Why You Should Be Offended By The Pirating of Photoshop

Why You Should Be Offended By The Pirating of Photoshop

Okay, I get it. Hundreds of thousands of you are offended by Adobe's choice to go to the Creative Cloud. I understand, I was leading the forefront with my torch in hand. Renting software sounds like a ludicrous statement, especially when half the software you won't even use. So why shouldn't you just pirate it?

The answer is simple, because your career forbids you to.

So whether you're an amateur photographer just starting out, or on the cusp of opening your second studio location, you should know better. You're in this industry for one thing, to create; and if all goes well, make a living creating photos for yourself and for your clients. Nobody joins the art industry to make a ton of money. In fact, jokes are thrown around constantly about the idea of a starving artist. You're not on this career path to become rich and famous, because there is very little money to be had in the art community. And the fame? Lets talk the fame.

When I was at WPPI this year, I had a long discussion with Jeremy Cowart at the Framed Awards. I was absolutely star struck, but playing it off as cool as I could. Eventually I asked him how he handles all of his success and his adoring fans. He said simply, he doesn't. Sure, Cowart is considered a genius to many of us, and many of would kill to have a couple hours to pick his brain. But the fact remains, Jeremy Cowart is still buying his own groceries, and can still be seen walking the streets alone in his hometown of Nashville. Jeremy Cowart is only famous to the market of Photography, and that market is far smaller than you might imagine.

So to get back on point, why shouldn't you pirate Photoshop? It's simple, because you don't want people stealing your images and using them for whatever they'd like. In fact, you spend so much time making sure people don't steal your images or ideas. You constantly complain when someone asks you to shoot their band for free. You're up in arms when a concert gives you a ticket to their show in exchange for event photography. You want to the art industry to be taken seriously, yet you have no problems with stealing from Adobe to save a couple bucks. By pirating Photoshop, the only thing you're telling the art community is that you don't care about them at all.


"But Adobe is a multi million dollar company!"


Absolutely, they are, and they deserve every dollar they make. They have built their company from the ground up by being innovative and tailoring to the market's needs. I was just discussing this with a photographer over the weekend. Does anyone remember PaintShop Pro? I loved that program ten years ago, even more so than Photoshop. Where is PaintShop Pro now? It still exists, if you believe it. But it's faded off into obscurity, because they were no longer able to meet the demands that the industry wanted. Adobe surpassed them on every level because Adobe is constantly asking themselves "What can we do next?".

Adobe has continuously impressed us with the technology they've been able to create. When content aware fill was introduced, my brain nearly exploded with shock. Even their latest tool, Camera Shake Reduction is straight out of science fiction. I'm convinced they're about 2 years behind from making the CSI-esque tool "Enhance" a reality.

They're constantly adapting and improving, more so than any software company in existence. You need to reward them for their hard work and diligence. Sure, the Creative Cloud is a pain in the ass. I too, like having the disc in front of me and the appearance of owning the software. But when you start using Creative Cloud, you'll find that it wasn't built to piss you off, it was build to help push innovations through at a much faster rate. It was built to increase your workflow, by allowing you to download Premiere Pro with the click of a button, or to search through thousands of fonts that they're offering up for free (Over $200,000 market value worth apparently).

Adobe is making millions with their products, but that is no reason for you to boycott them as long as they're still creating fantastic products. If your photography career begins to take off and you start making good money at it, does that give anyone else the right to kick in your door and take your things?


"But $50/$20 a month is a crazy price to put on software"


Is it though? I mean, thats $600 a year for all of Adobe's software, and $240 a year for just Photoshop. And sure that seems like a lot, however I just purchased a Canon 5d Mark III 2 weeks ago. That camera costs well over 3,000 dollars, and have I noticed an astonishing improvement over my work from when I was shooting with the Canon 5d Mark II? Absolutely not. The photos on my website are well over 2 weeks old, and my printed portfolios have remained unchanged since the purchase of this new camera. Why is that? Because it's a tool, and with how I shoot photos, the Mark III and Mark II do not make any difference to my work whatsoever. I wanted it because I wanted it, not because I needed it.

