Adobe Creative Cloud subscription mode – why, when and how does it affect us

In a very controversial move from Adobe, the future of the Creative Suite will be tied to a subscription model. Photoshop CS6 (the latest Creative Suit version) will be the last to be purchased with a perpetual licence. Starting in June Photoshop, InDesign, Premiere, After Effects and so on (the Adobe CS ecosystem)  on a monthly fee. I have to say I am pretty surprised and disappointed with this move, as I really dislike subscription models.

Adobe Creative Cloud is the new licensing model for Photoshop, InDesign, Premiere and Dreamweaver
Adobe Creative Cloud is the new licensing model for Photoshop, InDesign, Premiere and Dreamweaver

what is Creative Cloud and how will it affect us

Creative Cloud is the name Adobe gave to its subscription model of the popular software tools. Photoshop, InDesign, Dreamweaver, Illustrator, After Effects and Premiere are all moved to this new pricing model. Current versions (CS6) will still be available in the perpetual licensing model, but all future versions are Creative Cloud only.
Adobe Lightroom 5 will be available in Creative Cloud but also as stand-alone.

Adobe Creative Cloud is not cloud computing. While Adobe offers some cloud storage with its offering, the software runs on the computer. This is an important distinction, as Adobe also has Photoshop Express online which is a completely different tool (and free).

Second important observation is that to use one of the applications no Internet connection is needed. Once per month the application needs to connect and verify the licence. But for day-to-day usage no connection is required.

If for any reason you stop paying the applications stop functioning. This is the big drawback of a subscription model. And I am not referring to a voluntary payment stop, but to accidental problems: an expired credit card, insufficient funds, denied payment by the bank, change of billing address and so on.

One scenario that really scares me is what happens if Adobe licensing servers become offline or are unreachable from a certain place? The world is becoming more and more connected, but some countries and corporations are doing the opposite.

We have Adobe Creative Suite at my workplace and we had to use offline activation for CS6. The connection to Adobe servers was blocked. And with a subscription model you better make sure your computer can talk freely with Adobe servers!

On the plus side, having a subscription model means that the software is up-to-date, and you automatically benefit from new features.

Adobe has put a very well-written Creative Cloud FAQ on the Adobe website, and you can read it for more information.

If you want to see for yourself how/if the Adobe Creative Cloud model fits your business, design needs and your workflow you can start a free 1 month trial.
Adobe Creative Cloud trial >

Adobe Lightroom impact

With the latest version of Lightroom in beta, and the price decrease from 2012, it was the perfect time for photographers to try and buy Lightroom. And maybe have an integrated solution for web publishing with Lightroom – Photoshop – Dreamweaver / InDesign.

new features in Lightroom 5 beta: radial gradient filter, upright, heal and clone brush and others
new features in Lightroom 5 beta: radial gradient filter, upright, heal and clone brush and others

how will Creative Cloud affect this?
Lightroom 5 will be spared from the subscription model, for now. It will be offered in both subscription based and stand-alone models. Unfortunately future prices are not known yet. Source:

The Creative Cloud has not many advantages for photographers so there is no reason to jump to the cloud, so to speak. However the cat’s out of the box and already some new features of Lightroom are CC enhanced. I think that in 1 year we will see Lightroom CC, subscription based. DPReview has a nice interview with Winston Hendrikson, VP of Creative Solutions.

As a photographer very tied to the Lightroom workflow I am not very happy with this change. I kept LR 3 for a very long time, and only now entertain the idea to upgrade. I like the features already present in the version 5 beta, but I have to think if I am ok with being tied to Lightroom forever.

The problem with a Lightroom subscription-based is the catalog file.
While the raw (or jpeg) files can always be available, the adjustments are not. Even if exported to XML sidecar files. Also all the nice features in Lightroom – keywords, collections, filters, book layouts – will become blocked if I stop paying!

Adobe tries to present the nice features in the Creative Cloud model – see below.

Adobe Creative Cloud pricing model

And how does it compare to the existing model? How economical or not is Creative Cloud?

Adobe Creative Cloud pricing starts at $19 for either Photoshop, InDesign, Premiere and Dreamweaver or $49 for the whole set
Adobe Creative Cloud pricing starts at $19 for either Photoshop, InDesign, Premiere and Dreamweaver or $49 for the whole set

complete individual package

I think the first price point everyone will look at is the complete individual package that costs $49.99 / month. This is an annual commitment, but billed monthly.

This price plan includes:

  • all the current applications (from InDesign to Photoshop, Dreamweaver and Premiere)
  • 20GB of cloud storage (I think this is not a very interesting argument pro or contra)

This tier of Adobe Creative Cloud is the equivalent of Creative Suite Design Standard ($1299) or Creative Suite Design and Web Premium ($1899) which also includes Dreamweaver. If instead of Dreamweaver you need Premiere there is the Creative Suite Production Premium ($1899). Confusing, right?

From an economical point of view this means the break-even point is after 26 months and up to 38 months. After this time it is/was cheaper to buy the Creative Suite package (non-subscription based). With special upgrade offers the maths becomes murkier, BUT in favor of teh Creative Suite licensing model!

An alternate way to look at it is if you upgrade often (each version) it might be better to have a subscription.

single app model

If you only need Photoshop (or Premiere) and are a dedicated creative individual in one medium, then this pricing tier might be more economical. For $19.99 you get one of the classics – Photoshop, Premiere, InDesign, Flash, Dreamweaver. I think this is a bad model for the last three, as those usually also require a graphic package.

In the Creative Suite pricing model a single app can cost:

  • $699 for Photoshop or InDesign
  • $399 for Dreamweaver
  • $599 for Illustrator
  • $999 for After Effects
  • $799 for Premiere

It is harder to find out after how long it is more economical to get one Creative Suite app, as the prices vary so much. With Creative Cloud it is inefficient to get 2 apps (such as Photoshop or InDesign), as the Complete packages brings them all, at the same time.

pricing for businesses

Here it gets very interesting. Depending on how one can describe the Adobe Creative Cloud costs in accounting, it might be economical to spread the costs monthly. For $69.99 (I think Adobe should have skipped the 99c) you get the complete package for one seat.
It does not mean that two persons can use different applications at the same time though.

sources and further information about Adobe creative Cloud

You should visit Adobe official Creative Cloud site, as it contains further information about the movement to Creative Cloud.

There are a few of press releases, and it is interesting to see already features presented as “cloud-only”. Here, here and here.

Images in this article are from the official Adobe website.

For some feedback (pretty dramatic) you can read the comments on the announcements on DPreview.

The Adobe Creative Suite packages in perpetual license model are available through Adobe website and Amazon (and others, obviously).

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