Adobe Creative Cloud – A Photographer’s Perspective

| May 10, 2013

Like many, I was disappointed to learn of Adobe’s decision to eliminate perpetual licensing for its (now former) Creative Suite applications. Certainly, this is not all bad news, especially for those who routinely use multiple products and may benefit from the new pricing model. For me, and many photographers, though, who primarily use just one application (Photoshop, or Photoshop and Lightroom, which is not part of the Creative Suite), the Creative Cloud model spells a significant hike in costs. And, for those who opt to skip a version or two, when no significant improvement in features is introduced, the cost difference is far more substantial.

A few myths need to be dispelled: using the Cloud does not require one to have a live Internet connection to Adobe. The applications are still installed locally, but need to verify a valid license once a month or so to continue working. Also, there is no requirement to store files on the Cloud, so they can remain on a local drive.

Michael Reichmann at the Luminous Landscape posted an excellent summary of the new Creative Cloud, that I don’t need to repeat, however a few points are worth mentioning: once upgrading to the Creative Cloud, there is no going back to standalone (perpetually licensed) versions. This means that, whatever your thoughts are on current licensing and promotional costs, once you make the commitment, Adobe is free to change its costs and terms later, which you will have to pay to continue using the software.

Like Michael Reichmann, I also plan to take a wait-and-see approach. Photoshop CS6 meets my needs for the foreseeable future; all my cameras are supported by the current versions of Camera RAW (and even if not, Lightroom will remain a perpetually-licensable product). I did not see anything in the new Photoshop CC that I consider a “must have”. So, for the time being, I don’t have to make a decision.

A better question is what Adobe will do regarding the many single-application users who are clearly unhappy with the new model. Obviously, going back to perpetual licensing will be nice, though the sense I have is that Adobe has too much invested in the new order and, with no obvious competition, doesn’t have much incentive to go back. Alternatively, I hope that Adobe will offer more reasonable pricing for Photoshop-only users. If the monthly cost was closer to $10-15, and rates could be pre-paid for a couple of years to allay fears of steep price hikes, I think that most of us will have no problem paying it, and Adobe likely will even pick up a significant number of new customers who balked at Photoshop’s licensing price in the past, making up for any potential lost revenue. I hope someone at Adobe is listening.


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Category: All Posts, Business, Featured, Rants and Raves, Technology and Technique

About the Author ()

Guy Tal is a published author and photographic artist. He resides in a remote part of Utah, in a high desert region known as the Colorado Plateau – a place that inspired him deeply for much of his life and that continues to feature in his images and writing. In his photographic work, Guy seeks to articulate a reverence for the wild. He writes about, and teaches, the values of living a creative life and finding fulfillment through one’s art.

Comments (12)

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  1. I made the switch to the cloud subscription because I use enough of their apps to make it worth while at their $20 promo price. It is considerably cheaper if you don’t qualify for upgrade pricing. (starting with CS5 – you could not skip versions). It will be interesting to see what my opinions are in 12 months time because you really need to use 4 apps to make $600/yr sound good. This time next year and I may be going back to CS6.

    The full cloud has much more than the regular suite did so $50 is not ridiculous but I personally would like to see Adobe reintroduce the smaller collections that exclude video. The problem is that all they are offering is the full master suite that retailed for $2600. However, Adobe has publicly said they understand it doesn’t work for everyone. yet.

    It’s super hard to price compare. Everyone is fixated on the legacy of an 18 month cycle but Adobe had mentioned a year ago that they wanted to increase that to 12 months or faster to keep up with technology. A few years ago, Adobe also increased their upgrade fees from $149 to $199 so price increases are not unheard of. It’s just unfortunately happening all at once with subscriptions, a faster release cycle and a price increase.

    For now, I’m happy to pay $20/month for Photoshop, Lightroom, Illustrator, Indesign & cloud storage, plus the ability to play around with the other apps I don’t necessarily need.

  2. Ugh. After feeling the pain of having just spent $300 to upgrade to LR4 and CS6, it makes me sick to my stomach to think of having to invest so much money in applications I will never touch. If there is an organized way for photographer’s to make their voices heard about this issue, please let us know. I sense there is enough grumbling among the masses to effect some change…

  3. Matt Kuhns says:

    Stephen, you make important points here, worth emphasizing:

    “It’s super hard to price compare.” “It is considerably cheaper if you don’t qualify for upgrade pricing. (starting with CS5 – you could not skip versions)”

    Basically, THIS. Adobe keeps insisting that Creative Cloud offers savings for any user, but that’s only valid compared to recent increases. In other words, they’re making up the point of reference; of course they can make it look good. It’s still a gouge compared to most of the 15 years that I’ve been a customer.

