Subscribing to Photoshop and Lightroom

It seems like a good time to have this conversation as I was recently reading an article that was written when Adobe first started the whole subscription based deal for Photoshop and Lightroom. The article has since been updated, but reading through it I could see that a lot of what they were saying was not applicable anymore and out of date. 

Port Melbourne 2

I have doing the subscription almost from the very beginning, and so I thought I would share some ideas on using it and why I do it.

Let’s take a look at the pros and cons


  • You don’t own it.
  • When you stop paying for it you can’t use it anymore.


  • You always have the latest up to date version.
  • You can use it on two machines.
  • You have access to support.

There are probably more, but that was all I could think of, and that seemed to matter to me.

Why I did the subscription

When it first started like this I thought about it and wondered if it was going to be good for me. My husband wasn’t convinced, but I couldn’t help thinking that it would be good. I had a version of Photoshop CS6, but it was a student version that I had managed to get because of my daughters being at school. However, I knew there were limits on what I could use it for. I couldn’t really sell the photos that I processed with it, that went against the licence for the product. I wouldn’t be able to teach people how to use it, again not allowed. I was confident enough with it that I knew I needed more.

When Adobe announced the changes I thought it was fantastic. It would mean that for the first time I would actually be able to afford to pay for the program and one that I could use as I needed to. At the time, if I had purchased the full price version of CS6 it would have cost me just over $1100, and CS5 had been around $1500, so having to pay $20 a month seemed brilliant. If they did sell the latest version then at $20 a month I would have 5 years to pay it off. That is how I looked at it. I knew from previous years that every time they announced a new version, I wanted it, there was always something that I thought, oh yeah, I want that.

The reality though, was that my monthly subscription price meant I was always up to date. I have the payments being made automatically so I never notice that I am paying anything.

Of course, it has changed since then and not long after that they introduced a Photo Package where you could get Photoshop and Lightroom for $10 a month. I contacted them and said I wanted that and it was changed. So, for half the price I was getting both programs. That was a few years ago and it has gone up since then, and now I’m paying between $13 and $14 each month for it. I don’t know if that is the exchange rate or what, maybe they have decided to make Australians pay more, because everyone else does, so why not Adobe, but I don’t know.


Do I think it is worth it?


If they hadn’t done this subscription based model then I wouldn’t have been able to continue using Photoshop. I don’t think I would have been able to justify spending over $1000 on software each year, or even every few years. Let’s face it, the software doesn’t last forever and as the technologies change the programs are unable to be used on new machines.

So, now I pay, let’s say $14 a month, that is $168 a year. Over ten years that is $1680, and in that time I will have had every one of the latest releases. Let’s not forget that this is Photoshop and Lightroom. If you had to purchase them outright, they may have cost around $1300. Over ten years, there is a good chance you would have had to purchase some sort of upgrade, I don’t know how much that would have cost, I never had a chance to upgrade, but it was still expensive.

I compare everything with how many coffees it is, and that is 3 coffees a month. I never worry about buying a coffee several times a week, so why worry about another 3 per month.

Of course, I realise that if it comes a time where I can’t afford it anymore I won’t be able to use it or have access to it, but I hope when I get to that stage, it will also be because I am not doing photograph as well.


Some questions that people ask

Q. Do you have to be connected to the internet to use?

A. No, you don’t. I’ve used it up at my mum’s place when there has been no internet and it hasn’t been a problem. You do need to be connected to it for updates.

Q. If I don’t want Photoshop do I still have to pay for it?

A. It comes as a package, so you get it regardless.

Q. How many computers can I run it on?

A. Adobe allow you to have installed on two computers. For me that is a desktop and a laptop. If you want to run it on a third one, you have to uninstall it on one of the others.

Q. How do you get the updates?

A. When you install it you get a program for your computer, or a window, and it gives you notifications when a program has an update.

Q. How do you sign up for it?

A. You need to go to the Adobe website and there are plans and pricing there. You sign up there.

I can’t think of anymore, but if you have any let me know and I can add them.


