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

Which I know has nothing to do with piracy. Shame Shame pirates

I find the conversation very interesting for those supporting the CC. For those who are actively employed as a PS user, regardless of your discipline, that may be a reasonable fee/expense for you and your business/employer. For those who are photographers, struggling to make a living, the monthly fee can be a challenge; not any different for our nation's commercial Fishermen, many who have given up their boat insurance because they can't afford it.
Another issue to think about for photographers ... what happens, next year or a few years from now, when you no longer 'need' PS CC for your daily work. How do you go about 'reading' your PSD and DNG files? How do you access your archives/history and, more importantly, revisit your post processing to take advantage of your current skills? Will you be able to budget the 'current' monthly subscription fee in the future?
Adobe must provide a reasonable solution to this issue. One solution may be to allow the user (former subscriber) to use the currently installed software on a perpetual basis, with no updates. If you need an update because of new photo equipment or the desire for new features, then you subscribe, again.
What do you suggest?

I'm sorry but has this guy just realized people pirate software and he doesn't like it happening to poor little adobe. Your one little article will do nothing to deter the pirates. Nothing. And if you can afford to buy a 5D MARK III without even needing it you will probably never understand the mindset of the pirate. The fact is Adobe is not a sinking ship and if it wasn't for people pirating their software they would never get the practice they need to make a living with it and eventually become a paying customer. Find some other higher ground jeez.

I bought PS 7 10 years ago at their student rate. I still use it, it suits my needs. If you go into the monthly rate: $250 divided into 120 months: $2.08 per month. And it will continue to decrease. For most, PS is simply bloated with features we will never use. $20 a month is $240 a year-- stop paying the monthly rate and you no longer have the software to use. CC may work for on-the-go businesses who may need the cutting-edge hyped features, but for the rest of us it is unnecessary.

Well said, i have contemplated this whole idea of CC and why i should (rent) there software. for myself im a gamer in downtime's, as such i rent games online with no fuss as i have watched through the last few years how updates, expansions, support has become fairly decent and i enjoy the games far more in content and play ability. in this context Adobe has reached this level of Marketing to masses if you will and its far better for the whole.

The basic idea behind the creative cloud is kind of ok, what I dislike is the "my way or highway"- philosophy behind it.
The solution I would really favor is a kind of "bail- out- payment", like they have on leasing cars.
Meaning, if you decide to leave the cloud after xx years, the remaining payment is figured and after that is paid, you get to leave the contract with your own version of the software.
Of course, updates and so on no longer apply to you, but you still can open your pictures any time.

I totally agree with this article. My problem is I bought the Master CS6 a year ago paid $2,600.00+ and at that time the cloud appeared to be an option. I went for the Retail software with Physical discs. A year later the cloud is mediatory and I can't get any software updates or support unless
I join the cloud at 50 bucks a month? many don't understand when you go to the cloud subscription and update retail software you are locked in if you decide to cancel the subscription
you have non working retail software. My friends business uses the cloud which is great for him because he did not have the initial cost that I did. The cloud has been a headache for him because
if you go a week or more without using the installed cloud software it goes into demo mode until you sign in and re-register it.
I have more then made my money back on my investment of software tools I need.
but I feel shafted that Adobe dropped support so early in the game for the CS6 Retail customers.

Don't Pay for ... if you train them this is ok, ALL other software manufactures will do the same... I don't care if you think it is a good deal or not, don't do it. Make a stand, don't just pay this Crazy price for nothing like you happily do at the gas Pump... What do you possible need to do to a photo that CS4,5, or 6 cant do? Put more effort into becoming a better photographer using your CAMERA and LESS into the 'Nothing' called Adobe CC.

People tend to compare the US prices only. The European prices are 25euro for single app as individual ($33) and 61 euro for all apps ($81). That's a 33% increase for an online product. Imagine you want to buy a loaf of bread, and the store selling them says no you can't have it, but here's the same bread but for 33% extra. A median web designer salary in Europe is even way less then someone from america ($40.000 in the Netherlands dollar versus $70.000 in america). Doesn't make any sense Adobe

I am a student who is also a career changer (spent 10 years in the corporate world). I have looked at CC but the question I have is, what happens when you are somewhere without an Internet connection? Especially when traveling on a cruise ship, airplane or somewhere else where Internet is slow or expensive?

Well I have a $ 350 camera, using photoshop to make some adjustments to my family photos, I do not get any benefit from it, I'm not professional and will now have to think of myself use other programs, is so simple, I can not afford it and prevent me from using it. I think a policy that will get other software companies like foam rise as a company not only makes money by selling licenses but also for being the standard and to be the standard should be accessible to everyone, including people who have no money.

Not speak English, I used a translator, sorry for possible mistakes.

