Why You Should Be Offended By The Pirating of Photoshop

Why You Should Be Offended By The Pirating of Photoshop

Okay, I get it. Hundreds of thousands of you are offended by Adobe's choice to go to the Creative Cloud. I understand, I was leading the forefront with my torch in hand. Renting software sounds like a ludicrous statement, especially when half the software you won't even use. So why shouldn't you just pirate it?

The answer is simple, because your career forbids you to.

So whether you're an amateur photographer just starting out, or on the cusp of opening your second studio location, you should know better. You're in this industry for one thing, to create; and if all goes well, make a living creating photos for yourself and for your clients. Nobody joins the art industry to make a ton of money. In fact, jokes are thrown around constantly about the idea of a starving artist. You're not on this career path to become rich and famous, because there is very little money to be had in the art community. And the fame? Lets talk the fame.

When I was at WPPI this year, I had a long discussion with Jeremy Cowart at the Framed Awards. I was absolutely star struck, but playing it off as cool as I could. Eventually I asked him how he handles all of his success and his adoring fans. He said simply, he doesn't. Sure, Cowart is considered a genius to many of us, and many of would kill to have a couple hours to pick his brain. But the fact remains, Jeremy Cowart is still buying his own groceries, and can still be seen walking the streets alone in his hometown of Nashville. Jeremy Cowart is only famous to the market of Photography, and that market is far smaller than you might imagine.

So to get back on point, why shouldn't you pirate Photoshop? It's simple, because you don't want people stealing your images and using them for whatever they'd like. In fact, you spend so much time making sure people don't steal your images or ideas. You constantly complain when someone asks you to shoot their band for free. You're up in arms when a concert gives you a ticket to their show in exchange for event photography. You want to the art industry to be taken seriously, yet you have no problems with stealing from Adobe to save a couple bucks. By pirating Photoshop, the only thing you're telling the art community is that you don't care about them at all.


"But Adobe is a multi million dollar company!"


Absolutely, they are, and they deserve every dollar they make. They have built their company from the ground up by being innovative and tailoring to the market's needs. I was just discussing this with a photographer over the weekend. Does anyone remember PaintShop Pro? I loved that program ten years ago, even more so than Photoshop. Where is PaintShop Pro now? It still exists, if you believe it. But it's faded off into obscurity, because they were no longer able to meet the demands that the industry wanted. Adobe surpassed them on every level because Adobe is constantly asking themselves "What can we do next?".

Adobe has continuously impressed us with the technology they've been able to create. When content aware fill was introduced, my brain nearly exploded with shock. Even their latest tool, Camera Shake Reduction is straight out of science fiction. I'm convinced they're about 2 years behind from making the CSI-esque tool "Enhance" a reality.

They're constantly adapting and improving, more so than any software company in existence. You need to reward them for their hard work and diligence. Sure, the Creative Cloud is a pain in the ass. I too, like having the disc in front of me and the appearance of owning the software. But when you start using Creative Cloud, you'll find that it wasn't built to piss you off, it was build to help push innovations through at a much faster rate. It was built to increase your workflow, by allowing you to download Premiere Pro with the click of a button, or to search through thousands of fonts that they're offering up for free (Over $200,000 market value worth apparently).

Adobe is making millions with their products, but that is no reason for you to boycott them as long as they're still creating fantastic products. If your photography career begins to take off and you start making good money at it, does that give anyone else the right to kick in your door and take your things?


"But $50/$20 a month is a crazy price to put on software"


Is it though? I mean, thats $600 a year for all of Adobe's software, and $240 a year for just Photoshop. And sure that seems like a lot, however I just purchased a Canon 5d Mark III 2 weeks ago. That camera costs well over 3,000 dollars, and have I noticed an astonishing improvement over my work from when I was shooting with the Canon 5d Mark II? Absolutely not. The photos on my website are well over 2 weeks old, and my printed portfolios have remained unchanged since the purchase of this new camera. Why is that? Because it's a tool, and with how I shoot photos, the Mark III and Mark II do not make any difference to my work whatsoever. I wanted it because I wanted it, not because I needed it.

I NEED Photoshop. It has worked its way so far into my workflow that there is no turning back. Photoshop has helped improve my work far more than the Canon 5d Mark III ever will, and the Mark III cost far more than I've ever paid Adobe for anything. So why is okay to spend thousands of dollars to Nikon/Canon annually without much thought and the idea of paying Adobe for their cutting edge tools absurd. Is it because you can't illegally download the Mark III firmware to your Mark II and be set? Good riddance.

