Five Reasons Why I Finally Bit the Bullet Switched to Adobe Creative Cloud

Five Reasons Why I Finally Bit the Bullet Switched to Adobe Creative Cloud


When Adobe announced that they were transitioning their apps to a subscription model of the Adobe Creative Cloud in 2013, I almost fell out of my chair while clutching the cardboard box for my copy of Lightroom 4. It seemed absolutely crazy to me that Adobe would ask photographers and other creative professionals to spend money every month subscribing for software that they could simply buy once and use forever.

In the years that followed I resisted moving to Creative Cloud and continued to buy new versions of Lightroom one by one until a few months ago when I finally bit the bullet and subscribed. I was one of Adobe’s harshest critics in those intervening years and staunchly refused to buy into Creative Cloud for several reasons until I realized five important things that finally got me to switch over.

Five Reasons Why I Switched to Adobe Creative Cloud - couple portrait

Much of my hesitation to switch was due to the fact that I didn’t really understand the service Adobe was offering with their Creative Cloud Photography plan. That’s the one that lets you have Lightroom and Photoshop for $10/month.

What I failed to recognize was that Lightroom and Photoshop are just the tips of the iceberg, and there’s a whole slew of additional Adobe services that users have access to with a CC subscription. None of these by themselves are worth the price but when you examine all the ancillary benefits you get alongside great software it makes the idea of renting the software I used to own a lot more palatable.

Syncing between Lightroom Classic and Lightroom CC

When you subscribe to the Photography plan you get two versions of Lightroom, each with unique features and benefits designed to cater to specific types of photography workflows.

Lightroom Classic CC is the name of the traditional desktop app that has been around since 2007, now available only through a Creative Cloud subscription. This is for desktop-centric workflows where all your photos reside on a single computer.

Lightroom CC is a new different version of Lightroom designed for a cloud-centric workflow where all your photos reside in the cloud and can be edited anywhere – in a browser, on a tablet, on a phone, or even using Lightroom CC on a desktop computer.

What you might not realize is that you can use both of these programs together, with the key difference being the location where your original pictures actually reside. If you are accustomed to a traditional desktop-centric workflow you can use Lightroom Classic CC to sync specific albums in the Cloud.

This basically uploads low-resolution preview files of your photos to your Creative Cloud account. These previews, then, can be edited anywhere using Lightroom CC and the next time you load Lightroom Classic CC on your desktop all your edits are automatically synced to your original photos and catalog file.

photo editing in Lightroom CC - Five Reasons Why I Switched to Adobe Creative Cloud

I started editing this photo on my computer in Lightroom Classic CC. Then I pulled it up in my browser and made additional changes which were synced back to my desktop.

The key difference between both types of workflows is that when using albums published to the cloud from Lightroom Classic CC, your originals remain on your desktop which means you can’t export high-resolution images from Lightroom CC. However, for photographers who want to edit their pictures on the go and then return to their desktop for any final tweaking and exporting, this is an outstanding solution and one that could make the difference to those on the fence about subscribing.

One final note about this: The $9.99 Photography Plan includes 20GB of cloud storage, but the albums that you publish to the cloud from Lightroom Classic do not count against that 20GB. This is because they use low-resolution previews instead of your actual images which is fine for flagging, cropping, keywording, color correcting, and most of the other adjustments you would want to make on a mobile device.

family photo in Lightroom - Five Reasons Why I Switched to Adobe Creative Cloud

Having access to my photos on mobile has sped up my culling process enormously. It’s much faster for me to flag, reject, and rate photos on my iPad and the results are synced right back to my iMac in Lightroom Classic CC.

Photoshop is Included

I’ll be the first to admit that even though I call myself a photographer I rarely use Adobe Photoshop and instead do most of my post-processing in Lightroom. I do, however, have an old copy of Photoshop CS5 that I bought about eight years ago which I use when I really need to do some heavy processing.

But it’s slow, lacks a lot of modern features, and has an interface and layout that is confusing, to say the least. It also crashes on me a lot which doesn’t exactly help matters whenever I do need to use it.

Despite these issues, the fact that Photoshop is included did not do much to initially sway my barometer when it came to shelling out $9.99 each month for the Creative Cloud Photography plan. I forced myself to get by with what I had even though it was not really suiting my needs anymore.

image in Photoshop - Five Reasons Why I Switched to Adobe Creative Cloud

But the more I thought about subscribing to Creative Cloud the more I realized how nice it would be to have the full version of Photoshop ready when I needed it.

