The folks over at NAPP, aka Kelby Media Group, Kelby Training, etc. (in the form of venerable figures like Scott Kelby, Dave Cross, Matt K., RC Concepcion, Corey Barker, Pete Collins, et al) have long been known for their straightforward, down-to-earth approach toward helping the masses learn more about Photoshop.  Their magazine, Photoshop User Magazine is consistently in the top sellers rack whenever I go into Barnes and Noble.  (Although I do get mine through my NAPP membership).

So, why is this news?  Well, PSU Magazine isn’t news, but from the same folks that brought you PSU Magazine is an all-new digital magazine – and it’s not about Photoshop!  It’s taken on the subject of photography – specifically lighting, and tackling it all in one magazine.  I got a chance to sit down with it last night and really dig my teeth into it.  (And you can too for free, the first issue is free for all here).

Light It!

Here’s my initial thoughts:

1.  Big:  It’s a big file, about a 350MB download.  Since it’s designed with the iPad in mind, I was a little surprised that the footprint was so large.  I guess it’s to be expected since it did have lots of imagery, and even video embedded in it, so there’s no way in getting around that for the first issue.  My advice though – decrease this size for future issues…the last thing someone wants from a digital magazine is for it to take up 10-20% of my iPad space over just a single year (250MB x 12 months = 3000 MB or 3GB)!

2.  Ads:  I get it, magazines need ads in order to be revenue producing.  And this is no exception – about 20% of the content is ad space.  A good portion of the ads though, are for off-shoots of the Kelby group.  Whether it’s Photoshop World, Kelby Training, or other ventures, a good 50% of the ad space was devoted to their own content promotion.  If I know about your magazine, odds are that I already know about your training, and I can’t help but know about Photoshop World.  While this one is free, if the same kind of ads start appearing in the paid subscription ones, I’d not be thrilled to be paying for them to advertise in their own product and services lines to me again.

Who Makes Light It Magazine?

3.  Content:  The be-all, end-all of the magazine is the quality of content right?  Right.  Okay, here’s the articles that grabbed me right off the bat:

Larry Becker’s DIY Corner – Easy to understand, well put together, and an immediate grasp of why this is helpful – it saves me money!  I like that!

Larry Becker DIY

5 Different Looks From a Single Softbox by Zack Arias – Hands down, the best article in this inaugural issue.  Showing how the same light source can achieve such drastically different looks all depending on position, angle, and posing.

5 Different Looks w/ Zack Arias

Behind the Lens with  Joe McNally – I have to admit, that when people flock to a certain personality, I tend to run in the opposite direction, and the masses have been flocking to Joe McNally for a while now.  This is probably the one exception primarily because he is, undoubtedly, very talented behind the lens, and knows off-camera flash inside and out.  I tend to gravitate toward his content though, not because of his knowledge base, but because of his teaching style. So, an opportunity to read more of his instruction (and for free), was exciting.

Joe McNally in Light It!

But to be honest, the draw of this article wasn’t the text content, because I don’t think Joe even wrote it.  In fact, it was more just a bio and a couple of shots (which I’ve already seen in his other venues).  So, why did I like the piece?  For the video content!  For the first time, it’s nice to get a video in a digital magazine!  Pretty sweet to be able to tap the video thumbnail and watch the video right there in your hands!  And there were two of them! (Although why they were split into two, I have no idea – maybe the chance to show me the Kelby media ads twice?)