If you do some math on the topic, the Cloud actually turns out to be cheaper. If you're only using Photoshop, you can get it right now for $20 a month. Buying Photoshop CS6 (an old version no less) right out the door costs $666 on Amazon. So by that math, it'll take you 2.7 years before Photoshop CC has reached its value from the boxed editions of the software. Within those 2.7 years, Adobe will certainly have at least one, if not two new versions of the software available for you to use. So how are you not saving money with this plan?

Like most people, I spend $9.99 on Netflix a month, $9 on Spotify Premium monthly, and $9 on Hulu Plus monthly. How have those services helped my career as a photographer? If anything, they've hurt it far more than helped it. I use those tools to procrastinate and get away from the work I should be doing.


So I'll leave you with this. Piracy is going to happen, that's the nature of the beast. If you can build something, someone out there can find a way to tear it all down. So it all really comes down to who you're supporting. Are you going to stand at the sidelines and cheer for the guys who are creating things beyond your own imagination, or are you going to root for the people who come in looking to destroy that idea and innovation? Being a creative mind myself, I'll gladly choose the former.

[PSA - I am not endorsed, sponsored or accredited to Adobe in anyway whatsoever. All of the opinions in this article are of my own and no one elses. This article was written in like...15 minutes in response to this.]

Image via iStockPhoto

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Previous comments
Jason Ranalli's picture

That analogy is almost there but not quite. Internet and cable companies are content providers whereas Adobe PS is a tool for creating. Furthermore, I don't lose access to everything I have downloaded on my cable-modem when I cancel the subscription. With Adobe if I cancel I can no longer use the PSD files I have created and modify them further.

Cellphones are another analogy that doesn't work. You don't create anything with a cell-phone connection that you no longer have access to; it's simply a medium for passing data.

Do your research first. You don't lose access to everything you created. Only the files on the cloud. The files sync with your desktop... those files will still remain similar to dropbox. if you cancel your dropbox account it doesn't erase your desktop.

Jason Ranalli's picture

No, do your own research first. You're incorrect. I will lose the ability to work with my own created PSD files if the can no longer afford to pay the subsrciption.

Regardless of how much I payed for the perpetual license I will ALWAYS be able to continue using my creations, edit them, etc.

That is the real problem here. All the people merely equating total cost just aren't getting why many feel put out by this. It has little to do with cost and much to do with you owning nothing when all is said and done in addition to not even being able to work with your own created content anymore.

Antonio Carrasco's picture

Nah man, this article is bogus.

The Creative Cloud backlash isn't just about Adobe, it's about setting precedent. So far Microsoft and Adobe have been the only two major companies to really test the waters in software-as-a-service business model. If this software rental scheme is accepted, get ready to pay monthly rent on every piece of software on your computer and be forever locked out of proprietary file formats if you miss a payment.

If Adobe is really worried about piracy, they need to sell their products at a fair price and make them easy to use/license. It's working for Apple. Look at what they are doing with OS X, Aperture and Motion. Fair price. Easy to license.

Are you suggesting that you had no problem paying for photoshop before but now, since its in the cloud, you are going to steal it? I find that hard to believe but it brings up an interesting thought:

What if Adobe had allowed people to continue buying the software or use the cloud. I bet the majority of people would move to the cloud without any fuss because its cheaper.

Antonio Carrasco's picture

It's NOT cheaper, just like renting furniture is NOT cheaper than buying it.

The fact is that my Photoshop workflow hasn't changed since CS3. The only reason I update is for OS/hardware compatibility

I'm with you on that. I don't use the new photoshop features and I've been happy with CS2 for years. I ended up buying the newest creative suite to get the newest Premiere which has some necessary updates. For those people who don't need software updates, stick with what you have.

the point is you CAN'T stick with what you got in the future because the only way to get it is by subscription! Thats the bloody point... Adobe is severely limiting the options and is forcing everybody to constantly pay. So if Adobe ends up only releasing a new version every 5 years you still have to pay for those full 5 years. I like the option of the cloud and making it easy to access but not when it limits the options and forces you to constantly pay.

Markus Storzer's picture

I agree with you whole heartedly ....there are software updates/upgrades that need to be done because of something doesn't work with an operating system (here goes another expense - you don't buy it unless you really have to or its pre-installed on a new computer)

Same with rental cars - sure it sounds good to get a car for the weekend deal of $49 plus insurance but unlimited miles etc. but if you keep on renting that car, extending the rental period over months it might just be cheaper to get a good financing deal....

