Posts By Scott Kelby

…and if I ever thought twice about it or second-guessed it, tonight something happened to me that totally solidified why subscriptions plans like Adobe’s are such a good idea.

I’m going to give you the short version of this story, but it’s not real short, but stick with me; keep an open mind, and you might wind up seeing things differently (even if you’re “furrowing your brow” going into it). I put some photos in here just to keep things for being “too texty” but the one that most ties into this story is the one below (taken with my iPhone, no less).

SPOILER ALERT: I left a special bonus pic for you at the end of this post, but you’re not allowed to just scroll down there for medical reasons.

Above: My home studio. it’s only three months old, and still needs lots of work yet, including a lot more acoustic tile, bass traps, and certainly more guitars, right? Like me, it’s a work in progress.

Besides being a photographer, (and fake Olympic athlete), I’m also a musician and I have a small recording studio in my home (part of which is seen above). I got into all this to record my own original songs, but I got somehow sucked into what has now become my hobby, which is to faithfully recreate my favorite songs from scratch. They wind up being mostly “big hair” rock songs from the 80s, but also some newer songs from Bruno Mars, or dance songs from Earth, Wind, and Fire. I’ve done Lady Gaga’s “Shallow” (from the movie “A Star is Born”) and the orchestral theme to Game of Thrones, playing all the instruments myself, and recording it all into Logic Pro X on my iMac.

Photo by Brad Moore.

I Need “Real” Bon Jovi and “Real” Bee Gees

Anyway, the key to all this is that you can go online and find the original isolated vocals tracks for tons of songs, and these tracks are the original vocals — just the vocals — no instruments whatsoever. So, I download an isolated original vocal track, and then I learn how to play the parts for all the different instruments that make up that song (that takes a while usually), then I record me playing each one of them. I play all the lead and rhythm electric guitars, the acoustic 6 and 12-string guitar parts; the bass parts (on a real bass), drums (on my electronic drum kit), all the piano and synth parts, horn parts, strings, percussion, cowbell (it needs more), and so on.

Photo by Brad Moore.

My whole goal is to make it NOT sound like a Karaoke track — I want it to sound as close to the original as possible, which I can tell you is a total pain in the butt. I want to get it to where if I played it for you in my car, you would swear it was the original. It takes me a LONG time to get a song to that level — about two weeks for one song on average. Sometimes more, like when I did Bohemian Rhapsody (that one kicked my butt). I’m really kind of anal about getting all the exact right sounds; getting every drum lick exactly like the ones on the record; using the right amps; cymbals, synths, mics, the right piano sound, and so on. I know. It’s a sickness.

Photo by Alan Hess.

My struggle is you can’t always find the real original vocals for the song you want to do, and in few instances, I’ve gone ahead and recorded an entire song knowing I didn’t have the real original vocal track. I those cases I use an isolated vocal Karaoke track instead. Each time I use a Karaoke vocal track, instead of the original vocals, a little piece of me dies inside because no matter what I do musically and/or mixing wise, it just never sounds right without the real original vocals.

Photo by Brad Moore

I got lucky a few times recently

Within the last months, I actually found two isolated vocal tracks to songs I recorded over a year ago using the Karaoke vocals — Saturday in the Park by Chicago, and Separate Ways by Journey (which I literally ran across this weekend). When this happens, I go back to those songs I recorded and replace the Karaoke vocals with the real ones and I just cannot tell you how happy it makes me. Seriously, just through the roof, crazy happy. It’s me at “full happy.”

Photo by Brad Moore

I still have three songs that are dead to me

They are fully done; I put in all the time, learned all the solos note for note, sweated every guitar sound and keyboard pad, but they have the Karaoke vocal tracks, and I cringe when I hear them, so I just don’t listen to them anymore. They are: Shakin’ (by Eddie Money); Home Sweet Home (by Motley Crue), and I Need to Know (By Mark Anthony). I search the Web for the original isolated vocals tracks for these about every week for who knows how long now. No luck, yet. The struggle is real.

So since I can’t seem to find these tracks out there, last night I start doing more online research (not my first time) about how to isolate vocals from a an existing music track. I eventually run across this kid on youtube (thanks Alex Rome) who is raving about this isolation software he found that totally blew his mind, and it’s what all the pros now use, etc., and he was just going on and on about it, so I went and downloaded a trial copy of it. It’s a fully functional trial copy, but you can’t save the file it creates, but you do get to try it all out which is cool.

Photo by Brad Moore

So, I gave it a try on both Shakin’ and Home Sweet Home

The software is called “iZotope RX 7.” I have to tell you — it blew my mind! It was so much better than any other software like it I had tried. It was pretty remarkable and so darn easy to use. It was almost like magic. Granted, the extractions are not absolutely perfect, but they’re close enough that I can clean a vocal track easily enough to where it would sound just about spot-on in my mix (and lightyears better than the Karaoke vocals I have in place now).

