If you're not really into digital photography, you may have never heard of Scott Kelby, but he's quite the media dynamo in the on-line digital-photography world. He founded a Photoshop user's club some years ago, and seemingly has never rested since. As an example of his business savvy, rather than launching the club with a self-limiting name like “Tampa Photoshop Users Club”, he smartly called it the grandiose “National Association of Photoshop Professionals”, and it took off. Since then, he's got writing credit on dozens of books and instructional videos, and leads a whole self-titled media machine (Kelby Media Group) that chimes in with insightful, well-reasoned, and generally-upbeat commentary on every new development out there, and makes its own new developments from time to time with its own new product offerings. He's sort of like the David Pogue of the digital-photography world.
Scott's charisma, knowledge, and boundless energy has led him to become a well-followed go-to source of information for many in the digital-photography world. What I find amazing is that in a recent blog post, it seemd obvious that he blatantly lied to his readership while shilling a product he was connected to, and nobody seemed to care. Now that's marketing power!
Yesterday, Scott published a post titled “Breaking News: Imagine having Layers in Lightroom. Well, OnOne Software Just Did it!!”
If you're not familiar with the subject, the technology he's suggesting has just been made possible would be a huge leap for photo editing workflow, and would overcome one of the major drawbacks of how programs like Adobe Lightroom and Apple Aperture allow you to work with your photos. It's a leap that many expect to be made sometime in the future (in five years?), but Scott's telling us that it's available now(!), via a software program he helped develop.
The initial comments on his blog post were from folks who took him at his word.... “I've been waiting for this”... “Hooray!!!!!!!!!!!!”... “Now this looks interesting!”... “Great job, OnOne”...
The only problem is that it's not true.
I'm more engineer than photographer, and particularly as an author of dozens of plugins for Lightroom, the technological unlikelihood of his claim was immediately apparent. I followed the link to the software's site to check out just how deep the integration with Lightroom really was.... and found nothing. No mention whatsoever about how the Lightroom integration was handled. If it was truly “Layers in Lightroom”, that would have been demonstrated up front with flashing neon, because it indeed would have been a major accomplishment.
From a technological standpoint, this was quite a ho-hum development. Basically, he's created a super-lite version of Photoshop that, like any other application, can be called from Lightroom to work on a copy of a photo. Its benefit seems to be a very simple user interface and it will certainly appeal to non-technical photographers that want more pixel-editing functionality than Lightroom provides, but it's of no interest if you already use Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, Paint Shop Pro, Gimp, or any of the other myriad of pixel-editing applications out there.
Once people started to realize this, comments started appearing that cited the destructive nature of the edits. Here, “destructive” refers to the fact that making edits actually changes pixel values, destroying the ability to go back and undo or tweak the changes. Photoshop is a destructive editor, while Lightroom and Aperture are purely non-destructive, which is a major point of appeal.
Anyway, comments starting coming in citing this huge shortcoming, and then people started whining about the price (the announced price is double that for the much-more-powerful Photoshop Elements). But what really surprised me is that no one (but me) called him out for what certainly seemed to be a bald-faced lie.
I'm sure that Scott knows full well that it's not “Layers in Lightroom” because he's an expert in this stuff in general and he helped develop this specific product, but perhaps the marketing potential of the lie was just too tempting to pass up.
My trust in him evaporated in an instant.
But I seem to be the only one. Is everyone else drinking his Kool-Aid? Does he have a reality distortion field that only I have escaped?
He really is a marketing genius (well, except for the whole lying thing). When I first saw the post and went to the application's site, it featured a picture of a smiling Scott Kelby pitching the software. At least I think it did... when I go now, he's been reduced to a bullet-point mention. It's interesting to see the difference in the site when visiting via his link and a vanilla link. Besides some marketing text, the whole purchase presentation is different.... if you come from Scott's link, you're not offered the option to buy the not-yet-available software, and the “pricing” link mentions that it will cost $160 when it comes out. But if you come in via the vanilla link, you're offered the ability to buy their whole suite of software for $500. Seems sort of odd, but then, I've never understood marketing.
I wonder what Seth Godin would say? Actually, I don't, because I already know, as anyone with a conscience would.
There's a silver lining in this, though... it got me thinking about how to do layers in Lightroom, and I've devised a relatively simple (but slow) way to mimic layers within Lightroom to a strong degree.... one that preservers the non-destructive workflow that's so integral to Lightroom. I don't know whether I have the pixel-editing technical skill to bring it to fruition, but I know what I'm going to be working on for the next while.... 🙂
UPDATE: I did it
UPDATE #2: Scott responded to the criticism in a video, where he succeeded in being even more misleading than the first time.