Right! I used CS2 for ages... not everyone is a comercial photographer with the need for extensive quaterly updates.

Antonio Carrasco's picture

The very reason Adobe switched to subscription software rental is because they haven't been able to innovate enough to get people to upgrade every year. That's terrible!

What if other companies did this when their products matured to the point of being more or less "finished"? What if you had to pay a subscription fee for your refrigerator? And your TV?

This is Adobe's way of continuing to rake in profits on something that is not going to fundamentally change much in the future.

Noam Galai's picture

It's cheaper for some time.... and then it becomes expensive :) if you're going to pay $20/50 for the next 10-15 years.... it's going to be a lot of money.

Perhaps Adobe should test your theory Lee.

Andrew Sible's picture


I think Adobe should have given us a choice; people bitch about change when it's forced upon them. MS got hit so hard because of this, and it WILL cost them a TON of revenue on the Xbox One. I was so bothered by the idea of the DRM requirements (and the pricetag) that I'll be avoiding the console most likely, in favor of Sony's option, if I do buy a new console.

That being said I can't afford either. (I only got a 360 last year and it was a gift)

On another note, the cloud IS cheaper but for some, including me, money may not come in regularly enough to maintain another bill on top of other bills. The previous environment from Adobe allowed for planned and secure upgrading when required and wanted. I still use CS3 and I will until I no longer can. I have not paid for photoshop for three generations, and bought only one copy of Lightroom (3), and I'm doing fine.
This new plan creates a level of uncertainty due to the possibility of being cut off. It's like not having a phone to call 911 because you ran into financial hardship -- You might just die.

In this case, the business could take a huge hit because if I forget a bill or unexpectedly loose money, Adobe will say "nope, pay your bill THEN edit that photo."
You can't buy a copy and be set for a long time or until YOU change what is required of the program. We all can forget a bill, or slip and break an ankle and not have the cash as planned. This goes without saying on any cost, but now instead of once every few years, it's every month.

Of course this is a limited demographic and one I hope to wriggle out of with proper business handling, but I can vouch for those who just can't manage another bill because their lives are structured in a different way, and managed to support what they need. It's not just a software change, it's a lifestyle change, regardless of how small you find $20/mo. to be. You said yourself, there is "very little money to be had in the art community."

Also, encase you're thinking "BUT NETFLIX COSTS..." or "COFFEEEE COSTS!!" don't even start with that; I pay rent, car insurance, utilities, and buy food... I don't buy (OR have) cable, satellite, or cool online stuff like Hulu or whatever, and I don't make payments on a car. I also can't afford a loan to continue my education. I'm lucky that our landlord lets us use the neighboring vacation rental's internet for free or I wouldn't be on here!

I have very little "overhead" and what little I do get I try to enjoy frugally and in a useful manner. I STRUGGLE to buy even ONE $5 cup of coffee every four months or so when friends visit from out of town because of the principle of purchasing a small cup of liquid for what I could buy a lunch for elsewhere.
Yes, my spending plan is messed up and I could cut off all erroneous spending (just bought a T-shirt for $12 yesterday because I "had to") but to simply add $20 a month regularly, if I even wanted to, could be financial suicide for me.

No I don't even need the Adobe CC, but speaking as someone who may want it soon, I am attempting to convey why there is disdain for adobe from some. I also respectfully say that your statement "like most people" would be more correct as "like many people". I would not pay $30/month for entertainment. As an English teacher once said tov me, unless you took a poll or have hard data, don't say "most" because you can't possibly know what "most people" do.

Plus my girlfriend has netflix. ;) lol.

In summary, I like your article, but agree with those who say using netflix and pure entertainment bills as a comparison is not valid for as many as you might think,
I also offer another perspective as to why a monthly plan is a difficult idea for some, including myself.
However, I also see the benefits of a monthly structure; having said all the above, realize I should try to manage my money a bit better so I can take on seemingly small monthly costs, while trying to spend less on "OOOOHHH COOL SHIRT!!"

It's a luxury item Antonio, it's worth the price. How come photographers complain about the cost of something they use everyday?

Antonio Carrasco's picture

NO, just like a hammer is not a luxury item, Photoshop is not a luxury item. It is a tool. THINK before you type.

I thought about how concieted your response was.

A hammer is a tool

A pneumatic press that crushes cars are also a tool.

One is a more specialized item, and cost more.

