Creative Cloud: Is It Time to Ditch Adobe?

Creative Cloud: Is It Time to Ditch Adobe?

Adobe just killed one of its last major one-time fee softwares, Lightroom, in favor of the subscription model introduced in 2013. While the most refractory users may continue to run on the previous versions, they will be forced to roll to the Creative Cloud at some point since Adobe will stop supporting the traditional software. Future raw images and video codecs will not work on old programs. But when looking at the price plan in detail, are we being milked by Adobe with the subscription model and if so, what are the alternatives?

Price Comparison: Blurred Lines


The regular one-time fee version of Lightroom 6 costs $149 while the Creative Cloud version comes at $9.99 per month either bundled with Photoshop CC and 20 GB of cloud storage or without Photoshop CC and 1 TB of storage. Basically, the Lightroom 6 price is equivalent to 15 months of the Lightroom CC subscription plan. Those who only use this software and like to renew it every two or three years will clearly lose money by switching to Creative Cloud. Of course, Lightroom CC as a standalone comes with 1 TB of cloud storage but that’s irrelevant for most people. 1 TB is not much nowadays when cameras like the high-resolution Canon 5DS or Nikon D850 fill it up in a matter of weeks or months for most professional photographers. However, Adobe is proposing to extend the cloud storage in line with the price of the competition. For instance, Lightroom CC with 10 TB comes at $99.99 per month which is exactly the same price as 10 TB of space on Google Drive.

On the other hand, the Creative Cloud Photography plan, which combines Lightroom CC and Photoshop CC plus 20 GB of cloud for $9.99 per month, is very competitive compared to the previous CS6 price.

The offer of Adobe Creative Cloud.

Other Applications

Here is the price comparison of the CS6 versions against their Creative Cloud versions. Next, I show the time beyond which buying a one-time fee license is cheaper than the monthly subscription plan.

  • Photoshop: $699 versus $19.99 per month - 2 years and 11 months
  • Premiere Pro: $799 versus $19.99 per month - 3 years and 4 months
  • After Effects: $999 versus $19.99 per month - 4 years and 2 months
  • In Design: $699 versus $19.99 per month - 2 years and 11 months
  • Illustrator: $599 versus $19.99 per month - 2 years and 6 months
  • Dreamweaver: $399 versus $19.99 per month - 1 year and 8 months

The Full Collection

The latest Adobe Master Suite CS6 package with all the main applications was released in 2012 for $2,600 which is the equivalent of four years and four months of subscription costs under the Creative Cloud ($49.99/month for all the applications). This period is actually much longer than the release cycle of the Master Suite; Adobe CS3 came out in 2007, CS4 in 2008, CS5 in 2010, and CS6 in 2012. However, the CS5 to CS6 upgrade price used to be $899.

Beyond the Price: Bugs and Performance

Perhaps the reason to ditch Adobe comes from the poor optimization of its software. Lightroom rendering is known for underusing the computer’s processing power. Apparently, the new version will correct this problem. Premiere Pro and After Effects are having the same problem with sluggish playback when the CPU and RAM are stuck at 30 to 40 percent of use. Some effects, even the non GPU ones, take forever to load but while the processor is close to idle.

Another issue comes from the bugs and instability associated with Creative Cloud. Some users prefer to delay the updates because each wave tends to introduce new problems. Some video editors noticed that Premiere Pro has a tendency to crash more often than before during rendering, especially with Lumetri.

On multiple occasions the cloud synchronization encountered issues that sometimes lasted up to two weeks. In 2014, a problem prevented millions of users to login and open their cloud applications for a whole day. But to be fair, no software is immune against bugs. It happens to other companies as well.

A typical case of underused processing power while using Adobe Lightroom, Premiere Pro, or After Effects (even with non GPU tasks).


Luckily for us, the offer of alternatives is expanding. One of the most serious Lightroom challengers is the great Capture One with its advanced studio and tethering functionalities. DxO OpticsPro is also a good option. In the video department, Avid Media Composer has already been adopted by many productions. Final Cut Pro X is very popular with the editors working on Apple computers. DaVinci Resolve is another rising star in the industry, especially for its advanced color correction features. Blackmagic Design also proposes a good After Effects alternative with Fusion. These two pieces of software are free and can be downloaded directly from the company's website. The advanced versions cost only $299.