I was a tad disappointed there even though, because the videos were kind of “fluff-y”.  In ten minutes (3 minutes then 7 minutes):

  • Question #1 – “If you only had one modifier, what would it be?”
  • Answer – Something small light and cheap!
  • Question #2 – “What would your next modifier be?”
  • Answer: A small cheap 8′ lightstand
  • Question #3 – “What’s the advantage of TTL?”
  • Answer:  It automates measuring light for you.
  • Question #4 – “What’s the tipping between small flash and studio strobes?”
  • Answer:  The space you are shooting in, or for appearances on high profile jobs.
  • Question #5 – “Where can people find out more about you?”
  • Answer:  His blog, website, and social media


Last but not least, the layout here does merit a tad bit of discussion.  First in that area, I liked how the magazine reads by flipping left to right, just like a regular magazine.  I also liked how you could tap an article in the TOC and it would go straight to that article.  The larger res photos on a double-tap were nice features too, as was the video inclusion (just don’t make the questions such softball ones again, take a page from Ibarionex approach when he interviewed Scott on  The Candid Frame).

While the ads were not my favorite part, one thing that I think was very cool was that when you tapped on them, a page opened up for the vendor website inside the magazine!  That’s pretty slick!

So,  the bottom line here (which I think we all are likely asking), is whether or not this is something worth buying.  The answer (surprise surprise), is “It depends…”

For me, the two key variables will be cost and content.


With the exception of Zack’s article, these first pieces were light, brief articles that didn’t really wade hip-deep into much.  With the great equalizer of the web, where so many people are producing valuable content and rich learning experiences for a low cost (or even free), paying for the privilege of basic lighting info and photographer interviews with softball questions is not something I would be prone to doing.  Money is already tight.


So, what would I pay for this?  Probably – I like that you don’t have to get a full year subsscription, and can buy them on an individual basis.  Each one will go for  $3 (they are calling it $2.99 though, that sounds better to consumers…).  I just hope that you can preview the table of contents on future issues before buying.  Some people I like to read, and others, not as much.  There are features in my PSU magazine that get read instantly, and others I never even glance at.  I think it’s a little high, but understand there’s some overhead, although it’s not as much as you’d think…

Keep in mind, distribution cost used to be the biggest barrier to market and since distribution is free (for the most part anyway), the only real overhead anymore is bandwidth.  Of course, they could also have costs rolled in for contributing authors too, but I can’t speak to that.  Although, with that in mind – if Kelby Media asked me to write an article for their magazine, would I want to charge them for that?  Hmmmmm…….

Don’t get me wrong though – I really liked the stable of authors, and even know some of them personally (hey Mr. Groupp! 🙂 ) And it is an impressive list for sure:  Zack Arias, Frank Doorhof, Erik Valind, Jeremy Cowart, Jim Schmelzer, Joe McNally, Tom Bol, and Jason Groupp are fantastic photogs and with great insights and experiences

What about you?  Have you read the magazine yet?  If not, at least get the free one here.  What are your thoughts?  What would you pay for this annually?  What would you pay per issue?  Did you like the articles?  Were they thought-provoking and inspiring?  Sound off below! 🙂

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2 thoughts on “What’s New in PSU?

  1. wow! I completely agree! when I first saw the email about the mag…I was initially excited! Then, I had to think back a few second about all of NAPP’s other publications and their high ad content, not to mention all of the emails and SMS messages. So, I downloaded the app and mag and I was, superficially, impressed. However, quickly annoyed at the ad’s and it really reminded me that I need to unsub from a lot of NAPP stuff as it’s all redundant, redundant. 🙁

  2. Thanks Jason for this review. I just dl-ed mine but haven’t read it yet.

    What I don’t quite understand is that I can get photo mags from Zinio starting at some 10 bucks a year and often print subscriptions are more or less around that as well. Why are iPad mags still “so” expensive … 36 USDs for 12 issues … Is it the novelty factor or aren’t there enough subscribers yet.

    I hope that in the future the prices will drop for them and at some 12 USDs per year, I would not think twice to subscribe. But this get one and not the other cuz of the individual price tag often keeps from even getting started.

    I wonder how many subscribers a mag like “Light It” would need to drop the sub-price to 1 buck per issue? I mean most of us are on some kind of limited budget, so getting below that peanut-line is really sth to go for I guess.

    Walter (Vienna, Austria)

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