Photoshop is specialized. It's so ubiquitous and worth it that it's a standard. There are cheaper alternatives. In the end it's still a specialized tool that ISN"T used everyday by everyman, but a set of professionals (or in your case unprofessionals)

So stop trying to sound big and smart when you are just here to try to instigate people.

Man, you bore me.

I normally don't admit on the internet my penchant for entertainment from strange men. But whatever you want man.

A hammer does not require thousands of man hours, and a huge team of the top minds in the construction industry to design.

A hammer is not something that can be pirated and distributed online for free.

A hammer is not constantly growing and updating in order to remain viable in the construction industry.

Thousands of construction workers do not base their entire workflow around their hammer.

The hammer isn't an absolute STAPLE in the construction industry. If you don't have a hammer, you can easily substitue it with a wrench, rock, or any other blunt object you find laying around.

It doesn't take countless YEARS of experience to learn every aspect and use for a hammer.

Craftsman hasn't lost billions due to hammer theft.

An expert knowledge of hammer usage will NOT increase your likelihood for getting hired to a construction firm.

There is no job that consists PURELY of using a hammer.

There are now moral dilemmas associated with excessive hammer use in the construction industry, due to its extreme power with controlling how people perceive... buildings.

No urban legends can be traced back to expert usage (that I'm aware of.)

You can't make someone's face prettier with a hammer...

Can we put that argument to rest yet?

Antonio Carrasco's picture

You're really pushing your failed analogies, eh?

No... I'm trying to put YOUR failed analogy to death!

Agreed w/ headshots..You're selling your own poison by paying into this ponzi crap.

Unlike CC, cameras don't expire and become disabled if we don't pay a regular fee.

Whilst I agree with a part of what you're saying, I think it's more of a grey area. Have you ever played an MMO? The business model basically is borrowed from that. You're continually paying for the prolonged development of a software that will keep on developing and you'll be able to get the latest versions and stay up to date and use it. Essentially it is like a magazine subscription. So your example is a bit like apples and oranges. They are indeed both fruit, and have similarities, but they are different fruits.

If I stop my magazine subscription I can still use (read) the magazines I've already paid for so it's not like that.

A magazine is not a tool. Photoshop is a tool. What about if you rent a tool?

You stated that it was like a magazine subscription. That was the only reason I stayed with that analogy. However, certain magazines are, to some degree, tools if they're for learning. For instance, something like Computer Arts I subscribe to for the purposes of learning and can go back through and do tutorials, etc. My subscription to Powder? Not a tool (except for photographic research). But more importantly YOU define Photoshop as a tool. For you (and me) it may be a tool, for others it may be a toy. It's photo editing software. It's a product, plain and simple. How the purchaser uses it determines whether it's a tool, toy, entertainment, etc. So that shouldn't affect it's pricing structure or payment scheme.
To answer your question, if I rent a tool - a camera for instance- I don't expect to get to keep that camera when I'm not paying my rental fee. I also wouldn't be dumb enough to rent a camera that I need for my business for the rest of my life. While I may pay the higher cost of renting for a very short time either to try out a new camera or to have a backup body or maybe a special type of camera for a certain job but if it's something that I'm going to use on a continual basis I will purchase it so I have when I need it.
I understand that some like the CC model. And for some people it may work out to be more affordable. The new photographer just dipping his toe into this can rent PS for a month every now and then when he has time to learn some techniques or has the occasional shoot & burn wedding that he does for $200. That's great that there's an entry point. For others who can't afford to lay out the cash for the whole suite all at once but can keep coming up with that $50 every month, great.
What people don't seem to realize is that most of us who are up in arms about this switch aren't suggesting that the CC rental model go away. Keep it in place. Just keep the CS model for those who want it as well. Because for someone who has been purchasing Adobe's CS products since before there was a CS this model is not less expensive. If I worked in a studio that just blindly purchased every single upgrade when Adobe released them then the CC is cheaper. However, I, like many others out there, have skipped over versions if I didn't feel that there weren't enough improvements (or the right ones for me) to justify the upgrade cost. And over time that makes the CC model much more expensive.

When you pay for a MMO you are paying not only to use the software, but also the servers in which it is hosted, the updates (much much much more frequent), the staff that keep your game running and so on.
Photoshop never needed that, until now you just paid for your license and used the software in your computer and that is it.
It's the same as paying a monthly fee to use your pool, in case of photoshop.
But when you pay to have access to a country club, like and MMO, you not only have access to the pool, but also all the other stuff the club has to offer, and also the community.

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