Scott Kelby Responds, Dazzling With His Marketing Magic
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Scott Kelby's marketing skill continue to amaze me.

I posted the other day in “The Amazing Marketing Power of Scott Kelby” that I was disappointed in Scott Kelby for hyping a product close to him in a blatantly dishonest fashion. It seems that he responded to the tsunami of criticism a few days later in a video on one of his sites, KelbyTV, where, around 10 minutes into the show, he addresses the issue.

He says...

“... the biggest complaint we hear from Lightroom users is... “We wish we didn't have to go to Photoshop to do things”... They want to stay in Lightroom. I understand that. So I told OnOne, if there was a way you could do a layers plugin, right, people... people would love it... So, they went and did it.

This is shockingly dishonest.... the “went and did it” has nothing to do with the context he set up. Folks saying “We wish we didn't have to go to Photoshop” are not asking for an external application with a different name.

But Scott is apparently the master of spin because he has he balls to completely switch gears from the very question he introduced (solving the biggest complaint he hears from Lightroom users) to the unrelated discussion of who might want to buy the product he was hyping.

Just amazing. I am in awe.

It's as if he said...

“... the biggest complaint we hear from husbands is... “We wish we didn't have to take out the trash out to the curb”... They want to stay in their home when they dispose of their trash. I understand that. So I told Acme Inc, if there was a way you could dispose of trash without leaving the house, right, people... people would love it... So, they went and did it.

... and then you find that “did it” really means that they now have “garbage bags” instead of “trash bags” that husbands have to haul to the street. You still have to leave the house. The problem initially posed is not at all addressed, though he made it seem so to those who trusted him. And then when you point this out, that he's been so disingenuous as to be dishonest, he rolls his eyes to the delight of his fandom and fires back with “If you don't want garbage bags, don't buy them! Duh!

That's his real marketing genius, shifting focus to the unrelated criticism about the product being overpriced and underfeatured, because it allows him to respond with the completely reasonable “if you don't want it, don't buy it”. With attention now on this tangential issue, he conveniently ignores the whole question of whether he was honest in the first place.

In the video, he then went on to read one of the critical comments that someone left on his blog, but does it in a belittling fashion, making fun of the English, reminding me of how the “cool” grade-school clique would pick on others on the playground. It was pathetic.

Scott was joined in the video by Adobe's Terry White, who passed up on his opportunity to make things clear, instead also focusing attention on the unrelated “if it's not for you, don't buy it” angle. I'm so very disappointed.

I don't have a vested interest in Scott Kelby or whether people fall for his untruthy self-serving hype, but for me it comes down to a simple “dishonesty sucks”, especially when it comes to someone whose reputation I had previously held in such high regard. I understand now that the high regard must have been due to a lack of attention on my part, but this current situation is one where my technical knowledge allows me to see the dishonesty clearly and immediatley, more so than many photographers at first might, so I feel some obligation to share that knowledge in these blog posts.

Of course, Scott doesn't mention that in response to the initial brewhaha I created a Lightroom plugin that actually does integrate Lightroom images, non-destructively, into layers within Photoshop. To my knowledge he's never mentioned any of my Lightroom plugins, even though they are likely responsible for the majority of plugin installs in existence. He should mention them because it would directly benefit his audience, but I believe he doesn't because he doesn't make any money by mentioning other people's free plugins. Normally I'd think that such a self-serving attitude would result in being shunned to the margins, so it's a true testament to his amazing powers of self marketing that he continues to command attention.

FWIW, here's the transcript starting at 9:58 into the video:

Scott Kelby:  

So here's the thing, it's a plugin for Lightroom. It gives you pretty much, you know, multiple layers... you can add layers... you can duplicate layers, you got all the blend modes... multiply da da dah... So here's how that thing came about, just so you know. So, OnOne Software was here a few months back and they showed us all the stuff that they're doing in the future and amazing... truly amazing stuff.

(show sidetracked momentarily by an unrelated production issue)

So, it does this basic layers functionality... they came and they showed us all their new stuff for the future... we were blown out... and then they said “what are you hearing from people... you know, what are people... whatch'r biggest complaint that you hear from people?” that maybe they could solve?