I NEED Photoshop. It has worked its way so far into my workflow that there is no turning back. Photoshop has helped improve my work far more than the Canon 5d Mark III ever will, and the Mark III cost far more than I've ever paid Adobe for anything. So why is okay to spend thousands of dollars to Nikon/Canon annually without much thought and the idea of paying Adobe for their cutting edge tools absurd. Is it because you can't illegally download the Mark III firmware to your Mark II and be set? Good riddance.

If you do some math on the topic, the Cloud actually turns out to be cheaper. If you're only using Photoshop, you can get it right now for $20 a month. Buying Photoshop CS6 (an old version no less) right out the door costs $666 on Amazon. So by that math, it'll take you 2.7 years before Photoshop CC has reached its value from the boxed editions of the software. Within those 2.7 years, Adobe will certainly have at least one, if not two new versions of the software available for you to use. So how are you not saving money with this plan?

Like most people, I spend $9.99 on Netflix a month, $9 on Spotify Premium monthly, and $9 on Hulu Plus monthly. How have those services helped my career as a photographer? If anything, they've hurt it far more than helped it. I use those tools to procrastinate and get away from the work I should be doing.


So I'll leave you with this. Piracy is going to happen, that's the nature of the beast. If you can build something, someone out there can find a way to tear it all down. So it all really comes down to who you're supporting. Are you going to stand at the sidelines and cheer for the guys who are creating things beyond your own imagination, or are you going to root for the people who come in looking to destroy that idea and innovation? Being a creative mind myself, I'll gladly choose the former.

[PSA - I am not endorsed, sponsored or accredited to Adobe in anyway whatsoever. All of the opinions in this article are of my own and no one elses. This article was written in like...15 minutes in response to this.]

Image via iStockPhoto

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There's still a misunderstanding as to why Adobe have moved to this model. There seems to be a commonly held opinion that they've started something new here, but in reality this is a totally standard procedure for enterprise software and has been for a long time. It's simply that Adobe are one of the first companies to bring it to the consumer side of things with a major product like Photoshop.
The simple fact is that this is a professional tool, and as such it needs to be maintained by Adobe all the time, fixing bugs, making enhancements etc. You just can't do that if people are all using different versions of the software, it's unmanageable.
If someone bought CS4 full price and then discovered a problem in it 2 years later, are they entitled to ask for a fix from Adobe? Probably, given they paid for the product. However Adobe have already released two versions since then and believe me trying to manage bug fixes across 2 or more years of releases is next to impossible. I write software for a living and have done for a long time, using a subscription model to maintain a single version of an application is simply the best way to get the best product.
Oh and the software I write costs around $40,000 a year in maintenance fees, so that $20 a month shouldn't seem so bad... :)

Von Wong's picture

awesome article zach :) I'm on ur side for this, ive had CC for a while now and am perfectly happy with the creative options it unlocks. +1 fstoppers

Haters gonna hate!

Well said... I've been saying something similar for years.

I, too, worry about the precedent... Think about all the software you use.. Imagine if they all used a subscription model... You could end up with hundreds of dollars of obligations per month rather than making decisions on ROI of new "features" ... But that has nothing to do with the piracy discussion.

Years ago, I looked at the price of Photoshop and decided I didn't want to pay that. I've used PaintShop Pro for my entire career. It's still there and it works.

I'd be happy if it was really 20$ but no, they charge almost double that price in Germany! I refuse to support this pricing strategy, so I'm staying with CS6. CC has no features that I couldn't live without.

Spy Black's picture

Zach, just admit putting this up was a big mistake and take this entire article down.

"So to get back on point, why shouldn’t you pirate Photoshop? It’s simple, because you don’t want people stealing your images and using them for whatever they’d like"

I concur that you should not use pirated software, but boycott Adobe for taking away our ability to purchase their software is absolutely legitimate. To state that the new license scheme was introduced for our benefit is absolute hog wash, if anything having their clients by the subscription balls will stifle their incentive to innovate, the only reason they introduced the rent only model is to make their share holders happy! Let's start investing in software from other company's that will promote innovation!!.. just not in photoshop!
Lets not kid our selfs people who pirate software would not have bought it in the first place, others.....o no wait the others cannot buy it anymore!

