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 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.

Mihael Tominšek's picture

As long time user of COREL package, I always found PhotoPaint more intuitive and simpler than Photoshop. True, some advanced "one click fix" tools is better in Ps, but overall PP is quicker to get the same. I use Ps for some things, but only if no other way. Clunky and retarded software dinosaur that can't hide it's age (30 years in 2017). For most tasks I do not need to leave CaptureOne.

Mihael Tominšek's picture

Adobe is best for quick fix with single click tools. If that is suitable for one, Adobe is the best software on erth. For any tweaking and customization or doing stuff from scratch, it is not optimal. Adobe rarely (if at all) do something itself. All software is bought somewhere. And all they do is unify look and feel to common package. That's why they spent decade to manage different software packages to work together (Dreamweaver-Photoshop-Audition-AfterEffects-Premiere-Indesign). And mostly for all the respective apps were ruined their original evesomness and edge and are now blunted poor performing shadow of it's original versions we all loved. They mostly just ruin everything from each version to version. I don't mind exporting and importing between apps if dynamic link means broken workflow and boat loads of headackes.

Updates! Before CC they had to improve software to convince people to buy new version. In late CS4-CS5-CS6 the showed slowing down of inovation and they announced half-step upgrades in between (CS5.5) for lower price. I never used CS5 or CS5.5 since CS4 worked OK and not much new. Than CS6 came out - probably the best version after CS2. And than CC promised ALL the best for fraction of price. I was jumping out of joy, until first undocumented upgrade one morning. They started to rool changes for the sake of changes. In Premiere they did quite some annoying changes that makes me angry even today. Not to mention they started to worsen the look of apps (like impossible muddy blue on ever darker grey, and finaly rounded buttons). All apps before they came under Adobe umbrelly had very intuitive colorfull and understandable GUI, but now all flat, 2D, single color puke. You need to look multiple times and loose mood decoding buttons state instead of worting.

They bought SpeedGrade. Reasonably well (if not the best at it's time) color correcting software. They put it on the side track and incorporated Lumetri in Premiere. What a handbrake. Version CC2015 had lag for several minutes on mouse move with big (35 minutes) project. CC2017 finally solved that problem (after solved instant crashing in the fiorst place). Than DaVinci RESOLVE came, whih resolves something SpeedGRade can't and Lumetri does even not know it is there. Same is Lightroom vs CaptureOne: Lightroom looks like shooting through foggy lenses in comparison to C1.

So mostly we need to have installed multiple version to complete tasks due to lack of compatibility, crashes, performance issues. And ADOBE knows that we invested years of time into their system. But if something is enough, it is enough. Competition is breathing over their neck already. There is no come back usually.

Professionals are used to steep prices for production tools, but we need working tools. Consumers are concerned about price. They will never reach level at which Adobe software will revela its shorcommings. So Adobe is concerned with consumers satisfaction. They do little to nothing or something here and there for professionals, to keep us on live-aid, and all other to atract more and more consumer CC... Lo starting price, one will grow into system and later will "have to stay".

"Adobe is best for quick fix with single click tools. If that is suitable for one, Adobe is the best software on erth. For any tweaking and customization or doing stuff from scratch, it is not optimal."

What Adobe product? Photoshop, for example, is easily the most complicated but also the capable photography software made. Personally I hate it because of its unnecessary complexity.

"Same is Lightroom vs CaptureOne: Lightroom looks like shooting through foggy lenses in comparison to C1."

That's because by default C1 is already making adjustments for you, where as LR simply adds a tiny amount of sharpness and color noise reduction only. A lot of C1 users are then wrongly convinced that it is better.

I was part of the Adobe Pre-Release testing group for the new Lightroom, and I can tell you that the development process was atrocious. The dev team would rush updates out, often times with more bugs than previous versions, and made little effort to pinpoint the slowdowns users were seeing beyond "send us your Lightroom catalog so we can try to duplicate your problem on our end." Yeah, I'm gonna send you a 4GB catalog. Morons.

The final release is a joke, with numerous bugs and so much system lag that it's utterly appalling. The pricing structure is just some salt in the wound.

The entire experience made me quit Lightroom. Let's see if Capture One can keep from screwing things up.

Aaron Bratkovics's picture

It's 9.99 for now....I'll be okay. I think the only other program I'd use for editing/retouching is capture one. I know I need photoshop. We had it coming to us. How many people downloaded this illegally? Do you feel that the creators of the program shouldn't be paid for the code to make the software? A lot of us survive with photoshop. I know I do.

If you own a business you can always charge the client too.

k love you all. Good article <3

<We had it coming to us. How many people downloaded this illegally?>

I paid for (and most of my peers) my Adobe kit every step of the way soooo your kidding right?

Aaron Bratkovics's picture

Well thats good lol but you can't speak for everyone else that ever used an adobe program. One fucks up we all fuck up.

David Love's picture

Well they've done it again. Released a totally buggy update. Lightroom is fast the first time you use it and gets slower as you edit. AND NO, I will not be using workarounds to let them off the hook.

Premiere Pro now goes blank when choosing color in the tabs and usually freezes when choosing export. AND YES my computer is the bomb.

Shane Taylor's picture

More than the price (ignoring the continual stream of bugs and lost productivity with each new release of CC) is the ownership issue. I can use my CS6 Master Collection for as long as it will run on my HW -- for free. For example, I'm still using GoLive CS3 to manage a web site, because the conversion they provided for DW didn't work. It costs me nothing, and I have figured out work-arounds for most of the bugs that exist. Very few surprises during work, unlike what I read a lot about on the Adobe forums from users of CC. Getting work done is an important factor, especially for professionals, and Adobe is making that hard just to force their subscription model on their user base.