Adobe Photoshop Creative Cloud and What it Means to You

(This article was contributed by Kevin Graham, owner of DSWfoto.  Kevin is an Orlando based Wedding, Event, and Portrait Photographer.)

Adobe Photoshop Creative Cloud

Yesterday, Adobe made an announcement at the Adobe MAX event – Adobe Photoshop Creative Cloud (CC) is replacing Adobe Photoshop Creative Suite (CS). They demoed a bunch of new fun features, most of which I’ll never use, and then slipped in a piece of information – Adobe Creative Cloud will be available in a subscription-only plan.

Like a bad circus magician, Adobe moved on to the next act, “Look at this shiny new hardware pen where you can”…. Woah. Wait a second, rewind. Did you just say that Photoshop can’t be purchased anymore?

The Internet erupted, as it loves to do when any cheese is moved. And, then the rumors and misinformation began to flow, which also the Internet is so great at.

So, let me state the facts first:

  • Photoshop CS6 is the last version that you outright own.
  • Adobe is using the word Cloud “creatively” in their branding:
    • You don’t access Photoshop via a browser.
    • You don’t need an Internet connection to edit your photos.
    • Your images don’t belong to Adobe.
  • Photoshop Creative Cloud is $19.99 a month. The more commonly recognized suite of all of the Adobe software is $49.99 a month. This suite includes all of the tools that you, as a Photographer, never really cared about.
  • You can still buy Photoshop CS6 (B&H has it on sale for $590).
  • Lightroom will still be available to purchase, although they do include it in the $50 suite.
  • Photoshop CS6 will still be supported in the next version of Windows and MacOS.

Pricing (bunch of numbers)

There’s a lot of spin both ways on pricing. Adobe says it’s cheaper with their fuzzy math. End users are saying it’s extremely expensive with their equally fuzzy math.

So, what does it mean to me? These charts are done on some grounded facts:

  • Photoshop upgrades have always been $199 and come out every 18-24 months. (For this chart, I’m assuming a more aggressive 18 month schedule)
  • Photoshop costs $699 retail.
  • Adobe Photoshop CC for new customers is $19.99 a month.
  • Adobe Photoshop CC for existing customers is $9.99 a month for the first year (if you switch by July 31, 2013) and then it goes to $19.99
  • Some bureaucrat decided years ago that 5 year plans were pertinent, so these charts are based on a 5 year(60 month) cycle.
  • Prices are based on US figures. Adobe has even more confusing international prices that I’ll never attempt to figure out.

So, let’s let the charts speak for themselves.

Adobe Photoshop Creative Cloud - Pricing 1
Chart 1 – Buying Adobe Photoshop Today.

This chart shows what the costs would be to someone who purchased Photoshop brand new today. It’s assuming the purchase and subscription models continued to live in parallel.

If you aren’t upgrading every 18 months, it’ll take 3 years before the price of the subscription would have bought you Photoshop.

If you are upgrading every 18 months, at the 5 year mark, Creative Cloud is still cheaper. So, maybe Adobe is correct?

Adobe Photoshop Creative Cloud - Pricing 2

Chart 2 – For those (such as myself) that already own Photoshop

This chart tells a much different story. This pertains to all of those that have already invested in Photoshop. Later this year would have marked the 18 month mark for CS6. So, it’s assuming we would have been shelling out the $199 for the upgrade. But, long term Creative Cloud is going to be costing us more money from today forward.

What this chart doesn’t show is the person who already purchased Photoshop and has no plans on upgrading. Their ongoing cost will be $0.

Oh, these charts don’t show one “minor” other thing.. At month 61, you still own Photoshop CS. You don’t have to spend a dime to use it.

Removal of Consumer Choice

The fact is, Photoshop hasn’t had competitors for years. They could have doubled their prices and people would have screamed, but we would have still bought it. Adobe Photoshop is $699 today not because of the “ingenuity” of the product, but because of the lack of competition.

The only time we could tell Adobe that we weren’t awe-inspired was when they would release a new version of CS. We would look at the features and decide if it was worth upgrading, or save the money. It was a good relationship in that Adobe was pressured to innovate to appeal to us. CS4 offered nothing for Photographers, and many spoke out by not upgrading.

Switching to a subscription model takes that choice away from consumers. What if Photoshop lays stagnant for the next few years? People will still be forced to pay that money to get the already existing features.

