New Adobe Photoshop CC & The Creative Cloud Software Controversy

Adobe Featured News Software Videos

Earlier this week Adobe announced they’re moving all of their Creative Suite software products, including Photoshop, to a subscription-only, $50 a month, cloud-based service called Adobe Creative Cloud. Although there are some powerful new features in Photoshop CC, the news was not received well by the photography community. Part of that was because of misunderstanding and misinformation in online photography forums. But there are also legitimate concerns about how Creative Cloud changes the way we use Adobe’s products – as well as the bigger question about the future of software. Are cloud-based subscriptions the way all software will be accessed in the future? And is the cloud-based subscription model good or bad for the consumer?

Adobe Photoshop Creative Cloud Controversy

Before we move on to discussing the Creative Cloud controversy, let’s go over some of the important new features Adobe has added to Photoshop CC. There’s an impressive new Camera Shake Reduction tool, improved image enlargement, and Smart Sharpen, which offers more sophisticated sharpening along with noise reduction controls. As cool as those new features are, I think the most important changes are the new Camera Raw improvements. You can now apply Camera Raw edits as filters, within Photoshop, instead of just when you open a RAW image. And you can do this with any kind of file – even videos. Adobe has also integrated some of the new Lightroom 5 Beta features into Camera Raw. These include the Upright perspective correction tool, Advanced Healing brush, and the Radial Gradient Filter. Since they’re part of Camera Raw, each of those new tools can be applied to Photoshop layers as filters. That makes layers – the most important part of Photoshop, in my opinion – even more powerful and important than they already were. I’ve included some Adobe demo videos below that show the new Photoshop CC features in more detail.

Adobe Photoshop CC Overview Video:

Adobe Photoshop CC Camera Raw Demo Video:

Adobe Photoshop CC Camera Shake Reduction Demo Video:

Adobe Photoshop CC Smart Sharpen Demo Video:

Now let’s get to the Creative Cloud controversy. Most of the Internet seems to be outraged that Adobe is moving to a subscription-only software model. Personally, I’m not sure how I feel about Adobe CC yet. I’ve been sitting back, monitoring the online articles and discussion, and basically waiting for the dust to settle. One thing is a given: Creative Cloud will change things for those of us who use Photoshop and other Adobe software. We’ll no longer be able to save money by buying every other version of Photoshop, which is what I’ve been doing for the past few years. I always upgrade Lightroom because I need the latest RAW support for camera testing. But I don’t always need the latest version of Photoshop. However, with Creative Cloud, it’s pay up now and keep paying or you can’t use Photoshop, anymore. On the positive side, at $20 a month (for Photoshop CC only), you get every Photoshop upgrade without having to pay hundreds of dollars upfront; and based on past pricing, Photoshop CC will cost about $150 less than the past few versions. Plus, if you use more than one of Adobe’s Creative Cloud applications, the $50 a month CC subscription should be an even better deal. For me, it would mean I end up paying a lot less to use Photoshop, Lightroom, Dreamweaver, Premiere Pro and Illustrator. As standalone applications, those would end up costing me well over $2000. Or I’d pay $1500 for the complete Adobe Creative Suite package. At $50 a month, I’m only going to pay $600 a year – a much better deal than either of my previous options. Plus, I get upgrades and software patches automatically, ensuring my software is always up to date.

Adobe Creative Cloud Applications

I think professionals who do the math and work out the actual pricing of Creative Cloud will find it’s actually pretty cost effective – better than the old model, even. The people who will be most affected are enthusiast photographers who upgrade their software sporadically. That just won’t be possible anymore. On the other hand, it seems like most photographers these days, especially younger ones who started with it, find Lightroom meets all their digital photo processing needs. And I expect the new subscription service will push even more photographers in that direction. Although Lightroom is part of Creative Cloud, it looks like Adobe will continue to sell it as a standalone “perpetual-license” product. So the new Creative Cloud system shouldn’t affect anyone using Lightroom – for the moment, anyway.