And I said "Well, I do a nationwide tour on Lightroom... Matt and I both do, we do this big tour, and the biggest complaint we hear from Lightroom users is we hear one thing. We hear them say “We wish we didn't have to go to Photoshop to do things”. They love Lightroom so much (and so do I) that they want to stay in Lightroom as much as is humanly possible. They want to stay in Lightroom. I understand that. So I told OnOne, if there was a way you could do a layers plugin, right, people... people would love it... if they had a layers plugin.

Alright, and so they said "Actually, we already do some kind of layers stuff in our stuff now.. if we made it standalone" I thought that would be great. That would be fantastic. So, they went and did it. They made a plugin.

'Cause here's the thing, and I think that there's a misnomer here. Number one, not everybody that uses Lightroom has Photoshop or Elements. I talk to people every single day that came up from iPhoto and they bought Lightroom. They don't have Elements.... they don't have Photoshop... but they would love to do layers. That's all. So, it's not for everybody, if you have Photoshop...

Terry White: If you have Photoshop, there would be very little reason to use the plugin.
Scott Kelby: Right. I didn't say “This is breaking news for Photoshop users”, I just said, you know, this is, um, this is big news, it's... it's a game changer for everybody that can't afford Photoshop and doesn't want to learn Elements, cause learning Elements is like learning Photoshop.
Terry White: Yeah
Scott Kelby: So and it brings up all kinds of other issues, 'cause it manages photos one way and all kinds of stuff...

I have no idea what he was trying to communicate in that last sentence, but anyway, he then goes on to belittle the commenter that disagreed with him, but does not in any way address the root of the criticism.

This was the first time that I'd seen Scott in video, though I suspect it will also be the last.

All 19 comments so far, oldest first...

I’m about to remove Scott Kelby’s site from my feed reader. 🙂

— comment by Chan on May 4th, 2011 at 11:51am JST (13 years ago) comment permalink

Hey Jeffrey,

I personally am a Lightroom + Photoshop CS5 user, so Perfect Layers isn’t for me either. However, I can see how it could be nice for people who want some of the layers functionality from Photoshop without having to learn or deal with Photoshop. As such, I can see how Kelby can be excited about this product and I think your criticism, especially that of his character, seems a bit harsh. I’m more inclined to believe he got a little over exuberant about something he thought a subset of his audience could really use.

Consider that Kelby fields lots of questions during his workshops about how to do things in Lightroom. For some questions like those regarding blending two images, the only answer today is “you’ll need Photoshop for that”. I’m sure that he’s been dying for a better answer, and he thinks that Perfect Layers may fit the bill for a lot of people. I personally have several friends who use and like Lightroom but would never touch Photoshop. Perfect Layers may be a decent “tweener” for them for certain circumstances.

Saying that Perfect Layers is equivalent to “Layers in Lightroom” is not technically correct — no argument there. However, I would argue that the target audience for the product probably doesn’t care about these semantics. They may just want to blend a couple of images together and there’s no way to do it in Lightroom today. Also, Kelby saying that people don’t want to go to Photoshop to do things may be less about the process of going to an external app and more about going to Photoshop specifically. It is very intimidating to many people.

I can’t recall any other time that Kelby has been dishonest for the sake of making a buck, so maybe he deserves the benefit of the doubt here? Just sayin’.

Fort Collins, CO USA

PS. Have been following your blog for a while, lots of great shots and I enjoy seeing different parts of Japan. Also, keep up the good work on the LR plugins.

Again, my criticism is not for what the product actually is, which may well be perfect for many people. Had he just said up front that it’s an external editor with an easy-to-use layers interface for such-and-such a target audience, there wouldn’t have been the slightest problem. But he choose to proposition it in a much more exciting (albeit decidedly untruthy) way. Knowing his technical/marketing skills, I just can’t see it as mere over exuberance. —Jeffrey

— comment by Justin on May 4th, 2011 at 1:51pm JST (13 years ago) comment permalink

I stopped reading him long time ago. His phony cheerful attitude puts me off and now this.

— comment by Manish on May 4th, 2011 at 1:56pm JST (13 years ago) comment permalink

There is a more reasonable response on Lightroom Killer Tips ( which backtracks but doesn’t really address the original dishonesty.

