A New Dark Cloud over Photoshop?

Pixology Magazine ExcerptAs you have likely heard, Adobe recently announced that moving forward Photoshop will only be available on a subscription basis. The new version of Photoshop that has been announced (but not yet released) has been rebranded “Photoshop CC”, with the “CC” standing for Creative Cloud. In short, Adobe is no longer selling most of their key software applications with a perpetual license, but instead will offer software on a subscription basis via the Adobe Creative Cloud.

These changes have caused many photographers to be alarmed and in some cases angry, because the changes lead to a variety of potentially negative consequences for photographers. These include potential loss of access to images you’ve created using Photoshop, as well as a potentially significant increase in the cost of using Photoshop.

I’ve written a rather extensive article on this subject for the upcoming June 2013 issue of my Pixology digital magazine. However, because I felt this was an issue of particular interest to photographers, I’m releasing a free excerpt edition of this issue of Pixology magazine.

You can read the article, “A New Dark Cloud for Photoshop?” in the special excerpt of Pixology magazine here:


And if you’re not already a Pixology magazine subscriber, you can sign up for a subscription at www.pixologymag.com.

About Tim Grey

Tim Grey is in the business of making photographers smarter and happier. He is the author of more than a dozen books on digital imaging for photographers, has written hundreds of magazine articles, and publishes the Ask Tim Grey e-mail newsletter as well as the Pixology digital magazine. He also speaks at a variety of events and leads photography workshops around the world.
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24 Responses to A New Dark Cloud over Photoshop?

  1. John Haugaard says:

    Tim: Thanks for making this excerpt widely available. I’ll focus this comment on one point made in the article: “. . . if you stop paying for your Creative Cloud subscription you will lose access to Photoshop. That means, you will no longer be able to open your Photoshop PSD files . . . .” This point has been raised by others, but always with the unstated (but false) subtexts that this might sneak up on you and will be permanent. The first person to know that you will stop paying for CC is you. So, the better statement is: When you decide to stop paying for CC, you will lose access, so plan accordingly and archive all .psd files in another format, e.g. TIFF. Also, access to any temporarily unusable .psd files can be regained for $20 – the cost of one month of access to export and archive. Not the end of the world.

    • Tim Grey says:

      John – Fair points. The broader context I was trying to present is that Adobe’s aim is apparently for you to pay a monthly fee for the rest of forever. Obviously there are workarounds, as stated at the end of the article. And obviously some are responding more strongly than others to these changes…

  2. Jennifer says:

    To upgrade from CS5.5 to 6 it’s $275 if you own Design Standard. You cannot upgrade to a stand alone version of one of the products in the suite.

  3. Wayne Palmer says:


    I will be curious to see how many people sit out the upgrade to CC. There does not appear to be that many new features to be an enticement.

    I wonder if there is a long term plan to force the subscription model on users. You can no longer activate CS or CS2. Can CS3 or CS4 be far behind?

    I don’t think anyone would be left high and dry on not being able to open their PSD files. There appear to be a number of free programs out there that claim they can do it.

    I really think that is going to be the downside of the subscription model for Adobe; the door is opening for the competition.


  4. Jim Lewis says:

    Tim, thanks for this article. Let me present one more perspective. The full CC subscription includes Lightroom and access to the full range of Adobe tools, including those needed for video and for self-publishing in all media formats. As such, it provides the opportunity to learn new skills that can be of great value to photographers in the future. As we contemplate the implications of the decision of the Chicago Sun-Times to lay off its entire photographic staff and rely exclusively on amateur and freelance submissions, it’s more clear than ever that change is the only constant. Many professional photographers may have to redefine what that term means.

  5. Dave Hurst says:

    I am not comfortable with this move by Adobe to this new revenue model. I guess I am of the old school and like to have my images on my hard drives and not somewhere out of my direct control at a server farm where I do not know where. Sure it is only a small amount of money each month but as disposable incomes shrink and if other programms start doing the same it is only going to get harder. If you are on a fixed income or work on commissions you only have to have a couple of bad months and you could loose access to YOUR work. Maybe it is time to look at alternative programms to Photoshop for processing my images. I have been using Photoshop since 1998 and have been a loyal supporter of the program. They have got the last $1000+ from me.