Photo by Brad Moore

After 15 minutes into the trial, I knew I had to buy it!

So, I go to their site, and I hit the “buy” button. That’s when I saw the price. The full version is $1,200. $1,200!!!! My jaw just dropped. My heart sank, too, because I knew, great as it is, there was no way in h*** I was going to spend $1,200 for it. I get it — it’s pro-level software, and I want to just use it for my hobby, but I also know if you want to buy what the actual pro’s use, it’s gonna cost ya. The problem is —  I just can’t justify spending $1,200 for what I would be doing with it (I don’t sell these songs — I don’t even post ’em anywhere. I just do it for friends and family).

Photo by Brad Moore

It’s different in my photography life, where I do use pro-level software, like Photoshop. Back when you could buy Photoshop, it cost $799 for it alone. Lightroom, when it came out, was $300 to buy it. So to buy both Photoshop and Lightroom was (you guessed it), around $1,200. You literally either wrote a check for $1,200, or you didn’t use Photoshop and Lightroom — it was that simple. So, where does this all lead?

What I need…is a subscription plan

If I could subscribe to iZotope’s full version for $10 a month, it would be the fastest $10 I spent all year, but unfortunately they don’t offer a subscription plan at this point, so the reality is — I’m not going to get to use iZotope RX 7, and that makes me sad. Recording these dumb covers means a lot to me, but I don’t have a legit business case to use it. Yes, I know, I’m being a baby — I want pro-level software, but I’m not willing to pay the pro price. And while iZotope does offer a standard edition for $400, I don’t want the standard edition — I want the full version (not iZotope RX 7 “lite”), but this whole situation just brought Adobe’s move to subscription-based back to the top of my mind, and how lucky we are that we can have access to pro-level tools for our photography, even if we’re not working pros. We can use the best photo editing software on earth for our hobbies, or for whatever, for less than the cost of the chicken wing appetizer at Applebees. That’s sayin’ something, but we take it for granted (and we dang well shouldn’t).

So, I’m back to hoping that one day…

…I get lucky, and somebody posts the vocals-only track for one of those three songs. Now, if the folks at iZotope would offer a subscription plan, then I’d be all set, and I could do the isolating for those songs myself. The only problem is — if they did, I doubt it would be just $10 a month. Probably more like $40 or $50. I tell ya this; I’d probably do it for a year, just to have access to it, and to get all the songs done that I’d want to do for 2021, and then unsubscribe for year until I needed it again. Hey, ya never know, right?

I hope that gave you some perspective on why subscription plans make so much sense today, and why I’m glad Adobe went in the direction they did. Subscription plans provide us with way to use to software that we couldn’t make a reasonable financial case for using, and I’m all for that. Also, a high-five to Adobe for making their photographer’s bundle only $10 a month. That’s insanely cheap. Note to the folks at Izatope — Adobe’s got the pricing thing down. Do that! ;-)

Above: I had to do it — here’s a bonus photo one from back in the 80s when I was playing full-time. That’s me on the far left, and my wife Kalebra in the middle. In the right corner, that’s Scotty — my dear friend and drummer I still play with on stage to this day. I thought having that hair cut would get me in Duran Duran. Sadly, it did not, but things worked out OK anyway.

Have a great week everybody. I have a feeling it’s about to get a whole lot better for us all really soon. See ya tomorrow right here. :)

-Scott

P.S. If you’re at all into guitars (and if you stuck it out this long, you probably are), I’m the guest this week on the new BigScotty Guitar Podcast, and we talk about guitars, guitars, and more guitars (it was so much fun). Here’s the link if you want to give it a listen in the background while you’re retouching.

It’s not only my bestselling book, it’s the #1 top-selling book on digital photography in history, and I just finished a major rewrite, and it’s on press right now. Check out why I did this rewrite, and how it can help you take your photos to the next level fast, in the short video below. Check it out:

You can pre-order it right now and be among the first to get your new copy Note: Amazon shows shipping in September, but just so you know — the book is completely done and at the printers already, so I think that Sept. date is…well…it’s off by just a tad. ;-)

It was time, right?

Here’s the link to pre-order yours today. Thanks for listening, and I hope you find this new updated version of the book really helpful. :)

Have a great weekend, everybody!

-Scott

We’ve never had more choices for photography gear than we do today — thanks to Kickstarter, and Indigogo and all the tech advances, we’ve got an got incredible array of choices. This is why reviews are so important, but I cannot tell you how much time I’ve spent reading or watching reviews that at the end leave me with little more info than I started with.

