Lightroom to Avoid CC’s Subscription-Only License

A short while ago, Adobe made an announcement many photographers (among other Adobe’s software users) found to be rather shocking. Adobe decided to stop developing Adobe Creative Suite and focus on its CC software. CC stands for Creative Cloud. Obviously, it doesn’t mean they will stop developing Photoshop and other popular programs, many of which are among the best on the market. However, CC will carry a number of changes, and, while we can safely assume most of them will be welcome, there is a huge catch. Adobe CC package will be available as subscription-only. That means, in order to use Photoshop and other CC package software, you will need to pay a monthly fee and connect to internet at least once a month (there a several varying conditions), which, for me, sounds much like… renting. We wrote an article on the topic where we discuss Adobe’s decision in more detail – suffice to say, we weren’t exactly thrilled with excitement. I must admit, though, Photoshop wasn’t the main reason for me worrying. After all, I like CS5 and CS6 fine and, with the exception of RAW support, don’t see why I’d need to update anytime soon. What I was worried about most is Lightroom. Was it to undergo the same changes?

Adobe Lightroom 4

Luckily, Adobe decided against it. Lightroom is to remain with the regular license for the foreseeable future – the team assured concerned users during a Google+ Hangout session, which you can watch below.

What is clear from the above session is that Adobe is looking into introducing more cloud-based functions into their software, but Lightroom is to remain a stand-alone application and not part of CC. Obviously, that made a lot of photographers quite happy, myself among them. For a while, though, I thought this was it for my love affair with Lightroom – I use it more or less daily and paying for it monthly would be too expensive. No need to worry now, though. A lot of Mastering Lightroom series articles are yet to come!


    Good news! Thanks Romanas.

    I am in a similar domain to you – I use LR virtually every day fo filing and most routine photo processing and development. I go out to CS occassionaly to do a bit of layers or selections plus content aware filling and so on. frankly the cost of CS compared to its use is really prohibitive for me – but by chosing to upgrade only when they offer me some real advatages and new ‘sexy’ tools – I am able to justify the expense.

    So, perversely, I would be willing to rent LR but would prefer to buy CS ! (leaving aside the ethical arguements of renting v owning etc). That is, LR is essential to me, I use it daily and would welcolm all upgrades – so renting seems fair on a purely economic basis. CS, on the othe hand, I use occassionally and would prefer to leave it in the ‘tool cupboard’ until I need to get it out, dust it down, and use it.

    here are two viable buisness models – why don’t Adobe offer both routes on both software?

    • Romanas Naryškin

      You are most welcome. I just want to point out that, for those who only occasionally use Photoshop, new subscription license isn’t such a bad idea – you have no obligation to pay for the software if you don’t plan to use it at a specific time, which means “owning” it will end up cheaper than it is now.

    • Peter

      Where are the “ethical issues” regarding the differences between owning and renting?

      • KSPGM

        Hi peter,

        I do not think that there are any …. but many people responding on this subject seem to think that there is some ‘moral’ reason why Adobe should follow a ‘for sale’ only method of dealing with their customers. I believe that owing and/or renting are just two ways of paying for a product. My beef, is that Adobe are not offering both methods and have changed from one style to another ‘mid product’. Those of us who are happy to ‘buy’ CS6 and not happy to ‘rent’ it will have no choice but to change or abandon our investment in the product. This was not apparent when we bought into the system . . . and is still not apparent for LR, as Romanas has said. Adobe have lost our confidence – we are no longer sure if we will have to rent LR in 18 months time wether or not we wish to.

        • Romanas Naryškin

          Adobe assured that, in the foreseeable future, there are no plans to make Lightroom subscription-only, so I wouldn’t worry about it. As for CS6, I’m pretty sure those people who’ve already bought it and paid full price will be able to use it for as long as they like. They did pay the full price, after all.

  • Gerald Peake

    So… Lightroom (in a box) plus ‘Perfect Layers’ almost equals Photoshop (for most uses). Maybe the future is not so ‘in the cloud’ after all?