The situation is more complex for Photoshop. This one still reigns as the undisputed king in the professional industry. But you may want to take a look at GIMP (free), Pixelmator (and the upcoming Pixelmator Pro), or Affinity Photo to name a few.

DaVinci Resolve 14 offers advanced color correction features for challenging video such as Sony S-LOG.


Overall, it is hard to give a definitive answer about the pricing structure of Adobe Creative Suite. Of course, if you only use Lightroom, the Creative Cloud version is much more expensive than before. At $9.99 per month versus $149 for the standalone version, Lightroom CC will cost you more money after only 15 months of use. However, the Lightroom and Photoshop CC Photography Plan is equivalent to seven years of CS6 acquisition price for these two pieces of software. In this case, the price is very interesting unless you still use Lightroom CS3 from 2009. As for the all applications package, the Creative Cloud price corresponds to four years and four months of the CS6 Master Suite cost. With an average release cycle of two years between each Master Suite version, the Creative Cloud price is similar to upgrading to CS6 from CS4. It seems reasonable in this case.

Finally, more than the price, the performance and instability problems of Adobe may be a reason to look elsewhere. The market offers good alternatives in certain domains even though it may be hard to switch, especially for more complex software like After Effects which has a steep learning curve. You might not want to start from scratch all over again and abandon a program that took you hundreds of hours to master. Adobe is also widely adopted in the industry and inter-agencies work often requires some degree of standardization.

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Previous comments
Oliver Kmia's picture

Hey, Tam. I don't know about the Photography plan (PS + LR CC) but it would make sense because at the moment this plan is the most competitive of all the CC bundle. I wouldn't be surprised if Adobe take advantage of the new LR CC to raise the price.

With the full appreciation that this site is focused on photography, I do need to point out that FCPX should have been included in the list of Premiere Pro alternatives. Despite the misinformation peddled by most online media, FCPX is actually the most advanced NLE available today. All the others, including Premiere, have many of the physical limitations of linear tape based editing hard coded into their design. FCPX is the only NLE built on a true database in line with the totally file based workflows we all use today.

Oliver Kmia's picture

FCPX is great but I didn't included it because Final Cut is Mac only. It cannot constitute an alternative for PC user. But for Mac people, it's a very good option.

Very valid point. And, as per my below comment, Black Magic Design's DaVince Resolve IS cross platform with dedicated attention and support. I think they even might have a version for Linux as well, but surely Mac and Windows.

unfortunately Pixelmator seems to be Mac only too (but I'm fine with Affinity on Windows)
great article

Oliver Kmia's picture

Good point. Since many readers asked I added FCPX in the article. Cheers.

I wouldn't be so sure on that. Black Magic Design's DaVinci Resolve is a powerful, all-inclusive NLE editor, color gradation and multi-audio track editor all wrapped into one. Best yet. it's free. Whereas BMD's primary business . model is high end professional video equipment, Apple's FCP-X, although good, is just a sidekick product. There primary focus is selling hardware and services wanting to get the public to buy a new i-device each year. So, although, FCP-X may be OK, I don't think it will get the dedicated attention and upgrades to the same extent which Black Magic will do for their DaVinci Resolve / Fusion apps.

Oliver Kmia's picture

Hi Bob. Yes but in some cases we won't have choice. For instance the 10 bits video of the GH5 were not working with Premiere until the recent update. So Premiere CS6 user are stuck.
For LR6, it won't support the new raw coming from the new generation of camera.
So staying with the previous version works as long as you use "old" hardware.

Mark Niebauer's picture

I dumped adobe for affinity photo. Adobe is a giant dinosaur that needs to die. . .

Samuel Flores Sanchez's picture

Dinosaurs rule the earth for more than 150 millions of years.
Only a reminder :D

Cathleen Shea's picture

Well, true... but how efficient were they? Stomping all around... squishing everything in their path, no precision? LOL

Michael Holst's picture

Affinity has been a dream come true since Adobe went full subscription.