Ultimately, I think the biggest concern with Adobe’s Creative Cloud subscription service is what happens if you don’t pay the bill. Will you end up with .PSD and .TIFF files that you can’t use? By using Photoshop CC once, are you committing to using it forever if you want to continue to access your files? Is there a middle ground, in case you decide you want to opt out or you find some other software you like better? It’s scary to think about not being able to access my thousands and thousands of photo files just because I can’t or decide not to pay my Adobe bill.

I understand why so many people are unhappy with the Adobe’s Creative Cloud announcement and I don’t disagree with their concerns. However, I think software is going to move to cloud-based subscriptions whether we like it or not. It makes piracy more difficult and costs less for the developers. As long as we the consumers gain something as well, I think it’s a fair trade. I do expect there to be a somewhat uncomfortable transition with a few hiccups, though. I’m really curious to see what will happen when professional photographers who’ve been using Photoshop for years decide they’re through. What are they going to do with their layered .PSD and .TIFF files? Will there be a middle ground for them or will they be SOL?

Since I believe I’m probably in the minority in my attitude towards the Adobe Creative Cloud service, I look forward to your comments. I’m sure there are issues I haven’t thought of as well. Please share your thoughts with us, below. Your experience and opinions will make this a more useful article for everyone.

Adobe Creative Cloud Announcement >>

Related Content:
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Adobe Web Site

About the author: Photo-John

Photo-John, a.k.a. John Shafer, is the managing editor of and has been since the site launched back in 1999. He's an avid outdoor enthusiast and spends as much time as possible on his mountain bike, hiking or skiing in the mountains. He's been taking pictures for ever and ever, and never goes anywhere without a camera.

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  • Brad Trent says:

    Before I set off on what might get interpreted as a narcissistic rant, let me make my opinion on Adobe’s decision to move to what they are calling a ‘cloud-based’ subscription only licensing model up front and crystal clear. As a professional photographer who relies on Photoshop just as much as I rely on the digital cameras that produce my RAW files, I believe having to pay an ongoing monthly fee to use the application is an incredibly shortsighted decision by a company that essentially has the monopoly on digital asset management, and if I may quote David Hobby…the Strobist…”feels like the biggest money grab in the history of software”.

    I will also say that the majority of what I’ll be talking about relates to Photoshop, since that’s the World I live in. Whether or not users of Adobe Muse, Dreamweaver, After Effects or any of the other applications in the Adobe Creative Suite find added value in paying the new $50.00 monthly subscription scheme, I have no idea. I’m gonna focus on the idea on what an ongoing $20.00 per month subscription means for photographers…

    Adobe announced that by moving to cloud-based subscriptions they will have a better handle on piracy and cut their development and distribution overhead. I can’t speak to their development costs, but as for software pirates, I’m not so dumb to think that if there is a will, there is a way. You can bet there is already a kid in a basement somewhere with a pretty good idea on how to distribute free “Cloud Copies” of piracy-proof software!