    • Romanas Naryškin

      A good point, Gerald. :) I’m happy to say we are to see what Lightroom offers in the future. Very glad it’s not part of CC!

  • Richard

    Great news, thanks. I Can keep CS5 now for a long time knowing that I can convert to DNG post processing if needed. I bet though that Lightroom5 won’t be the bargain that Lightroom4 was! Still the best RAW processor in my opinion.


    • Romanas Naryškin

      Hello, Richard!

      Adobe’s CC got me into looking at some other RAW software choices. It’s good to know Lightroom stays the way it is. Even so, alternatives are pretty damn good. Perhaps an article, one day.

      • Richard

        I have dabbled with DxOoptics and that is pretty good, but in my view as it hasn’t the functionality of Lightroom and is more of a RAW processor only with a few extras. The other ting is Lightroom does keep up with new camera updates quite swiftly, some other software’s are not so dilligent. There are others and a review of some by Photography Life would be a great idea.


      • molnarcs

        I think the fact that there are viable alternatives to LR might be one of the reasons Adobe keeps it as a standalone products. Yes, it would be uncomfortable to change to DxO or other tools, but at least they are there. With PS it’s far more difficult, especially plugin support.

        The Perfect Photo Suite could be an alternative, but it’s far from being a replacement. It’s a bit slow, the interface a bit clumsy, and it lacks the plugin support that PS has. Hope that Nik, Topaz Labs, Imagenomic and the likes will expand their plugin support to other tools. Perfect Layers would be a good start.

  • Wfp

    Goodbye adobe. Rental is going to lose them a lot of goodwill. Lightroom is great as a standalone but there are lots of cheaper ways that are just as good if not better. Many of my friends use aperture which I have never been a fan of because it is Mac centric but as soon as Lightroom goes to the cloud I am moving. Macmini is cheap as is the low end iMac. And both have more than enough power for any raw including phase one images. Gimp is coming along too, albeit very quietly in the back ground but not quite there yet.

    • tom rose

      Hasn’t Apple already dropped Aperture?

      You cannot trust ANY technology company. You can buy their products for years, but customer loyalty counts for nothing. Apple no longer cares much about its iMac users because the iMac, which saved the company in the early years of this century, is now a much smaller part of their business than the iPhone.

      They will drop you and support for your essential products in an instant if they think they can make more money elsewhere.

  • Graham

    Goodbye PS, soon. Goodbye LR, inevitably, one day: the trouble is that new camera releases will only be included on future OS releases, so that one will be forced (by Apple and MS) to buy into that new OS, or be for ever restricted to today’s cameras. It has already happened that we are shut out of LR5 unless we upgrade from Mac’s Snow Leopard to Lion: the older versions (PS too, pre-CS) will not work on the new OS, that is designed to exclude them. So we are forced to look elsewhere if we find Adobe’s avaricious and wrong-headed policy unacceptable, as I do with many others. I hope that they learn a lesson by losing their vast customer following; they might even rescind the policy! They should.

    • Romanas Naryškin

      Hello, Graham. I do understand your concern for unsupported older operating systems. On the other hand, you can’t expect software developers to always support two-generation old OS’s. I mean, Lightroom 5 won’t run on Win98, either.

      • tom rose

        Of course you can expect it. It is not as though every system library call or system service is changed between releases. And it should not be beyond the ability of Adobe’s smart developers to create a standard framework for their code, that would allow underlying services to be swapped in and out, just as a Perl-Web framework like Catalyst allows the underlying database or web server to be changed transparently to the application.

        In that way the same code would work on both old and new versions of OS X, and those of us that do not want to downgrade from OS X 10.6.8 to any later version would get support for new cameras and file formats. Although the better way would be a plug-in interface.