  6. Ian Leslie says:

    Good article thanks for making it available. I take your point that we have typically always been “renting” software according to the license agreement. The real issue that differentiates the old “renting” forever vs “renting” month to month is the customer looses control on the timing of their expenses of upgrading. As a hobbyist in the past I had an almost three year period to plan and time the expense of upgrading (typically I skipped an upgrade over the course of using PS 6 and on). For me and other like me controlling that budget expense is important. Even Adobe switching to “you have to own the previous version to upgrade” I still have over a year long window to plan for and make the purchase. The new subscription plan takes that control away. So, even if they had not increased prices and even if there was some way to maintain access to my data after my subscription ended I would still be upset and *not* moving forward with CC.

    You did an excellent job of covering off the other pros (weighted in favour of Adobe) and cons (weighted against photographers) – IMHO.

  7. Apparently the Adobe bean counters who have the keys to the kingdom have become enamoured of the Software as a Service (SaaS) model. They likely see this as a means of flattening out the bumpy revenue growth inherent with the heretofore X,Y, Z rev. strategy.
    While it is true that this will lock in a lot of users without a lifeboat, it will also alienate a lot of people. Cannibalizing one’s own product line can have a defensible basis when used against competition. Sometimes it works. Often it backfires.
    It will take about 6 calendar quarters for Adobe to be sure if the results of this move.
    If they lose more users than than are wiling to give up for the recurring revenue stream, don’t look for them to reverse course until early 2015.
    Hello, Coke Classic?

  8. Monty Wiseman says:

    Looking forward to your suggestions as alternatives.

    I consider the first year of the subscription a great value with access to the whole CC. It gives me a chance to try out many Adobe programs I might not have tried otherwise. However, it comes back to the point I mostly use Photoshop (not extended), and even paying out a single product price instead of the whole CC gets expensive every month.

    I always like to upgrade to a new release when it was right for me which really means when I could see value in it for me and I had the dollars to upgrade. I do resent having little choice and would find greater value if I could pick and choose applications and rate structures more than what is available at a cost that would have been comprable to the old world upgrades.
    I suspect that this will be such a cash cow for Adobe that the days of PS elements may be numbered as well.

    Thanks for the article.

  9. Carol Ann Klein says:

    Thanks Tim for this GREAT article and making it available to everyone!!

    I’ve left feed back at Adobe and we’ll see what happens…….my suggestion to them was as part of the CC subscription to grant a perpetual license after a person has their subscription for 18 months. Just a thought ……..

  10. Steve S says:

    Great article!

    I’m wondering when it’s going to stop. I’m referring to companies charging licensing fees? Today it’s Adobe. Who will be getting on the bandwagon next? Just how much abuse is my wallet expected to take?

    Thanks again…Steve..

  11. Carolyn Godlis says:

    Tim, I did not feel the full impact of the “new Adobe” until I got home from the workshop and bought a new iMac 27″ display and tried to upload my old Lt Room 4 and Photoshop CS 5. Neither would upload and after many contacts and phone calls (worthless may I add) I had to repurchase Lt Room 4 which was upgraded to LtRoom 5 but on a trial basis only. I then had to repurchase PS CS 5 which was auto upgraded to CS 6 with a happy note hoping I will like to purchase this product as soon as my trial has run out.
    Now I am getting email messages thanking me for joining Creative Cloud.
    The nest thing I will probably get is a debit on my Credit Card for their new Monthly plan. What if a person does not want access to all that stuff listed ?
    I have at this time now purchased Lt Room 4, 2X, and PS 3,4, 5, and a trial version of 6.
    It makes me wonder if I should cancel all these charges and just use Aperture or maybe Nikon Coolpix for Photos.
    So far they have not removed my Lightroom 4 from my new computer.
    Wish me luck…..
    PS Have a great time in Spain !!

    • Tim Grey says:


      Sorry to hear about so much frustration and difficulty! If you want me to try to rattle some cages on your behalf please let me know!


    • Nils E. says:

      I got tangled up in Adobe’s byzantine licensing around 2005 (CS2 I think). I had a particularly frustrating exchange with their staff after I made a simple mistake and purchased the wrong upgrade. This was after many years and thousands invested in Adobe fonts and apps since the early 90s. Some of my favorite apps such as PageMaker and Freehand were acquired and killed by Adobe, so I switched to InDesign and Illustrator. I used Photoshop since very early versions.