A buddy and I were talking about this very topic — how so many useless reviews are out there today that aren’t really helping anybody (but perhaps the reviewer). So, today I thought I’d outline the things that make a gear review really useful (and what makes them useless and things to avoid):

I only want to read reviews from a reviewer that uses that brand of camera or lens

I don’t want to read a review of the new Chevy Camero from a Ford Mustang enthusiast, but a similar things happens in photography reviews incredibly often. I want a read a review from someone who’s not “camera brand biased” from the very start. I’m done reading reviews about a Nikon or Canon camera, from a reviewer who says they are a Sony shooter (or vice versa). I know, right up front, at the end of the review they’re going to share why the product isn’t that great, and that that it’s not as good as their Sony version, and that they’re not switching from Sony, etc.. I don’t want them to tell me how it compares to their Sony, any more than I want to hear what the Chevy lover thinks of a Mustang (Spoiler alert; I can pretty much tell you before I read the review).

If it’s a new Nikon camera, I want it reviewed by a real Nikon shooter and they can tell me how it compares to their current Nikon and that is actually very valuable to me. If it’s a Canon lens, I want to hear from a real Canon shooter and how it compares to their current Canon lenses. If it’s a Sony mirrorless body, I want to hear what an existing Sony mirrorless shooter says about it. There’s only one thing worse — when you read a review and they don’t tell you they’re brand biased, and then later you found out they shoot an entirely different brand than what they were reviewing, and they give it a less than stellar review. I’ve had it happen more than once.

I want them to give me a final bottom line. Not “Well, it depends on what your needs are”

There is nothing that drives me crazier than a review that looks at several different products, with a headline like “Our pick for the best super wide angle lens of 2020” and then at the end they tell you why each lens in their “shootout” has good points and bad points, and why each may be right for you depending on what you shoot. Basically they say, “They’re all good, it just depends on what you’re shooting.” Nope — that’s not why I read the article. Take a stand. I want the reviewer to tell me, straight up, “This is the best one of the bunch! Buy this one!

An unboxing video is not a review. Neither is a “first impression”

So many videos on YouTube have the word “Review” in the headline, but they turn out to be an unboxing video — literally , somebody filming as they unbox the product; set it up, and try it out for two minutes. I need a “field report.” Shoot it for a while and let me know what the experience is really like. How does it work after two weeks, two months? Opening it on Day 1 is not a review. You’re really just giving an initial impression – it’s day 1 – you haven’t run into the problems yet. I want to hear about it a few days down the road. Do you still love it?

It needs to include really clear specs

I can’t tell you how many reviews I’ve had to wade through just to find out how many megapixels a camera has, or the size or weight of a camera or lens. It seems like basic stuff, but then I find myself having to go to B&H’s Website because they have a spec tab where they list all the specs that should have been in that initial review. At the minimum, give me a link to the manufacturer’s specs page, or even B&Hs, but it’s gotta be in the review, right up front — don’t make us go searching for it.

Include LOTS of your own photos

Don’t just repost product shots from the manufacturer. By the time I’ve found your review, I’ve already seen lots of shots from the manufacturer. If you’ve reviewing the gear, and you’re a photographer, take your own photos of it and show me what it really looks like — not a shot of it on a white background, perfectly lit, with a reflection below it. One thing manufacturer’s shots don’t really show you is scale. Take a shot of you holding it in your hands, so I can really see its size. Also, if you’re going to show sample photos you took with a particular camera or lens, take some good shots. Not shots you took in your backyard in harsh lighting conditions. Some of the sample shots I’ve seen posted by big time reviewers make me feel like they’re tech nerds, but not actually photographers. The shots often literally look like snapshots and it makes me think either the gear isn’t good, or you’re not a real photographer, in which case I’m not sure I want to take the word of someone who isn’t a decent photographer about which piece of gear I should buy. Make your sample shots look great, so we get a real idea of what the product can do.  

Give advice

Really great reviews give advice. For example, if I’m reading a review and there are three sizes for the particular product, tell me which one to get ane why. For example, if the Small Size is really a better deal, or easier to work with, say so. Something like this is so helpful: “If I was going to order one, I would go with the Small size — you’ll save money and it’s so much easier to store and take with you,. The medium size doesn’t easily fit in your average camera bag, and the large size needs really needs two people to carry it.” That’s the kind of advice that is absolutely invaluable.

The most important aspect is honesty

At the end of the day, we are searching for an honest review. If something’s bad, say so. If the product has an Achilles Heel, tell us so. If there’s a deal breaker, let us know. There are very few products that are so perfect that nothing can be improved upon, so let us know the good stuff and the bad stuff. If all you do is tell me all the good things about it, then you come off as a fan boy. If you only tell us the bad stuff, you come off as a hater or biased from the outset (See #1 above). Here would be a great question or statement to make to your readers: “If you used this gear for two months, and it got lost or stolen, would you buy this same piece of gear again?” That would be a really valuable thing for us to know.