        Most OS upgrades are unnecessary, and so far as I can see they mess about with new features and appearance, remove valuable features, and ignore long-standing problems and bugs that really need to be fixed. [Apple: iTunes has become a mess. Why do you keep fiddling with the interface when there is (for example) no way to find and remove duplicates? Mail, another key program, is also bug-ridden ].

        Shame on both Apple and Adobe for screwing their loyal customers.

        Linux, here I come.

  • Eric Bowles

    While I appreciate Adobe’s statements about Lightroom, they would have said the same thing about CS6 three years ago. The release approach for LR5 is probably well underway from a development standpoint. A move to CC needs to be decided early in the development process and takes time to implement across multiple applications.

    The fact is there are no guarantees about movement of LR and Elements to the CC in the future. Adobe has a broad strategy of moving to a subscription based software model – and its the same strategy that Microsoft and other software companies are using. Over time, it is expected to generate a larger and more predictable revenue stream. And there are some user benefits – particularly when you are adding new products.

    My big concern remains the impact on workflow if I stop using Adobe products but have a large number of files edited with Adobe products. What happens when I want to resize a TIFF or PSD file for a client using another product? More importantly, what happens if I have a NEF edited in LR with an XMP file of instructions. If I need to re-edit the image, I need to think about the potential for a large time commitment to convert files to an alternate format before I drop the Adobe products that can read those editing steps.

    A free utility to read and convert files edited in Adobe products would deal with this concern. Hopefully Adobe will address this issue and not leave us stranded.

    • Richard

      “A free utility to read and convert files edited in Adobe products would deal with this concern.”

      Well put Eric. As I trawl around various providers, no one provider apart from Adobe seem to provide a finite alternative. Each one has it’s “missing link” so to speak. I do use CaptureNX2, but to be honest find it cumbersome in terms of workflow. The problem is and as you elude to, other manufacturers will not wish to miss the same trick in attempting to achieve a regular income!


  • Roger

    No matter what they say, this model will mean that a large number of amatuer and beginning professionals will not be able to afford photoshop CS software. This will leave a void and someone will fill it.

    A bad move by Adobe

    • Earle

      @Roger. I know an awful lot of beginning amateur and professionals who can’t afford Photoshop CS software now. They use Elements or Picasa or other things. That “void” already exists and it’s filled.

      DP Review just ran a list of 10 here:

      Though I should also point out than an awful lot of amateur and beginning photographers can’t afford top of the line cameras and lenses. The solution there is to, um, rent.

  • Neil

    No need to worry *for now* but there is also the report that Lightroom CC will gain features that will not be put into the boxed version. Also it is very possible that in 18 months Lightroom 6 will be CC only. Given Adobe’s ill-advised move to CC and their abysmal handling of the choice I’m not sure I trust them moving forward.

  • Rick Lunn

    This is unbelievable to me. One week everyone is so upset with Adobe and CC that they are hoping that Adobe fails big time and goes out of business. Now you are willing to support Lightroom because it is not going to be in the Cloud! Fail with CC, but lets really support Lightroom 5? I would think that if one was that upset over Adobe and its decision with CC, they would not support any Adobe product. I can’t wait for all the griping in a couple of years when Lightroom goes to the Cloud.

    • Richard

      So, you believe that because folks are moaning about Adobe’s decision to put CS on Cloud, then we should not have a voice if Lightroom eventually follows suit! In that case you must also believe that it would be a prudent move to put Elements on the Cloud too?

      There are two distinct users of CS and to a lesser degree Lightroom, the professional and the serious amateur who buy software to enhance their interest. So, why shouldn’t we moan if we see Adobe erode our standing in the marketplace, but support the fact that the lesser cost software is still available “sans Cloud”!

      We will deal with the griping if and when it happens and that should at least help feed your gloating for many days!


    • Romanas Naryškin

      Hello, Rick.

