The Truth About Adobe Upgrades

When I criticized Adobe for its “Creative Cloud” push, where I talked about how the company is forcing its customers to migrate to the Creative Cloud subscription service without giving the choice to buy an individual license for its upcoming software, I talked a little about the software update past. Basically, at some point in the past, Adobe decided to stop providing updates to its older Camera RAW software, telling us that the new versions were incompatible with the old ones and that updates would be provided only to the most recent versions of its software. This was a big push on behalf of Adobe, which forced many photographers to upgrade their Photoshop licenses – otherwise they were not be able to open RAW files from newer cameras.

Lightroom 5

Adobe Camera RAW is a widely used tool by photographers. Since photographers upgrade their equipment constantly, Adobe knew that the easiest way to make people upgrade to the latest version of its Photoshop software was to make new Camera RAW versions that were only compatible with the latest version of Photoshop. Eventually, photographers would be required to upgrade or inconveniently use Adobe’s DNG converter to convert those RAW files to DNG format and then work off those. If you used Photoshop CS5, you were forced to use Camera RAW 6 and you had no option to upgrade to Camera RAW 7 that ships with Photoshop CS6. Previous versions were done the same way, I believe starting from CS4.

Adobe did the same trick with Lightroom, except it made camera and lens support the central component of Lightroom updates. If you look at the past updates, minor Lightroom updates such as 4.4 only fixed existing bugs and added camera + lens support – they rarely introduced new features. Any new features would be delayed till a major version of Lightroom, such as Lightroom 5 that has just been announced.

Going back to Adobe Camera RAW, I get it when Adobe creates a model such as Lightroom, where it is a given that you have to update often to get support for the latest cameras and lenses. Having used Lightroom for years now, it has become an expectation. To give Adobe some credit, the price of Lightroom was dropped from $249 to $149 last year, because Adobe realized that it would be difficult for its customers to constantly upgrade at hefty fees, plus it wanted to capture more market share from companies like Apple, DxO and ACDSee, which were either more affordable, or had more advanced functionality. However, when Adobe says that you have to have the latest version of its Photoshop and Creative Suite software (which can costs thousands of dollars) just to be able to get support for the latest cameras and lenses, that leaves me scratching my head. We have seen all kinds of excuses from the company in the past regarding this, and their blatant refusal to allow one to upgrade to the latest version of Camera RAW without upgrading the whole suite was mind boggling. Often, we were fed with information regarding “compatibility” problems, that the new UI or other features in Photoshop required the latest version of Camera RAW and that it was a major upgrade, etc.

With the release of Creative Cloud, Adobe knew that it would get a lot of heat from its customers if it announced that Camera RAW updates would only be provided to active CC subscribers. So, it made the new version of Adobe Camera RAW 8 available for existing CS6 owners as well – something that was never an option in the past. This means that if you are a current owner of Adobe Photoshop CS6, you can get updates for Camera RAW 8 until a new version of Photoshop for Creative Cloud comes out. At some point, I suspect Adobe will simply drop support for Camera RAW 8 for CS6 and force everyone to move to the cloud.

What does this tell us? Adobe has been lying to us all along. Camera RAW has always been a separate module of Creative Suite – it was never as “integrated” into Photoshop as we have been told. Technically, we should have been able to run Camera RAW 8 on CS4 or even earlier versions. But Adobe clearly did not want that. They wanted us to upgrade and buy their latest software. Sure, some tools might have some shared code here and there, but this has nothing to do with the ability to read RAW files.

Now for those who will defend Adobe and say that software updates take resources and require funding, yes, I do agree and understand. However, that’s not how you push a product in the software world. Microsoft Windows XP was a decent operating system and Microsoft clearly failed with its launch of Windows Vista. Most people hated it and chose not to upgrade. However, Microsoft did not stop developing patches for bugs and security issues – in fact, Microsoft extended its “end of life” support til April 8, 2014 for software that was released 11 years ago! Yes, Adobe is not the same as Microsoft in size and it is not a fair comparison. However, take a look at most other software out there and you will see similar patterns (DxO, ACDSee, etc). What Adobe is doing is simply unethical. Why should I be forced to upgrade every year just to get support for new cameras and lenses? Isn’t that the nature of this kind of software?

