Adobe I Think Not

Like quite a few other photographers, I’m wondering whether to jump aboard Adobe’s licensing programme, which, for the next couple of days only – until Dec 2nd – is on offer for photographers at at $9.99 per month to include both Photoshop & Lightroom for those who don’t own a recent copy of Photoshop. Earlier Adobe had made the offer available only to those with Photoshop Creative Suite 3 (CS3) – and that offer continues until the end of 2013.

Given the fairly regular paid updates that both Lightroom and Photoshop have had in the past, this doesn’t seem a bad offer for those who need to keep up to date in both programs, but it does tie you in to a continuing commitment. Once you are on the licence scheme, the newer versions you get will stop working if you stop paying.

For those of us in the UK, Adobe’s offer is not quite as generous. Allowing for VAT, the offer should translate to around £7.50, but Adobe are asking for £8.78 a month, which adds up to £105.36 a year. It still doesn’t seem excessive, but the licensing programme ties you into a scheme in which Adobe have the upper hand and can (and surely will) increase the monthly subscription as they wish. Once you are in you have the choice of paying the increase or going back to the software you had before you joined, which could cause problems.

At the moment it looks as if Lightroom will continue to be made available for the foreseeable future as a paid for program with charges for major upgrades. Unlike Photoshop, which has been around so long that upgrades are seldom of huge significance (and sometimes make annoying minor changes that move or alter the familiar), every major upgrade to Lightroom so far has been worth buying (and the minor ones which come free have also been worth installing.)

Photoshop isn’t of course the only software for photographers, and many make do with alternatives, such as Adobe’s own Photoshop Elements, though its interface always puts me off. But there remain a few things for which Photoshop seems essential, notably for me its ability to produce CMYK files, and it remains an industry standard. For me it is also the easiest software to use for retouching my scans, and a reliable carrier for a number of Photoshop plugins I find useful (though other software would also support these.) Some people find Photoshop buggy, but I’ve seldom had any problems with it.

Were I to need to look for an alternative, perhaps the most suitable software would be Photoline, software which started on the Atari ST in 1996 and first came to Windows the following year in version 2. There is a useful Wikipedia article on it. Version 18 is now available for both Windows and Mac and has full colour management and Lab and CMYK support. I’ve not tried it (you can download a 30 day trial version) but it looks impressive. The full software costs 59€ and a single user licence allows you to install it on several computers (even both Mac and Windows.) Major version upgrades seem to come every year or two but cost only 29€. Currently the euro prices convert to around £49 and £24 respectively. If any readers are using Photoline, comments would be welcome.

Were it important to me to keep up-to-date with Photoshop I’d sign up today, but it isn’t, and I’ll save the money for the moment. If Adobe ever move to put Lightroom on a subscription only basis I’d have to reconsider, though perhaps too I’d look for alternatives. Adobe isn’t the only game around.

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