      I’m sorry you feel this way, but Lightroom is a very different product from Photoshop CC package and using one doesn’t necessarily mean you must use another. Yes, I am very happy Lightroom is not part of upcoming CC, which, even with subscription license, will be awesome. And I will continue to use it, because it’s a very big part of my business. I see no reason for radical measures, such as giving up Adobe products completely just because they did something I don’t like with a product I rarely use at all.

  • Peter

    This whole thing with Adobe has made me rethink the issue of RAW versus JPG.

    One main feature of Photoshop is that it provides RAW conversion for new cameras on the market. But would you be so concerned with Adobe if you decided to stop shooting RAW? (Note: I know all the arguments about RAW v. JPG). After all, how many of us REALLY need RAW? If you are a Pro you can afford the subscription, so that point is moot for them. If you’re a Nikon owner you can convert RAW in NX2. Also, no problem if you buy another Nikon camera and want to shoot RAW.

    Yesterday, I tested this concept by shooting HDRIs using JPG. Result: Great photos and I see no reason to ever use RAW ever again when shooting HDRIs.

    One benefit for me, so far, over this whole Adobe melodrama.

    • Romanas Naryškin

      It’s not just the RAW issue, Peter. After all, as you said, there are plenty of ways to get around it with other software. Not to mention Lightroom, which is much more suitable for pure RAW editing. What you must understand is that Photoshop was never a photography-centered product. It’s meant for a very broad user base, from designers to graphic editors to web developers, etc. The biggest issue is the inconvenience of having to pay multiple times for the software to be able to use it and the fact that, if you happen to forget for some reason to do just that, virtually, you lose access to your Adobe-proprietary files, such as PSD.

      • Peter

        Agree. The cost, luckily for me, is not an issue, and I dumped PSD files in favor of TIFF a long ago.
        I was wary of Adobe for some time and adjusted accordingly, e.g. didn’t load plugins etc. into CS for just this reason. I wanted to remain flexible. I use Photomatix as a stand-alone, too. I have Elements and NX2 as back-up systems. Am exploring other software as we speak.

        Bottom line advice: Trust in Murphy’s Laws and you will be protected.

        I’m very anxious, however, so see how competitors will deal with this. Maybe some great new products on the horizon. Adobe’s move may benefit us in the long run; for example, Google bought NIK which is an excellent software company, and Google’s stock is closing in on $1000/share. They have m-o-n-e-y.

  • HomoSapiensWannaBe

    I was considering purchasing Photoshop, but have now decided against it. I’m REALLY glad I didn’t already buy it!

    Meanwhile, I use LR almost daily and consider it a great program. Perhaps Adobe will add more basic Photoshop functionality to LR going forward?

  • Matt

    I prefer ACR to LR so I may be stuck in the cloud :-(

    • Romanas Naryškin

      As far as I can see, Matt, there’s no advantage in using ACR over Lightroom. Lightroom IS Adobe Camera Raw, only more practical. Are there any reasons why you like it as a plug-in more than as a stand-alone program?

      • Matt

        My preference is a personal one for the interface and workflow of ACR. WIth LR, it’s mostly a case of “Who moved my cheese?” but I never got used to it, despite trying several times. I still use LR for its robust search function, at which it is way better than ACR.

  • antonio

    Make no mistake, the ONLY reason that they are still offering lightroom with traditional licensing is because there are very real and good alternatives to Lightroom, such as Aperture, Capture One and others.

    They have a de facto monopoly with Photoshop, Illustrator, Acrobat and others, which is why they feel they can abuse their customers with this Creative Cloud software rental scheme

  • Sören

    Thx Romanas,
    but how can you be sure that Adobe will not decide to put Lr in the cloud concept by 2015 or so? By than you will have 150-200k more Images in your Lr databases and all your edits will be buried within the Lr concept. It will be difficult to change because all you can do is to “burn” all your Edits into TIFFs and you will be left with the last non-CC Lr version until your OS doesn’t support this version anymore or you need new RAW file support. Than what? Go to the AdobeCloud? Not me.
    For me Adobe has done something very problematic – I do not believe them anymore. Once I am in the cloud they can do what they want and I would have to follow. I will definitly look elsewhere – maybe Aperture 4 or other RAW converter Software but Lr is not my future anymore – I am only wondering how to keep all my edit descriptions …
    I think Adobes step made it clear: we are totally depended on the future decisions of Adobe and this could also happen with MS and Apple. They will very carefully look at Adobes “test” .