I addressed that response in this earlier comment. Indeed, like Scott in this video, it pulls a slight of hand to ignore the dishonesty to concentrate on something else, as if that something else was the problem. And judging from the comments, their blind-faithful drink it up. —Jeffrey

— comment by Martin on May 4th, 2011 at 3:26pm JST (13 years ago) comment permalink

The “Kelby Media Group” are Car Salesman with Cameras, not Photographers. They market their books, online courses and overpriced dvd’s as well as the useless NAPP membership to people who think it will magically transform them into pros and that adding an ugly NAPP graphic to their site gives them clout and welcomes them into the fold.

In this latest episode of The Grid Scott says something about taking a look at the link or portfolio of someone before taking their advice online and in forums. Well, I did that a long time ago for him, Matt and AboutRC and wasn’t impressed at all. Taking another look it doesn’t seem much has changed. Mostly the few same shots they had up years ago. Lots of overcooked HDR on one of them. Guess they forgot to take their own advice?

I always steer people away from Scott Kelby, Matt Kloskowski and well, most photography podcasters in general. They’re often elitist, curmudgeonly and as you can now see by the show The Grid, they seem to enjoy publicly degrading or shrugging off people who don’t agree with them. Reading a comment aloud by someone who probably speaks English as a second language and making fun of them on a show is just plain immature and insulting. They’re as phony as they come and all they care about is creating hype around things that make them money. My friend recently bought the new Jeremy Cowart dvd from them for $250.00!! I warned her and after she watched it she let me know she felt completely ripped off and won’t ever buy anything Kelby related again. She described it as an infomercial with a few tips you can easily find free all over the net.

Moose Peterson is the only person involved with them I have any respect for because he’s not a whiner who has to knock other people, sites, methods and brands to make himself feel better. I’m glad they decided to make their “Photography Talk Show” The Grid, it’s really showing their true colors.

My advice to anyone following them is to stop and go out and shoot. You’ll learn a lot more on your own, won’t become so jaded and you’ll save yourself some money. You called Kelby a “Marketing Machine” and that sums it up perfectly. They’ve made a science out of making it seem like they’re offering a helping hand when all they’re doing is subtly steering people to spend money on them and their partners.

We all need to make money but those in this industry who resort to deception give all of photography a bad name. Sorry I wrote a short book.

— comment by Andrew on May 4th, 2011 at 4:47pm JST (13 years ago) comment permalink

I have diagnosed Scott Kelby as a crook, years ago. Thank you for taking the time to document yet another one of his “marketing accomplishments”.

— comment by Joseph on May 4th, 2011 at 5:44pm JST (13 years ago) comment permalink

The style of the Scott Kelby stable reminds me of late night “direct response” TV adds: instead of miracle knives and miracle abs, we get miracle presets and miracle apps. Their HDR DVD is essentially a clear and simple How-To video, albeit with a few memorable recommendations. But the buyer will not get enough understanding of what HDR is about to become an expert because the problem is challenging and the available solutions are hard to use.

But there is simply a large market out there for this level of information, just like there is a smaller market for more factual (e.g. comparisons) and explanatory information (e.g. articles by and for nerds). Or a smaller market for more artistic/aesthetic guidelines for that matter.

I see your point, however, that when the marketing gurus turns their attention to selling software rather than just selling basic instructions about someone else’s software, the risks are higher. In their particular case, they have a strong symbiosis with Adobe. They are the pilot fish that closely follow the shark. But the shark will presumably get upset if they start getting in the way.

Judging from Terry White’s performance in the video, the symbiosis is going quite strong. As for the informercial feel, an energetic engaging presence like Scott Kelby would be wonderful for the industry if it came with integrity. I subscribe strongly to the Seth Godin school of common-sense marketing. In such a world, someone with the energetic engaging presence of Scott Kelby, acting out of a mere love of the subject, would slowly but surely garner a huge trusting readership, and with that, as an organic byproduct, financial benefits would follow. I haven’t read Strobist in years, but that’s a perfect example of what I mean. —Jeffrey

— comment by Peter on May 4th, 2011 at 7:43pm JST (13 years ago) comment permalink

Thanks for sharing !

— comment by Rachel on May 4th, 2011 at 9:29pm JST (13 years ago) comment permalink

Jeffrey, it has been an interesting couple of weeks since this topic came to light. I had seen the blog post from Scott when this started and watched the demo video OnOne had produced. I wasn’t too bothered by it at the time. It was only when I read your first blog post that I started to think more about this.