      No more. I swore never to use Adobe products again. Aperture came out around 2005 so I learned it and other programs that allowed me to eventually purge all Adobe products from my computer. Many excellent alternatives exist. There is nothing I need to do that cannot be accomplished as well with Aperture plus plugins, Pixelmator, Sketch, PDFpen, Final Cut Pro X, Sketch, Pages and a few specialty photo apps.

      I see Adobe is up to their old tricks. Glad I do not have to deal with their latest customer insults. They could have been such a great all-in-one source for graphic solutions but lost their way.

  12. Carolyn Godlis says:

    Another weird thing happened this morning. I tried to pay my sons AT&T phone bill for his iPhone, which he cannot afford at this time. I was directed that I have to download Adobe Flash Player before I could access my account…
    I said “no way” , and it took an hour to get around that one so I could pay the bill.
    What is going on ????

  13. Steve Mc says:

    This seems a good place to share some thoughts I’ve had since Adobe announced their new model of licensing Photoshop.

    First, I find it interesting that this comes on the heels of an announcement of Photoshop improvements that I believe most photographers would opt to pass on. I say this because the WOW improvement aimed at photographers is Camera Shake Reduction. I can see where this might be a big deal for all those folks who are doing photography with their smartphones, but since the majority of cameras, from compact point and shoots to full frame DSLRs, have some kind of image stabilization either built in or available in their lens lineups this is not a great reason to upgrade.

    So what about the rest of the new features? I guess Smart Sharpen and Image Size improvements could be of benefit to photographers, but I can get possibly better sharpening and image resizing from existing plugins for Lightroom. Camera Raw as a filter might be nice for those shooting JPEG images and Smart Object Liquify would be great if you use liquify on a regular basis. If one is churning out a lot of actions, the introduction of Conditionals will allow for greater complexity. So that pretty much covers what might interest individual photographers.

    Somehow, I can’t see that many photographers are holding their breath for Dynamic Round Corners, 3D Layer Enhancements or Improved Path Operations. As for the ability to share through Behance, I think this is probably beyond the scope of the majority of individual or even small studio photographers.

    So, in my opinion this version of Photoshop would have been one that many photographers would elect to give a by if not for being forced to make an immediate decision to get the first year deal.

    Personally, I have been given the opportunity to wait until such time as Lightroom also becomes a subscription product. Currently, somewhere around 98% of my workflow is in Lightroom, and I am pretty sure that what I have been doing in Photoshop I can do better with my plugins from onOne, Topaz Labs, Nik and DxO. I have been a long time user of the software from onOne and Topaz. I have long since transferred parts of my workflow such as masking from Photoshop to their plugins.

    Recently, both have introduced central access points for their plugins which can be called from Lightroom or run as stand-alones. As I have tinkered with these pivotal programs, it has struck me how close both companies are to threatening Photoshop’s dominance. Using plugins from these sources, I can have layers and blending modes available from Lightroom.

    For now I will keep Photoshop CS6 on my computer, and I will continue to upgrade Lightroom so long as it remains a perpetual license product. But I will certainly hope that one of the other photo editing powerhouses will provide a viable alternative in the near future.

  14. Johnny Boyd says:

    Remember that program once called Lotus 1-2-3?

    Jonathan Sachs created that program initially. Jonathan was also a photographer who wrote Picture Window Pro (http://dl-c.com) from the ground up as a photography program written by a photographer for photographers as he wanted a better program that was a less of a resource hog and something that was affordable ($89 -VS- $$$$). A program that was 48 bit color from the beginning, yes even before Photoshop was a 48 bit editor.

    The learning curve is required for sure and the interface is weird venturing on clunky but this is an option to not having to bend over for Adobe and their wisdom.

    Now if Lightroom ever goes CC well……. do you remember Thumbsplus? It is still around and fast as ever.

  15. Rich Collins says:

    I have been very happy with Adobe Photoshop for many years and have mastered the techniques which make me money. I upgrade every two versions normally and was waiting for PS7 to arrive. However I will not subscribe as this is not an option, but a mandate. I don’t take kindly to a company I have been loyal to for a very long time dictating my standard of photographic editing. If need be, because I do not produce volumes of images for a particular graphics company or an ad agency, I will gravitate to Elements or another editor. I feel this is a desperate attempt to force all photogs even amateurs into an unending stream of monthly licensing fees. And I feel it will end harshly for Adobe.

