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

Didn't Adobe recently say that they will still be providing upgrades for CS6 to support new cameras in Camera RAW?

Probably they will, but for how long? :):)

CC hasn't stopped anyone that wants to from illegally using Photoshop.

I got Photoshop CS6 for a one time cost of $200. Now if I want the new version I have to pay $240 every year?

Zach Sutton's picture

$140....not $240.

In what world is $20 for 12 months $140? 20*12=240

Zach Sutton's picture

Sorry, Its still early in the morning here....brain isn't firing on all cylinders yet.

I went to college for Math too....I should know better.

Andrew Williams's picture

photoshop CS6 costs about 700. With the creative cloud it will cost 240 before you upgrade. How is that more.

Drew, because if you have ever bought a legal copy of photoshop at whatever price they charged at the time, the upgrades are generally around $149 or $169 as I recall. My CS6 upgrade was $169 from Adobe. You don't have to buy a full new version with each change from CS to CS3 to CS4 to CS5 to CS6... You can even skip a generation if you don't care to pay the price or it doesn't have anything that you feel you need/want over what you are currently using and you aren't out additional money and the product still works just fine.
When you DO decide to upgrade, you pay the (under $200) price and are back to whatever is current at the time. With the new model it makes it easier for anyone just getting into the program, for sure. It is more expensive, depending on your upgrade frequency it could be considerably so, for anyone who has a copy and upgrades as needed.

Gjergji Bullari's picture

Lee as much as I admire you I have to say you argument its flawed. True true but you make thousands of dollars a month not because u use this particular tool or any other for that matter, (sure the tool helps) but you make the money coz of you talent and hard work.

Markus Storzer's picture

what about the passionate amateur photography enthusiast? People that are using photography and PS as a creative outlet to balance their life?

Markus Storzer's picture

what about the passionate amateur photography enthusiast? People that are using photography and PS as a creative outlet to balance their life?

there are cheaper alternatives out there. People just want the best and not pay for it.

It's like being mad at someone when you are joyriding in your Camry, and they drive by with a R8. Pay for it if you want the extras.

"syafiqzailan" said :"In asia where the currency is lower than usd it was way too much for a year, 20 usd = RM 80,which the cost almost a thousand for a year. sad. no choice.have to stay with cs6."

So judged by your statement, he and most probably everyone from a secound or third world country are not entitled to PS in future? Maybe they don´t really want the best, they just want something good that holds a little. Something that you save up for and then own for some years. If you want to, you can upgrade from time to time, load extra tools etc. , but the basics work as you have paid for them. With CS6 this is still possible, but what will be the future?

Dude I'm from a first world country but I WILL NEVER EVER have a 100million dollar yacth, or may never have a ferrari. It's the way it is. I want everyone in the world to have photoshop if they want it, and by all means if you work hard enough you deserve to get it. Do you think people in those countries need the state of the edge software? I'm sure they are fine paying 15 baht for CS3. And if they can make money off that enough they upgrade...it's how it's suppose to work. We work for what we want.

In the last year have you donated any money Stefan? Since we are talking about people who don't have the luxuries we do. I can tell you I have...and got a feeling you may have because you seemingly think about those who aren't as fortunate. The reason that point is brought up is we can help those people who do want the small upgrades by giving them our software :) I agree some people don't need month to month stuff...so let them just get the alternative options.

Using people who are not as fortunate economy wise is a doubled edge sword, cause honestly in America we are just as fubar as anyone else when it comes to economy (well except the greeks, those poor guys). The reality of it all is people WANT the cutting edge, but in reality many don't want to pay for it.

Amen to that!

In asia where the currency is lower than usd it was way too much for a year, 20 usd = RM 80,which the cost almost a thousand for a year. sad. no choice.have to stay with cs6.

"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." - True! If I'd wanted to become (filthy) rich, I'd be writing software for a living! Hey, they know we don't make much money. So, why then do they ask so much money for their tools?

Zach Sutton's picture

But it's not that much money. Spending $20 a month to have access to Photoshop is huge. I can easily make a few thousand dollars a month when I'm photographing and using Photoshop. And those thousands can only be earned after paying that $20.

Exactly! Given that you have those $20 bucks every month you need it. Otherwise you're loosing clients, which in the photography world do not always pay upfront. And if you read my story below, one can have situations where it just isn't possible to have that extra $20 in the beginning ...
Trust me, it may sound ridiculous, but not every talented guy has luck, or enough self-discipline and self-consciousnes to just be able to tackle the struggling a photographer has to do to get to the top. And for starving artists, $20 more each month is like christmas. Also even as a developer, having both perspectives of monthly and licence payments applied, sometimes I rather pay the whole thing and just be done with it. Creative Cloud is a good, don't get me wrong. But when it comes to piracy, it's not just only about people who like stealing. It's also about people who do not have a choice. Therefore I find it productive and social to sometimes make software available for free. For a realistic time. Which would be more than 30 days ...

So you are saying a struggling artist or someone starting a business cant afford $20, but can afford $600 plus. If you cant budget $20 into your business start up plan, you are not ready to start a business.

THANK YOU!!! GOD, why do people not understand, if you can't afford this, it's because your business isn't viable, and you have much bigger things to worry about??

