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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I do rent cameras and lenses when i need them. i cant justify a $4000 lens but can rent it for a job when i need it.

This is the best article I read since Adobe launch their CC.

We pay much more every day for things doesn't worth the money (Like comcast bad service). Happy to pay these guys $20 month for an awesome product. It's a great investment.

Well said. I would add that pirating any software is the straight definition of stealing. So the question to ask yourself is what are you? It goes with your integrity. Stealing has/is and will never be the right thing to do.

Ihab Mokayed's picture

I'm a 19 years old amateur photographer starting up, I got my 5D Mark III recently after working since I was 14 (Not from daddy and mummy's money), anyway my point here is that I actually went out there to buy it and my friends were like you are stupid, you can just crack it, and I my response was "I'm paying a lot for it, but it's worth the money because without it I wouldn't really be able to do my best work".

So if you think it's expensive, then I think and with all my respect that you are in the wrong business. *Just an opinion*

I don't think it is correct and right to say to people that as an artist you don't expect to do money, it is not correct first of all because people are making living from it including you ( I assume) and many are making good money, and it is not right to tell people what they should do I mean art and buying canon or subscribing to adobe cc or anything and I'm against piracy anyway and that won't make agree with adobe necessarily, also your writing seems very amateurish and you seem just feeling the gaps or you mybe bored and you wrote this article to kills some time, some people might write some thing good in 15 minutes, but that's not a reason for not good writing, I wish to see some of your work I have a feeling it looks like your writing!

Filip Kowalkowski's picture

well I'm not using CS just because I cannot afford it, right now I'm working on GIMP and Lightroom, and I am a professional photographer. 20$ per month may not sound like much in US, but for me that's not 20$ that's actually 100zl and for me that's like paying 100$ so yet again this piece of software is out of my reach...until my income increases...

That is the point. 20USD may not sound much if you earn 2K USD a month. But if you earn one third of that, it is not funny anymore. Especially if in Poland it is not 20USD, but almost 25 Euros.

Exactly what I mentioned above... I´m german so obviously I`m not in the same situation as you, but I´m pissed off by this nonetheless. This makes photography and creativity an Elite thing...

"Every photographer can afford $20 a month." - well, that quite depends where do you live or how much do you earn Lee. Average photographers/graphic designers in country where I live hardly earn $20-25 per day. Monthly subscribtion is not 20$ but 24.50 Euros, so more than they earn a day. What are your options then? You go pirate the software, because it is freekin' expensive, even if it is now "cheaper".

I prefer own the hard copy DVD from the software even tho it cost me more than rent it.

You writing is horrible!

This will help filter the market better - and force the industry to change. Eventually those of us who really need it will keep it. Others will try other software.

Eventually new products and services will come up. And we will test them all. It will open up new possibilities. I will ride that wave too. Heck I check KickStarter a lot for new products.

Adobe will force us to crack our own heads and make new stuff, learn new techniques, and perhaps leave them in the end. All in all I believe this - right now - is in the right direction.

Good argument. Except you can resell your Canon 5d Mark III.

'Software ownership as a hire licence' is a plain and simple fudge on the part of all software companies Ignoring CC for a moment, I should be able to resell a hire licence that effectively exists for perpetuity (i.e. CS6 and previous).

But, you are not allowed to re-sell your old copy of CS6 just like you cant sell the a DVD movie or music, its been in licence agreements for as long as i know.

Yes, but this is an immoral and forced agreement- it´s take it or leave it. Since you can´t leave it, you agree.

But , as I´m entitled to sell what´s mine (my old Desk, Car Tires, old CDs) i´m entitled to sell my old copy of CS6, too. SELL it, NOT COPY and sell it!

The Product is then owned by someone else, I don´t have it anymore. Plain old business. Adobe may insist that this is illegal, but there are higher Instances than law.

True, but that's not technically illegal (its a breach of a contract that has to be enforced before it matters). Would be interesting to know if any mainstream software or media company has ever enforced no resell. Looking at ebay, it looks like 'not often enough to make a difference', and I'm guessing the only real-world issue would be support.

Bye the way your Wedding video "How to become a Professional wedding photographer" is available for download.

The CC premise works on the idea that there will be constant access to internet. What happens if you are working on a project, you lose internet connectivity and it is time for CC to check your status?

For the last 2 nights my internet provider has lost connection for a few hours. Because I have a standalone version I can keep working fine but what would happen to my CC copy?

From the Adobe FAQ:

"Your Creative Cloud desktop applications (such as Adobe® 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.

An Internet connection is required the first time you install and license your desktop apps, but you can use the apps in offline mode with a valid software license. The desktop apps will attempt to validate your software licenses every 30 days.

For annual members, you can use the apps for up to 99 days in offline mode. Month-to-month members can use the software for up to 30 days in offline mode."

I would think that "attempt to validate" means they will give you a bit of leeway, but I don't really know.

Oh man, Lee Morris, it's really sad that you haven't figured out that $20/$50 a month are just the intro prices and Adobe is going to be raising them every year.

Also you are comparing Adobe to cable TV, which is another monopoly that most people are unhappy with.

