I'm Falling out of Love With Adobe and the Creative Cloud

I'm Falling out of Love With Adobe and the Creative Cloud

Photoshop and I go way back. I had the first version in 1990, and it has served me well as a photo editor for both my landscape and deep sky work. Over the last couple of years, though, every time I use Photoshop or Lightroom in their Creative Cloud versions I can't help thinking something is wrong.

The software is increasingly buggy, and new versions fix some things and break others. If you'd have asked me 5 years ago if I could live without Adobe's photo editors I would have said no. Today, I'm rethinking the value proposition of both Photoshop and Lightroom, and new editors like On1 and products from Skylum have forced me to rethink my marriage to the Adobe ecosystem. 

Let me start with bugs. There are lot's of them, at least on the Mac side, which is, after all, the original platform Adobe wrote their software for. About a year ago I was having problems with plug-ins. Sometimes, after a Photoshop update they simply vanished. I called Adobe and they responded that plug-ins weren't their responsibility and that I should call the plug-in developers. But then, magically, a new PS update fixed the plug-ins. It was Adobe, not the plug-in developers. I sense Adobe has made several changes to their plug-in architecture.

Using Adobe Bridge pops up a big blank window when it launches. It sits there and then goes away. Maybe it's an error message that never forms. Maybe it's an invitation to go play golf. Who knows? It shouldn't be there, and I've has been through several updates and the blank window remains. Photoshop randomly slows down with even simple tasks and no other applications s open. Lately, I have gotten several warnings that the Creative Cloud app is "broken" and needs to repair itself. These kinds of issues stop my workflow cold, and for years Photoshop and Lightroom were stable and not something I had to worry about. Now it's click and pray. 

Here's another example of complete frustration. I noticed an old copy of Adobe Bridge on my Mac, pre CC days. I put it in the trash, and now can't delete it because it's "in use". I tried the Adobe uninstaller, (no dice) and every terminal trick I knew (nada). I can't get rid of it, so every time I empty my trash it's still there like some persistent zombie. 

That brings me to support. You can still call Adobe and get a real person. That's a good thing. But in the last few years I've never gotten a native English speaker. I'm all for full employment, but I have to ask these people 2-3 times to repeat themselves so I can understand them. I'm having some issues with Photoshop now, but I'll be damned if I'll call and struggle to understand what I'm hearing, and be forced to go through an irrelevant script of actions that don't relate to the problem I'm having. This just isn't working for me. I don't care what country the support people are in, or their nationality, but they really need to speak English clearly. I know it's cheap for Adobe to farm out support overseas. Likewise, it will be cheaper for me if I drop my CC subscription. Cost savings work both ways.

I'm also a little aggravated about some little things. In 2016 Adobe demonstrated what looked like a terrific sky replacement feature.

It was greeted with much praise and applause. Here's a video link to the demo. The feature never arrived. There have been more things shown over the years which we are still waiting for, but I won't bore you with a long list. It's OK to not go on to develop a feature. How about an Adobe web page that gives us the status of these things?

The Adobe Creative Cloud app itself is buggy and intrusive, and sucks down computer resources. It's always running in the background. Worse, Adobe uses it to market stuff to me, The app serves no real purpose with the way i work. Individual apps should update on their own. They don't need another app supervising updates and the app just creates more problems and frustrations.

Speaking of marketing, since Adobe has my name and email I'm getting a lot of spam from them (they probably don't consider it spam) along with pitches for Adobe products I don't want. I'm sure there's a way to stop the barrage but I'm afraid I'll miss some important message I'd like to read. 

For many years, Adobe had no competition. That's no longer the case. I'm slowly evolving to On1 for cataloging and raw processing. It's not perfect, but it seems to be moving faster in adding new features and its been quite stable. I'm using Skylum's Aurora for HDR work, and Luminar when I need some light effects editing. At some point soon, it's likely I will kiss Adobe goodbye, but I'd rather Adobe stop the slide.

I appreciate all the many contributions Adobe has made to the art and science of image editing. I don't find the subscription price for the photography package exorbitant in any way, but Adobe could raise the pricing at any time, and they likely will. 

So that's my Adobe rant. I'm glad to see meaningful competition appearing, like the aforementioned On1 and Skylum products. Other editors, like Affinity. On the Mac side there is also Acorn and Pixelmator Pro. On the Windows side there is tne suite of photo editing tools from Corel and more. No, at this point they aren't true Adobe competitors in all aspects and feature lists, but they are getting there. The reality is I can get the same results I've been getting from Photoshop/Lightroom in my workflow using On1 and the Skylum apps when needed. Even better, these apps have some features Adobe doesn't offer.

Adobe must be worried about their position, and that's healthy. In the last couple of months I've had some surveys from them about my Lightroom experience and Adobe overall.