No need to think about buying, upgrading, or figuring out whether the version I had would really be current with the latest online tutorials. It just started to make sense for a small-time photographer like me to pay what really is a modest monthly fee to have the latest and greatest tools at my disposal for when I needed them.

Since I don’t use Photoshop all that often it would not be worth the price of a Creative Cloud plan by itself, but combined with everything else it sure did make a lot of sense.

Share albums publicly

I take a lot of photos of family, friends, and events just for personal use and like most people, I enjoy sharing these images with others. Until subscribing to Adobe Creative Cloud my workflow for this type of sharing was somewhat convoluted and involved exporting small-sized images from Lightroom, saving them to a Dropbox shared folder, generating a public link, and sending that out to others.

I couldn’t do much in the way of limiting access privileges either, and meanwhile, the images were taking up space in my Dropbox account that is perpetually near its limit anyway.

Now my process is much simpler, a lot more efficient, and results in a greater degree of control over what I can actually let other people do with my images. After publishing an album to the cloud from Lightroom Classic CC you can log in to Lightroom on the web, on mobile, or just load up Lightroom CC and generate a public link for any synced album.

Moreover, you can get an embed code, choose to allow downloads and show metadata, and even let people filter the photos according to Flag status.

album sharing - Five Reasons Why I Switched to Adobe Creative Cloud

While the images that are publicly viewable using this method are the low-resolution previews and not full-size images for printing, they are more than enough for most people.

The tradeoff in terms of overall simplicity and ease of use is more than worth it for me, and I’m not taking up valuable space in my Dropbox account or other file-sharing services.

Adobe portfolio

This might not be useful for some photographers but I have found Adobe Portfolio to be an incredible asset as a Creative Cloud subscriber and it really was one of the primary reasons I eventually chose to upgrade. Previously I was paying a service nearly $100/year for my photography website. But when I realized that Adobe Portfolio could do everything I need and was included with a Creative Cloud subscription I canceled my other hosting service and moved everything over to Adobe.

adobe portfolio - Five Reasons Why I Switched to Adobe Creative Cloud

Adobe Portfolio won’t give you the fanciest website in the world, but it could very well get the job done for you at not much more than what you are paying for a website now.

All Creative Cloud subscribers have access to Adobe Portfolio which, though not as full-featured as some of the other hosting providers, is more than enough for my needs and possibly yours as well. As an added bonus it syncs with Lightroom so I can create albums on my computer and have them synced automatically with my website. Something that was not possible at all with my previous hosting company.

If you are at all interested in Creative Cloud but unsure about the $9.99 monthly fee, I recommend looking at your current website hosting solution and comparing it to Adobe Portfolio. It is quite likely that the latter could suit your needs just fine and end up only costing you a bit more than what you are already paying for a website.

adobe portfolio - Five Reasons Why I Switched to Adobe Creative Cloud

Adobe Portfolio doesn’t have the breadth of features offered by other website platforms, but it does have a decent selection of themes and some solid options for photographers who want a simple, effective way to showcase their work online.

The price was right

As I looked at all the features offered by Adobe Creative Cloud I kept on coming back to the monthly fee, and for years I just couldn’t reconcile the idea of being locked into a perpetual contract just to use software that I could go out and buy once but use forever. However, I kept coming back to other software I had purchased like Aperture, Final Cut Express, and even other Adobe apps like Fireworks that simply wouldn’t run on my computer anymore.

Sure I had bought these apps but as time went on the only way to use them was to purchase new versions anyway. In the meantime by not upgrading I was losing out on the bug fixes, added features, and overall speed improvements offered by their newer counterparts. In some cases, like Final Cut Express, apps were simply deprecated by their developers leaving me with no choice but to upgrade anyway.

software - Five Reasons Why I Switched to Adobe Creative Cloud

I’ve paid hundreds of dollars over the years for software that I can’t use anymore, or won’t be able to use in the near future because it has been deprecated by its developers.

I still don’t like the idea of being locked into a monthly fee for software but when I considered all the benefits that came with what really was a modest price (only about $30 more than I was paying just for my website) the choice became clear. I’m not saying that Creative Cloud is right for everybody but it was definitely the right choice for me and, depending on your needs, it could be right for you too.

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Simon Ringsmuth is an educational technology specialist at Oklahoma State University and enjoys sharing his enthusiasm for photography on his website and podcast at Weekly Fifty. He and his brother host a monthly podcast called Camera Dads where they discuss photography and fatherhood, and Simon also posts regularly to Instagram where you can follow him as @sringsmuth.