I watch a bunch of the Kelby stuff online. I am not a fanboy and I do see some of the flaws in the way Scott Kelby does his thing but I hardly see him as the antichrist either. It is interesting how binary these discussions get. He is not tolerant of different points of view, though, as has been shown in the way he sometimes behaves on The Grid. Of course, nothing is making me watch any of this stuff and he only does these shows to promote his business and if I don’t recognize that, I have only myself to blame. However, his response to this whole thing has been rather odd in my mind.

The excuses and re-framing of what he said was the thing I find rather disingenuous. He did overplay the whole thing and was called on it. It would have been far easier to either say “Sorry, I didn’t say what I meant” or alternatively say nothing and let it go. Both are reasonable ways of dealing with it and moving on. Instead, the approach was to suggest everyone else is at fault. This wasn’t the more normal online criticism that tends to demonize something someone doesn’t like irrespective of the merits. Here had said something was something when it was something else. He was bringing his substantial market to a product with the likelihood that a good chunk would go ahead and do their duty to buy it. The criticisms were well laid out and reasoned and not at all hyperbolic. He brought the hyperbole to it and he has enough fans to post their undying support. (By the way, am I the only one who has noticed that the tweets that are read out on his podcasts are almost always repetitions of what he has already said earlier?)

Anyway, I was grateful for your original perspective and unimpressed by his response. Now I would suggest your best interests are served by letting it go even if he doesn’t. What is to be gained at this point other than higher blood pressure?

— comment by Rob on May 4th, 2011 at 11:47pm JST (13 years ago) comment permalink

Well stated (again). Its quite amazing to see this behavior from a once respected authority and organization. They have completely bought into their own BS. I only hope the NAPP fan boys who think Scotts plug-in being hyped will instead check out the plug-in you built (which does provide a non destructive path). That’s about the best thing to come out of this mess.

— comment by Andrew D Rodney on May 5th, 2011 at 12:31am JST (13 years ago) comment permalink

I know what a stickler you are for the facts so I thought I would offer a correction for an error that you made in your previous comment. The Jeremy Cowart instructional DVD product that your friend purchased is NOT a Kelby product. It is totally owned and produced by Jeremy. It was mentioned on Scott Kelby’s blog, as are a lot of products but it isn’t related to Kelby Media. Jeremy has however produced a couple of classes that are available on Kelby Training.

You really shouldn’t let your venom lead you into making false statements that are easily confirmed with a Google search.

— comment by Jeff on May 5th, 2011 at 7:26am JST (13 years ago) comment permalink

“Cause here’s the thing, and I think that there’s a misnomer here. Number one, not everybody that uses Lightroom has Photoshop or Elements. I talk to people every single day that came up from iPhoto and they bought Lightroom. They don’t have Elements…. they don’t have Photoshop… but they would love to do layers. That’s all. So, it’s not for everybody, if you have Photoshop…’

I find the paragraph quoted above from Scott Kelby to be simply absurd. I’m quite sure that the vast majority of people who used an application like iPhoto and then switched to Lightroom, have neither the knowledge nor desire for layers. The average iPhoto user would hardly know about layers.

I wish I could say I was disappointed by Kelby’s hyping of this product but it follows a pattern I noticed a long time ago. Remember when the “7-Point System” was supposed to revolutionize image processing? When last have you heard him mention it?

The Kelby Media Group is big business. How big? I came across this tidbit recently in an article about his wife getting her private pilot’s license:

“Mom may manage a $20 million-plus corporation with her author, keyboard- and guitar-player husband, Scott, but that doesn’t impress the youngsters as much as her flying.”

Not a bad gig if you can get it. I’ve been around for a while so I remember when Scott was a simple graphics artist and I’ve watched over the years as he’s transformed himself into a photography guru because he identified that that’s where the money is….

