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

I think this was a mistake. But it seems like a good idea

Zach Sutton's picture

It was a mistake initially...but then Adobe took the "F*ck it...let them download it" approach.

oh, well that's awesome. Nobody should be mad then

That I didn't know and appreciate the fact they did that !
It's a starting point ...

I agree with what you are saying but don't you think $20/month is the closest they could possibly get to "trying it until you start making money". Even someone making minimum wage could afford it.

The best thing Adobe could do, and what we thought they did do a few months back was release an old version to the public for free (CS2 I believe). That way people can use the basic features and learn the software and then when they need the new tools, they can afford to pay for them.

What if CS2 cost just $5/month?

Zach Sutton's picture

Agreed. I spent $32 dollars at the bar this weekend celebrating a birthday with friends...and I'm broke!

$20 is very manageable

Well I now have enough money for almost any license I need, but still ...
At the point where I was starting out doing photography work, I really didn't have that extra money. And I'm dead honest here!
If it wasn't for piracy, I would have never been able to just start out and explore myself with it.
See, I was profiting of free access to whatever party and event I was wanting to go to, in exchange of photos. But I never earned money that way. You certainly can, but in that area it really wasn't easy at that time. My work was good, but 20c a picture (what others offered that time) just doesn't make any difference ...
And really - as a software developer one does know the need of money, but also, we earn way more if we need if we're doing the right work.

You know, for many years I had the theory that Apple and Adobe are spreading there illegal copies themselves. And honestly, if they would, that would be REALLY smart. Because honest people don't go like "ah cool, ignore pay, earn big" ... they pay when they can, because they feel either thankful, or they pay out of remorse. And if they like the software and personally tell their friends and parents about it, they eventually have the money to pay for their copies.

People spend way too much energy on being against piracy.
If you're human and fair, you wouldn't cut a starving kid's hand off, just because he stole bread to get back up. But yes, sadly, we aren't fair anymore.

Sorry to say this, but this post is unnecessary. The people that used to pirate it in the past, will continue to do so. The people that didn't, wont do it cause it went CC. You are actually preaching to the wrong crowd here. People that pirate ps are not professionals. Are not adobe's clients. Are mostly kids now (it was different in the 90s). Yes, for sure there are some start-ups pirating it, for sure there are shady companies in emerging or 3rd world markets that for now pirate them. But they wouldn't buy it if they couldn't pirate them, so again, they are not adobe customers.

There are many kinds of piracy. It is not the same the Microsoft office piracy by a kid, than a kid downloading the latest Lady Ga ga record. In the first case, the kid wasn't Microsoft customer to begin with (At least for office). Big and small business are, professionals, etc. In the second, the kid IS the record companies customer. You have to distinguish this very clear to understand all this. If I take one of your photos and use it as wallpaper, you will probably don't care. You wont send me a lawyer. In fact you may even feel flattered, and think it is ok, and maybe someone will see it, I will tell who the photograph is and you will make a new client. I was never going to buy that photo as a wallpaper.

Another thing from the 90s. No company will admit this, but all these companies prefer you to pirate their software than to buy the competition. Microsoft recognized it in internal memos in the 90s for instance. It was better that home users got it for free than installing Linux. Cause they would get used to windows and not to Linux and when they could,the bought Microsoft. Not only for their homes, but for their business and helped create the myth that windows was more user friendly (it wasn't, people were just used to it).

Finally, I don't advocate piracy, I just think that at this point it is not important, the battle for the customers was won by the big companies (Microsoft, adobe, etc). Companies, real customers, professionals buy the software. The kids don't do it, and in the future they will be the new customers. IT is not the same in the music business, but that is another story, and that is not adobes business model.

Something I heard in an interview to Pete Townshend some time ago. He confessed that when he started he used to steal some guitars from a shop he knew (I think the owner knew but let him) for destroying in his shows. Later when he was famous, he went back to the guitar shop and payed for them (and probably for more). Just an anecdote, again, not defending piracy, just mentioning that to a level, it is necessary even for these big companies and they consider it. OF course they will never admit it and in PR they are very against it. Again, that is the nature of the business.