  • Aaron Martone

    For your situation, and for anyone who wants Lightroom/Photoshop, the $10/mo plan for LR/PS is a PHENOMENAL deal. But for me, the Adobe CC is a horrendously poor a la carte system.

    I had CS5. ~7 apps, You could be at most 2 versions behind to still qualify for an upgrade. Upgrades came out once every 18 months or so. When you factor in the cost for the upgrade over the 36 months, it was about $20/month. So as long as I saved that, I could upgrade every 2 versions.

    But now. Let’s say I want to get just 3 apps; let’s say XD, AI and PS, Adobe charges $21/mo/ea. That’s $63/mo for each. So their mentality is “You can spend only $53/mo and get all 20+ apps”. So you want me to spend 2.5X my $20/mo budget to gain access to 17+ apps I won’t ever use. And when you stop paying, you lose the ability to open your source files.

    If you just need LR/PS; the $10/mo deal is AMAZING. But if you need any more than 1 app per month, and less than all their apps, the CC a la carte pricing plan is among one of the most laughably bad plans I’ve ever seen. I’m sitting on CS5 right now; and can’t foresee ever moving to subscription until they address a better pricing model.

    If you can afford to give 2 apps for $10/mo, 4 apps of your choice for $20-$25/mo should be more than doable. As it stands, they want to charge my budgeted amount and reduce me down to 1 app of my choice.

  • Maria Synot

    I completely agree, Aaron. The ‘photography bundle’ is excellent value, but unless you have need for the whole CC suite, anything beyond that and it’s a costly commitment. Unfortunately, I have had to bite the bullet (to borrow from the title) and subscribe to the suite. My real concern, though, is when I cancel my subscription and can no longer open the source files. Rock and hard place springs to mind.

  • Ian Browne

    $10 per month is more like $14 Aust with no guarantee of being more each month; or less each month. That is still only Au$168 which is still good value if used often enough. I still have and use MY Lr5.7 version as Lr6 didn’t seem to be adding much extra for me so I would be paying for stuff in Lr6 I didn’t really need yet would likely need a bigger computer to run the program . When CC showed up at the door I thought it was time look elsewhere for my hobby kicks even if Adobe is the biggest kid on the block, but not the only kid; some of whom were growing up very fast.
    $$ wise; I have spent more than the subscription would have cost me but I now own programs that could likely see me out. To rub the salt in, I had to get another computer to run On1 🙁

    PSE12 is being replaced with Affinity mainly; but On1 has some uses while MY free Nic is lying idle in the background. The real silly part is Lr5/Pse12/Nic could do the editing I really need to do.
    This hobby can be very expensive; not to mention very time consuming and more programs; and bigger programs where about an 1/8 of the power is used only adds to the time consumption

    In some ways; I feel Adobe has left the weekend happy snappers behind. However; there other options available that were not available a few years ago.

  • dabhand

    Declaration up front – I use the last versions of CS & LR you could legally buy but that is because it meets my needs rather than anything else. That said I see slightly broader issues than whether to buy or pay monthly for Adobe.

    The monthly ‘fee’ is pervading most sectors now – phones are ‘£10-£50’, cars are leased, houses are rented, luxury goods (including camera gear) are ‘only £XX/month’ – nett result, many people live on the financial edge and have no assets to fall back on.

    Back to Adobe, many argue that it makes sense for Adobe to use the subscription model, it provides regular and predictable income to support the development budget and the subscriber is rewarded by constant upgrades. To me that is somewhat naive, Adobe is a quoted company and as such shareholder stock value is key, so constant increase in revenues is demanded – that’s OK whilst the User base can be constantly expanded but after that only an increase in the cost of the application, additional functionality or fundamental change will achieve it.

    Constant upgrades – a cool idea – but again at what cost ? To the average user are those upgrades real or just nice-to-haves ? But whichever, additional functionality always places more demands on hardware – so at some point the user will need to invest in additional hardware, again perhaps at ‘just £XX / month’ and of course perhaps the O/S will also be ‘just £XX/month too’.

    Finally, the full all singing, all dancing functionality may be attractive to seasoned professionals but to those brought up on phone apps with filters, I think it questionable. For me, it is a natural conclusion then that the cost of the subscription will inevitably increase to create growth in shareholder value unless and/or even the possible return of a buy model in the form of Elements on ‘steroids’.

  • This reads like a thinly disguised advertisement. Having said that, the £10/month plan definitely beats buying software and upgrading it every 2 years and I have difficulty understanding why anybody who is either an advanced enthusiast or pro photographer would argue with that. I guess if it sounds expensive, you probably don’t fall into those categories.