Well, now, let’s be fair…. it’s my understanding that he built his company through long, hard work, and you can’t do that if you have a family that doesn’t support you, so the “if you can get it” comment seems cheap if it’s about her, and even more unfair if about him. Whether it’s good or bad, he’s earned his reputation, and I have respect for what he’s built (which makes my disappointment in realizing how far he’s fallen all the greater). There’s absolutely nothing stopping you from “getting this gig” yourself.—Jeffrey

— comment by James on May 5th, 2011 at 8:07am JST (13 years ago) comment permalink

@Jeff (not Jeffrey Friedl) – She bought the Jeremy Cowart DVD through a link on the Scott Kelby website after seeing him on the Scott Kelby show The Grid and after Scott Kelby ranted and raved about it (marketing). I’m sorry The Kelby Media Group didn’t “produce” it, though I never even said they did. I said she got it “from” them, I guess I should have said “through” them to be exact. I was using it as an example of something they marketed, that’s overpriced and made someone feel ripped off and not want to trust them. My apologies for not having the details exact but you missed the point completely.

Since my opinion of their marketing is “venom” according to you it would have been nice for you to elaborate on what you think of them and the matter at hand to provide some perspective instead of just attacking me and one small detail. I’ve paid money into Kelby Media, and though I wouldn’t anymore I think that entitles me to express my opinion of them, even if you don’t agree with it. I’m also curious as to why that particular detail? Did you buy the dvd yourself? Do you have a different opinion of it? Oh and while we’re being exact, it’s actually DVD’s, she just told me there’s two of them in the box. Sorry again to be so horribly inaccurate.

— comment by Andrew on May 5th, 2011 at 8:20pm JST (13 years ago) comment permalink

This is a total lynch mob for Scott Kelby, I happens to like the guy. Everybody who knows about lightroom (including yourself Jeffrey) knows that adobe doesn’t want direct intergration with 3rd parties in it, which is why (like every other plugin) it opens in a different window. Everybody went mental about the whole “in” bit, you still open it within lightroom.
I totally agree with Scott kelby, if you don’t like the FREE beta, then don’t get it, you can’t beat try before you buy, if a camera store let you try a brand new camera for 30 days for FREE with no obligation and it wasnt exactly what you hoped, would go on the Internet and basically call them con men and liars? I think it’s ridiculous you’ve had such a personal rant about someone towards something that has no effect on you what so ever. I love the way Scott and all his gang teach and talk. I love their DVDs and apps and I have NEVER been hard sold by them in anything, they even give you the first video on every subject they teach on kelby training for free, yet again another try before you buy with a full money back guarantee if you end up not liking it, that’s what good people do, not conmen and liars. I’ve always said if you can’t do the same or better job than someone then don’t criticise their work, are you better than SK at being an author, trainer, photographer ?

As I said a zillion times before your comment, the “if you don’t like it, don’t buy it” argument is about the product, and my complaint isn’t about the product, it’s about how Scott pitched the product. In making the bulk of your comment about this irrelevant issue, you’re doing the exact same thing Scott did (perhaps for the same reason). You can try to dissect his grammar as finely as you like to come up with an explanation that suits your preconceived ideas, but in this case it’s simply not credible to claim that his wording is an unintentional boo-boo. If you call it a “lynch mob” to point out one instance where he was clearly and obviously being untruthful, perhaps you’re being a bit too emotional about the whole thing. And finally, I think you need to offer some references for your unsubstantiated allegation that Adobe doesn’t want third-party integration. In light of the history of their other apps, that accusation is fairly ridiculous without anything to back it up. —Jeffrey

— comment by Will on May 17th, 2011 at 1:39am JST (13 years ago) comment permalink

For 1 Scott Kelby who works closely with Adobe on their products stated it on the grid (which you did a transcription of and stopped just before the most important point) that adobe wont do layers native to lightroom because they don’t want to ever render the pixels, that’s what photoshop is for (and plug ins). Because you have made plugins for lightroom then you will know that the SDK doesn’t allow full integration but only allows plug ins and added optons within menu’s to those plug ins. This is the exact 4 options Adobe list they allow with the SDK :
1.Menu customization
2.Export and publish functionality
4.Web engine functionality

The full rundown of each option being found here on the adobe website for your readers to see.

Adobe DO NOT offer full integration with 3rd parties in Lightroom, only via plug ins so not unsubstantiated, just a fact.

Indeed, Lightroom 3 doesn’t expose the pixel pipeline, which is why I found Scott’s initial claim of “Layers in Lightroom!” to be highly suspect in the first place. However, you didn’t speak to what is, you wrote what Adobe wants/intends, as if you were privy to the company-confidential roadmap (something I am not). Considering how young Lightroom is and how many first-tier workflow issues it has yet to address, I wouldn’t expect to see pixel-pipeline access for some time, but I would be surprised to find that it wasn’t on Adobe’s own wishlist.