About the CC soft, it is not about piracy, and never was. It is about continuous and predictable revenues. Not about piracy. Adobe knows the soft will still be pirated, and to a level, they prefer you pirate it to using something free that competes with them and could take real customers away from them in the future. Again, if you work, if your work depends on it, people are already buying it. THis post again, is completely unnecesary and doesnt tell what CC is really about, money.

I don't like the new "lease vs buy" business model at all. But that's no excuse for piracy.

I'm sticking with CS6 until I decide what I'm going to do. Why? Because I paid for it once, and it will keep working until my OS will no longer support it.

Adam Cross's picture

I was talking to a friend recently about all of this, I can't see how paying £18 a month for Photoshop is worse than dumping £600+ all in one go and I brought up the precise point that you make here about the fact that before your £18 a month reaches that £600+ Adobe will have brought out the next update to CC and you'll be updated automatically and your next £18 per month will go on the new update - you will be saving money! I, like a lot of people right now, will most likely continue using CS6 or 5 or whatever but I will happily update to CC when the time is right, the benefits definitely outweigh any negatives. As for pirating - I'm no saint, CS6 was the first time I ever paid for Photoshop since first downloading Photoshop 7 12 years ago as I was never in a financial position to pay for it all in one transaction - if I were just starting out now in 2013 the Creative Cloud option of payer per month would be extremely attractive! and an option i'll definitely be looking at in a year or two.

My point exactly ... !
Sorry for making you all read so much of me, but this is a real world example.
You're not a thief, you just couldn't pay for it. And now you have a licence for a whole packet of Adobe software and even are able to pay for Creative Cloud. Now ... what against piracy? It helps creative people to get better and to prove themselves honest and pay when they can. At least it leaves that option. But if no one cracked the creative cloud, nobody would be able to work with the latest tools (which they may need) and then be able earn enough money to pay for the software on monthly basis ...

Sometimes I think some people just don't think enough, don't think at all, or are just to lucky to be rich (or angry that they paid and others don't).

RUSS T.'s picture

lol wow some yahoo pirates software, AND NOW it's a huge deal here on fstoppers?
TRUE it's a brand new concept and nothing has ever been pirated in the history of software, so ya lets flip out and argue about it...

Or. . . donate your services photo/video services on a quarterly basis to a 501c3 non-profit organization, they can get the entire suite for sub $200 (multiple licenses), give you a license, and you produce compelling content to help them grow their charity and organizational impact. Win for everyone.

I had purchased cloud few months back, and I am very happy with it. I do not just use PS, but LR, Pr, Ae and Audition as well. Good thing, now LR5 is out, I can upgrade it effortlessly. =)

Microsoft announced the Xbox One about a month ago with a very very similar model as Adobe with the "you have to be connected to use it" nonsense. The gaming community went into an uproar about it and other ridiculous limitations (kinda like people are doing with CC). Microsoft just announced today that they listened to their users and totally reversed their decision to release it with that model... People can use it whenever they want wherever they want just like the 360. That's the power of the people. Piracy is a tricky subject and it's not necessarily just plain stealing for most people that are actually making money from using it. I like to call it borrowing with the intent to purchase... or an extended demo. The same people that are preaching "don't steal software" seem to be in the same camp of people that say "don't go into debt when you start your business". Before CC dropping 2k for software is quite a lot of debt when starting a business. Exactly how are you going to land a job making videos for a wedding if you don't have the software to make the videos? Work at Wal-mart until you save up enough? Sure, that's very noble. =) Maybe you could plan things out perfectly and edit your entire portfolio with the 30 day trial? good luck. Now with CC, starting a business just got a lot lighter in your pocket, at least initially.... Over the long haul you'll be paying WAY MORE than you need to for this software.

Autodesk is another software GIANT and the maker of 3d Studio Max which I've been using for the past 16 years. Our studio had an autodesk salesman/demo guy come in one day to show us some of the new features of their new release. We were talking about the price of the software and we wandered into the piracy discussion. He actually said "The more people that know our software the more software we will sell". I told him that I had a conspiracy theory that the software giants actually released the cracks so that people could learn the software over their competition (at the time the competition was Maya, Autodesk has since purchased it). The salesman looked at me, smiled and said "Not a bad business trick huh?". They know that most people will eventually buy their if more people know their software.

