Killing the Golden Goose? Adobe’s Repressive Photoshop Cloud Trap

Sad when photography becomes a quasi-political topic. Is Photoshop installed on your computer? Well those days are soon gone. Adobe will no longer be developing its Creative Suite range of software, leaving its subscription and cloud-based Creative Cloud as the only way of accessing the latest version of Photoshop. Epic #fail, Adobe.

Quite understandably, photographers are in uproar. Read somewhere that the Adobe cloud “feels like the biggest money grab in the history of software.” Adobe sits on a golden goose and attempts to make it even more golden. To soften the blow the company is offering a discounted $30 subscription for current CS owners for one year, valid until the end of July 2013.

While forcing users into the cloud, this will not affect Lightroom, even though at one point they’ll most likely be putting Lightroom in the cloud as well. CS6, meanwhile, will still be supported, but not replaced while Adobe focuses its efforts on a single line of products rather than trying to support both softwares and the cloud.

To sweeten the done deal they promise new, processor-intensive features, such as a camera shake reduction tool, all done in the cloud… It goes without saying that this forced transition has the photography community talking. Not only is Adobe squeezing its monopoly since years by means of exorbitant pricing in exchange endless incremental updates, now they say even this exploitation is not enough. Well just make the math:

If you even subscribe to one app only, say Photoshop, it costs you $240 a year without enjoying any rights in case you stop paying. All your work becomes nothing but vapor. The moment you stop paying the cloud will just disappear. You’re left with nothing, not even outdated software.

If you were always upgrading to the latest CS version, $240 a year might not sound too bad. But let’s be honest, Photoshop hasn’t changed much over the years. It’s basically still the same as always. I for myself don’t need most of the new stuff. Much of it is related to gear addiction and the urge to always have the latest and greatest.

Here are some of the main issues I have with Adobe’s cloud strategy:

  • The cloud is a money trap: in the most users will pay even more for Photoshop than they already do/did. Using cloud-based CS for ten years, for instance will cost $6,000, excluding price increases.
  • In case you go for the complete package you pay for many softwares, services and features you’ll never us. The cloud gives you After Effects, Premiere and so much more for “free”… Right, everyone wants to feel pro and is happy to pay for prestige products that are priced completely out of the market.
  • Let’s assume you’re off the grid and unable to connect to the cloud. Now what? Or living in a rural area and trying to edit RAW files via cloud processing? And not all bandwidth is unlimited.
  • Even if you live in a free society, do you trust the cloud? You lose control. Access can be removed and denied at any time. You’re defenseless. You’re putty in the hands of whoever developed the software.
  • Again, the cloud is less about piracy than a continuous stream of even larger income. Forcing users into a subscription-based cloud is plain monopolist extortion. Locked proprietary systems will cost more and more over time.

Right, Photoshop is one of the world’s most pirated softwares. Blame the overpricing? But even when your a law-abiding citizen, this new repressive software-access paternalism takes the cake and reminds me of the early 1990s when Adobe made a brilliant InDesign to fight the QuarkXPress monopoly in the publishing and Quark’s insane pricing schemes.

They fought with great new features, ease of use, invention and affordable pricing. Today, Adobe became another Quark and the cure might end up being worse than the disease.

One wishes Adobe to sooner or later regret the decision. I’m all for the protection of intellectual property. But when a company even publishes an open letter to its users saying it wants to start a dialog on this “the creative process” (as if Adobe owned it…), well then you clearly hear bad conscience talking.

One of the undeniable benefits of the cloud is the instantaneity of updates. Adobe leaves us with very few options. Luckily there is life without Photoshop. Here’s THEME’s list of some free and good image editing alternatives, not including the big ones Aperture, Lightroom, Capture One et al. For further suggestions also check out alternativeTo. And ain’t the Creative Cloud great news for Corel.

Well Adobe is better concerned about alienating existing users. They have set the pricing of its Creative Cloud products at a similar level to its existing software. Licensing Photoshop over 18 months, the typical life-span of a Photoshop version, costs about the same as the existing version-to-version upgrade. But again, you’re left with nothing if you stop paying.

