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 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.

Christopher Morris's picture

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.

"I've trolled many of these photography site forums and.."

You sure trolled is the word you want to be using?

"$10/month is a cup of coffee."

Good Lord, where do you get your coffee at?

"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."

That "tribe" is not interested in anything much more than Instagram type filters. The quality of most photos produced today are also more than good enough for the vast majority of the public.

"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."

The profits Adobe makes are from serious amateurs and pros. Nothing has changed. If Adobe wishes to tap into the "tribe" you spoke of then maybe it should buy Instagram.

"I rather like the new LR."

Which one would that be?

Christopher Morris's picture

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.

The monthly subscription is an issue for many.

The Adobe tools were already there for the "tribe" to be creative with. It was simple, there was a desktop version of Lightroom and a mobile one.

My comment regarding profits has nothing to do with whether the product is buy or rent. I was addressing where Adobe's profits still come from.

Short term thinking and profit gains doesn't necessarily carry over to the long term. Often times that kind of thinking kills a company.

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

So then not quite the "dinosaur" you called it.

Christopher Morris's picture

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.

My comment regarding dissatisfaction with rental software has nothing to do with this forum being anything more or less.

How does having two Lightroom apps for the desktop simplify mobile, never mind the confusing naming scheme?

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

Read what you are responding to with the above comment. I did not write what you are responding to. You quoted yourself and then you responded to yourself.

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

The reasonable thing for Adobe to have done would have been to keep one Lightroom for the desktop and a mobile version, as it was before this announce their silly new strategy.

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.

I'll never participate in something like that.

Simon Patterson's picture

Same here.

Nor self driving cars. 😊

To be fair what would prevent someone from keeping their files local also?

Mike Hunt's picture

This is absolutely fine because any real photographer steers clear of the lightroom nonsense. It's great if you do senior portraits, shoot soccer games, engagement photos, weddings and use Nikon. If you want any real control in post you use Photoshop and shoot with Canon because real photographers use Canon.

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.

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