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

I've trolled many of these photography site forums and seemingly all the experienced enthusiasts and pros are rather upset with Adobe. The way I see it, though, is that in this modern age of everyone being a photographer and the rise of social media to heights no one expected, the money is in that tribe. The pro market just isn't that lucrative. There was a time when photography was out of reach for many. With mobile photography everyone can participate. There is far more money in chasing the millions of millennials who want a simple way of editing and posting across their mobile platforms. $10/month is a cup of coffee. Thousands of pros hanging onto their desktop stand-alone dinosaur just isn't the gang Adobe will market to. Just look at Adobe's effort to make Photoshop more accessible with their Gifs and how-to videos. I'm guessing pros will throw their fit and move off Adobe and find a product that fills their professional niche. Meanwhile the Adobe monster will continue to grow with or without the pros. Personally I'll be sticking with Adobe for the foreseeable future. I rather like the new LR. And I'm guessing the photographers of the social media age will too.

Troll - In today's hyper critical online world I agree one must be careful in the words they flippantly use.

Coffee - I have never had a cup but the point is that monthly rate will not be a major deterrence.

Tribe - I think they are underestimated in their interest as creators and will enjoy utilizing the tools Adobe offers for mobile photography.

Profits - Profits come from all levels of photographers. If they thought their photographer programs would profit more from desktop pros then they would have continued that non-subscription development in favor of CC. These forums feature the same complaints on every CC article yet Adobe still climbs to higher valuations. Someone is buying. They (mgmt, investors) obviously (stock valuation) believe the profits are in the cloud. As this forum, and others, indicate there is little interest in the cloud and subscriptions from pros and enthusiasts. So I take the group at their word in moving off LR and believe Adobe has accounted for that and really doesn't care. In my opinion. Regardless, Adobe will continue to profit and likely make some interesting acquisitions though it won't be Zuckerberg's baby.

LR - I like Lightroom CC but will continue to use Classic.

Yes, this forum is nothing if not complaints about $10/month.

Lightroom CC simplifies mobile.

"Profits come from all levels of photographers."

True, but CC has been ongoing since '11 and the revenue has steadily grown.

Classic will be replaced by LRCC in a few years. I'll use it for the DAM but Classic is not the future.

Michael Holst's picture

I cannot say enough good things about Affinity Photo and Affinity Designer. They've been great replacements for Adobe and When you add Capture1 it kinda completes the process most people seem to use Adobe for.

In my opinion Adobe has not justified the increased cost. They tried to convince everyone that they will come out with these really amazing features in CC but most of them have been gimmicks that wouldn't be used on a regular basis. We are expected to pay more money to rent software that isn't marginally better than the last purchase to own version.

Simon Patterson's picture

I appreciate articles like this one because I like to see the alternatives. Both in the article and the comments. All very handy.

I despise both the subscription model and the cloud, so am keen to rid myself of Adobe altogether.

Cathleen Shea's picture

Especially with all the news articles about security breaches... why would anyone risk their intellectual property being in danger of theft via a hacker? It makes no sense to me. At least if the bank is robbed, your money is guaranteed. But the photo stored on the Cloud? Poof... vapors. Silly!

Simon Patterson's picture

Just wait until phones then cameras start pushing every image to the cloud rather than onto a memory card. Centralised storage of everything is well on its way, mark my words.

Michael Dougherty's picture

I appear to be the only person complaining that the latest version of CC simply won't download. Had no problem with 2015.5. After that, Adobe complains the problem is with my computer settings. Don't have any problem updating ACR! Until Adobe fixes their problem, I'm stuck at 2015.5.

Lightroom Classic and Photoshop together at about $10 a month is so outrageously inexpensive for how powerful it is, it's really hard to imagine anyone making a decision here based on some cost-cutting strategy.

I'd gladly give the $49.00 per month if I had hard copies, I tried the cloud, hated the cloud, will never go back to the cloud, it isn't the money. I went back to CS5 and am doing fine except I can't upgrade my OS. So I am reading all I can for an Earth based solution. It sucks as I use many adobe products. Oh well.

If I update my OS I have to find a replacement for Dreamweaver and InDesign as well. I guess I can go back to QuarkExpress.