    Kind regards, Sören

    • Grant Corban

      Compressed DNG. Will do most anything for you. Unless adobe start charging us per image conversion :-p

  • Peter

    I’m taking another look at Lightroom 4 on the Net, and I’m impressed with what I see. I think I’ll see a professional photographer ($$$makes a living doing it$$$) friend of mine who has been using Lightroom for 3-4 years and see what she thinks.

    Lightroom’s cloning tools look very good, a key need for me. The 5 version is even better.

  • MartinG

    As an Aperture user and owner of CS6, I was thinking seriously about switching to Lightroom. I have changed my mind, over the Photoshop debacle. It is good to hear that Lightroom will stay as a proper licence. At least with Aperture you can open the library with iPhoto. If I invest in Lightroom, can I trust Adobe? I cannot take at risk now. Aperture is overdue for an update, but it is quite viable as a program, especially with plug- ins like noise ninja and perfect layers etc.

  • TJM

    Problem is they say Lightroom will remain a stand alone product. But what happens 10 years from now when Adobe changes their mind. What if you have a Bridge/Photoshop workflow – hello rental. If they are willing to do it to one group, why not everyone else. I also think that the real root of the problem is photographic software is a maturing and I think they are running out of features to add. So if you can’t add enough new features, people aren’t going to spend the money to upgrade very often thus impacting future revenue. And that’s really why they are doing this.

    • Sören

      @TJM: absolut agreed! thats is the main problem! lack of new useful / needed features. They can come up with some more tricks but basically we have what we need. This is comparable to the FX story with Nikon – why upgrade? The D700/D600 has basically all you need. While some will always upgrade to most recent new stuff – digital photography has matured and so has software. I believe most of the software vendors would like to switch to rental / subscription and this could be a turning point of this industry and a new revival of OpenSource. I can already see now how Gimp gets much more attention everywhere!

      • Peter

        I think you’re right about the marketplace maturing. We saw this with 35mm film photography years ago. All that changed was film…moving from Kodak to Fuji.

        I cannot think of one thing I NEED from a camera or software in order to do my photography. Zoom lenses are great nowadays, too, so you don’t have to stockpile lens either. What else is there? Maybe Adobe is doing this to survive?

  • Richard

    I think other’s (Coral, Serif, Google(Nik)) will be seeing all the chatter which has become a focus of many forums and elsewhere. There is an opportunity here, the fear perhaps is of copyright protection. As an example, will a new “content aware” tool called by another name, find the software provider in court. I think Adobe know they’ve crossed all the T’s and dotted all the I’s with property rights, however, so did Nikon when they took Sigma to court over the alleged copyright infringement of the VR v OS matter. The Plaintiff lost!

    There must be others working long hours behind closed doors trying to be the next software provider to the masses without a cloud, clouding the sky, surely!

    • Calibrator

      > I think other’s (Coral, Serif, Google(Nik)) will be seeing all the chatter which has become a focus of many forums and elsewhere. There is an opportunity here, the fear perhaps is of copyright protection. As an example, will a new “content aware” tool called by another name, find the software provider in court.

      While it’s true that PS is probably the best known software of its kind (it even coined the term “photoshopped”…) and the most widely used software for professional image manipulation it never was the only option. There were always (inexpensive) alternatives – at least for hobbyists and amateurs who never could or wanted to afford Photoshop, let alone the CS. For me personally it always was overkill so I never could justify buying a license.

      True – there’s always something that is missing but often you can make do, sometimes in combination with other tools.