    With the “Creative Cloud” being the really big news, it came as almost as an afterthought (to take your mind off the whole subscription thing???) when Adobe mentioned some new features they’ve added to Photoshop…like the Camera Shake Reduction tool, Smart Sharpen, and that you can now apply Camera Raw edits as filters. But let’s forget about any new features, since new features were why you would have paid for an old-school upgrade to Photoshop. New features are a given. The real controversy is that from now on, you won’t have the ability to move forward incrementally as you see fit. In the past, if Adobe trotted out an upgrade to Photoshop that didn’t fit your workflow, you could just keep using the version you had and wait for the next version before you kicked in your money to be up to date. Adobe didn’t like this. They saw it as a money-losing proposition. They even changed their long-standing upgrade policy so that if you didn’t have Photoshop CS5, you wouldn’t be able to move up to CS6. That pissed off a lot of Photoshop users, but I understood it. But apparently that wasn’t enough for Adobe. They have obviously decided that a perpetual subscription licensing model is the only way to continue bringing in a substantial cash flow. Assuming that hobbyists and ‘occasional’ photographers make up the vast majority of Adobe’s customer base, do they real expect these people to happily pay a $20.00 per month licensing fee to continue to use Photoshop? And if you can also assume that they will lose a pretty good percentage of that customer base…the casual Photoshop users, or those who decide to switch to Lightroom or Aperture…what are their plans to recover that lost income? Or maybe they’ve already got that figured out, and that is how they came up with the $20/month pricing plan for the Photoshop-only side to their cloud strategy. Maybe the actuaries have figured that since everyone who uses Photoshop doesn’t march over the upgrade cliff every two years, if they were to install a mandatory payment schedule it would ensure their income stream and they could claim the new plan, while more expensive, is actually better because it ensures a much more up to date Photoshop experience (even if the user doesn’t need the new features).

    But let’s look at what they are really proposing…

    Adobe claims the new “Creative Cloud” strategy “includes everything you need to experiment like never before”, and will allow you to “track comments posted to shared files, keep tabs on your work and your followers on Behance…”, and they drop buzz words like “Collaborate”, “Grow” and “Change” as though they are candies to be gobbled up by sugar-hungry children. I read this and can’t help but wonder if they have lost track of what a professional photographers work flow is REALLY like?!! Professional photographers aren’t looking to pay a $50/month license fee to ‘experiment’ with Illustrator, Premiere Pro or Dreamweaver! Professional photographers don’t use Photoshop as a social media tool. We don’t finish off an assignment by hitting the ‘Send’ button so our work posts in real-time on ‘Behance’ (which, in case you missed that press release, is owned by Adobe!). Professional photographers shoot, process, archive and retouch images in Photoshop. We send those images to our clients. And then it’s on to the next gig where we do it all again. I dare say that the overwhelming majority of professional photographers don’t waste too much time worrying about how Photoshop might aid them in ‘sharing’ their assignments on social media sites.

    As for the “Creative Cloud” itself, it’s not actually a typical cloud service either. It’s simply an electronic distribution method of getting software to the end user. OK…there are some very minimal cloud services included…cloud file storage, syncing of settings, etc…but electronic distribution of software is hardly a new concept for Adobe. They’ve been selling upgrades for years using this technology. What Adobe seems to think makes their cloud more desirable is their ability to issue more frequent updates and patches. In the past they have made patches available as needed and the version upgrades available every 1 to 2 years. With the cloud these feature upgrades can theoretically be added as they are developed. I suppose that is a plus, but again, there are huge chunks of Photoshop I don’t use or need now, so dropping even more features on most users isn’t going to be a make or break decision for most people anyway.

    But let’s get to the real elephant in the room…the pricing! After reading Adobe’s claims that new pricing scheme has an arguably LOWER annual cost, I guess we’re supposed to all join hands and sing the Adobe Theme Song and be happy for the windfall that has been bestowed upon us. Personally, I don’t believe that paying $240.00 annually to rent a software program adds any value to MY business model, but that would be narcissistic, and I’m trying hard not to make this all about me. Adobe is making it abundantly clear that they intend to employ this model to increase a revenue stream they feel they have lost because of those users who don’t upgrade on a regular schedule. We can’t keep going back and forth on that point. However, there is no mention from Adobe what happens after you lose the use of the software once you stop paying. How does a long-time user of an Adobe product access their files if they have stopped paying for a use license? I have no issue with a company wanting to profit from their product. Adobe deserves to be paid for their marketing and R&D when it comes to all of their software, but under the old model if you stopped paying for upgrades to the new version, Adobe didn’t take away your software license on your old version! Stopping an upgrade cycle didn’t mean you could open a file you did fifteen years ago! And believe me, if you get on the Adobe subscription licensing model train, if you get off that’s exactly what will happen with all of your work. It will become useless digital trash. The only way to content to access your work is to keep paying the subscription license. And that is just wrong.