If you are serious about your photography, then it is definitely worth it. I can justify the expense and I don’t think it is too much, that’s what I think and I understand why others will disagree with my thoughts here. This is just one side of the argument, I guess you could say.

Let me know if you have any questions.

An image taken with the Canon 5DIV and the 16-35mm lens.


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  1. Ok, I know I’m late to the conversation here, but I’m still catching up. I personally hate subscriptions, and I’ve been fine on LR5 for years (I probably paid closer to $300, but I don’t care about the entire suite). I also have PSE10 for the specific touch-ups, as well as Nik and Topaz DeNoise. All owned outright. While there are some features I’d like (dehaze.. D:), I can generally live without them. I accept the fact that I’ll eventually have to bite the bullet once I have a camera too new to be supported by the old software. But until then, I’m fine not feeding into their monitoring and their having access to my photos (I read language in their agreement suggests they could potentially even use your photos without permission.. but I can’t find that article now).

    “I couldn’t really sell the photos that I processed with it, that went against the licence for the product.”
    Could you point me to where that’s stated in the license agreement? This is the first I’m hearing of it, and it’s rather shocking if true. I also see all sorts of tutorials on LR. Are they just violating the TOS?

    1. That’s okay Brianna, join in. YOu aren’t alone in hating subscriptions, though thankfully there are a lot of programs out there now that you can buy outright. They work fairly well and do a good job. MIght be something for you to think about in the future.

      I first had a student versions, which is a fraction of the price, was meant for learning, and only learning, so that is why you could earn money from the images. Once I went the subscription it wasn’t a problem.
      So it isn’t in the agreement, unless you have bought the student or education version Brianna.

    2. Oh, very interesting… I was also once a student, and I know I’ve purchased software at student prices, but checking my LR and PSE, neither appear to be student versions (or at least they don’t outright claim to be). They still aren’t as expensive as you quoted. I see LR6 available new for $150. I also see the PSE paired with Premiere Elements for $150 (or alone for $90). Still more affordable than the subscription, albeit somewhat out of date (and I know PSE is a mere subset of the full Photoshop, but it serves my purposes, as I do most of my work in LR).

    3. It is PHotoshop that was really expensive, Lightroom has always been around $200 here, and similar price for Photoshop Elements. You work with you have and what you can afford. I’m happy to pay the subscription, at this point anyway. I’m always looking for other alternatives.

  2. Good article and good points, thank you. I refuse to subscribe for a variety of reasons. I own (Not rent) my camera, gear, tools, I am not interested in renting software. I like to choose to change versions, not have therm change under me mid-work. I don’t like companies tracking me as a customer post-purchase. I need something solid so if I have a bad month or year I don’t suddenly lose access to a tool I depend on. I don’t trust terms and conditions to not change (or the rental prices) and if I don’t agree (or notice) the changes I am s.o.l. – it’s not like you can say ‘Wait.. I don’t agree with you forcefully backing my work to your insecure cloud’, ‘I don’t agree wth you tracking what gear I use’, or ‘re decided to double the price as of next month’. If I buy software it stays bought. I just find the whole subscription model grose and ripe for abuse and i feel this was shoved down consumer throats because of insufficient competition. But that’s just my take, my old licensed version and alternate tools do a fine with job that I don’t feel a burning need to support a model I disagree with, and each to their own choices of course.

    1. Thank you Daniel, you know, if I could rent my camera at a reasonable price, and have it all the time like I owned it, I would do it. No issue at all. The issue with the price in the long term is a concern, but hopefully with so many other companies coming up with software they may not be able to do that.
      You don’t have to put your work on the cloud, in fact I never do, and won’t, my internet connection wouldn’t support it. We all have choices and that’s yours, but I wanted it, so I am going to do it. Thank you Daniel.

  3. I bought the package from the beginning. I use mostly Lightroom and just go into PS for a few things. This is a great deal for a hobbyist like me.