      For example there is a software package called “Inpaint” that allows you to do content aware fill. Even older versions work quite well, in my humble opinion (I have version 3). Adobe may be a step further in quality and accessibility but one can make do with alternatives.

      Another example: OnOne Software, publisher of “Perfect Photo Suite” (a series of PS and LR plugins that also work as a stand-alone program), announced two things recently:
      a) They won’t do cloud-only licensing like Adobe.
      b) Their next Suite will feature a content-aware fill function (in addition to the clone stamp tool they already have).

      So there you have it: There are opportunities and there are workarounds. It’s up to the users to take them.

      • Richard


        I shall investigate, thanks. I already have OnOne’s image resize, but no others. What concerns me is that I have a lot of plugins and I will be interested to see if they work in Perfect Photo suite. As you appreciate these are expensive and an essential part of my workflow, so couldn’t make a move unless they work. I suppose that is another area that others will considered to produce an Adobe alternative that is seamless.


        • Calibrator

          I bought a license of Perfect Photo Suite 7 and you can call me a fan but like the Nik Creative Suite (which I also have thanks to Google’s generous offer to upgrade from my old Silver Efec license ;-)) they are only what they are: “Isolated” expansions to Adobe products.

          To be clear: You can’t integrate “foreign” plugins and add-ons into either them!

          While the Nik plugins totally depend on a host platform like PS or LR the Perfect Photo Suite from OnOne is supplied with a standalone program that you can start from Windows or MacOS to run the various OnOne modules (Perfect Effects, B&W, Mask, Focus, Resize).

          So, yes, while the Perfect Photo Suite can – at least for some people like myself – replace Photoshop it doesn’t work with plugins from other vendors. I doubt that it ever will but perhaps I’m too pessimistic here.

          However, you can save your images in PSD, TIFF, PNG or JPG format to work with other programs on them.

        • Calibrator

          And by the way:
          From the info on your nice photo website I gather that you are a Nik user, too – did you already make use of Google’s offer to supply the whole Nik suite?

          • Richard

            I certainly did and what a great freebie it was too. Hope they buy Topaz and Ninja now so I can get the rest free! In my dreams!

            • Peter

              Based on your comment about having loaded the complete Nik suite, I decided to do it, too.

              All I can say is: THANK YOU, THANK YOU. I love it.

  • Peter

    FACTS: Google stock price – $902; Adobe Systems Inc. stock price – $44

    So why did Google buy Nik Software (an outstanding software co.) and give the Nik Collection by Google to “long-time Nik customers” for free? Because they wanted to maintain good relations and the loyalty or Nik owners? Why do that?

    Because they are going to come out with a piece of software that will flatten Adobe Photoshop, and they want loyal Nik customers to buy it.

    How do I know? I recently used the Nik collection in CS5 and realized that Nik was the brains behind good photo enhancement and CS5 was the vehicle. Create a vehicle to support the Nik Collection and you can sink Photoshop. Also, the possibility of line extensions to cell phone photography, small desktops, hand-help stuff is lucrative…but make it simple and not like Adobe.

    Google does not have a stock price nearing $1000 by being dumb. Watch out Mac.

  • Richard

    Well, if your hypothesis is correct then bring it on! There is much to be hopeful for in your post, however do not forget that the life blood of Adobe isn’t the likes of you and I. At best we are added value to their business, at worst a nuisance. It’s worth remembering that one of their largest buyers outside the professional market are schools, colleges and universities, although the licences are at a great discount there is a lot of sales in that sector. A monthly rental charge would appeal greatly in this budget strapped area. That leaves you me and all the other serious amateurs and we are merely a pimple on their target audience.

    I really do hope you have seen a possible remedy to Adobe and time will tell.


    • RVB

      A subscription certainly appeals to some but the move they should have made was to make it an option,and allow us to make our own decision.

  • mikhail

    Thanks for your comments.
    Just one minor correction.
    CC software is an acronym for “Continuing Cash”.