I've used Photoshop for 20 years, more or less. I've upgraded every two or three versions. Each time I do, it's like going into my house after someone sneaked in and rearranged everything, sometimes subtly, sometimes not...taking a few familiar things away and leaving a few new things. It's mostly familiar, it's just that lots of things aren't quite where I left them, and I don't quite know where to go look. It always takes me a while to groove my practices with a new version. Sometimes it's a bit of an adventure. (Not the sort of adventure I enjoy—for the most part, I hate gratuitous change. But that's a rant for another day.)
I hesitate to admit this, and I would never do this now that I have a public "presence," but I must shamefacedly admit that I used a pirated copy of Photoshop for a while, too, when I was too poor to pay for it. (Hey, I'm a single parent. My current copy of CS6 was fully paid for, high retail, with cash money.) So I completely understand why Adobe is setting things up so that people will have to pay for the use of its software. It has the right. I'm walking proof of why it might be necessary, and I can't complain.
As I understand it—and I really haven't done nearly as much reading about this as I should have (software issues bore me)—Adobe will be making constant, ongoing updates to the CC program, something they're touting as one of the advantages of the new arrangement. (Is that correct?)
My issue is not so much that I'd have to pay a monthly fee, but that constant updates would mean I'd never get comfortable. That stranger sneaking into my house and rearranging everything would be doing less of it, but more often. I find it hard enough to do what I want to do in Photoshop, which I have never really come close to mastering. Add in constant, ongoing changes of the sort that have appeared in the past in new versions, and I'd never feel like I'm standing on firm ground.
Anyway, I doubt very much I'll be a "subscriber" under the new regime. I'm not a "power user." My Photoshop era may be coming to an end...or will as soon as CS6 gets too long in the tooth to remain fully practical.
Several readers have suggested that I do a survey of other software options. That's like asking me to write about higher mathematics. I have strengths and I have weaknesses, but, really, you don't want me writing about software, believe me. I don't learn software easily or well. (It was one of the reasons I got into photography in the first place, and I'm really not kidding—so I wouldn't have to get anywhere near computers! That's the truth. ) I can't write intelligently about the software I use, much less every other option too.
However, Dpreview to the rescue—they've just published a list of ten alternatives to Photoshop. Granted, two of the ten have "Photoshop" in the name, and are from Adobe, but aren't Photoshop.
Personally, I'm leaning toward DxO. Anyone have any comments about that?
And many photographers just use Lightroom now, and that won't change. So to a lot of people, I suppose, this whole Photoshop CC tempest is taking place in someone else's teapot anyway....
Original contents copyright 2013 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved. Links in this post may be to our affiliates; sales through affiliate links may benefit this site.
(To see all the comments, click on the "Comments" link below.)
Featured Comments from:
Greg Roberts: "You said, 'I'm walking proof of why it might be necessary....' I think the complete opposite is true: you are walking proof that if people are able to use, learn, and appreciate, quality software then they will pay for it when they can. I did the same, when I could not afford Photoshop I used a pirated copy, and once I could afford it I bought it, and have continued to pay for it every two years. Whether it is monthly rental or annual purchase, if you can't currently afford it then you are not going to buy it. Adobe's efforts to stop piracy will not increase their income, as the majority of today's pirates aren't going to instantly subscribe tomorrow. A lot of people are going to migrate to other products and find those other products are pretty good for most of the work they want to do. Look back at your own piracy—did you actually cost Adobe money when you pirated the software? Failure to gain is not loss. If the pirate can't afford it the pirate will not buy it."
Tim Bradshaw: "I don't have a recommendation. But if you want to escape the endless stream of annoying changes you really have one choice: don't use software."
Mark Roberts: "Mike, as you probably know I've been teaching Photoshop in college now for... a long time. It's not surprising that old farts like you and I are fed up with getting our rooms rearranged, as you describe it. But the last time I told a class full of students that the release of a new version was imminent I received, rather than expressions of excitement or enthusiasm, an audible groan from the room. This from 19-year-olds on their first version of Photoshop."
FrankyB: "Adobe's plan reminds me of a humorous skit I saw on television. A poor widow is in the funeral home and the director is selling her a suit for her dead husband and is charging her by the week.
"I have used Photoshop for many years and paid full price for it and each upgrade through CS6. However, I will not be forced to purchase all future upgrades. I will continue with CS6, until I feel the need to move to something else. I will then purchase a program with a permanent license from a different company."
Charles Lanteigne: "I found DPReview's list farcically inadequate. Apart from Photoshop Elements and GIMP, which are novice versions of Photoshop, the rest are not even close to being alternatives to Photoshop. The only way they could be construed as such is if all along you've used so little of Photoshop that it's actually not what you needed. The list actually includes either alternatives to Camera Raw (to perform global ajustments, some dodging/burning and such) or alternatives to "Paint" (used to draw stuff). Image manipulation applications that can perform complex local adjustments, masking and compositing (which is what Photoshop is all about)? Sorry, there are no alternatives."