If Adobe really wanted my opinion, I'd strongly suggest:

  • Clean up Photoshop. It's buggy, slow at times, and new changes seem to break older features. To a lesser degree, Lightroom has some issues as well
  • Get rid of that horrible Creative Cloud app. It adds nothing to the experience of using the software. Links to tutorials and the marketing of products could be better handled oin an adobe web page
  • Deliver on features you show at the Adobe events or explain why they have been killed
  • Fix support... immediately. If I call you from New Delhi I'd expect a native Indian support person. If I call from North America I expect the same. Native English support or at least near perfect English. I should never have to strain to understand what is being said, and support people should get off the scripts quickly and actually listen to the customer.

Make no mistake, Adobe has been, deservedly, the leader in digital imaging for a long time. It may be working great for you, but for this everyday photographer and editor I'm seeing far too many issues. 

I'm hoping Adobe will clean these things up, or soon I'll be moving on. I'm sure there will be many comments pro and con and I'll be interested in reading them.

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Przemek Lodej's picture

It isn't only Adobe. Autodesk is exactly the same. Ever since Autodesk bought Alias Systems in 2005 the quality of Maya and it's support went down the toilet. Response time to bug reports was incredibly slow, development of the software was literally halted and if any new features were added they were bug ridden.
This is an unfortunate result of satisfying the investors and shareholders instead of users. I agree that since porting Photoshop and Lightroom to CC they became bloated and slow. Lightroom is on another level. It's slow, buggy and I absolutely despise the way it organizes your photos. I've abandoned LR a few years back. I'm starting to use Affinity Photo more and more and Alien Skin Exposure. Frankly with these two I have zero need for Adobe products. They are not going to magically change the way they do things, it's just the nature of things. Thank God there are alternatives though, unlike in the world of 3D where for my line of work Maya seems to be the only logical choice. I have no sensible alternatives.

Jaran Gaarder Heggen's picture

How about Blender? isn't it a good enough product to compete with Maya?
I'm not into the 3D animation world, so this is a genuine question because I am curiouse, Blender have lot of good reviews and as I understand it, is used in many production enviroments...?

Przemek Lodej's picture

It's ok for modeling and animation, although I haven't really tested it in animations they way I would Maya. Not sure about effects simulation either. I know that Maya is by far the best when handling large CAD data sets. I work with automotive data day in and day out, so I need stable platform and large data set handling capability. Maya is quirky sometimes, but seems to be the best choice for automotive visualization and animation.

Jaran Gaarder Heggen's picture

Thanks for taking time to answer :-)

Przemek Lodej's picture

No problem. Glad I could help :)

Scott Belsky's picture

When we read articles like this, many of us wonder why leaders of products don't chime in to accept the feedback and share their commitment to acting on it, so...

I am the founder of Behance (acquired by Adobe in 2012, after which I led our early mobile app initiatives for a few years) and then I re-joined Adobe a little over a year ago as chief product officer overseeing all of Creative Cloud. I took this role because Adobe products have changed my life a few times since my teenage years, and creating products for creative people is a dream job. But I am also motivated by the opportunity to improve our products, modernize the experience as well as the underlying technology (Photoshop's 25+ years of code poses all sorts of challenges when accommodating modern devices), help customers leverage new forms of working and collaboration, and innovate awe-inspiring and productivity enhancing features across every segment. But we also have a lot to fix. Oh yes. But we are laser focused.

Much of the feedback in your post is on-point and, while there are explanations and roadmaps to address most of it, that's no excuse.

Here's a few direct notes: The Creative Cloud "app" that manages your apps and auto-installs new updates (if you want it to) is getting a major upgrade. Overdue but on its way, and you'll start getting improvements in the next few months. The Photoshop and Lightroom teams are devoting more effort than ever before to modernizing underlying architecture and the overall experience to improve performance and enable exciting new workflows. With the power and widespread use of products like Photoshop across so many kinds of customers and different forms (and ages) of hardware, this is a journey, but we're on it. I'll share your feedback on plug-ins and Bridge with the teams - while some issues are related to third-party developers, we should have our facts straight on the root cause of any issue reported by customers. And yes, our support needs to be better, and we have prioritized new initiatives to launch better customer forums, direct real-time chat with support agents, and more. Stay tuned.