I am extremely disappointed with Adobe at this point. No matter what Adobe’s executives say (this one just cracks me up), their image has been greatly damaged, thanks to these sort of things and its cloud model that does not suit everyone. I really hope that other companies like Corel, Google, Microsoft and Apple look at this as a great opportunity and develop software that can truly compete with Adobe. During the next few weeks, I will be testing software from other manufacturers to make a post titled “Alternatives to Adobe Photoshop”. My goal is to go through different software packages and see what choices are out there that could replace Photoshop. The biggest challenge is the learning curve. By now, I am very comfortable with Photoshop and its editing tools. Learning this all over again, provided the same functionality exists, would be very time consuming. I am thinking of a similar post titled “Alternatives to Lightroom” to go over alternative workflow software.

Message to Adobe: it is not too late to turn around and fix your mistakes. Stop lying and luring people to move to the cloud. We want standalone versions of Lightroom and Photoshop and we do not want to be forced to upgrade every year for features that we often do not care about. We are fine with your Creative Cloud offering, but we want to have the choice…


  1. 1) Paul Digney
    June 10, 2013 at 5:25 pm

    I hope you can find a photoshop alternative. I too have invested a lot in learning it but I’m trying to see what I can do to avoid using it on all my images and look forward to hearing from you and others.

    • June 10, 2013 at 5:44 pm

      Paul, the first step is to try to not use Photoshop as much as you can. Perhaps move most of your workflow to Lightroom/Aperture. Then if you absolutely must edit, evaluate some alternatives (hopefully with the help of my upcoming post).

      • 1.1.1) Murray Foote
        June 10, 2013 at 8:54 pm

        I haven’t tried it but I have heard the most likely alternative for Photoshop is Photoline (16 bit with layers)

  2. 2) WACON-images
    June 10, 2013 at 5:27 pm

    Last year I discovered Photoninja form Picturecode. Not a replacement for Lightroom in any way as a ‘total’ solution, but a amazing tool as one of the best raw editors I’d ever tried! However it has a learn-cruve and works a bit different. But I’d liked Lightzone in the pas also. The last half year I use Photoninja to make my raw adjustments, export as 16bit tiff and for this moment do some extra tweaks with Lightroom4, PS-Elements or even Snapseed(saved in tif) before I’m satisfied.

    Regards Ronald


    • June 10, 2013 at 5:42 pm

      Thanks for feedback, I will check these out as well!

  3. 3) Robin Groenevelt
    June 10, 2013 at 5:28 pm

    Nicely said. It could be worth checking with Adobe if a petition with an X number of signatures could change their mind.

    • June 10, 2013 at 5:42 pm

      Robin, I know that many have tried and I do not think it got them anywhere…

  4. 4) Frank Jr.
    June 10, 2013 at 5:44 pm

    Although I use Lightroom 4.4 and it is currently fine for my needs, I believe that Adobe will only change their current business practices when someone offers a “real world” competitive alternative. Looking forward to that day.

  5. 5) Bayshore
    June 10, 2013 at 6:26 pm

    Nasim I have been using both ACDSee Pro and Lightroom side by side for several years. The Pro 5 version of ACDSee is great from many things as has been LR 4. I was eagarly looking forward to the improvements to LR 5 as i was thinking the clone and heal tool would finally have caught up with ACDSee… Take a good look at ACDSee Pro when your doing your look at alternatives to LR. If the good folks at ACDSee can come up with a Graduated filter tool similar to LR4 I think they might strike gold.

    • June 10, 2013 at 6:31 pm

      Thanks for your feedback! I have been using ACDSee forever, I think since their very first version. Love the software, but my biggest complaint is RAW updates – those happen only once or twice a year :(

  6. 6) marko
    June 10, 2013 at 6:27 pm

    I recently met two new (and young) event photographers at a small Event local gathering. They were very open about the fact that every piece of software on their high end Mac was a download. That means an illegal download. And that included all Adobe products.