“But $50/$20 a month is a crazy price to put on software, I just purchased a Canon 5d Mark III 2 weeks ago it costs well over 3,000 dollars”
Yes and once you payed the loan that you maybe took to buy it it will still be yours! with CC you have nothing!

"Buying Photoshop CS6 (an old version no less) right out the door costs $666 on Amazon" yes it does but you are forgetting all the loyal customers that only pay the upgrade!

"So it all really comes down to who you’re supporting" yes.....somebody else, personally I decided to drop lightroom(chances are it too will become rent only in the "unfoseable future") and I bought my self a copy of Phase one's Capture One pro, who knows maybe I'll go back to Paintshop pro, it might not be photoshop but I'm still able to get a permanent license!

Also the PR campaign and the options that Adobe is proposing to "the dissatisfied customers, that need convincing" are a down right insult to our intelligence!

I would like to add that subscription plans are not bad inherently, what is bad is the lack of other options, it should also cost less than the purchase option over the same period of time, it is an inferior product after all, since you will never be able to own the license!.

At first, well writtenand i see your point. BUT!At the Photokina I had the Chance to Talk to a guy from adobe, who told me that they want all the Students and Start ups to pirate their products. So they can make the "Poor" addicted to Photoshop and when they get professional they've got to buy it.

To the cloud: i just purchased the cs 6, because i hatte the idea of Not beeing able Not to Hold up to the newest versions. On One way th cc may seem cheaper, but its getting more expensive with every Update.. Because.. You've got to update. I dont Need the New stuff. And to be honest in Photoshop i know no professional who needs so New gimmicks. My Point ist. If there was still the Option to buy the programms, I'm sure I only want to Update every 2nd oder 3rd New Version.. If i Wanted it at all.

What if final Cut was a cc and suddenly you are confronted with Final Cut Pro X? it would be a desaster and you would have to be playing for the older Version if you dont Update ...

the article is complete and utter nonsense.... written by someone who has no clue at all.

that´s why he works for a BLOG and not in a real company.

"By pirating Photoshop, the only thing you’re telling the art community is that you don’t care about them at all."

the art community has nothing to do with adobe kid.
what you say is that for our art, software is more important then personal inspiration.

you are way to much focused on gear and software. as so many in the photo biz.
i care about the result only.. that´s the art.
and it does not matter how i reach that result.. only the result matters.

Don't reply, this is a troll

and you are a retarded brainwashed moron...

You don't realize how much the art community is involved in the creation and design of photoshop, and how many people rely on this program today. He said nothing at all about inspiration not mattering, not sure where you pulled that out of, he's saying that plenty of well respected and hard working artists have put a lot of hard effort into this program, and even more work hard so they can afford this and countless other products that make their lives easier.

they should start putting work into other products.
so we have competition on the market.

Sounds like a great idea. Competition can only be good for us.

"what you say is that for our art, software is more important then personal inspiration and creativity"

this is so true. almost insulting to think here's people out there that attribute all their success to a software not a love of the art itself.

Agreed. Using pirated software - especially for your business - is a big NO. And, yes... If you can't afford $20 a month you should rethink your business...

But that's not the problem for me. I just don't like the fact that I have to rent a tool I use on a daily basis... ask e.g. a carpenter if he prefers to buy a new hammer or to rent one for let's say $1 a month. It's just a personal preference... I want the freedom to decide which way to go. And yes, I'm guilty: I didn't upgrade every single time Adobe released a new version... I had a look at the improved and/or new features... if they helped to improve my workflow, I upgraded... if they were just some nice gimmicks, I skipped. I want to make the decision if I need that update or not. I don't want to be forced in a system like the CC. What comes next? Nikon tells you: "Hey we have a great new camera! No, you can't buy it, but we have a nice leasing plan for you." My point is: More and more corporations try to force you into a business model that generates a constant cash flow to feed the greed of their shareholders... the funny part is: they sell these business models to you - the customer - as if it's only in your interest.