Anonymous's picture

QuarkXPress!? :-o

The biggest concern is not about the tool I work with (I can adapt to a new user interface and workflow) but about my library. Retagging, ordering, flagging and so on is not an option. A tool which can smoothly migrate my catalog will definitely have a big plus.

Mike Leland's picture

Are you all seriously losing your collective shit over having to pay TEN (100% tax deductible) DOLLARS A MONTH to lease software that can make you an easy six figures a year without even trying very hard? I don't get it... I just don't. I used to have to pay two to three thousand dollars a month for the privilege of having my 120/220 rolls developed. You guys are complaining about ten freakin bucks. Oh man....

Jason Friedman's picture

Exactly. I remember back in the day when retouchers would rent Quantel's Paintbox for $500/hour. Yep that's per hour and they're bitching about $10 per month?

Different countries have different tax laws, so yes we can lose our collective s**t over it.

Plus some photographers like to do more than just edit images especially with the wealth of video capable cameras and they may also need to design brochures, pamphlets etc.

I had the cloud for a year, very happy with the $49.00 per month. What I wasn't happy with was the 2 times it crapped out on me, 4 days the first time, 7 days the second. 10 days that year I was unable to post process or update websites.

It's worth mentioning that the listed "alternatives" often are not. Most do not offer library management anywhere near what Adobe has been offering for over a decade, and when asked, many publishers of "competing" software weaseled out by telling people that their product was a raw processor and deal with it.

GIMP is not an alternative, full stop. It's a hacked-together collection of more or less working tools that steadfastly refuses to enter the present; 16-bit support has been coming for at least seven or eight years now and is nowhere to be seen anywhere near the "stable" version. It's even worse to use than Corel's offerings.

Oh, and DaVinci Resolve… yeah, Blackmagic sure are special. I've been reporting bugs all the way through the latest beta phase because it steadfastly refused to work properly with any of my source media, and when they released it, they managed to introduce a 100% reproducible crash when I just navigate to a folder full of videos. Resolve 12 has been unusable, and 14 does not shape up to be much better. But it's "free" (unless you want to do anything advanced, like, put a slight blur over a video, at which point it quickly goes from free to 300 USD and probably still crashes before I even navigated to the source media). I'll go out on a limb and accuse their other offerings of similar quality, supported by the less-than-stellar track record of their USB capture device.

The current ray of hope is Macphun whose software is still vapourware for "real computers", but at least has some library management tools in the works. Hey, having one in the bunch that one day /may/ be an "alternative" isn't too bad.

start thinking to convert myself to affinity. Already have capture one and davinci resolve...

No creative should have to make mortgage payments on software.

I’ve long since moved on, but it still irks me Adobe dropping the perpetual licensing (support) on their Photoshop, Lightroom and Creative Suite software.

For decades Adobe relied on pro input to improve their products, and today’s “tribe” benefit directly from that collaboration -Adobe are ignoring or have simply forgotten where they came from.

I understand the creative cloud business model, it’s great for Adobe and their shareholders.For many hobbyists that cannot justify shelling out a couple of grand for the Creative Suite it’s a good alternative, but the minute you stop paying for it, you have nothing

K G's picture

They can take their monthly fee, turn it sideways, and stick it where the sun don't shine. I'll continue to use LR 5.7 until I find a better replacement, one not made by Adobe.

John Teague's picture

To me, Adobe has two overwhelming advantages. First, they have an incredible support system. I'm not referring to their product support -- I'm referring to the user community. It's unparalleled in depth and breadth in photography. Unless that user community moves to another editing system as a group, switching to another editing system seems very risky. I depend on my editing system to help put food on the table, so I need stability.

Second, Adobe has its own ecosystem of products that work well together. I've been using Adobe products for many years, and there have been lots of frustrating times when some programs didn't play well together. (It seemed to take years and years for Dreamweaver to be fully brought within the Adobe fold.) But the fact is that the integration has steadily improved. I currently subscribe to the entire Creative Suite just so I can take advantage of that integration and all the new products that Adobe is putting out within their ecosystem.

Sure, I'm very unsettled about Adobe's new strategy with Lightroom CC, mainly because of the storage issue. I have terabytes of stored photos. In my work, I produced about 100 gigabytes just last week. On my cloud backup site, I have 4.4 terabytes. Adobe's offer of 1 terabyte is insufficient for a full-time professional. So we'll have to start paying more to store files if we want to maintain them within the LR CC catalog. I'm unlikely to do that. I'll stick with LR Classic as long as possible because it will allow me to store images locally. Yes, I'll have to keep adding external drives, but their cost is always coming down. Paying Adobe to store my files is never going to fall. Plus, even if I move everything to LR CC, I'll still have all those external drives and my current cloud storage as backups because I never want to rely on just one system.