John K: "I stopped using Adobe products a couple of years ago. No PS, no Flash, no Acrobat. I'm doing just fine. I use Aperture 3 with the Nik suite of plugins for most editing and Pixelmator for anything Aperture can't do. There are lots of non-Adobe options."
Michael Matthews: "Since Lightroom's develop module is essentially the current version of ACR, plus some different approaches to achieving similar ends, it should continue to serve as an up-to-date entryway to your existing flavor of Photoshop. Nothing in your copy of CS6...or CS 5.5...or CS3 is going to stop working just because there's a new function in the subscription software. Do the ACR work in Lightroom and, then, if the image needs more (or if you prefer the Photoshop layers and tools approach) bump it over to Photoshop and continue. Updating Lightroom at $79 for a new release is a lot less expensive than updating Photoshop has been."
Robbie Corrigan (partial comment): "Been using the subscription version of PS6 for a good nine months now. Can't see what the hassle is in keeping it bang up to date with camera/lens profiles."
Greg (partial comment): "Please, let's not discuss PS Elements—in 2013, 8 bits per channel is crippleware."
Phil: "When it comes to computers, I'm what people refer to as a power user. I've used hundreds of programs of all kind, and I don't fret much when I need to use one I don't know—they're pretty much all the same to me. As far as I know, and I've seen a lot, the only area where PS (and Adobe products in general) truly outshines others is in color space management. If you need to go to print (and I do mean magazines and the like), then there is little latitude in tool choices. I don't say that Adobe do it better than others, they just do it in the way the industry understands and handles color spaces. If you are like the vast majority of users and don't need to go to print, then just about any tool set will get the job done quite well, usually with a softer learning curve and much less hassle and aggravation over time."
Don Bryant (partial comment): "I'm surprised no one has mentioned Capture One software. An excellent alternative probably the top contendor to replace Adobe PS and LR."
Yannick Martel (partial comment): "I strongly suggest RawTherapee, which I find very efficient once I get used to it."
Max Sang (partial comment): "I've used Bibble (now renamed AfterShot) for a few years now and it's really nice."
David Dyer-Bennet (partial comment): "My bulk processing goes through Corel Aftershot Pro (formerly Bibble Pro). They've ruined it (dropped the Noise Ninja integration, so newer versions are useless to me). Adobe's attitude has made me not willing to use Lightroom except as an absolute last resort."
Bernie (partial comment): "I have decided to give Pixelmator a try."
Manuel (partial comment): "I can't praise DxO Optics Pro 8 highly enough."
Godfrey: "I have Photoshop CS5. And hardly use it. No need to upgrade. I debate whether to even keep it installed. Lightroom does well for me."
John (partial comment): "I have used Picture Window Pro for several years now. I like it and still use it for most of my detailed editing."
Jim Kofron (partial comment): "I left Photoshop years ago, tempted by a new program that was advertised here at TOP: Lightzone. For me, Lightzone was an ideal system once you figured out the gestalt (it was much different than Photoshop), and as long as you didn't have to push pixels around (no healing brush). The sad news is that Lightcrafts closed up shop a few years ago—but the good news is that Fabio recently agreed to open-source the code. https://lightzoneproject.org/ is where the action is, and there's Windows and Linux betas out now. Hopefully the Mac beta will be coming shortly."
adamct (partial comment): "I have to lob in another recommendation for Photoline."
Mike Weatherstone (partial comment): "I do as little post processing as possible, preferring to get it right' in camera' if I can. The reason is just that I get no pleasure at all in doing it. Frankly it bores me rigid."
Mike Plews "Maybe it's time to go back to doing all my image processing with Dektol."
John Camp: "I've been involved with a long torturous discussion of this on Luminous Landscape, and anyone who wants to read or participate in a long torturous discussion should go there—there's a lot of information. Here's what I believe (others may disagree):
"Adobe may have had several reasons for going to the subscription-only form. The main one is, it'll make them a lot of money. If you upgraded with every single new version of the stand-alone product, CC will still cost you more (other than the first loss-leader year.) If you did what many people did—upgraded every other version, it'll cost you more than twice as much. (This is compared to upgrade costs, not to first-time buyers.) I have a very serious, but infrequent use for Photoshop, which really leaves me in a quandary. Do I want to pay more than twice as much for what is already a very high-priced product, to use it six times a year? I think many other people are in the same boat. Other reasons that some people claim Adobe may require CC: to cut down on piracy, to smooth revenue flow, to reduce engineering complications in maintaining two versions, and because Photoshop was reaching the point in its development when new important features were becoming harder to provide, so people might more frequently opt out of new versions (and thus reduce Adobe revenue.)
"Adobe has suggested that there will be no CS7—that CS6 will be the last stand-alone Photoshop. They have promised to keep it updated for some time, but not forever. That means that within a relatively few years...probably three or four—you would no longer get and updated camera base for CS6, and if you use Mac computers, then the very next OS upgrade might no longer support CS6. So CS6, without support, will probably go obsolete relatively quickly, unless you mothball an 'archival' computer with an OS that sports CS6. The problem will be somewhat less with Windows machines.
