Here's an exclusive interview with Phlearn's Aaron Nace, a real celebrity in the online Photoshop tutorials world.
You may have heard of Aaron Nace before because he's got over 200k followers on Facebook, 130k on Instagram and he's rocking it on YouTube with 1.8 million subscribers.
So, if you're somebody who is interested in Photoshop and wants to learn the secrets behind getting millions of people following your tutorials, you will find this interview very interesting.
Aaron Nace Biography
Q Please introduce yourself. Who is Aaron Nace? Where are you from?
Hey everyone! My name is Aaron Nace. I was born on the small island of Kauai, Hawaii where I
spent most of my time running around barefoot and chasing chickens.
When I was a kid, I loved to draw and create magical worlds on paper. In my mid-twenties I picked up a camera and fell in love. I found that I was able to use my love of drawing, Photoshop, and photography to create images that express my thoughts and emotions.
In 2011 I founded PHLEARN.com to bring free, creative education to anyone around the world.
Q Were you formally educated or a self-taught digital artist and photographer?
Although I've always been interested in creating images, my formal education came in university
where I studied industrial design and product design.
I learned things like composition, lighting, and color & the relationship visual aesthetics have with physical form and function.
It wasn't until after university, when I decided to travel a little bit, that I fell in love with photography. A buddy I was traveling with had a nice DSLR and he let me borrow it to take a couple of pictures - I was hooked!
Since then, my journey through Photoshop and photography has been through experimentation and exploration - and also working with fantastic people along the way.
Q You're an awesome photographer. What camera do you prefer? What's your favorite piece of equipment?
Thank you so much!
Throughout the years I've used a lot of different cameras, starting with Olympus and then moving on to Canon, Fuji, and Sony. But, to be honest, I don't really pay much attention to the camera that I'm using.
The principles of good photography are pretty much consistent no matter what camera you're using. These days, digital cameras are basically computers attached to a lens.
We all know how quickly computers are updated. So newer cameras will have faster, better computers - meaning better image processing, low light performance, pixel count etc. For this reason, I try to keep up with the latest camera technology and always use a newer camera.
Lenses, on the other hand, don’t change that often. A good lens purchased today will still be a good lens in 50 years - you may need an adapter to use it on newer cameras, but the quality is in the glass.
Q Besides photography and Photoshop, what other domains are you experimenting with?
I really love anything creative, from making music and videos to sketching and drawing.I feel
like all my creative pursuits are interrelated.
Lately, I've been drawing a lot on the iPad Pro. All my time studying light and color with photography has really helped out my drawing.
I always try to pursue creative interests because you never know how they may affect your life. For instance, I started Photoshop and photography as hobbies and now they’re my profession.
Q When did you start PHLEARN? Tell us a bit about the beginnings.
In the early days of my photography career, I was taking a lot of self portraits and posting them
I was also interested in creating conceptual images using Photoshop. The idea was to bring things that couldn't happen in real life into a photograph - like making someone levitate. This came from a desire to create interesting images and push my abilities.
Along the way, people asked me how I created my images in Photoshop.
So, I started teaching one-on-one classes online. The classes went great, but I was limited by my own time because each class was live.
I transitioned into making pre-recorded videos and publishing them on YouTube. That way anyone could learn at any time.
Q When you started, did you think PHLEARN was going to be this big?
To be honest, I had no idea what PHLEARN was going to be when I started. I just wanted to
share what I had learned over the years.
As an artist, I know it’s not always easy to pursue a living through creative arts. I wanted to help people on their way.
I'm constantly surprised to see how big the PHLEARN community has grown and I am excited about the years to come.
Q Is PHLEARN now your full-time job?
I don't really look at PHLEARN as a job, but it's definitely what I do with the majority of my time.
We publish a weekly free tutorial on YouTube, advanced PRO Tutorials on PHLEARN.com, and run an online magazine. There’s always something new and exciting going on.
Q Tell us a bit about the PHLEARN team. Where's PHLEARN located, how many members does the team have, what do they do?
Our studio, where we produce the majority of our content, is located in Chicago.
We have a fantastic team of people who handle all aspects of running an online business - from marketing to customer service. Half of the team work in our Chicago studio and the other half work remotely.
PHLEARN Website & YouTube
Q Our audience is mostly made up of Photoshop beginners. Name 3 of your tutorials that will help a beginner advance to the next level.
A We have some fantastic tutorials to help out beginners.
- The Beginner’s Guide to Photoshop - This is our most comprehensive Photoshop tutorial, and the perfect place to start learning. Improve your photos and help people look their best.
- Intro to Retouching in Photoshop - Professional retouching is a valuable skill and a great way to improve any photo. Learn how to remove skin blemishes, smooth skin tones, clean up flyaway hairs, fix exposure, and make subtle adjustments for an all-natural look.
- How to Master Frequency Separation Retouching in Photoshop - Create smooth, vibrant skin tones with natural texture and details with Frequency Separation in Photoshop. Learn how to separate frequencies, edit the details and color independently of one another, and use our Photoshop action to work faster.