My fear: In a couple years, Adobe stops supporting LR Classic, thus forcing me to move to LR CC. However, in order to have access to all of my images, I have to move them all to their cloud storage, and I have to start paying $10 per TB per month. Yes, I could move to a different editing system, but for the reasons mentioned in the first two paragraphs, I'm unlikely to leave Adobe without an extremely compelling reason.

My wish: Adobe offers LR CC with 1 TB of cloud storage so selected files can be shared among multiple devices (which currently seems to be the only reason for moving to LR CC at all) but also allows LR CC to access and catalog and tag the files on my PC so I can maintain a local archive.

Right now, Adobe has little reason to grant my wish. Business is great for them these days. Because of their market dominance, Adobe might feel emboldened to start squeezing us for more and more money each month to keep their shareholders happy. Maybe I should start buying Adobe stock in hopes of getting back some of the money I'll start sending them every month just to store my files.

I don't use LR6 & PCS6 professionally. But I like them. Three things come to mind. While I'll never say never, I don't trust the economy enough long term to rent software that leaves me with no ability to process when the rental period is over. There are many of us who do not have a clear path to increased income over time, and as the rent goes up, choices will need to be made. Secondly, I've learned to differentiate between needs and wants. Ninety-five percent of my needs are served with LR6 & PSCS6. For most things, I don't go beyond CS6 camera raw. I bought Photoshop CS3E at EOL and got a good deal. I upgraded Photoshop from CS3 to CS6. I could probably do most of what I ***need*** with CS3 & LR3. I wonder how many non-professionals actually use the new features beyond CS6 on a regular basis. Finally, I'm glad that my camera system is Pentax. The ability to save the raw format as DNG instead of PEF with every body I've owned means I don't need to bother with DNG converter. I imagine there must be other manufacturers that allow this as well. With the increasing number of good options available, I think it's possible that Adobe will soon price themselves out of the market for many of us.

Kevin Dickinson's picture

What about Hasselblad Phocus. Raw Converter. You can't tether with 3rd party camera's, but it supports approx 200 different camera's. And its FREE

Kevin Good's picture

Of course only for video, but adding to the math in favor of Blackmagic Resolve is that upgrades are FREE. They might change that at some point, but for a while now, if you bought Resolve, you get all upgrades free. That is too good to pass up and they got my money!

John Skinner's picture

This was, and always will be about profits.

When Adobe first launched their new model for Ps we were told that all the 'new options and additions would be now rolled into this shell called Ps CC'. Well. that's a load of horse pucks.

Since that announcement we've had minimum 3 stand-alone versions placed out there, and all the while. Adobe's stock has now gone stratospheric compared to the values prior to this fleecing of the world. Granted, great product, great innovation, and we've all been transfused to be running about 60% of you collective blood streams with Adobe tools.

But to what end? And what about the glitches? What about better support for those glitches? What about charging people upwards of $1,000.00+ to go to a company's seminars (as AdobeMAX was just held) Who does this?

Charging people to attend for your warze and to promote usage of your current model? Should YOU be paying me to keep the product and use it.... sticking with you after all of the lies and broken promises?

Adobe knows where they stand with me.. a lone voice. I've told them from the get-go of this. Until people speak their minds with their money, things will stay the same. They're making bucket loads of dosh.. Are we happier?

Christopher Nolan's picture

I could care less what it costs now versus then and what the release cycle is, as is with everything else, in the end the client pays for it. Does anyone group whine more than photographers, ..... If you don’t like it, don’t use it, it’s that simple, ....... anyway ;)

The money is not in the razor, it is in the blades. Look at where your photos will be stored default and what is still labelled "optional" and you will see the future of the software. I have liked the CC program for the past couple of years and the 10 dollars, I have no problem with. Being herded into storing all my photos on the cloud? For me, that is a disturbing trend for my photo editing software.

My solution to saving money: get the latest standalone lightroom and stick to the best camera it supports (or the one you already have). Stop upgrading your gear every two years.

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