I know this thread isn't about the Creative cloud but it is a little tied together. The trick Adobe is using to sell CC as a "deal" is that you can get AAAALLLL of our software for 50 bucks a month. I don't know anyone that uses more than 4 or 5 of their products. I only need 3, Photoshop, Premiere and Lightroom (of course lightroom is safe for now but who knows when that will go into the CC umbrella). "Rent" two products and you're paying pretty close to the "everything" price. Make the price 9.99 per product and still have the $50 for everything package too. I paid $900 for the production suite last Feb. It was half off because Adobe was capitalizing on Apples Final Cut X disaster. I then spent another 400 for the CS6 upgrade so a total of $1300. My usual upgrade schedule is every other release plus a few months while they work out the bugs so let's say every 3.5-4 years I'll pay for the upgrade. I'd pay a total of $1700 for those 4 years and $2400 if I subscribed to CC. Throw in another skipped release and that's another $400 for the standalone puts it up to $2100 over 8 years compared to $4800 for Creative Cloud..... Guaranteed within the next 8 years Adobe will raise the price for CC to 59 or 69 bucks a month and you are going to be forced to pay for it. Adobe isn't modeling their business after MMO games because most MMo's suck and people will only play for a few months. Nono, Adobe has successfully borrowed their business model from...... Drug dealers. =P Get them hooked and they'll pay whatever. $50 sounds good for you guys even if you only use a few of their products? just wait til it's $99!!! But you get everything even if you won't ever use it, it's a deal!!! kidding, it's not a good deal. =)

Andrew Sible's picture

no fonts for all that money?
what bs. good post. (not just the font part, lol)

Maybe if Adobe stopped charging insulting rates for the software, people would stop pirating it so much?

Prohibiting people from owning the software has only reaffirmed their image as controlling monopolists. People don't like that, ya know?

Even when Photoshop was available to buy, you were basically paying $600 for a burned CD. I know the code is proprietary, but the rather expensive upgrades (CS6, etc.) were usually marginal at best, and Adobe's pricing always made Photoshop inaccessible to people who don't have that kind of money to burn.

Adobe's business model incorporates an inflated, quasi-elitist pricing structure.

F-ck Adobe.

Antonio Carrasco's picture

That's exactly how I feel!

Speaking of stealing stuff, why is it that every time an article is on here, it ends up on Petapixel a few hours later?


Adobe WANTED their copies pirated (they never had any REAL hard security on their software) so all the starving students, hobbyist etc get to work on their platform.

Once they go pro (the Ps users) they HAVE to by the real deal. Boom.

Windows did the same thing....

Thank you for writing this. I get tired of seeing photographers complain about their work getting stolen or being asked to work for free but then it turns out they are pirating Photoshop or even the whole suite of programs because Adobe's CEO is already so rich he's "drinking out of gold plated water bottles." <- as heard on the Fstopper's Facebook page last year.

I heard he puts diamonds in the freezer to use as ice cubes while drinking out of said solid gold (they're not plated) water bottles.

This is an extremely well written article, and it's already been shared a bunch via the facebook friends. Zach 4 thumbs up (don't ask, I just borrowed them from someone). Well written, well thought out of, and people are reaching if they really are offended by any part of this. It's just common courtesy and realization of our "First world problems".

Wonder how much Adobe paid him to write this......seriously.

I just purchased Photoshop/Premiere CS6 and doubt I will be getting a subscription to "rent" my software. As a business, I can afford to do it but where does it stop? I have no intent to pirate the software, dam the man but this is a slippery slope.

Zach Sutton's picture

Adobe hasn't paid me a damn dime.

I stated that at the bottom of the post very clearly. So please don't accuse me of lying.

This article smells of how scott kelby came out and defended adobe for their CC move. Who's he work for? Oh right!

Not to mention, you should never compare PURCHASING a $3,600 camera vs. RENTING "cheap" software. It's about ownership of a tool and nothing more.

Zach Sutton's picture

Well Grant,
You can chose to believe what you want, but I assure you I have no reason to lie about this....and quite honestly, if your only counterargument is that I'm lying to you...well then, we don't have much to discuss here.

If the shoe fits.

cheap software. really. wow. maybe then perhaps you go can go and make your own creative production software Grant. perhaps we'll try then buy it.

So true Lee!!!

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