If I’m going to spend time writing an article I would much rather be writing about a creative image developing technique or sharing stories and images from a recent photo trip than debating the merits of a software company’s business choices. However, in this case, I’m making an exception because, not including my actual camera equipment, Adobe Photoshop is the single most important tool I use. I know this is the case for many people who follow the PhotoCascadia blog as well. Now was the time to write because the decision to move to Adobe’s Creative Cloud subscription model or stick with Photoshop CS6 is becoming somewhat time sensitive.
Unfortunately, Images like this one are only possible with the use of layer masking techniques in Photoshop.
If you are not already a Photoshop CS user or if you have already subscribed to Adobe’s Creative Cloud, this conversation probably doesn’t impact or interest you much. If you are not aware of the factors involved in making the choice, allow me to bring you up to speed.
For a few years, Adobe has been developing a cloud based, subscription model for most of its professional software, including Photoshop. In the first half of 2013 they announced that while Photoshop CS6 would still be available for purchase and supported (for an undisclosed duration), they would no longer be offering new versions of CS under the old perpetual license model. Owning a perpetual license means that once you pay for the software you are able to use it indefinitely. Instead, anyone who wants to use updated versions of Photohshop must move to Photoshop Creative Cloud (CC), which is only available with a subscription and not a perpetual license. Under Adobe’s current subscription terms, you can only use the software as long as you pay for a subscription.
I’m not opposed to the cloud concept or a subscription model per se. There are many advantages and the actual experience of using Photoshop is effectively unchanged. The Creative Cloud enables Adobe to release updates and new features in real time instead of waiting for the release of a new version. It also gives Photoshop some cloud based functionality and connectivity that many people may find useful. I can also see why it is a good business model for Adobe. Perhaps the most fundamental is that as a program matures it isn’t possible to produce monumental upgrades and improvements as frequently. With fewer people feeling new versions are worth the upgrade price, the subscription model is one way to ensure a continued income stream necessary to stay profitable as a business.
There have been a host of inaccurate fears and rumors floating around the web that caused the real issues related to Creative Cloud to become a bit obscured. Some are about not being able to use Photoshop CC unless connected to the Internet or only being able to store image files in the cloud and not on your computer. Such concerns aren’t founded. This article does a good job of clearing up many of these erroneous concerns.
TIF or PSD files containing Photoshop layers can’t be opened by software from other companies and are not fully supported by Adobe programs like Lightroom or Photohsop Elements.
Initially there was also a big backlash from Photoshop CS users about the price of a Photoshop CC subscription. At $20 a month for a “Single App” subscription, the cost of subscribing to Photoshop is more than double the cost of upgrading a perpetual Photoshop license with every other new version, which has been the requirement.
There is also concern in the Photoshop user community that the terms of the Creative Cloud subscription stipulate that when a subscription is no longer paid that Photoshop CC becomes deactivated. This is perhaps the bigger concern for me. For example, if I was to stop a subscription to Photoshop CC after 10 years of paying $20 a month, a $2400 expense, I would essentially be left with nothing. True, I would still have all my image files and the freedom to access them with other software. Unfortunately, as someone who uses Photoshop layers as part of a non-destructive workflow (one of the main reasons to use Photoshop in the first place), all of my layered PSD and TIF files would still only be accessible by Photoshop. So really, once I move to CC I am pretty much committed for life and this just doesn’t seem right.
There are a few applications available that are coming close to replacing the functionality of Photoshop, but to date they are not fully compatible with or have all the capability of Photoshop’s layers and layer masks. They might provide a good alternative for people not dependent on Photoshop’s layer system. I will keep an eye on them for future expansion of functionality and compatibility with Photoshop layers. Two that seem particularly promising are GIMP and PhotoLine.
For now it is still possible to go back to CS6 once a subscription to CC is terminated and Adobe has said it will support CS6 with the next version of both Mac and PC operating systems. Whether they will continue support beyond that is not known, but it seems unlikely that CS6 will still function on the operating systems of 2024.
My suggestion to Adobe was to use the model cell phone companies do. Subscribers commit to a two year subscription. At the end of the two years one can choose not to re-up. The software would still work (like your cell phone still works after the contract ends), but will stop receiving updates and support. Renewing the subscription for another two years would keep the updates and support flowing. Needless to say, they haven’t taken me up on my suggestion yet.
So, what’s the conundrum you may ask? It seems pretty cut and dry. Either you do not accept the Creative Cloud subscription terms and you make due with CS6, or you do accept the terms and you get a subscription and move on.
It turns out that in September Adobe made the decision even more challenging. Essentially they bet that some holdouts might give up principles for the right price. Responding to the outcry and lack of subscriptions from photographers they offered a special Photography Package to anyone who already owns Photoshop CS3 or newer, providing an upgrade to Photoshop CC plus Lightroom 5 for $10 a month with a one year contract, seemingly a much more reasonable deal. The hitch is that the offer expires at the end of December, placing pressure on holdouts such as myself to resign to sticking with CS6 forever, giving in and subscribing now or paying $20 a month for Photoshop CC at some point in the future. Well played Adobe. Note: within hours of posting this article I learned that Adobe has now opened it’s $10 per month Photoshop CC + Lightroom 5 subscription to anyone until December 2, 2013. (no previous Photoshop CS purchase required). Read more here.
So what have I decided to do? I bit the bullet and signed up but that doesn’t necessarily mean you should too. For the type of image developing I do, there aren’t really any other options than Photoshop. Since part of my job is as a digital photography educator it is also important that I’m teaching with the most current tools. Without new versions of CS coming I’m pretty sure I would be forced to subscribe to CC eventually. I decided it would be better to try it out at $10 a month now than be forced into it at $20 a month later. After my year is up I will take a look at how, and if, the subscription model has evolved and determine how to proceed from there.
What are you doing or going to do? Feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts on the matter. They may help others decide whether to stick to their guns or bite the bullet.