If you’ve been using Photoshop as well as Lightroom, you may have been surprised and disappointed by Adobe’s behaviour earlier this year, offering customers the Hobson’s choice of subscribing for Photoshop or being unable to upgrade beyond CS6. For Photoshop newcomers the monthly subscription of $19.99 certainly eased the painful initial outlay of buying Adobe’s software, but existing customers were being offered a price rise disguised by a half-price discount during the first year, after which you pay the normal $19.99. What’s more, they would no longer own the CC software and it would stop working if you ever stopped paying, which would make it pretty difficult to fine tune your pictures. Not surprisingly, this deal wasn’t universally popular among photographers.

So now Adobe have made a concession to existing Photoshop CS customers – the Photoshop Photography Program.

If you own Photoshop CS3-CS6 and subscribe before the end of December,  Photoshop CC’s subscription will now be $9.99 / £8.54  per month and will include Lightroom, plus the 20Gb online storage space and the Behance web service. The monthly price is not a first year introductory discount but will be your normal price so long as you keep subscribing. Any subsequent price rises will be based on that figure.

Anyone who already subscribed to Photoshop CC will now get Lightroom too.

The benefits

It’s not a big step back by Adobe, and it is clear they are not about to abandon their decision to force customers over to their subscription model. But to look on the bright side, they have now tackled a number of problems. Existing Photoshop customers get more for the monthly subscription, not a disguised price hike, and Adobe have soothed the fear that the price will rise once they have a firm grip around your genitals.

Less incentive to innovate?

Of course, there are other big reasons why Adobe have not yet “convinced” people, to use their own expression. One is the belief that guaranteed revenue streams make companies grow lazy and reduce their incentive to produce innovative new features that make you want to upgrade. Obviously this won’t affect the motivation of individual software engineers, and external events may still lead to Adobe responding with new capabilities like the publishing to tablets which was added to InDesign CS6, but it’s hard to question the assumption that dependable revenues inevitably encourages cost-cutting and a less adventurous ethos. Business just works that way (my accounting background comes out again!) and you can only hope that Adobe escape that fate.

The exit strategy

But another big objection is most interesting in this case, and that is the “exit strategy” – what happens to Photoshop and your pictures when you stop subscribing? Previously, of course, you’d buy Photoshop and just expect it to keep going until a major change in the operating system or until you bought a new camera. But with a subscription-limited service, it’s more like electricity or water and sewerage – Photoshop will just stop working. Fair enough in contractual terms, but what about the photos you’ve edited? They are your intellectual property, not Adobe’s. How would you then print or share them, and especially if they needed fine tuning? If you have any sense of thinking ahead, was it ever sustainable to rent Photoshop on its own?

Plan for a proper copy of Lightroom

While it’s easy to welcome this Photoshop Photography Program deal in superficial terms, we’ve got to put aside the “good for photographers” fluff and “for the price of three lattes” hype (real coffee drinkers don’t drink overpriced latte). What’s important is that this deal gives you the subscription-limited Photoshop, you are not getting a proper copy of Lightroom either – if you stop subscribing, Lightroom will stop working. Ending your subscription will sacrifice the ability to fine tune work on layers and other Photoshop-only features, and at that point you’d need to buy a proper copy of Lightroom to adjust and output your pictures.

Whenever I stay in a hotel I always make a mental note of the fire exits – a result of when I had a day’s fire warden training – and I think it’s a pretty good analogy. If you subscribe, remember to look for the exit door.