    With this new decision to implement a subscription only licensing model, Adobe is in fact trying to change they way software licenses as we know it work. But is there something so totally broken with the idea of paying an initial fee for the license and then paying a scheduled upgrade/maintenance charge? As long as the user pays the maintenance charge, you continue to get the upgrades. If you stop paying the maintenance, you lose access to NEW upgrades, but your software will still function as you expected it would when you signed on. And I have nothing wrong with the idea that if the user stops paying the maintenance fee for a certain period, the user would then have to start over and re-purchase the base license if they want to continue along the upgrade path. I just had to do this when I moved from FileMaker version 5 up to version 12. I hadn’t the need or the want to pay for annual upgrade over the years, since I saw no added value…FOR MY PURPOSES…but when version 12 came out that changed. Since I had long since fallen out of the scheduled upgrade track, I had to repurchase a full version of the new software. That is a business decision best left to the consumer. What the cast majority of Photoshop users have been complaining about over the past few days is that Adobe has removed ALL choice in the software buying process, while reducing the value of the software for certain segments of their customer base…and increasing it for others. They seem willing to lose a large portion of their base clients…those hobbyists and ‘occasional’ photographers who don’t regularly stay on the upgrade path…and to make up that lost income it appears that the rest of the users will now and forever have to pay an ongoing fee to rent their product.

    These are only a few of the things that I really think need to be talked about. Adobe is, of course, making their “Creative Cloud” strategy sound like a wonderfully happy place and we should all bow down and thank them for thinking of us, the end-user, when they came up with this solution. But I’m sorry, but I can’t help but see this as a solution to a nonexistent problem!

    • Photo-John says:

      Well said, Brad. If I’d know you were going to write so much, and do it so eloquently, I might have given you your own article.

      I agree that the elephant in the room is what happens when you stop paying. That’s very scary. It seems like there should be some middle ground that allows us to still access our files if we decide to stop paying. In essence, Adobe will be holding our image files hostage. Welcome to Hotel Creative Cloud – you can check in but you can never leave.

      I wonder if they’re going to allow backwards compatibility for old versions of Photoshop or if they’ll shut that down, too. Because the obvious strategy now is to keep an old version of CS5, CS6 or whatever and save layered files so they’re compatible with an old version just in case you stop paying. I am also wondering if this will motivate some programmers to make some intermediary software that allows us to access files without Photoshop CC. It seems like there’s going to be a lot of opportunity for competitors with this new model.

    • Josh R says:

      Building on what Brad said, all correct in my opinion, I want to also look forward a little bit. Since Adobe is an effective monopoly there is nothing to say that this agreement they are proposing is going to stay the same forever. Nothing keeps them from charging more and delivering less in the future and since your workflow and files will be held hostage at that point what are you going to do? So even if you think this sounds okay now you should be nervous about it.

  • Chad Spector says:


    I’m a lazy cheap bastard and I’m still running CS3. 90% of my work gets done in LR and most of the PS work I do is resizing for web and watermarking. Maybe 1% of my images get actual work done that really uses PS. The rest of the CS is only opened when I click on the icon by mistake because my trackball hand wasn’t properly calibrated (usually before the 2nd cup of coffee). That said…

    Pro photographers bitching about this is comedy gold. How long have we been whining about image thieves on the interwebs and clients that want full buyouts for no money? Here, Adobe is addressing those same issues in it’s model and everyone freaks out. Granted the opening volley they sent up was lacking a certain je ne sais quoi, but the idea is solid and even the highest price point very reasonable. If $50 a month is gonna dent your business you have other issues to worry about. It’s the hobbyistsor semi-pros (I like that label for you god damned hacks) the get the shaft here. You know, the ones that are probably most easily justifying their pirated copies of CS now?