Here's what I tell my teams: building products for creative professionals is both an opportunity and a responsibility. We must balance our efforts to build breakthrough features with the increasingly important need to boost performance and modernize our underlying tech and development process to improve quality. We cannot rest on legacy, because the needs of creative professionals change at the pace of creativity itself (fast). The time we spend with customers is never enough. And finally, let's show, not tell. Thank you for your feedback, and while I may not be able to respond to every email, you're welcome to send along critical issues/requests to me directly (my last name at adobe.com). -scott

Jeff Feith's picture

I replaced Photoshop with Pixelmator Pro about a year ago. There’s also the accompanying Pixelmator iPad app - which I love. Together, I can really take my work on the road since the sync to iCloud works perfectly. My Adobe license is up to date but I rarely open anything. When I do, it’s noticeably slower. If you like working on an iPad, Pixelmator has a nice solution for professional designers.

Luca Rubino's picture

There is also Affinity Photo. Same thing. Mac/PC app + iPad version + iCloud. A great companion. And Affinity works with many of PS plugins as well. There are a couple of solutions right now. Good for us.

Jeff Feith's picture

I’ve been staying late after hours watching Affinity Photo tutorials. Take your time understanding Personas and then the app snaps into focus. It’s an elaborate and beautiful app with a ton of features.

Dominic Deacon's picture

On Windows I haven't noticed any bugs in Photoshop for a long time. It can bog down once you get 70 layers deep on a big canvas but then so does Affinity. Rock solid for me and has been for as long as I can remember.

Lightroom on the other hand. What a buggy, crashy, slow, mess that program is.

David Justice's picture

I switched to Capture One and I'll never go back. I use lightroom for tethering currently and even that I'm trying to get away from.

Dominic Deacon's picture

Yeah I did a trial of Capture 1 and liked it a lot. 99% of what I do is in Photoshop though so it's difficult to justify buying Capture 1 to take over that 1% of work I do in lightroom.

Paul Lindqvist's picture

Why on earth would anyone use LR for tethering over C1 ?

David Justice's picture

Honestly just cost. I have 1 license for my desktop. But have to use LR for my laptop. Hoping to switch to C1 on both soon.

Jim Tincher's picture

You can install Capture One Pro on more than one machine....

David Justice's picture

Omg I thought 1 license meant 1 machine.... I just checked, I could've put it on 3!

Warwick Cairns's picture

I run the standalone version of Lightroom 6. Once I’ve bought the software I don’t see why I should keep on paying them every month for ever - it’s a ripoff. If I want an update I’m prepared to pay for it if I think it’s worth it, but there’s no way I’m going to just keep in paying them. They must think we’re stupid

Brian Rodgers Jr.'s picture

I'm actually glad someone wrote this article. I've been using Photoshop for many many years. And while I like a lot of what Adobe's Creative Cloud offers, I too have had a lot of problems with Photoshop on MacOS. Photoshop has become a major bug infestation. With every new release I seem to have new problems, so I've always reverted back to older versions. Now my most stable version that I was using (2018 v19.1.8) has problems with a recent update to it. It's very frustrating, especially when you're a working photographer and you need this stuff to work.

Overall, I think the creative cloud is a great value, I just wish that Photoshop was less buggy, as it's the software I use most. LR still doesn't have .PSB support which drives me crazy.

I agree, there's definitely more competition out there these days. I personally haven't found a solution that fits all of my image needs outside of Adobe though. In terms of processing RAW files and managing digital assets, I own/license the Creative Cloud, Capture One Pro, On1 Photo RAW, and Skylum Luminar. I like and dislike parts of them all for various reasons. LR still integrates the best with Photoshop. On1 is super fast and requires no catalog, which is awesome. Skylums interface is really cool and fun to work it, but I find it to be pretty slow as an asset manager. Capture One is awesome for tethering, and does a great job of processing RAW files. However, it could benefit from a much tighter integration with Photoshop. Asking C1 to open files as layers in Photoshop? Forget about it.

One thing is for sure, I'd really like to start seeing more stable releases of the software that I love to use. Because over the past couple of years, Adobe has consistently been releasing problematic software, making my job as an image maker much more difficult and time consuming.

Rob Davis's picture

Mac OS is in trouble. Creative professionals, who used to be a solidly reliable user base are increasingly moving to PC as processor intensive tasks can be achieved much less expensively. I've noticed a steady drop in quality in several cross-platform apps lately.

Mick Ryan's picture


Rob Davis's picture

Pay attention, both to spelling and the trends in the industry. 4k content in particular has been a driving force away from Mac OS.

Mick Ryan's picture

If you hang around on Fstoppers and Youtube too much you’ll be misled on two things that actual pro photogrpahers need in the real wrold. How many people actually need a flippy screen for vlogging and how many people actually need super powerful PCs to edit heavy amounts of 4k video. And you provide no evidence that there is any big move away form Apple whose sales don’t seem to back you up.

Most of my clients still only request 1080p. Most pros are too busy shooting stuff to care enough to want to build their own PC. I think that’s for people like top Youtube providers and amateurs that are more into the gear than the photography. It’s mostly content creation about content creation to fill up space. How many videos has Lee made about his new computer? Maybe that’s what part of Fstoppers is about now - meta content. But most of us are not You Tubers and don’t have the same concerns.