You say that you need Photo Shop, last time i looked people created some sick art and photos in all the previous versions to? To change software or cameras every time there is a new version is just a thing for weak people that thinks that you make better photos if you have newer better gear! Some of the best pictures ever taken was developed in a lightroom and i don´t mean adobe lightroom ;). So get to know your gear and do it right from the beginning. Change gear when broken or when the demands from the people you work with are to big. And there will be years before CS6 will be a bad software.

adobe sucks.. they will not see a penny from me again.
and ist not about the money. ok they rip us europeans off... but it´s the arrogance of this company.
i want the choice. i want to OWN my car, my house and my software.

Hmmm, Drink 4 less Grande Mocha Frapuccinos a month or buy a subscription to Adobe Photoshop CC. Time to cut back my coffee intake.

another clown who does not get that this is not about money.....

Nope it's not about money. It's about people feeling self entitled to have and take what they want, when and how they want it, without compromise.

Jason Ranalli's picture

People feeling self entitled? People are only asking to own what they pay for...very few complained about the prices.

Of course, blame the loyal customer...it's all their fault.

Very well said, from where I come from "Australia" cs6 was being sold for $1450 AUS, this is far more the cheaper option. It's appealing to me and I'm sure many other photographers and creators in our country.


Ethics are your own concern. There will always be younger users who feel less obligated to Adobe and pirate anything they make for no other reason than "because we can."

As a teenager, college student, or young wage slave, you care less about it, period. The older you get and the more you have to lose, it starts to hit home and you pay your own way for what you use. So is Adobe going to start going RIAA on college students and sue them out of their degrees, or are they going to just brush off their shoulder and make an update in two weeks that breaks the pirating method and move on?

I believe that if piracy is the key by which Adobe is doing this. Talk openly, many people pirate Adobe Photoshop. With Adobe Creative Cloud will no longer be hacked, so Adobe will lose millions of users, users from using network licenses are free, but convert Photoshop in what is today a universal tool. In my opinion only people that profits should pay the license because they are the only people with which they have money they can. I'll use another program particularly for the 4 things I do in photography and gradually freer and other software that allows everyone to have become the best, the standard, the universal tool mentioned. Today Adobe has started to dig his grave. RIP Photoshop.

Rule of the market economy:

first create a dependency or need and then exploit it.

The problem is adobe got greedy a long time ago. Honestly if adobe would have released their product at a more attractive price point years ago a lot more people would have legit bought it.

Is it right to take it .....no.......but adobe is part to blame for Photoshop being consistently the most pirated software out there. I had read once that 90% of the installations were pirated installations.

$100....not $240.

I assume that most of the people on here are designers of some sort, so I would love to know from those who pirate the software how they feel when a client decides not to pay for a design they have created.

Some people at least are aspiring photographers, designers, or vfx artists who don't have the money or the means to do a course let alone buy the software that has become an industry standard. Don't know how to use these pieces of software? Then your job opportunities drop massively in these trades.
I know a number of people who have gone from learning on pirated software and then bought it as soon as they started making an income. Adobe has priced their software into exclusivity and elitism, and I would say that a lot of their users love them for it as it prevents competitors from rising alongside them.

Sounds like Xbox One type stuff :/ always online is a no go for me.

Alvinus Melius's picture

This is a very good article. I know so many photographers who pirate software. Adobe is really doing a great job! As a photoshop user since photoshop 4.0, I've been amazed to see how far this piece of kit has gotten. It is phenomenal!

Yes and I know a lot of people who like to go to a holiday now and then, and I´m astouned how well the Mars mission went, it`s phenomenal but, no offense, what do you like to tell us except the obvious?

Steven David Branon's picture

The argument here is stale. Either you buck up and pay the money they want or you are going to pirate it like a bum. The money spent on photoshop is justified. If you are pissed because you have to pay for something... well maybe you should just join a commune and hang up your camera. I personally love the Cloud and if they raise their prices or when rather I will continue to use them because they in retouching jobs alone have made me a career and I wouldn't be buying food let alone new camera toys with out it.

The price to pay for making THE MOST awesome software ever for professional photographers and others are offcourse piracy! Its too fuc*** bad :/ Aaaaaanyways.. the people who can't accept the businessmodel and the fact that you actually have to pay pr month are the ones with piracy software, music,movies and the likes on their hard drives.. stop waisting time and take some photos! Do you need PS CC? No? Well shut it and use Gimp or something .. :)

People who buy in to the new business model are probably unable to count, born with a silver spoon in their mouth,and buy things just to show off to their friends.....feel offended? I obviously did not mean a word of it but thats what happens when you generalize and make uninformed assumptions!
Now, shut up and go play with your rented software :)

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