    Is there a solution? Should there be tiers in between what is now being offered? Would a “Photographers” pkg of LR and PS at $25 a month solve some of it? Who knows, but even the current the pricing is very reasonable and the model one I can totally respect because it’s the same one I strive for, the Gillette razor blade. Keep em coming back…

  • Mike says:

    I don’t know how it works, but I imagine if you subscribe, then turn your computer on when it’s not connected to the intertubes, it’ll still work right?

    I know on Mac OS you can cut an apps ability to access the internet.


    • Photo-John says:

      Yeah, Mike. I didn’t go into the details about that stuff in my article. But it checks in once every thirty days. Other than that, it works just like Photoshop does now.

    • Hollis says:

      It still works ONLY if you have paid your subscription. By signing up with this subscription, you are essentially giving Adobe the RIGHT to access your computer to re-establish your software (allowing it to work) after your monthly cost has been confirmed by Adobe accounting offices. However, if you are in a place where the internet isn’t working, then your software will not re-establish and regardless if you have paid or not, it won’t work. End of story, period… don’t support this new model.

  • GjP says:

    I agree, the biggest controversy is what happens to the assets when one no longer subscribes to CC. I think Adobe is driving the non-professionals to the Elements product set, and the professionals (similar to what AutoCAD did) to the CC subscription model. The theory, I think, is that the professionals will subscribe to CC for as long as they are doing Business; the non-professionals will do one of three things – subscribe to CC, continue to use the shrink wrap (possibly upgrading to CS6 to get the latest bells and whistles); or move to a consumer-grade product (hopefully for Adobe – Elements, etc.). I think Adobe is betting on the fact that most Photoshop users will stay within the family. The only thing that will break this theory is if, en masse, current customers move away from Adobe products.So, if the photography industry leaders want to do something about the Adobe strategy, they should be evangelizing the use of competitive products to their followers. If successful, Adobe will do a reversal, similar to Coke Classic. Otherwise, they will succeed and all the blog monaing and groaning will not help.


  • Colin says:

    Have to admit. I used to have cracked versions of cs 4, but subscribed to creative cloud.

  • Ads says:

    I think what is really behind this is the fact that Photoshop is mature. Honestly, who here would pay a $200 upgrade fee for the ability to use layers for raw edits (when 90% of the RAW functions can already be made into layers under Image>Adjustments), a camera shake tool and a tweaked resizing algorithm?

    I’m guessing PS upgrade sales have been falling for a while now, simply because Adobe are adding a tool here, a tweak there, but nothing truly ground breaking because there’s little ground breaking left to add for still images – its the same development wall MS have hit with office.

    Adobe had to find a way to keep the $$$ coming in when it had fewer and fewer ideas to sell. It tried (and is still using) limiting Camera RAW updates, it tried cheaper upgrades if you updated within 12 months and obviously none of it worked.

    So kinda by definition its bad for those like me that used basic Photoshop and upgraded when the feature shift was compelling – and its bad because from Adobe’s perspective it needed to be.

    Me, I’m just glad I bought PS CS6 before the change happened. I figure that by the time CS6 is no longer useable, someone will have come out with an alternative.

    • Josh R says:

      Photographers aren’t the only photoshop users and they are fairly unique in their ability to use old software without an issue. Most people end up having to upgrade to keep compatibility with their other service providers.

  • Andrew Macpherson says:

    I started out using Alias Eclipse on a Silicon Graphics machine in 1991, and have been faithful to Adobe since they introduced PS2, despit their annoying paranoid registration and log in whenever a machine goes down, or a new hard drive is installed.

    However this atrocious highway robbery will have me looking at either Apple’s Appature or something in the Open Source market to do my work in the future.

    The idea that twenty five years worth of work will be digital thrash unless I pay, mothly, is nothing short of blackmail.

    I would like to see a huge class action lawsuit by all the photographers in America against Adobe for daring to do such a thing.