BTW the spelling remark is irrelevant and just makes you look arrogant, not a good look for anyone. Most people have the manners not to point out typos. So you pay attention, you might learn something.

ronnie yeoh's picture

I’m with you Mitch. I see so many Youtubers saying that every new camera must be built for narcissistic vloggers with flip screens, 4K and 24fps. That’s why the hate for the Canon EOS RP and every camera that doesn’t have that. I just abandoned Canon for Sony A7, but I still have a ton of Canon glass. The $1,200 EOS RP with free adapter suddenly is quite a appealing to me. Canon’s a little late to the game but not all is lost.
I run a 6,300 member Photography Meetup Group and practically no one cares about flip screens, 24fps or 4K. They’re photographers who actually stand behind the camera, not in front of it. Half are Mac users. 49% are females. Less than 1% are into video. Canon is the most popular brand in my group. And all my clients want 1080p. Those are facts in my group in Hong Kong.
People say a lot of stuff that are not backed up with facts and numbers. Just because they have 10 friends in their hometown and 3 of them switched over to PC, they can see a global ‘trend’. That fact only applies to their little town among those 10 friends. In another town, it may be quite different.

Richard Tack's picture

None of these problems on an old Dell 790 w/lowly i5 CPU (bought for $53 from local government surplus sale). Added WIN 10, 16GB ram. $90 3GB vid card, SSD drives except for image storage.

Daniel Medley's picture

As someone already mentioned, these issues don't seem to be a thing on the Windows OS, at least not for me. I run it on a fairly robust machine. An equivalent Mac machine would have been at least twice as costly.

As far as accentless support, I don't know what to say about that other than it's not going to change. I've never had an insurmountable problem dealing with an accent. But I live in a multi lingual household and spend a lot of time around various accents.

Personally, from my experience (using a Windows 10 machine) I'm very happy with Adobe's new direction and subscription model (in less than 5 years the vast majority of software will use a similar model).

Since your issue regarding support without an accent is not going to change, the best advice to you would probably be to either find a different solution or go Windows 10.

Alec Kinnear's picture

There's always a geezer somewhere to recommend Windows (whatever version) as the solution to your marital troubles.

Unsurprising given how privacy invasive Windows itself is, said dude would be happy with Adobe's privacy invasive Creative Cloud. Fortunately he's wrong that there won't be software available without subscription in five years. Most people don't want to subscribe to software, hence vendors who don't sell via subscription will continue to thrive.

He is right about one thing – Adobe's cross-platform heavy framework is awful on OS X. It's not getting better. So best to dump Adobe altogether. There's three steps to photo post production: triage, RAW processing, pixel editing. You need an application at each of those steps. One application can cover two bases but not more. Here's some solid recommendations on Mac (I actively use and or properly tested all of these):

Triage: FastRawViewer, PhotoMechanic
RAW processing: DxO PhotoLab, C1, Iridient Developer
Pixel editing: Affinity Photo, Acorn, Pixelmator

Daniel Medley's picture

And there's also always the person out there who resorts to ad hominem and personal absolutes.

Again, I have not had any of the issues the author has regarding Adobe on my Windows 10 machine, and I appreciate the subscription model. Why do you take that so personal?

Alec Kinnear's picture

I wouldn't characterise my arguments as ad hominem. Yes, you are a stand-in for the conformist corporatist with your baseball hat and your attitude about paying to give up one's privacy but there's nothing personal in my argument, Daniel. I don't know who pays you, who you live with, who your friends are, where you hang out or what you drive. And none of that matters. As my argument is general and not ad-hominem.

People like you made Bill Gates the richest man in the world and helped usher in the age of zero privacy and subscription software. You know the consequences of your choices, Daniel, and you're comfortable with them. Enjoy the Brave New World.

Carlos David's picture

Is there anyone out there that is truly, madly in love with CC ? If a better more stable alternative presented itself (and there are several decent contenders now) I would jump in an instant. My PS started crashing in Liquify after the last upgrade earlier this month. LR is slooooww as molasses. Promised features never materialize .. remember that new tool that could fix blurry images? Adobe is resting on it's laurels the same way Wordperfect and some many other did. Windows 10 x64 24Gb RAM SSDs

Rob Davis's picture

I am not love with it but I’m happy with the value I’m getting. I do a lot of mixed media and it’s great to have all of their tools. The other great thing about CC is everyone I work with is on the same version of the software (or at least has no excuse not to be anymore). Gone are the days where we’d have a project done and someone would ask for it to be saved as a older version file format and lose functionality.

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