Patrick Hall's picture

I really don't think Adobe is going to raise the prices each year to some astronomical amount. Adobe is a publicly traded company and they have to look out for share holders much like Netflix. There is a balance between making their CC affordable while also bringing in as many subscribers as possible. If they do something too pricey then their stock will fall and public perception of their company will falter. Ironically, yesterday Adobe held their quarterly earnings announcement and their stock did really really well. I think Adobe is going to work hard to make the CC reasonable for everyone.

lol, tell that to the people in Australia who were paying over double for CS6 until the press called them on it.

I'm sorry but you are living in some kind of delusional fantasy land if you think that Adobe is not going to try and get every single penny they can out of you.

Adobe shareholders are not the same thing as Adobe users. Looking out for shareholders does not preclude Adobe from raising prices. In reality, it usually means the exact opposite--if you knew anything at all about how these companies work.

There is nothing ironic about their stock doing well, either. Adobe is a very profitable company with ridiculously high annual revenues. Their stock value has little to do with photographers whining about the Cloud.

Jesus man, either you are misinformed or you're just an Adobe schill.

(Also, look up the meaning of the word "irony" next time you decided to use it).

This is not an objective look at the pros and cons of the Creative Cloud, but rather a rant against piracy. Rants are cool sometimes, but they lack the objective nature of good writing and journalism.

I have used CC since the beginning and I dont regret it at all. Software leasing is not new, it's been that way since the days of mainframe software. I spent more on fast food and coffee per month than I do for the CC and CC makes me money whereas Starbucks is a moneypit :) If people really want to bitch and moan about the cost, go buy Photoshop Elements for 60 USD. You get most of what PHotoshop does and you get it with many of the same commands.

Long ago, before I became a photographer, I didn't think twice about people sharing my images. Then again, those were more like snapshots, where the ones I take now are more carefully composed and there is a thought process that happens before pressing the shutter. Then, the time I take to thoughtfully edit them gets factored in. I don't know when exactly my mindset shifted, but I now fully understand why photographers, artists, and designers become so angry and offended when someone steals or alters their work.

I have several friends who are photographers who have shot everything from our wedding to simple headshots. Now that I see things with a photographer's eye, I notice things here or there that I would have done differently, even simple things like correcting white balance. Now, I do have CS6 and LR4, so I could very easily correct something like that with one click (oh, how I love you, white balance tool!) and they'd probably never even know. Herein lies my point...there is that nagging little feeling of guilt, that knowledge that it isn't truly my image to change. That might sound ridiculous to some, but even if those within our community don't agree with it, they at least get it. Have I thought about going in and tweaking things to my liking? Hell, yes. Bothers the hell out of me. ;)

Take this with a grain of salt- it's just my own opinion. I'm not going to join CC anytime soon because I purchased my software only last fall, and it should get me through for awhile before I need to break down and upgrade. There are still so many things I haven't even tried yet. When I first heard that we'd have to pay a fee each month, I was confused and honestly a bit offended. Now that I see what it truly encompasses, it does make more sense.

One thing I've heard said is that people want to be able to pay for awhile and then quit, while still being able to use the full software thereafter. I'm not sure how that would work- Would you pay a month or two (or a full year, if mandated) and then expect to have full access to the software as it was in that point in time? I don't see how that would be possible, considering how expensive a retail copy for just one product is. (Now, I can see how it would be different if you had been continuously subscribed for a few years, since you've "bought into" the program and made a significant investment.) I got both for a steal (educator discount rocks!) but the $20 a month for a year still costs less that my copies did. I don't see Adobe allowing that to happen. Even if they are a huge company, they deserve compensation without people stealing from them. Is their system perfect? Is it for everyone? No. I am hoping they find a way to help accommodate the needs of most people, even if it means tweaking it a little. There will be growing pains with this new way of doing things, even for them. But I get it.

You can grab it for free once you register an account with Adobe. Here's the link:

Markus Storzer's picture

I'm not going to argue the price for it though I certainly wish it would be a different rate they charge. Because of that fact that people have different needs - the casual amateur user who uses PS few times a month or maybe not at all for a month, the pro who uses it as a tool on a daily basis its hard to offer it at a price that pleases everyone.
So even different rate plans (like Netflix has them pending on the amount you want to rent) would not be a solution.
In my opinion Adobe should continue offering the stand-alone software as well as the cloud version and give the people the option (plus hey, if you buy the software, don't those updates bring in money to the company, too? ;) ) what to chose.

Irony: It appeared as if Jeremy Cowart, (click through to his site and click "artist") appropriated the images of Thom Yorke and perhaps a sky shot, for use in his piece which he now sells on his website. Nothing wrong with that, in this age of sampling... I bring this up though as a potential segue into a new kind of business model for software manufacturers (not unlike google docs) -- FREE. How do they make money, though? I always thought that professional apps should be less expensive to counter piracy. The rental model will certainly make a dent in piracy, but at what cost? Fewer customers. Back to start. Do not pass go. Do not collect your $200.

Easy fix!

After a year of subscription, which can be prepaid, you keep the build at the end of the year eg. Adobe CC 2013. If you want the current day to day version you continue with monthly CC payments so then on your cloud helper you'll have Adobe CC 2013 and the current CC for say 2014. Then once you break paying over another year, which you can once again prepay for, you'll then have Adobe CC 2014, with the option to pay for 2015 updates or stick with current build.

CS6 will only last so long...