  • I can promise you this was definitely not an advertisement! I pay for my Adobe CC subscription with my own money and received no incentives, kickbacks, or money of any kind from Adobe. I’m just really happy with my CC subscription and wrote this article so I could explain why.

  • Nick Buchholz

    I had the exact same thought as Christoph and looked for the fine print that said “sponsored”.
    If it’s not sponsored and you really like your purchase then good on you and enjoy it.
    I had CC for about 2 years but then decided to switch to alternative software. Not because it was cheaper, but because the other software was simply (in my personal opinion) better than LR. I never used any of the other “features” the CC model provides and maybe used PS once a year.
    $10 is the US is a great deal. Unfortunately in other parts of the world prices are considerably higher.
    In the end it’s the user that makes great photographs, not his camera or his software.

  • I often find myself considering the alternatives although in the end I believe LR is still the best offering. I’d be interested to know what software you switched to, what was it about LR that made you want to look elsewhere and what your key evaluation points were.

  • Nick Buchholz

    No problem. Disclaimer: this is my personal opinion everybody.
    I do the DAM with Photo Mechanic and the main editing with Capture One Pro (CO). No doubt, LR is the best all-in-one solution, and the price is competitive. I found importing, rendering and editing to be too slow and like the speed and simplicity of Photo Mechanic. As a RAW editor, I find CO very good with colours, speed (I use sessions, not a catalogue) and sharpening. These are obviously personal preferences.
    I’ve been using it 3-4 years and can’t see myself ever using something else. I love the results I get and the subtle changes it can create. My old edits in LR were always a bit too strong and with CO the results look more natural. (Might just be that I changed my style/evolved and its not the program)
    I also like HDR, Panoramas and Focus Stacking for macros. For this purpose I use Photomatix Pro, Autopano Giga and Helicon Focus.
    I know what most people will be thinking as they are reading this: LR+PS do these already for $10 and is a LOT cheaper than all this software added together. Yes, they can, but not natively, more like add-ons. I had Adobe CC for 2 years, and the results I got did not match the results I got from the specific programs designed to do those specific tasks. In LR if it stitches the panorama incorrectly there is nothing you can do about it, you can’t add points, or mask out specific elements. So you can’t compare the $10 subscription vs the cost of all the software I own, because I found myself buying and using alternative software while at the same time paying the CC subscription. So in my case the only software I bought when I left Adobe was CO. So a fair comparison is $14/month (Europe) vs $300 one time ($100/upgrade)… yes, CO is expensive!
    For PS I use Affinity Photo and will get Affinity Publisher as soon as it is released.
    For the online storage Adobe offers there are plenty of free alternatives or you can get Office 365 which comes with 1 TB of online storage for any data, not just Adobe-related things.
    I like the fact that I have the option with each piece of software to upgrade or not. I don’t need every version, I can skip an upgrade cycle and upgrade every second version if I like. If I stop paying right now the software will continue to work for the next couple of years. I might be wrong, but if Adobe decides to charge $25 and you decide not to pay anymore, I’m not sure if you just no longer get updates, but the software still works, or if the software stops working altogether and you lose the edits on your RAW files and catalogue.

  • As owner of dPS I can confirm no payment or any other kind of benefit was received from Adobe for this article.

    We do occasionally work with sponsors around content but always clearly disclose those partnerships in the article.

  • @Nick Buchholz – Like most photographers, I have spent a useful chunk of money on my current camera gear. So I’m not about to constrain the quality of the final images I produce in order to save a few pounds/dollars on software. So money is the lesser part of the decision. To switch away from LR/PS I would need to be convinced that the overall combination of workflow, file management and tagging and final image quality of an alternative solution would be better. For would-be contenders that’s a tough call to achieve and a tougher call to prove, especially if the solution is an á-la-carte one like you suggest.