  4. Hi, Leanne. I fully agree with your conclusions. I signed on to the subscription service early on (I was running CS6 at the time) and have never regretted it. I don’t have to worry about when I should purchase and upload the upgrades (e.g., CS5 to CS6, etc.) which ran close to $200 about every 15-18 months. The cost difference was miniscule compared to the convenience. (Sounds like Australia might be paying a bit more per month; my $9.99/month fee is $AUS12.35 at current exchange rates.). Don’t have to be connected for renewal because they have an auto renewal on my credit card. I also don’t have to worry about the financial viability of various plug-in companies (remember NIK? Bought by Google; Sold by Google) or alternative packages (Remember Aperture from Apple?). A principled stand against subscriptions is fine; but that is not where the market is going so one has to endure the opportunity costs of such a position.

    1. We always pay more Robin, they can excuse it when it is something tangible, when it is all digital, then you know we are just being ripped off.
      I have the same thing with renewal, I have it deducted from credit, don’t even notice that it is happening. I agree, I think there are far more pros than cons, I love it. Thank you Robin.

  5. In regards to the question ” Do you have to be connected to the internet to use?” –> your answer is correct. However on the day that your renewal is due, Lightroom insists on a connection to the internet to verify that you paid for the renewal. Which can be a problem if you are without internet in a remote area. I am very happy with my subscription – just takes some planning to overcome that restriction.

    1. I haven’t had that happen Erich, or maybe I’ve just been connected with it happened. I don’t know. I’m glad to hear you are happy with your subscription.

  6. I have found the subscription to be the best thing. Having immediate access to the updates is so good. Also having access to what you want in the way of programs including PS, Light Room, Camera Raw and Bridge included in the cost is great. I thoroughly recommend it if you are working with your photos constantly.
    Super image Leanne!

    1. Me too Chris, so happy to hear you say this. I couldn’t agree more, love that I always have the latest. Thank you so much Chris.

  7. I own a copy of CS5 that I got from where I worked. They gave it to me as part of my package when I left. It is a commercial version and I have the LEGAL option to give up to 1200 copies of it to anyone — so I wish you lived around the corner. I’d happily give one to you.

    Mostly, I use it for basic stuff — cropping, leveling, building layers — and as a platform for my Topaz and Google filters. I also have Topaz Studio which is a “standalone,” but isn’t quite ready for “prime time.” Yet. I think it will be pretty soon. They are now charging for it. I got it free when it was a beta test. They have since upgraded it several times a week for months and they keep adding new stuff to it. It’s become quite a nice piece of graphic software and I know they aren’t charging much for it. You might want to consider it. It works well with Photoshop and does things that Photoshop can’t.

    I’ve owned Photoshop having bought it when I was working long ago — since it was a baby program that worked in green screen PCs. I’ve paid for it as an upgrade decades … more than 20 years. As a retiree, I refuse — absolutely REFUSE — to subscribe to anything more. If I didn’t own Photoshop, I would not subscribe. I want to own what I own.

    Also when you are on a fixed (small) income, subscriptions can get ugly. It’s bad enough that I have to endlessly pay for cable to have WiFi, but Photoshop too? I know a fair number of professionals who do NOT use Photoshop and won’t because it is a subscription. It is nice to have it, but it is possible to produce extremely high quality photographs without it. If the price gets high enough, you may want to look at the alternatives too.

    1. The problem I would have with CS5 is that there are things that I know later versions have that I know love. I really don’t mind paying the way I do.

      I used to have some Topaz stuff, but haven’t for a while, not sure what happened to it.

      I can understand if you don’t want to subscribe Marilyn, and it is a choice each of has to make, I love it, so really don’t mind. At this point in time it is working out well for me. I think as we move forward we are going to find this sort of thing happening more and more. We won’t own anything. I haven’t found a program that will do all the things that I do yet, so I will still with Photoshop for now, but if things change, I might have to rethink it all. Thank you Marilyn.

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