I wouldn’t be surprised honestly if Photoshop does become stagnant. A recent episode of the The Grid listed features we want to see in Photoshop and the best that Scott Kelby and company could come up with is a “Do it again” option.

The options Adobe has been “Teasing us” with are more so centered on what they can do on a mobile solution than the bread and butter Photoshop. That is further proof that even Adobe is running out of innovative ideas.

Did I need CS7? CS8? CS9? Possibly not. Adobe may have known that, which makes today the perfect time to take that choice away from me.

The only thing I do know that I need future Photoshops for is their support with newer camera models. Every day, I read comments like, “Why doesn’t CS3 read my D800 raw files”. If I stick with CS6, I know I won’t be able to open RAW files from the 5dmk4 or the D900.

Face it. Photoshop is now just like your utility company. When was the last time you looked to your water company for some great ingenuity? But, you still continue to pay that bill each month.

Buy vs. Own

The core issue to me is stability. I bought my home instead of renting one. I bought my car instead of leasing one. I prefer to buy my software instead of renting it.

Nobody knows our future and what it may bring. If my bank account suddenly read $0 tomorrow, I at least own my home, my car and my copy of Photoshop.

Adobe’s Roadmap

I have a hard time understanding Adobe. It almost seems to me that they are scurrying. They’ve never been upfront about their roadmap and it makes it very hard to make a decision investing in them ($699 is an investment. So is paying $20 a month in perpetuity).

When Photoshop CS6 was announced, I had an option. I could have upgraded from CS5 to CS6 or I could have jumped on the cloud. I chose to upgrade to CS6 for many reasons. But, one of those reasons was knowing that I’ll be able to upgrade to CS7 someday. How little did I know. Perhaps if Adobe had been more forthcoming at that time, my decision would have been different.

Adobe Creative Cloud is Adobe’s roadmap/future (for now….). Could they change direction again in a couple years? Quite possibly. Would knowing their 5 year vision help me make better decisions? Absolutely.

Adobe Lightroom / Photoshop

The big elephant in the room here is Adobe Lightroom. It’s a tool I use 10x more than Photoshop, and the two go together like peas and carrots.

Since its’ inception, Adobe has not known what to do with Photographers. We use Photoshop and Lightroom. Adobe offered all sorts of bundles, but never a Photoshop/Lightroom bundle. Why not? It would have made sense. Heck, they even had a Photoshop/Premiere bundle.

Adobe still doesn’t know what to do with this. Tom Hogarty, product manager for Photoshop, was on the Grid just last Wednesday asking for help. I viewed it as Adobe’s way of saying, “We really don’t know what to do”. Now that I know a little more facts, Tom knew what was going to be announced and knew he didn’t have answers.

Could Adobe come up with some Photoshop CC bundle for Photographers? Perhaps. But, right now they aren’t offering that. In the meantime they are putting pressure on us to upgrade to CC by July 31st at a reduced rate. Again, how can I make these decisions when Adobe is holding back on options?

Adobe Lightroom Retail

It was announced that Lightroom will continue to exist as a retail purchase. Aside from the Creative Cloud suite, there is no other way to rent Lightroom.

That’s with good reason. See, unlike many of the other Adobe tools, Lightroom doesn’t have the market cornered. There are plenty of other Digital Asset Management and basic photo editing tools out there – Photo Mechanic, Capture One, On One Photo Suite, iPhoto, Aperture, etc.

Lightroom hasn’t matured yet. There are countless improvements that they need to still make to this tool in order to compete. This gives a compelling argument to continue the “Oooh! I gotta buy the latest version of Lightroom” mentality that we used to have with Photoshop.


It’s hard for me to make a conclusion since even the Adobe Product Manager and the NAPP president have come out saying that there isn’t a cloud option that makes sense for photographers.

I do know that Creative Cloud, as it exists today does not appeal to me. I don’t want to be paying $20/month for the less than exciting features announced.

The best thing about Lightroom is that it is the true bridge to Photoshop. My one definite need for having the latest Photoshop is support for new camera models. Thankfully, Lightroom can continue to be that tool.

So, I’ll continue to use Adobe Photoshop CS6 and upgrade to Lightroom 5, Lightroom 6, etc.

Of course, as soon as I make that decision, Adobe will change their direction again.