  • Nick Buchholz

    Absolutely. I think we are talking on a “pixel-peeping” level here. Like with the never-ending comparisons of Nikon vs Canon vs Sony. One has better dynamic range, the other better colours, the other IBIS and Eye AF. All valid points, but at the end of the day they all get the job done and a good photographer can great results out of any camera. But none of them are perfect.
    Same with the software. There is no perfect software and it completely depends on what your preferences are.
    My workflow is to rate, tag and cull in PM. It is considerably faster than LR because you do not have to import the images first. Even after importing into the LR-catalogue, PM is still faster switching from one image to the next. If speed is your thing, then PM is better than LR.
    But there is the catch. I cannot edit in PM, it is only an image browser. A one-trick pony. To edit the images I have to load them into CO. And the loading and viewing process of CO is the same (if not slightly slower) than LR. I tend to take a lot of images (HDR, Panoramas, Macro and Astro stacks, etc.) and often way more than I’d use in the end, so in my particular situation I prefer the speed of PM to cull most of my images first and only load a small amount into CO. Saving me importing 90% of the images I probably wouldn’t use/edit anyway.
    Once in CO it’s really personal opinion which is best. They are 95% identical.
    Thy both do the same job, and I can start external editors (Photomatix, Autopano, etc.) from within either software.
    So on a whole my workflow as an “extra” step ahead of the LR/CO stage. It’s inconvenient to have two steps instead of just one, but in my case the extra step actually makes me faster because of the way I take (too many) photographs.
    On a side note: At first I only used CO to rate/tag and cull my images and found it was just too slow for me, just like LR was. I probably could have got away with a PM+LR solution, but in the end I (subjectively) prefered my final images coming out of CO more than those of LR.
    PS: Christoph, before I forget. I’m really enjoying this exchange and the fact that you are open to opinions and weren’t offended when somebody had a different point of view. On photography websites I usually avoid reading the comment section because people quickly get offended and start personally attacking others for the simple fact they use different camera system/format than they do. Kudos to you.

  • On your last point I’ve actually stopped reading or commenting on several blogs for the same reason.

    I’m going to have a look at PM because one of my main gripes with LR is the need to import all my slow Fujifilm raw files before deciding which ones to ditch. It might be useful for Adobe to consider including a preview utility/plugin in their CC suite. (I’m not about to embarrass myself when someone tells me there is one, right?)

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  • Pete

    RawTherapee 5.4 doesn’t look like an option, since everybody seems dead-set on Adobe and Photoshop and others. I also use CombineZP for stacking. And Image Composite Editor (MS) for Panorama compositions. Seems to work fine for me. And buy the way, they are all free.

  • Are you a MacBook Pro user? I’m sitting on CS4 (for 10 years now), but I’ve heard that CS4 isn’t quite compatible with new Retina-display MacBook Pro (the software or photos or both look pixelated). I’m still using MacBook Pro “without Retina display” (2012 model), so it’s fine now, but all MacBook Pros currently in the market come with Retina-display, so I’ll probably need to upgrade to CC when I’m getting a new MacBook Pro in the future. By the way, LR/PS bundle isn’t my option because I use AI and ID a lot for my personal projects… Thanks.

  • Aaron Martone

    The CS5 suite I’m sitting on is for my home PC, Windows 7 X64. I desperately want to move to a pure OS X environment, because I love that OS, but my license would not transfer over and (as you are noting), there may be issues with display onto Retina screens (though I often use my work Macbook to output to desktop monitors, and everything is OK)

    I hold onto Windows cause I’m a gamer as well, and until services like GeForce Now become popular AND fall to about $0.25/hr, (and my ISP consistently provides me the speed they advertise + I don’t near my monthly cap), it’s not viable for me to go pure Mac.

    I hear you on the LR/PS bundle not being sufficient. If they can offer 2 apps at $10/mo, I can’t see why we can’t ala carte around $5-6/mo/app and build a plan we’d like. Would they rather get $0/mo from me or $15-$20 paid 1 year at a time?

  • Outputting to a third party desktop monitor may be a good idea, thanks! If I want LR/PS plus two more (InDesign and Acrobat Pro), it almost costs as much as getting all 20+ apps. This is how Adobe makes us rather opt for the entire package, but paying USD52.99 a month for a hobby (that makes no money) is too much to ask! Hope they can come up with more flexible plans for those who need an extra one or two apps besides LR/PS.

  • Frank Baker

    Very interesting article. I currently use LR 6 and an external website to share travel photos with my friends. No commercial usage at all. The Portfolio part of the subscription was the most tempting, my external website is similar in cost to the Adobe subscription. However, a big however, for me and for a lot of folk on the Adobe forums is that Portfolio will only nest one level of “sub-folders”. Makes it useless if you need more control over your categorisation. On the Adobe forums people have been asking for more levels of nesting for years to no avail. I am only mentioning this because I spent a lot of time evaluating Portfolio before I find out about this. I think this confirms what someone else mentioned, shareholders are more important than users to Adobe. A shame really, i would have been happy to subscribe if Portfolio had the same functionality as my similar cost website.

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