There ya have it — I’m hoping some of the folks out there that review gear take some of these points to heart — it could help us so much in making smart decisions on gear (and most gear ain’t cheap these days). Maybe you know a reviewer you should send this to? By all means, do.

Here’s wishing you lot of reviews that actually help you make a good decision. :)

-Scott

I took this shot at the Venice Opera House before my workshop there. I miss doing location workshops.

Want to do something for you and for your photography journey that will absolutely, positively make you happy on so many levels? Then stop what you’re doing, and right now take two minutes and let’s make this a weekend to remember…by making a print. You have to, it’s “Make a Print Friday!” (I created this fake holiday last year, and it lasted…well…about a year, so…it’s official now).

If you don’t have your own printer, send it to an online lab (I use both BayPhoto Lab and MPIX.com — both make great prints and both have world-class customer service, and if you don’t already have a lab, try either of these — you’ll love them). You just open an account, upload your image, choose your size and they take it from there. In a few days, your print arrives. Couldn’t be easier.

If you upload a print to a lab, not only will you feel awesome today because you stopped and actually sent off one of your images for printing, but you’re setting up a major boomerang effect because that feeling is coming right back again in an even bigger way in just a few days when your beautiful print arrives.

Don’t just get a print. Get a big print!

You can get a 16″x24″ print from BayPhoto.co or MPIX.com for around for $24. There are few ways you can spend $24 today and effect you or someone you love (a gift?) that can have a bigger impact than a print.

If you’ve ever wanted your work to live on, to have a bigger impact than it does by just sharing it on Facebook, and if you want those pixels on screen to become something real, something you can hold in your hands, something that will make you feel great inside, join me today (I’m doing it!) for “Make a Print Friday.” :)

Thanks,

-Scott

When you open your RAW image in Lightroom or Photoshop, it displays your image with the White Balance you chose in camera, but of course you can change your White Balance at this stage to anything you want. So, if the White Balance you chose in camera isn’t “baked into the shot,” and you can easily change it after the fact, is it a waste of time to set the correct white balance in camera?”

Above: I was shooting with the white balance set to Fluorescent because that’s the last white balance I had set in my camera and I didn’t change it at the start of this shoot.

I recommend getting it right in camera…

…but not for the old school reasons you might be thinking. When you’re shooting and you look at the back of the camera and you can see the white balance is off , and you know you can fix it later in LR or PS, does seeing that totally “off” image inspire you? Is there some value to you to seeing the image with the correct color on the back of the camera? I think there is.

Don’t you want to look at the shot on the back of your camera and be like, “Yeah, this looks great!!!” because when you see the image looking right on the back of your camera, it inspires you. When you’re inspired, it helps unlock your creativity; it helps you to make better images, and it’s less work later in LR or PS. When the images come into Lightroom, the color is already right so you’re starting in a good place right from the beginning with one less step (correcting the White Balance) on your editing plate.

Above: Here’s what it looks like with the White Balance set correctly in-camera.

So, how long does it take to properly set your White Balance in your camera. 15 seconds, 20 seconds? In this case I would just press the the WB button on my camera, switch my White Balance setting to “Flash” and I’m done. Even if it took a minute (it won’t), wouldn’t that one minute be worth it if it helps inspire you, helps to make you make better images and saves you time later in post? That’s why I recommend to photographers to set their White Balance right in the camera. Worth considering. :)

Here’s wishing you an awesome, safe, fun, color correct June. :)

-Scott

It’s an online class I did called “Beginner’s Start Here” and if you’re new to photography, I think it could really help you move you further down the road on your journey. It’s short, sweet, and you can watch it this weekend.

I do something in this class that you won’t see very often — I tell you which f/stops to use, which lenses to you, which settings to use, and I lay it all out in plain English. Check out the short trailer below so you get an idea of what the class is like.

Best of all, the entire course is free (really free – no credit card required or any of that stuff). Here’s the direct link to the course.

Just sign up for a KelbyOne Free-Level Membership and you’ll have access to not only this class, but some other classes from me as well like this one (below – that’s the trailer) that teaches Lightroom users how to use the most important stuff in Photoshop (without having to learn all of Photoshop, which is a lot ’cause…well…it’s Photoshop).

Here’s the link to that course (it’s free, too) .

Anyway, I hope you’ll check one, both or all of the free courses out. If course, if you want to accelerate your learning, you can join our Pro Membership plan and you’ll have unlimited 24/7 access to nearly 800 online courses on photography, Lightroom and Photoshop. We’ve got a special deal running right now because so many folks are still stuck at home, and this will help you make the most of this down time.

There ya have it — hope you found those courses helpful, and here’s wishing you a safe and happy weekend. :)

-Scott

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