    In my humble opinion this is far, far worse that Instagram’s threat to sell images that lost them 50% of their subscribers (incuding me) in a month.

    Andrew Macpherson

  • GjP says:

    GIMP is an able alternative in the open source market for those not looking for the latest features in Photoshop. It will be interesting to see if it gets a greater following as a result of the Adobe marketing strategy change. The open source community has been advocating against commercial software for the exact reason that is being talked about with the Adobe announcement. Maybe those of us who are now not fans of the Adobe strategy are just now becoming converts to that way of thinking…

  • Jeff Maloney says:

    1. I have two points to make. My past upgrade ran about $190 every 18 months if I purchased when the upgrade was introduced by Adobe. That works out to $10.56 per month IF I don’t skip upgrades, even less if I do. Adobe CC Photoshop is $20 month FOREVER and absolutely, positively will go up in price at some point as Adobe sees fit. How am I coming out ahead whether I am an amateur or Pro?
    2, In all the press I heard nothing about Adbbe fixing or tweaking features that bought numerous complaints from their loyal users. I’d much rather see a beautifully streamlined product cycle with lots of bug fixes than more bells and whistles to drain my wallet.
    Just my 2 cents.

    • Photo-John says:

      The comments on this article are really good. Thanks for your note about the upgrade price, Jeff Maloney. When I wrote my article, I didn’t consider upgrade pricing and that was a mistake on my part. This is a great example of why article comments are so important :-)

  • Terry says:

    but, but… everyone seems to be saying two things: You can’t save PSD files to another file format, and you can’t save or copy them to your hard drive instead of the cloud? If you have an older PS version on your computer, what prevents you from using that if you allow your sub to expire, assuming you did the things above, even with PSD files that were copied to your hard drive?

  • vvLA says:

    Funny they call it cloud when the software still resides on your hardware. They should have called it rain, with the sprinkles of updates. I’ve been a dedicated Adobe user since the 90s but in the very near future, will need to evaluate if Capture One maybe the way to go.

  • GjP says:


    There is no guarantee that PSD format can perpetually be read by the older version of software. Since PSD is a proprietary format, Adobe can change it at any time without backward compatibility. If that were to happen, files created with CC may not be useable by the shrink wrap versions of the product. This would be similar to what Microsoft has done in the past, for example. Maybe Adobe will take a queue from Microsoft and develop readers that work with newer versions of PSD on legacy software, or as standalone (to address those customers that terminate their CC account but want to have read capability of the files they have created with that product.).

    Jeff Maloney, I think, makes another good argument for the open source model. Adobe is obviously following a different path.

  • ThomB says:

    There needs to be an exit strategy. I like the analogy of paying a maintenance fee but after five years of subscriptions users who wish to get off need something to show for their investment.

    Essentially Adobe is relying on semi-pro photographers/hobbyists to subsidies big business. If the backlash continues as indicated by the petition at then there will be insufficient signing up to the cloud. That can only mean a substantial hike in subscriptions in future years.

    But the strategy is anti-competitive. It was always possible to purchase through Amazon, Costco and Bestbuy who were free to set their own prices. But competition regulators have permitted Adobe to engineer a monopoly through successive acquisitions and they are now using that muscle to turn the screw.

  • Alan Hough says:

    Brad’s comment/article is brilliant, send it to Huffington Post for publication.
    Adobe once again are holding our head over a barrel.
    Notice for example when LR4 came out many of the Adobe gurus discard LR3 like a burger wrapper. Also ACR suddenly becomes redundant in earlier LR and Photoshop versions forcing you into upgrading if you want a compatibility workflow between the two.

    Oddly if a camera is not in LR/PS ACR you can convert a RAW file via DNG converter and then it can be processed with the camera being recognized, I recently discovered this with a newly purchased Canon 650D.

    Piracy for the last version of PS will be rampant, the anarchy against Microsoft for many years is because of the same corporate bullying that Adobe is dishing out.

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