Like many people in the UK last week I received this email from Adobe informing me that my Adobe Creative Cloud Photography plan (i.e. for for Lightroom and Photoshop) was to increase to £120.64 per year from 17th January 2018 (as I subscribe yearly) due to “recent changes in exchange rates in your region”. This represents an increase of some 18% and whilst £120 per year for these two products, including all updates, is still reasonable it does raise a few questions not least of which are:
- Is this increase really all down to currency fluctuations?
- Is this the thin end of the wedge and now Adobe has me hooked into their cloud subscription model does it mean we will continue to see regular, above inflation (in the UK at least) subscription increases?
- Is there a better/cheaper alternative and is it worth the effort to move?
On point one it seems it is only the UK (and Sweden) that have been hit by Adobe’s price rise and indeed the pound has fallen 19% against the dollar since the UK voted to leave the EU in June of 2016. Obviously this fluctuates and it will be interesting to see what happens when the UK invokes Article 50 and starts the formal process of leaving the EU. Adobe is also in line with other US tech companies like Apple and Microsoft for raising prices here in the UK. It will be even more interesting of course to see if these price rises are reversed should exchange rates move in the other direction (maybe when the UK and US forge a new trade deal).
With regard to point two, one of the issues any of us face when we commit to a vendors cloud applications, which effectively means you rent rather than buy the software, is so called ‘vendor lock-in’. You go ‘all in’ with a companies cloud software and then find after a year or so they hike up their price and because you are fully invested in it you either have to pay huge amounts to move or (hopefully) slightly lesser amounts to stay. So what do you do?
In the wider world of cloud computing the holy grail is that of open standards and open source whereby you can (in theory at least) freely move your data, and to a lesser extent the way you manage and manipulate that data, between different cloud providers because they all operate to the same data formats and processes. Sadly in photography the idea of open standards is largely missing. I know the Adobe ‘.PS’ (and ‘.DNG’) file format is supported by other vendors but just opening up a file in someone else’s tools is only a small part of the problem. You will also have invested lots of time (and maybe money on training courses/books etc) in learning that solution and learning something else is equally costly. Whilst there are open source tools (Gimp for example) these tend not to get high marks for usability and often drag behind when new versions of RAW files for new cameras are released. For now at least it seems the only viable option for a professional editing suite is to go with proprietary software that you know will be fully supported and kept up to date (unless of course. like me, you happened to have invested time and money in Apple’s Aperture).
Which leads us to my final point, are there any viable (and non-cloud) alternatives to the Creative Cloud Photography plan from Adobe?
Clearly there are. Editing programs like Perfect Photo Suite from ON1, PaintShop from Corel and Affinity Photo from Serif/Affinity all do image editing, to varying degrees, like Photoshop and there are also RAW management products from the likes of Phase One, Corel and ACD Systems as well as the ‘free’ RAW management tools that come with your camera which are usually only capable of handling RAW files produced by that manufacturers camera (and often, in my experience, do not have the greatest user interface).
Depending on which combination of image editing software and RAW management software you choose these can cost from free to several hundreds of pounds for licensed desktop copies. So should you switch?
Obviously there are many criteria to be considered, not just the cost of the software but also the amount of time and money you have invested in learning Photoshop and Lightroom and the ease with which you can quickly become productive with tools from other vendors. One of the advantages of the Adobe solutions is the vast number of online resources there are for learning how to effectively use their software. In my experience other software does not come close in this.
Another consideration is that of upgrade costs. Most products have traditionally had an 18 month development cycle meaning that to take advantage of new features you probably need to upgrade every two years or so. Upgrades are usually cheaper than buying the full version but nonetheless this is a cost to account for if you want to remain current. One of the great advantages of cloud based software is that of ‘continuous development’ which means that fixes and updates are delivered on a regular basis and you can take advantage of them immediately (and without additional payment outside your monthly/yearly subscription charge). Before moving to Creative Cloud (CC) a licensed version of Lightroom and Photoshop would set you back around £800 which is equivalent to six years of CC subscriptions and that’s without the additional cost of upgrades!
A final consideration is that over the coming years we are likely to see more and more vendors switching to a cloud based subscription model because it is easier for them to manage and deliver software, provides them with a regular income stream and, let’s be honest, is probably easier for the customer as well. Essentially you just need to install once and forget about it with updates being delivered on a regular basis.
For now then I’m planning to stick with Adobe’s Creative Cloud plan. I feel I have invested too much time into using Photoshop (and to a lesser extent Lightroom) and would rather be using my time to take more photographs rather than learning new/different ways to edit them. This maybe something I reconsider if price rises start to become more regular and more expensive but for now I believe CC represents good value and prefer to stick with the devil I know.