On Monday, Adobe caused the biggest photographer furore I can remember by announcing that Photoshop would no longer be available to buy. Users will instead have to pay for access on a monthly basis. Adobe has touted the benefit of this being that your Photoshop (PS) will always be the latest and greatest, but photographers have reacted angrily to the news. This article will explain why, and give advice to photographers about their software options.
NB: This article will not discuss the Web Designer’s perspective, i.e. the full CC Suite option, as it doesn’t fall within this site’s remit.
First up, the pricing.
- The last traditional Photoshop (CS6) sold for £630.
- The new version, Photoshop CC (Creative Cloud) will cost £17.58 per month.
- Existing Photoshop users (CS3 and later) will pay £8.78 per month for the first 12 months.
- That’s £105.36 for the first year, and £210.96 thereafter, for existing customers (£210,96 from the get go for new users).
We can see pretty quickly that Adobe’s looking at a 3 year period to be equivalent to one traditional purchase. Recent editions of PS have been released at a rate of between 18 months and 2 years. Give Adobe the benefit of the doubt, and we can see the new pricing is analogous to upgrading the traditional PS on every other edition.
For those who upgrade every edition the story is a little different. It currently costs £188.19 to upgrade from PS CS5 to CS6. For them there is a slight (about £30) increase.
On the face of that, there doesn’t seem to be anything too contentious. Every other version is a typical upgrade rate for most software. Although some users may stick with a version longer, Adobe obviously won’t want to provide for people who have very long upgrade cycles, as it won’t make them much money.
Pricing is not the whole of the story though. Let’s dig into the details and implications of the Creative Cloud.
Creative Cloud is a bit of a misnomer in that it isn’t really about the Cloud. (You do get 20GB of free storage, but PS and your files still reside on your hard disk). The critical difference in approach is actually ownership.
- With the traditional model, you own the software. You pay an upfront cost, and for that you can use the program in perpetuity.
- With the Creative Cloud, you rent the software. If you stop paying the monthly fee, you lose access to the software.
In other words, the CC model leaves you trapped with a recurring fee that for any number of reasons you might not want at some point. While your original files cannot be taken away, your means of opening your edits will be gone.
And it’s this key issue that has caused all the anger from photographers. The fact that CC effectively locks users into paying every month, without an escape route.
You can’t even look at the pricing and decide that you think it’s reasonable. There’s no guarantee that Adobe won’t amass users at the current prices, before hiking the fees.
I’m sure everyone is familiar with this sort of set-up. Think about your internet service provider or utility companies.
The thing is, the friction of switching from PS is likely to be much greater than switching utility provider!
The reason for the friction is that all the adjustments you made to your files are all in PS files. You can output versions using your changes but essentially, anyone wanting to switch away from Adobe who has a lot of files, will need a difficult overlapping period to migrate.
Okay, by now you should understand the fundamental issue at play. Let’s move on to recommendations. I’m going to split these up between existing PS users, existing Lightroom & PS Elements users, and people looking to choose their first image editing software. (Remember I’m just talking about photographer uses here.)
Look for alternatives that might work for you. Work out what you actually need PS for. If you’re not using a photo management tool such as Lightroom (see next section), Aperture, Capture One, or DXO Optics, you may find out they would be more appropriate for your needs, and cheaper.
Consider using plugins with those options for things like HDR, focus stacking, and panoramas.
If, and only if, you have something you can’t achieve outside of PS you’ll need to look at the price and decide whether it’s worth paying (don’t forget Photoshop Elements, discussed in the next section).
My own opinion is, as a photographer, I’d find it very hard to justify the cost of PS for the little that can’t be achieved elsewhere.
Lightroom & PS Elements Users
These are also Adobe products, but Adobe’s current line is that they will remain as traditional products, separate from the Creative Cloud.
This has already been muddied though, Adobe have already said that the CC version of Lightroom will have features that the traditional version won’t.
I find it very hard to believe that Adobe would make the switch to the Creative Cloud for some of its products with no intention of moving the rest there eventually.
In many ways lightroom (LR) users are more vulnerable than PS users to the frictions I talked about earlier. Over a few years, it’s likely that a user would have tens of thousands of images sorted in LR. Moving those images to a new program is not straightforward. (Believe me I know! I moved my images form one program into another a few years ago.)
I advise any Lightroom user who would be uncomfortable with Adobe’s CC model to consider the alternatives (of which there are several).
- Aperture (mac)
- Capture One Pro
- Corel Paintshop Pro (windows)
- DXO Optics
If you decide you’d move if LR went to the CC model, I strongly advise you to begin the process of switching as soon as you reach a convenient point for you (financially, time-wise, etc.). If you wait for Adobe to make its move, then you may find yourself backed into making the move at the wrong moment for you (or worse still, being unable to move).
Free trials are available for all of these options, so work out which you are most comfortable with.
PS Elements users find themselves in probably the best position of those using an Adobe product. Elements is a deliberately low-end version of PS, so it makes more sense for it to continue in its present form. That said, there must still be uncertainty. Elements users are the one Adobe group who I would tell to hold their position for now.
Considering First Paid-For Software
This is the group of people who are probably just beginning to take photography seriously. They have heard that post-processing can improve their photos, and want to learn more.
This is where Adobe’s policy may have the most benefit!
Unfortunately, due in part to its name, Photoshop has been used synonymously with doing any kind of digital post-processing. Photoshop is actually a graphic editor, more useful to designers than photographers.
In fact, for most people, PS is entirely unnecessary for editing photos. Photoshop is really only needed for heavy manipulation in photos. For most image enhancement needs, Lightroom and the alternatives listed in the previous section are cheaper and more appropriate.
Whichever program you use there will be a learning curve. Providing you spend a little time getting to know the software, you will get familiar with the tools quickly enough.
For the reasons I gave in the previous section. I do not recommend Lightroom anymore. It’s a perfectly good program and is currently the most widely used, but the uncertainty of its future is very serious.
So, for anyone looking to move beyond the software supplied by your camera manufacturer, it’s that list of options again.
- Aperture (mac)
- Capture One Pro
- Corel Paintshop Pro (windows)
- DXO Optics
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