Another point: Most of my post in done in RAW... in the times I've used Lightroom, it was about 60-70%... since i switched to Capture One it's about 90%. For the remaining 10% (some skin retouching and some additional local adjustments using adjustment layers and layer masks and every now and then some NIK and onOne Plugins) Photoshop CS3 would still do the job... In other words: I stay with Capture One and Photoshop CS6 and I have no problems to get all of my jobs done... no need for CC with such nice gimmicks like the new "Camera Shake Reduction" (I already have some tools for that... one is called tripod, the other one is increasing the ISO to get faster some shutter speed) so far...

Karl-Filip Karlsson's picture

Pirate! Garrrh! ^^

If you can't afford $20 bucks a month, but you can afford thousands of dollars worth of gear and other hardware, then your problem is not knowing how to budget and not having a viable business, in which case you should probably stop wasting time on the internet whining about life not being fair, and start learning how to run a business, and how to function as a professional photographer. You don't have a right to this software. If you can't afford $20 a month for one of the most important services for a photography business, then do yourself a favor and stop, take some crappy business classes online, and come back when you figure out how to get your big boy pants on.

You CC lovers all answer the same way
" I you cant afford xx a month you should not be in business"

what most of us are asking for is to pay( an obnoxious amount of money) and own the license to the software, I do not rent my camera, I do not rent my lenses I do not rent my tripod and I sure as hell will not rent my software, granted it's my choice, if you want to rent all your stuff feel free, I personally do not want to. As you can see it's a question of choice, and Adobe gave us None! If this licensing scheme continues, and there is no option for permanent licenses I'll just buy something else, it will be painful and time consuming but it's how I vote, with my wallet! And if enough of us do it, due to the drop in profits, the software that you love renting so much will suffer, or become irrelevant it's happened to paintshop pro to quark and many others, thats what happens when you stop listening to your clients. You see.....a permanent licese along side the cloud option would also be in your interest :)

But see, your protesting by buying something else. That's what needs to happen! If adobe has some competition, that will solve a lot of these problems. But as far as I'm aware, you still have a licensed copy of the software

Yes, true for the moment I do, And instead of upgrading to Lightroom 5(that I guarantee will become rent only in the "unforeseeable future") I just Bought Capture One pro 7, finding a substitute for Photoshop will be harder but I'll find it eventually

That's how to beat this. People need to understand this is FAR from the end of the world. If you don't like it, then instead of trying to tear the good people at Adobe a new one for selling their product the way they want to, simply take your money elsewhere, and create some competition. Problem solved

True it's not the end of the world, but.....how much time did you spend learning Photoshop? How much time creating actions and a workflow that works? How much money did you spend on plug ins? etc. etc. this should at least give us, users of many years, and ex loyal customers of Adobe, the right to be really pissed off!

Here's the thing though. None of my time was wasted. Why? I still use the copy of CS6 that I have. Just because something "better" is out there, doesn't make this ay worse. I will get a lot of good work out of this program.

for now!..... and in 3 years when you can no longer install CS6 because it is not compatible with your OS? what then

Well in 3 years, Adobe will have either abandoned this model, or I will just subscribe because I will have budgeted accordingly. 3 years is more than enough time to accomodate this fee into my business model.

yes and if you do not subscribe because like me you do not like renting you will have thrown away your xx years experience on that software and all the rest

Well I just said that I would, soooo....

no it´s not 20 bucks..... there is a whole world outside the USA (i know people in the USA tend to forget that) who pay WAY MORE...

And yet plenty of people in the US are whining about that small of a fee! Yea, I talk about the US, because that's where I'm from, and that's what I know, just as you talk about where ever you're from. Don't try to turn this into some international, politically correct bull, cause I'm not about to go into any of that.
But I digress, this is not very much, considering all the other monthly bills small businesses have, no matter what country you're in. The argument still stands