QWas PHLEARN always focused around video tutorials or did you start with text Photoshop tutorials?
PHLEARN has always been centered around video tutorials. I wanted PHLEARN to feel like
you're hanging out with a friend who happens to be really good at Photoshop and they're
showing you everything they know.
We also provide written versions of our tutorials on PHLEARN.com, but our primary goal is to create fantastic video content.
Statistics About the PHLEARN YouTube Channel
Q When did you create your first video tutorial? What were your expectations, and how did it turn out?
I recorded my first video tutorial in 2010 - I just hit record and started talking. Making that video
was so much fun and I knew I was hooked.
If I watched that video today, there would probably be a lot that I would change. But it started me on my current path and, in that regard, it was perfect.
QPlease describe the process of making a Photoshop video tutorial on PHLEARN...
AOver the years we have learned that the more time we spend preparing for a video, the better it
will turn out. It isn’t always the fun part, but pre-production is where all the details get figured
out. We spend time choosing sample images, editing in Photoshop, researching topics, and
interacting with our online students before creating each video.
The recording process is pretty quick because, by the time we press the record button, most of the work has been done. After recording, the video goes to our team of video editors to fix any mistakes and make the flow more cohesive. Then we move to our marketing department to publish and spread to word.
On average, one minute of video takes about an hour of work. Ten minute videos take about ten hours from start to finish.
QThe PHLEARN frequency separation tutorials is one of your best-known tutorials. It's also one of the tutorials that made me subscribe to your channel. Tell us a bit about this technique.
AFrequency separation is a fantastic technique. It became popular a few years ago, but it was
relatively complex and inaccessible to most people. So, we made a few changes to the
traditional approach to make the process easier for the average person.
That's kind of the whole idea with our tutorials; take something that's relatively complex and figure out an easier way to do it. It's very hard to predict which videos will become popular so our strategy is to simply create the best possible content we can.
PHLEARN Website Audience
PHLEARN Website Audience Statistics
QHow is the relationship between you and your audience? What's your favorite way of engaging your audience?
The PHLEARN community is fantastic because everyone is so positive and supportive - I know
that's not always the case on the internet. And I love to meet people face-to-face at any chance
I attend speaking events, engagements, workshops, and sessions throughout the year to meet and hang out with some of the people from our community.
PHLEARN Photoshop Tutorials Statistics
Q What was the funniest or most interesting question you got from your audience?
A One of the comments we get a lot is "What program do you use to Photoshop?".
PHLEARN & The Photoshop Online Community
When making Photoshop tutorials, a lot of images and textures are needed.What do you use?
For example, we created our own repository of free textures & images on Textures4Photoshop.com.
The images that we use really depend on the type of content that we're creating. I feel it's
always important for people to be able to follow along with the tutorials that we make.
So, if we need very specific content, we'll do our own photoshoots or work with photographers to create that content. If it's more of a general project, we'll use stock images from Unsplash or Pexels, so that anyone can download them and follow along.
Q Please tell us a few things that Aaron Nace likes and doesn't like about running an online business.
I really like having an online business. It means that we get to interact with people all around the
world and have a community spread around different cultures. It also helps me to understand
that, although the world is a pretty big place, people are pretty much the same everywhere.
One of the best things about running an online business is being able to meet the people who watch our videos. I get to interact face-to-face with everyone through events, meetups and workshops, making it all the more special.
Q How and when was the first time you found out about PSD Dude? What do you think about small Photoshop blogs in general?
I think the first time I found out about PSD Dude was on DeviantArt. I saw some of the
free brushes you were giving away and then checked out your website from there.
I think Photoshop and photography blogs are great. Any chance we have to share knowledge and help other creative people pursue their dreams is really fantastic. When it comes to sharing and creating, the more the better.
Q Is there a secret formula for success? What were the things that led to PHLEARN's success?
A I really don't know of any secret formula. In business, there are some things that you have control of and some things you don't. The biggest things you can control are your work ethic and your attitude. We have always done our best to consistently create great content and hope that it helps people.
Q I know this is a cliche, but if you could tell yourself anything when you first started PHLEARN, what would you say?
A If I could go back in time and have a conversation with myself ten years ago, I would tell myself not to worry as much - I already had everything that I needed to be successful. A good attitude and strong work ethic go a long way in business. Everything else you learn on the job.
Q Where do you see yourself and PHLEARN in five years from now? What plans do you have for the future?
I hope to be doing the same thing I'm doing today: creating content with great people and sharing it with a fantastic community. Since the beginning, PHLEARN hasn't changed all that much. The mission has always been the same and I hope we just continue to grow and expand on that mission.
Thank you so much!
Thank you Aaron Nace!
I hope you enjoyed this interview with Aaron Nace of PHLEARN and decide to check out their online Photoshop tutorials.
I couldn't agree more with Aaron, especially on the point that biggest things you can control are your work ethic and your attitude.