I'm not sure I am entirely happy with you insulting me that way.

Your post is essentially saying: If you don't like Creative Cloud then you'll pirate Photoshop.

I think I will keep my legit copies of CS5 & LR5 all the while disliking Creative Cloud but not being a software pirate... Where does that fit into your equation?

Zach Sutton's picture

I'm not putting you into any category.

If you bought CS5 and LR5, then that is great. I am happy you decided to make those purchases.

This post is a reaction to the people working so hard to crack CC and get an illegal copy of that software.

Am I the only one thinking of those who just can't pay?

should rather move your enlightment education to the point where you
teach people not to steal in the long term, but to be honest instead.
I don't think there's anything wrong at all with some Robin Hood's here and there. People reach out far to less !

If you have the money, ok. Others don't.
Doesn't mean they won't pay - ever.

Again, they can afford a computer, internet connection, cameras etc, but not $20/month. Sorry but isnt photoshop a very powerful and professional piece of software? Guess what i cant afford a ferrari, does not mean i should be allowed to steal one.

It seems that people here don't understand the concept of digital piracy.
When you steal a car you remove it from the original owner so YOU have the car and the original owner now has NOTHING.
When you pirate a software the company still has the software, is still selling the software and still making money off it.
When you pirate a software you simply COPY it, most people who pirate it wouldn't buy it in the first place.
If someone pirate photoshop you can still use, it's not like your license was stolen, at most adobe will be sad because they were unable to suck a bag of money from a user.
When a person steals a ferrari, the company couldn't care less, the car was already paid, the one that loses is the owner (but most likely the insurance company).
Bottom line, don't ever compare digital piracy with stealing, it's completely different.

It may not have been your intention but, as your post doesn't mention the "3rd option" (after paying for CC & pirating) then by inference that's what you've done.

Seriously, the first two paragraphs just divide us all into: buying CC & pirating the software. There is no mention of the "3rd option" anywhere near the top of the article (I stopped after reading 2/3's as I was just getting annoyed.

I apologise if you mention it in the last 1/3 of the post & I missed it, but really if it's that far down then it's mentioned the wrong place anyway.

Yes - well said! But honestly, I don't agree.
I myself "switched" careers - from Photographer to self-employed full time application developer.
Yes, I see the irony, but wait for my point please ...

If you think about it, everyone knows that mouth to mouth propaganda is far the biggest and most successfull promotion one can get. That's why social networking is by far the biggest advertising platform right after the real thing - because it comes so close.
And yes, one can say that Photoshop certainly is by far the most known tool out there (besides Gimp) and every student knows it, BUT:
I had NOTHING when I started out. I barely had money to buy a camera, nor had my father whom I left with 16 anyways. And if I think about it, it took me two full years until I got my first underpaid shooting. And even then, people and friends LOVED my photography, but they did not have any more money than I did. During those two years I had a "job", working for free, shooting on events and parties. Good work. Work which thought me to become even better due to the fact of ever changing lighting situations, uncontrollable models and the occasional smoke wall between me and my subjects. Now, the still available 30days trial period wouldn't have helped me. I barely had money to pay for rent and food and the first camera I got was a 400€ bucks Fujifilm Finepix hybrid which I had to lent money for. Then I reached it's limits and needed a camera which enabled switching lenses. I paid about 1200 bucks for two lenses, camera body, a tiny remote control and a cheap tripod. After that I had to buy an external flash. 1600 bucks total. And I had none of that money either. I had lend that money and didn't pay it back for half a year.
And my situation wasn't even that bad compared to others.

My point is:
If you want to make good work and meet todays standards, you NEED photoshop or at least something like gimp, which comes pretty close. 30 days trial aren't enough if you're trying to collect money to pay the real thing. If you're honest and WANT to pay but can't, there's no solution for the time between collecting and having the money. 20 bucks a month or more is something most do not have. As specially if you're starting out. You need internet, you need a pc / laptop, a camera, lights, tripods etc. - and if you suck, those gadgets won't make it better. So you pay a lot of money to try yourself out and to get to be successfull.
Sometimes one has to steal first, to then be able to be honest and pay and say "thank you".
There's no option for that. At all - besides Photoshop elements. Which isn't free and would add up to the real thing if you're going to need it. And not everyone has student privileges. In my case, I didn't have health insurance that time and therefore did not have the right to study.

I think it's only fair if one thinks about those cases. Most people WILL be honest and pay for what they need, as soon as it becomes "real" to them and they are able to ...
So if one would want to help and support artists of any kind, one should make tools available so they can go out, try and explore for as long as they need for it to either be real, or think of another talent. Instead one has to actually be somewhere on, or above that line which society drew to be "average".

I hope I was clear enough in communicating my thoughts ...

By the way - I never gave up photography and bought myself a copy of Adobe CC. I still work with it and love it and it's worth the money. But if you don't have it, you're pretty much lost if you don't take the "pirating" (more "lending") route first!

Zach Sutton's picture

There is no excuse for pirating. As an application developer, you should know that.

In terms to your point, Adobe does offer CS2 for free on their website, which is a more than capable program to learn how to edit photos with.

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