    It will be difficult for them to admit, like Netflix recently did, that they made a mistake, but I believe this is inevitable. The alternative is a large loss of followers. Let’s hope they come to their senses.

  16. Great article, Tim! For the last few years I remember the comments in conferences by a number of professional photographers and Adobe representatives on how important it is to make sure you convert your RAW files to DNG during download. The comment was always the future concern that the camera manufacturers would not support their own RAW files in the future. Looks like Adobe is the one that will end up dropping their support first! Although I did not buy-in to the “convert to DNG” mantra, I wonder about the future of those that did. Looks like the landscape for photo editing is going to open up to other software companies. It will be interesting to see who will come out on top!

  17. John C says:

    I’ve decided to “wait-and-see” how this will all shake out. While I don’t expect Adobe to pull back from its subscription only model for Photoshop, I do anticipate other companies will come forward to fill this new void. Heck, Adobe may be one of those companies, especially if it continues to offer new versions of Lightroom as a perpetual license, and also continues to make Photoshop Elements more like Photoshop.

    Adobe has been edging towards a subscription model for some time. To me, this means that other companies have had more than enough time to decide if and how they will adjust their product offerings to fill the void Adobe’s created. It’ll be interesting to see how this all plays out over the next few months.

    My near-term concern is with RAW editing capabilities, and not with any new editing features in Photoshop. So, as long as I can use Lightroom, Capture One, or another product to open and edit my RAW files, I’m “good to go”. Since both LR4 and Photoshop CS6 support my current cameras I’ve no immediate need to look eleswhere for a RAW editor. That’ll change, of course, but at least for the next 6- to 12 months, I’m in a good position to wait and see.

  18. Paul DeCesare says:

    I must be the only photographer on planet earth that is super excited about this new subscription model, lol! Here’s why: since 2006 I’ve always upgraded to each new Photoshop version, they always get better (CS3 was arguablle though). Anyway, if you upgraded every 18 months for Photoshop Extended, it was $349 plus tax. Now with Photoshop CC it’s $20 per month, that’s $360 for 18 months. Same cost! But you get two features that are even better: one, it is much easier to deduct a monthly subscription from business expenses than to deal with depreciation of high end software, etc. Two, and the coolest reason I like the subscription: I built a 6-core PC with multiple drives and Win 7 64 bit. If I want a mobile editing solution I’d have to get a Windows laptop in the past. I much prefer a MacBook Pro for the road. My second install on this subscription model can be a Mac version, there’s no limitation. That seals it right there. In actua;ity, I upgraded to the Production Premium CS4 Suite in October 2008 when the 5D Mark II came out, and have upgraded that suite with each version at $600 a pop. Now for $49 per month, I get EVERYTHING Adobe makes, including InDesign and Dreamweaver to go along with my existing Premiere, AE, Photoshop and Audition, I even get Lightroom (which is of no use to me whatsoever being a longtime Bridge/Photoshop user though). I get to deduct that expense easily with NO tracking depreciation. Awesome. And because I had the CS6 suite, I get the first year for $19.99/month for everything Adobe makes. Why on earth would I have a problem with that? One thing for sure: I’ll never pay a monthly fee to watch TV, I’ll use my antenna, good enough. ;-)
    BTW, enjoy Microsoft Office, because 2013 is the last version you’ll purchase. You’ll be renting that too for the rest of forever!

    • Tim Grey says:


      You’re certainly not the only photographer who loves the new subscription model, but it seems to me that you are a rare breed in terms of having adopted the Extended edition of Photoshop. In my experience (though I have absolutely no data to back this up) the majority of photographers are using the “standard” edition of Photoshop, not Extended. And obviously the subscription approach is mostly problematic for photographers who only need a single-application subscription. For those who utilize multiple Adobe applications beyond Lightroom and Photoshop, the pricing of the subscription model makes perfect sense. Of course, there has also been a somewhat strong response to the elimination of the one-time payment for a perpetual license.


  19. Marianne Purdie says:

    As a retired person on a fixed income which probably won’t match inflation in future years, I have to give serious thought to how many things I can afford to pay on a monthly basis. My income is not going to extend to paying this every month until I die. I have to opt out of the Creative Cloud and keep my fingers crossed that it will continue to work on whatever computer I have and whatever camera I end up using in the next few decades.

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