"The objections to Adobe's decision generally follow these lines:
- Too expensive, especially for independent artists, part-time pros, or independent pros. One well-regarded commenter on LuLa suggests that Adobe his basically going for corporate sales, and is willing to sacrifice non-corporate sales.
- Locks up your work, as well as Adobe's. If you drop out of the subscription system, you will be allowed to continue using Photoshop (as I understand it) for 90 days, and then the program will stop working. (So here I make up a story.) Suppose you are a serious photographer, with several thousand images in Photoshop files. You lose your job, and can no longer afford to pay the monthly fees. You then must move all your files off Photoshop, into some other DAM program, or they will be locked up—after 90 days you will have no access to the files, including your personal work on the files. The program simply won't work anymore. It is possible to move the images, but if you have, say, several tens of thousands of them, you'd have to do an enormous amount of work to get them out before the program is locked. The objection here is that Adobe is not only locking their program—they're locking up your work.
- Some people have claimed that if the move to CC is successful with Photoshop and the other Creative Suite programs, that Lightroom will be next. Adobe has more-or-less denied this, saying that Lightroom will remain stand-alone for the foreseeable future. If Lightroom also went CC, that would again require those who do not wish to subscribe, to do an enormous amount of additional work to save their own past work on the LR program. The question here is, what does 'foreseeable' mean? Definitions are thin on the ground.
- Since you must be online to keep the program working, you could have problems if you go off-grid for more than three months (traveling to a third-world location, for example.) And because of the frequent updates projected by Adobe, people who live in rural areas with not much bandwidth avaIlable, upgrades could take a lot of time.
"Jeff Schewe, who has written well-regarded Lightroom/Photoshop books, has mounted a generally intelligent if somewhat cantankerous defense of Adobe on several threads at LuLa. I don't feel like defending them, so go there if you wish to see Jeff's defense.
"Bottom line, as I see it: Adobe is going to hurt a lot of people who supported them in the past, but for Adobe, the change makes sense in terms of revenue. There may be other consequences that would be less favorable, but those are all speculative."
UPDATE: I've been more impressed than ever by the variety and thoughtfulness of the comments to this post. The idea of the "Featured Comments" is to provide a briefer sampling of a variety of good or interesting (or amusing) comments for readers who might not have time to delve into the larger stack of unedited ones, so I've been reluctant to expand this section too far, but there are quite a number of valuable comments in the main Comments Section. Thanks to everyone who took the time to share their thoughts.
UPDATE #2: A friend at Adobe wrote to clarify that updates to Photoshop CC will be optional and adoptable on the user's timetable. They'll come through the Adobe Applications Manager. —Ed.
Bear.: "For my business, I much prefer software licensed monthly. No capital costs tied up. Outgoings match revenue. No tax issues. But for my personal affairs, I greatly dislike the monthly model. I don't use the software day to day. It is is a discretionary purchase. And I generally don't need the latest update. I will keep a copy for years. Hence, from my personal perspective, Adobe is pushing Photoshop to professionals, and away from amateurs. This will shrink its market. And I image either Adobe or someone else will fill the gap."
Ctein (partial comment): "Keeping a chronological perspective on it, it's a bit early for anyone to be worrying. If one is good with Photoshop CS6, nothing is going to change until the operating systems go through enough generations that it will no longer run. That's difficult to predict—a bit less so on the Mac side. And especially since I know your habits. In your case, assuming you go with your plan to get a new machine when your AppleCare warranty expires on this one, you're going to be good for at least four more years and quite possibly seven. Which is, like, forever in computer terms. Just saying, it's not an immediately pressing problem. Remember, Creative Cloud isn't going to negate anyone's existing CS6 license or operation."
Brian Ellis (partial comment): "I've spent hundreds of hours over the years reading, watching videos, attending workshops, buying books, etc. to get to my present knowledge of Photoshop. I'm not about to use some other program unless there's absolutely no choice."
Crabby Umbo (partial comment): "Photoshop is so ubiquitous, that I've lost management jobs during interviews by saying 'I've used Photoshop in the past, but use alternative software today, as do most photographers.' The HR stiff only knows that the department head told them the candidate must be proficient in Photoshop, even though it isn't their job to use it...."
James Moule (partial comment): "Adobe is creating an opening for Google (which has recently acquired Nik) to develop a full-featured replacement for Photoshop."
MM (partial comment): "One commenter recommended xara.com (Windows only). I had never heard of it, but from their website it looks very capable and the more expensive version ($300) claims to have full PSD support."
Alan Barnard: "I'm a graphics professional and photographer who uses Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Dreamweaver, and Lightroom on a regular basis. For someone like myself who uses the full suite of Adobe tools, CC is a welcome alternative. That said, I'm pretty sure I'd be disappointed if I was strictly a Photoshop user."
John McDevitt: "I can't believe DPreview neglected to mention Picture Window Pro (PWP). I've been using PWP for years."