Why I Dropped Kelby Training To 4 Stars
I have urged you, make that strongly urged you, numerous times to check out Kelbytraining (you in fact can do so today by clicking here). I have had a subscription for a couple of years now (and plan on renewing that subscription later this year). But as much as I appreciate and utilize Scott’s training site, today I am downgrading its rating from five stars to four (on a five-star scale). That downgrade is certainly not enough to tempt me into not renewing my yearly subscription, but I hope it may encourage the team at Kelbytraining to take a second look at some of the criteria I used in coming to this decision.
First, the housekeeping chores:
Several times I was so excited with the quality of training that I strongly urged you non-users to take advantage of the 24-hour free trial offer (to check out the videos, go on a marathon training session spree, and evaluate how much this site could add to your photo skills). Then I noticed that the free trial had been replaced with a limited number of daily free spots (once they were gone for the day that was it). Now there are no free trials of any kind, limited or not. My question is: why not? Almost every one of the major software companies offers you a free trial (of varying lengths) of their products. The idea is that they are confident enough that you will love what you see; so much so, in fact, that you will make a purchase. Has Kelbytraining lost that confidence? Or have they become so confident that they feel they can take your need for them for granted?
Free trials are good for business and goodwill. Their removal from Kelbytraining is disappointing.
I was used to checking the website regularly to see if anything new had been posted. Then something really appreciated was added: new releases were previewed and a date when they would be posted was given. Great! I go to the site when I need to review a particular training subject … or when a new video becomes available. Having a schedule made life just a touch easier. Then that new little add-on disappeared. So now I am back to checking each day just to see if anything has changed. It’s admittedly a little thing, but if you can do it (and obviously it is possible) then why not keep doing it?
Adding some certainty to release dates was very appreciated. Bring them back.
There was a bit of a screw-up that wasn’t handled as well as it could have been a while back, goodwill-wise. Scott did a very successful country-wide Light it, Shoot it, Retouch it tour this year. Subscribers to Kelbytraining were overjoyed to find it listed there, complete with downloadable manual. Then in only a couple of days it disappeared. No explanation. Ever. I was one of those who began watching the video and didn’t finish it in one sitting. Too bad, because it just disappeared. Then it showed up as a download-for-pay video on Scott’s regular website. I saw some comments questioning this practice, with an answer to the comments from Scott himself (the video was added to Kelbytraining by mistake and thus removed). It would have played much better with quite a few subscribers (I talked to several here in Bloomington personally) if the mistake would have been addressed in a post and more clearly explained. Mistakes happen regularly in all operations … but they can be explained very well or not-so-well.
This mistake was not handled as well as it could have been.
One last housekeeping chore …. You still can get a preview of releases-to-come (the Coming Soon section). The problem is that I recently was looking forward to a new release from Frank Doorhof that had been promised for some time. Now it is missing from the Coming Soon section, replaced by a Moose Peterson class. Okay, no big deal. But what happened to Frank? Is he still in the mix? This isn’t the first time this has happened, and, no, it is not a big deal. But the site didn’t have that problem in the past. Something has changed a little bit.
Okay, now for the training part (the part you really pay your money for):
Kelbytraining caters to all photographers, brand new to seasoned professional. That’s a tall order to fill. And that is why not every class will appeal to every photographer. Understood and accepted. But … there is that but again … you can’t have the ultra professional waiting and waiting for the next release (remember, we are not getting new classes daily or even weekly) only to discover it is another beginning level video on how to compose your image. And conversely you shouldn’t have the beginner waiting and waiting for a new class only to discover it is Joe McNally producing gorgeous images while using seven lights and terminology that the beginner doesn’t even recognize. And that is happening more frequently, in my humble opinion. And it is disappointing, probably to photographers at all levels.
The solution? Release classes more predictably. If a class doesn’t suit you (and many won’t), just sit tight for a minute because more are on the way. Release them in batches containing various skill levels and subject matters so that subscribers can pick and choose each time a batch is released and not feel left out at any given time. Something for everyone each time means every subscriber feels valued at each release. Yes, I know that classes are time-consuming to shoot. And expensive. And time-consuming to edit. And probably difficult to conceptualize – new ideas, classes that haven’t been done to death already, must be tough to come up with. But that is why Kelbytraining has such a good reputation; it is why we pay for the subscriptions we have. We depend on the creative minds and skills and hard work of the real experts out there.
Kelbytraining has had a touch of staleness recently. Scott hasn’t, as evidenced by his training tours and books and projects. The people around him – Matt Kloskowski, RC Concepcion, Corey Barker, et al – are operating at as high a level as ever. Shooting with them is great fun, most educational. They all are very, very nice people. But Kelbytraining is not those people and it is not just Scott Kelby. It is a different team, a different enterprise. A business enterprise. And it is time that enterprise takes a long look at itself and asks some questions: are we doing the very best job we can? Are we still providing the same great product we always have? Are we the best value for the dollar out there? Are we listening to our customers? Are we meeting their needs and expectations?
If you would have asked me at the beginning of this year for a Kelbytraining rating I would have said five stars out of five without hesitation. In fact, I have written to that effect several times. Today? Not so much. Four stars is a fine rating, a compliment to the talent at Kelbytraining and the classes they produce. But four is not five, and less is not more. I hope next year we will find the magic touch has returned and another star in the works.