Review: Phlearn

Many of the questions I get from photographers are for opinions on different gear, or different resources, etc. So I’m starting to offer photography-based reviews here on the site. But what I am not going to do is review gear. Why? Frankly there are 10 billion websites already reviewing camera gear, so have at it. lol. Instead what I’ll be reviewing are services, website resources, etc. Now keep in mind that these reviews will be from the perspective of someone running a photography business, but take from these reviews what you will. First was a CreativeLive review, and now Phlearn, another online learning resource.

What is Phlearn ?

Phlearn is a website that hosts photography/Photoshop videos, and also sells video tutorials. It differs from some services such as Lynda.com or CreativeLive, in that it’s geared exclusively for photographers and digital artists. Aaron Nace founded Phlearn in 2011 (I believe) and it has climbed in popularity since then, especially from 2013-present. Aaron is the most common face of Phlearn, and he has a fantastic personality for this role, being witty, knowledgable, genuine and self-deprecating and humble, all at the same time.

Their content is fun to ingest. It’s like a good meal. When Phlearn publishes a new video, and I get notified, I always look forward to it.

Phlearn also has a strong YouTube channel that hosts its free Photoshop tutorials. Beyond that, they have their purchasable content on retouching, compositing, etc. Some of these come in bundles for additional value. All are edited and polished, and as succinct as possible. Tutorials are split into chapters for easier viewing, in the event that you only have 30min before a meeting and want to get in another chapter, etc.


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The Pros

  • Aaron Nace. Seriously, it’s refreshing to see someone not go ‘Rockstar’ on us, yet be great at delivering content like this.
  • Pacing. The pace of their tutorials is refreshingly ‘intermediate’ in nature, being accessible to both noobs and pros. Being treated with intelligence is a nice change of pace.
  • Polished presentation and production
  • No fluff or wasted time
  • Affordable content, and the no-charge tutorials are fantastic as well, with same attention to detail, pacing and production value as paid content.
  • Phlearn has evolved in terms of production value, and seems to get better all the time
  • Good diversity in content – processes, reviews, critiques, specific Photoshop tools, styles, etc.

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The Cons

  • Purchased content is broken into small chunks (presumably for faster downloads, etc.) I’d like to see an ‘all-in-one’ download for those of us with laser-fast Internet speed.
  • One of the downfalls of having such great content, is that we want more of it.
  • I honestly really struggled to come up with cons for Phlearn.

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Overall Rating (scale of 1-100)

95

Conclusion

One of the taglines for Phlearn is “No ego, just help.” and that’s certainly the vibe I get from them. They come across as a talented group of people that don’t take themselves too seriously and genuinely are interested in refining the skills of photographers. The pace is suited well for intermediate photographers, which means beginners can take advantage of it, perhaps at a slower pace, and it’s not so dumbed down that advanced professionals can’t still find lots of benefits. To me it’s a very genuine, yet polished service. It appears to have really taken off in 2013 (when CreativeLive seemed to drop in popularity) and has done well since. There’s some slight drops in recent months (according to Google Trends), but it’s hard to say if that’s temporary yet or not. (Keep in mind that as the photography industry dwindles, so will resources dedicated to it).

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In this day and age, the photographers who have weathered the 2006-2014 years are beaten up and bruised. So we love to see content that is genuine, helpful, engaging and seems to have no hidden agendas. Phlearn is pure at doing exactly what it claims to do, and nothing else. Phlearn is GOOD FOR OUR INDUSTRY, and trust me, I don’t make statements like that haphazardly.

(Note: If it weren’t for Phlearn, I probably NEVER would have started creating paths with the Pen tool lol. )

So I wholeheartedly endorse Phlearn, and recommend it to all photographers regardless of their career phase. And the only thing that keeps the rating from being 100 above is that I wish they had MORE content. :)

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