    I find it particularly significant that one of their flacks, Scott Morris, has claimed that Adobe won’t hike the price of Creative Cloud because that would be a complete breach of trust. Except, they’ve already moved the goalposts in that way, so… where is the credibility of his assurance?

  4. I think the real problem here is that Adobe just has not shown $20/mo worth of innovation to a program like photoshop in the past 5 years. Aside from updates to camera raw, the only thing I’ve seen that made a difference was content aware patching, and that’s definitely not worth $20/mo for 5 years! If they made as much new “content” available each month as companies like hulu and netflix do (and their value is questionable, actually), then $20/mo would seem more reasonable.

    Adobe has their work cut out for them – they need to convince me that they’re actually producing $20/mo worth of content for Photoshop. Otherwise I’m sticking to Photoshop CS5, and maybe I’ll do lightroom to get camera raw updates.

    Good luck Adobe, hope you hired some creative software engineers and artists to justify this software model! There are loads of features I can think of that I’d like to see, but I have yet to see progress being made.

  5. Beyond what Guy has written here and what I posted on my own blog, another issue for Adobe and its users occurs to me that this model introduces… If I am paying Adobe $20 or $50 a month for a subscription to its software suite, then I expect technical and customer service support on par with Apple and Apple Care. If I have an issue, I want to be able to call someone and deal with it. If I find a bug that seriously impacts my workflow, I will want a resolution fairly quickly.

  6. Jeff Colburn says:

    I’m not crazy about Adobe moving all their software to The Cloud, but I’m sure it’s the wave of the future. Here’s a good FAQ about Adobe’s Cloud

    Adobe does offer a Photoshop only plan for $9.99 a month, and they are “looking into” a photographers only package that would be Photoshop and Lightroom.”

    Delivering everything as a download, and no more printing of DVDs and boxes, shipping, lost shipments, returns, paying vendors a percentage of a sale, etc. is just too attractive to a company to ignore.

    Have Fun,

    PS Don’t forget about Gimp

  7. Phill says:

    I don’t see the price as the main issue but the fact that the software stops working if you don’t pay the monthly rental. You are locked in to paying for as long as you want to open PSD files.

  8. John says:

    As a photographer, I use Adobe Lightroom + Corel PhotoPaint.

  9. My biggest concern is about what happens to my PSDs if in a few years I decide to unsubscribe. I know there are a lot of alternative PSD editors out there, but I’d prefer an official solution by Adobe.

  10. Eric Basir says:

    It’s a hustle. Adobe does this because they can get away with it. It’s only to maximize profits. They will still ignore our requests to fix bugs and useful features. In fact, it will get worse. They only want money. Not service. It’s bad customer service. It’s tyrannical.

    The WISEST move would be to offer BOTH perpetual and rental licensing of their software. Fine, dump the DVDs and boxes. But forcing all customers to rent their software will cause a substantial loss of loyal customers and-—thankfully—-more opportunities for competitors to grow. I will advise all of my customers and students of Adobe’s schemes and will be ready to make a transition.

  11. Ken says:

    “Adobe does offer a Photoshop only plan for $9.99 a month”

    1st year introductory pricing for current PS CS3-6 users only. The actual price is $19.99/month, or about $240/year.

    “If there is an organized way for photographer’s to make their voices heard about this issue, please let us know.”

    Here you go:

    They’re trying to gather 15,000 signatures, and are about 1/2 way there.

  12. Jim says:

    While the increased cost is certainly an issue, the bigger issue is the potential to lose access to your work. Don’t misunderstand, I’m not referring to image files stored in the cloud; cloud storage is not required for CC and is too little to be of much value IMHO. No, I’m referring to what happens if you opt out of the program.

    There could be any number of reasons to stop paying:
    – general dissatisfaction with the program (cost vs features)
    – temporary cash flow shortage
    – extended travel with no Internet
    – others?

    In any event, should you opt out or miss a payment, your software stops – regardless your payment history. You may have paid into the CC system for 5 years ($1200!) but you’re left with nothing. And all your .psd adjustment layers are orphaned. (FWIW, I’ve bought and paid for every version upgrade since Photoshop was released.)