You can also pay to use Photoshop on an ad-hoc, on/off basis. You’ll be paying more for the software, but only when you need it… meaning the quicker you edit your photos the cheaper… One is tempted to hope that this forced-upon cloud approach marks the beginning of the end of Adobe’s hold on imaging processing monopoly.

I bet CS6 it is for many. Looks like I’ll be using CS6 indefinitely then.

And why not hope that Google senses the opportunity after acquiring Nik software. Let Google up the ante and make Adobe lament about its repressive cloud policy.

They keep on reaping huge profits from institutions that must pay for their overpriced software, such as big businesses, universities, etc. But wouldn’t be surprised if in two years or so the Creative Cloud can be had for half the price.

Till then: goodbye Adobe.

  • Don

    I’ve been using Lightroom more and more and only going into photoshop for stitching.
    I bough CS6 as an upgrade from CS4 as Adobe said this would be necessary for future upgrades. Now they are reneging on this : I feel cheated

  • Bengt Nyman

    One of the advantages of a predatory market is that overconfident predators soon fall pray to more nimble competition.

    I have never felt the need for the full PS edition. I have many times tested it only to go back to PS Elements. My focus is on capturing quality images, not on manipulating them into something they were not.

    The primary reason why I have not settled for Lightroom alone is because of its small image area and apparently poor image display technique producing an inferior image rendering, in my opinion.

    Shooting exclusively in raw, my image processing is many times completed in the Elements raw converter, without the need to even go into PS Elements.

    If I no longer had access to PS Elements, what I would miss the most are a few plugins for masking, noise reduction and an occasional image simplification.

    I am convinced that the providers of these plugins are more than capable of offering serious photographers a lean and mean alternative to Photoshop should Adobe turn their back on photographers to maximize their revenues from corporations and advertising agencies.

  • You wrote: “Let’s assume you’re off the grid and unable to connect to the cloud. Now
    what? Or living in a rural area and trying to edit RAW files via cloud
    processing? And not all bandwidth is unlimited.”

    This from Adobe cloud FAQ at


    “Do I need ongoing Internet access to use my Creative Cloud desktop applications? ”

    No. Your Creative Cloud desktop applications (such as Photoshop
    and Illustrator) are installed directly on your computer, so you won’t
    need an ongoing Internet connection to use them on a daily basis.

    You will need to be online when you install and license your
    software. If you have an annual membership, you’ll be asked to connect
    to the web to validate your software licenses every 30 days. However,
    you’ll be able to use products for 180 days even if you’re offline.


    Yeah there has been a huge amount of backlash on this. Here’s the real killer though – if you buy a year and have to cancel, you’re shit outta luck on getting a fully refunded remainder. I can’t remember the exact terms, but I think you lose something like 50% of remaining balance. And here’s the thing with that – back several years ago, I was planning to sell a house. Just as the sale was in progress, I got transferred out of town for 6 months. So all the furniture, computers, etc all went into storage until I got back. Stuff like this does happen, and for people who find themselves in such an unexpected situation, they;re screwed over.

    Money trap indeed. I stopped the Adobe upgrade mania at CS2 – don’t need anything beyond that, and the only reason I upgraded to CS2 was to get Text On A Path. CS2 works fine for me. Adobe can go suck it. They haven’t gotten any money out of me in several years. I don’t use Adobe for Raw anymore.

    Looks like it’s time for Corel to step up their game and make Paint Shop Pro work like a real program. I do have PSP to host some plugins. But other than that, I only use it for a few things. It’s a sad program at present.

  • Thanks for this Libby. interesting. I’m using a little software called Little Snitch, monitoring which programs on my computer demand access to other servers.

    CS is such a program now and then demanding access to some Adobe server — I guess to verify if my registration is authentic. I assume it would invalidate the CS immediately should I use a pirated code or something.

    Meaning: even with Creative Cloud, some software has to be installed on the user’s computer. Meaning: there will be vulnerabilities that can be exploited. Not as easily as with boxed software versions, but there goes the anti-piracy argument.

    The cloud will make them lose more customers than they’ll gain. True, Adobe will have lower running expenses. But at what cost.

  • BenB

    Another unknown is “What happens to all the plug-ins I bought? Will they work with Clouds?”