Cathleen Shea's picture

Rental software... to me translates to "extortion." If the only way I can continue to use Lightroom or PS is to pay a monthly fee, then I feel extorted. A quick way to lose my business.

I appreciate very much your perspective. It helps me to have the courage to learn about other software platforms out there for post-edit of my work. :)

Anonymous's picture

I don't have a horse in this race (I have the Master Suite for free) but it's really no different from your living space. No matter where you live, unless it's your parents basement, you're renting. Even if you own your home outright, you have to pay real estate tax. It's all about what you're used to.

Cathleen Shea's picture

My parents charged me rent. Oh... and a further edit... kinda sounds like you do have some sort of "horse" in the race, to argue so vociferously for everyone else to sheep it up and follow the path of least resistance. Yeah, nooooo.

Anonymous's picture

What are you talking about? It's a wonderful analogy? :-) It's a different'll get used to it. Honestly, given the rampant piracy and attitude that everything should be free, I can't see how a software company can stay afloat any other way. I don't like it but it's coming. All my (expensive) software is like that.

Cathleen Shea's picture

It's a different paradigm, you'll get used to it??? LOLOLOL Uh, ok. Heyyyy... those totalitarian regime guys taking away all our right to choose... it's just a different paradigm, you'll get used to it, kid! Pfffftttt. Sorry... some of us of a certain age have lived enough crap to know... "you'll get used to it" is the laziest rebuttal argument around.

Anonymous's picture

You have no idea how old I am but your use of LOL is indicative of your intellectual maturity. Furthermore, if you research "totalitarian regime", perhaps you won't make yourself appear foolish with such an outlandish analogy in the future. Are you the staff photographer for Antifa? :-/
I do, however, like your tag line, "Have Camera. Will shoot things." :-)
Have a nice day.

Anonymous's picture

?? I'm saying the property model is different than the traditional software model. While people think they own property, they still have to pay for it, as long as they "own" it, just like Adobe CC and just like Autodesk products and a lot of other Engineering software I use. People accept the fact they never really own property because they're used to paying for it in perpetuity. It's a different paradigm.

Anonymous's picture

I'm sorry I wasn't clear but have no idea what I said to give you that impression. Sorry.

The math 'analysis' in this article misses some key points. There were also regular updates to non-CC versions of the various Adobe applications which need to be taken into account. The subscription option looks much more appealing when an additional $400 (for just Ps, more for others) or so, every 18 months is factored in.

Also, while Lr6 may be the last standalone version and won't have Camera Raw updates beyond the end of 2017, it will always be compatible with the Adobe DNG spec. The Adobe DNG Converter is free. The option to convert future RAW files to DNG exists.

As far as the available free storage, the idea that Adobe Cloud storage would be a primary repository is ridiculous. It is not, and shouldn't be, considered a replacement for traditional hard drive storage.

Leigh Miller's picture

Look...let's be honest with one another. Adobe has the market.

While I think for the most part that they haven't been as good with new versions etc., nothing else comes close to being a total package. Individual apps like Capture One have done RAW processing better but Adobe is a total solution. I've been a subscriber for a couple of years now and the new Lightroom version is an improvement.

It's time to start thinking in terms of paying for access vs owning.

That's the future for the next 10 years.

I use Photoshop + Lightroom for editing pictures. Illustrator + Adobe XD for web design. Indesign for some printings. 49.99 for two users. I've looked for alternatives, but as you said, Adobe has the package.

Anonymous's picture

Unless I'm misunderstanding your comment, you're in violation of the software licensing. One license allows you to install it on two computers but only for one user. You can have it on your desktop computer and a laptop but only use it on one computer at a time.

I think tou are right. But I do it sometimes: let lightroom exporting in one machine, and do another work, in adobe xd for example, in another. Two computers, one user. But feels like two “users”.

Anonymous's picture

Well, that was weird. I'm not used to anyone thinking I'm right. Maybe someday someone will actually say I'm right. :-)

I’ve made a test: use the same account in 3 devices, at the same time. Didn’t work. But in 2 devices it works.

Anonymous's picture

Maybe I'm the one who misunderstood the EULA or maybe Adobe doesn't really enforce it.

I think it's the second option.

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