Everything I put was relevant, how does what Scott Kelby says affect you in any way ? has he conned you out of money ? brought down your character ? forced you to do anything you didn’t want to ? not as far as I can see, yet you launch a character assassination, calling him a liar and a con man.

I didn’t claim that he affected me in any way other than sheer disappointment. I wrote at the end of the post why I posted. In any case, my motivation doesn’t impact the veracity of what I’ve said, which stands alone.

I’m not getting emotional, I just hate when people write terrible things about other people on the internet especially when they’ve

A) Put out a lot of info for free and helped a lot of people (of course its to market other products but so what?)
B) Is someone who fights out corner to the big companies (adobe, onone) and lets them know what we want.
C) Is a nice guy, given me help when I asked for it, with nothing in return

This is not just one instance that you have perpetuated here, people have been now commenting about his business practices, marketing strategies, accusing him of always having a sneaky motive to things he has done, and you have perpetuated it, and have basically put that anyone who believes in him or his products are “drinking the Kool-aid” including Terry White.

Is the plug in for photoshop ? or do you use it in lightroom ? you use it in lightroom, therefore it is layers within lightroom, just not what you’d like.

You keep skimming over the “don’t like it, don’t buy it” and the “try before you buy for FREE” bit because they totally blow your argument out the water. the crazy thing is, if you have Onone plug in suite you get the full program for free !!!! if he forced you to buy it then you have an argument, he hasn’t lied about what it does, or who its for. He has said if you use PS or elements, its not for you !!!

You again mix up his lack of honesty with a critique of the product. He did lie about what it was, with no mention of Photoshop or Elements or external editor in his initial shill, and the response by him and Terry White made me embarrassed for them both. I have made no other disparaging comment about anything else he’s ever said or done, though that seems to be lost on you (whoever you are). You go ahead and feel free to respect his marketing, but I stand by my condemnation for what he did here. If you have a new angle on why I’m mistaken, I’ll be more than happy to entertain it. —Jeffrey

— comment by Will on May 17th, 2011 at 10:10pm JST (13 years ago) comment permalink

Thanks for the honest work and opinions. I value both. I have used your plugins for years and you’re spot on. Keep up the good work.


— comment by Rusty Jackson on May 20th, 2011 at 4:15am JST (13 years ago) comment permalink

Scott’s site can harm your computer:

Yeah, I noticed that yesterday and wondered what’s behind it. A quick search of the interwebs didn’t bring up any discussion that I could find… —Jeffrey

— comment by Sérgio on October 14th, 2011 at 5:28am JST (12 years, 8 months ago) comment permalink

Hi, Jeffrey, I am from Southern California, and admire your work.
Several comments:
#1. I feel stupid… I thought that Scott Kelby actually was part developer of this product. Not just a spokesman, I had the impression he rolled up his sleeves and did work on it.
No, huh?
#2. Also, one of the responders on this site mentioned Matt Kloskowski.
I want to tell you, that with good reason, I personally think especially highly of several people in our world: Katrin Eismann, Victoria the LR Queen, Matt Kloskowski, and one other person that is just slipping my brain, which I feel badly about..
My point is to the person who said something about Matt K: It is really easy because we see so much greed in the world, to lump people together in ways they should not be, even though they work together. I totally have fallen into that trap once or twice myself.
Please take my word for it that Matt K. is one of several people who are genuinely kind even “offline”.
Now maybe you have had personal experiences yourself that went badly, I don’t know, and if so, I am sorry; because all three of these people mentioned went out of their way for someone they had no reason to help.
Just a word on Matt’s side.
-Barbara R.
P.S. Whenever I see Jeffrey Friedl’s name on something, I know it is high quality.

— comment by Barbara R. on November 2nd, 2011 at 8:11am JST (12 years, 7 months ago) comment permalink

I’m a little late to this party, but count me among those who think Kelby is a salesman, not an artist. If I see his name associated with something, I avoid it. His shtick comes off as phony and I don’t buy it. It’s all about moving product.

— comment by John on May 6th, 2013 at 4:35pm JST (11 years ago) comment permalink
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