subscription. You have no risk if you don't like it, and it will save you money in the long run if you decide that you like Kelby Training as much as I do.

Thanks for checking out my Kelby Training review. Click here to visit the Kelby Training web site.