    These two came right out of photography and design school with ton of software knowledge and know all Adobe products very well. So their advantage is huge. They create all their marketing, web site and digital products by themselves and did it for FREE.

    They calculated that they saved somewhere in the range of $5,000 for every mac they own. That’s a lot. If a pro photographers did use an illegal program he/she would have never admit to it. It is unlawful and it would reflected badly on them as a pro photographers.

    It looks like these young guns don’t give a darn about what anyone thinks. They also seem to do very well for themselves. So much for bad Karma :-(.

    Anyway, I am totally with you on this issue, Adobe is ripping us off. As a D700 user I still use CS4 (and LR2) and now that I am looking into the possibility of D600 or D800 I know that I will also have to pay a bundle for a new PS and LR. That’s hundreds more than I need to spend.

    By comparison, I still use the same accounting software (Quickbooks) from 2008 and it works fine. Unfortunately, that’s not the case with Adobe.

    This YouTube video of an Adobe executive was not amusing at all. It was down right disrespectful. This problem of higher price tag in Australia and Europe for the same software is, I am sure, enough intensive for people to illegally obtaining these programs. After all, no one likes to be ripped of like that. And that is exactly what it is for pros down under and across the pond, a rip off.

    • 6.1) Murray Foote
      June 10, 2013 at 8:50 pm

      Well actually, that shows that if you embarrass Adobe or a senior executive, something may happen. Photoshop CC prices in Australia are now on a par with the US, so while there is still the compulsory subscription, the price increase after the first upgrade year is only 20% instead of around 100%

      • 6.1.1) marko
        June 10, 2013 at 9:19 pm

        Is the price also on a par for a local copy that runs on your computer (non-cloud version)? Still, why the %20 difference? Do you have taxes already in the price or is it added on it?

        • Murray Foote
          June 11, 2013 at 12:14 am

          OK, I could have been clearer. If you assume a new version of Photoshop comes out every 18 months, then a Photoshop CC subscription is only 20% dearer than buying a standalone upgrade each time at the CS6 upgrade price (and ignoring the introductory PS CC offer). There were no taxes involved when I downloaded Lightroom 5 last night so probably that applies to a PS CC download.

          • marko
            June 11, 2013 at 9:03 am

            That sounds fair. However, I don’t upgrade each time a new version is released so for me that will not be a good deal. And that is exactly the issue here I guess, why do we have to upgrade each time we have a new camera? We don’t! Not if Adobe practice fair business methods.

            • Murray Foote
              June 11, 2013 at 9:12 am

              … or alternatively, if Adobe put the permanent price at someone upgrading every second version, say $7 rather than $20, then most people would probably accept that. I think there are two alternatives here, Adobe changes tack or users desert them en masse. If there is no change in a year, when introductory discount pricing ends, it will be the latter.

    • 6.2) Andy Schmitt
      June 11, 2013 at 7:41 am

      I’m not sure about the 2 kiddies bragging about stealing all the software on their computer. I’ll bet if a bride manages to steal her images, they’ll be rightly pissed off.
      There are a lot of small software companies out there that deserve our support. Please don;t give those 2 a pat on the back. They’ll be stealing your customers because their overhead is so much lower..
      (and yes… it IS stealing, in both cases)

      • 6.2.1) marko
        June 11, 2013 at 9:00 am

        @Andy, that’s what I meant about them having so much more advantage on us the old guys. Not only that they are well thought in everything computers, they also have all the tools to do it for free..

        I will never encourage them (or others) to do that. I have no issue with them going after my clients because, frankly, there is not much I can do about it. They are young, trendy and arrogant and their clients will never choose me anyway.

        However, what I have noticed is that these young duo are not an exception and it looks like a trend. It seems that their attitude toward software companies is “you want to screw me? Well, I will screw you instead”

        Unfortunately, companies like Adobe and others are also run by people that have the same (trendy) arrogant mentality.

        Guess who suffers at the end…

  7. 7) PG
    June 10, 2013 at 7:23 pm

    Nasim – you’ve nailed it as usual. In this comments section, a poster named marko mentions two people he met who exclusively use pirated software. Of course the Cloud versions of Adoble applications are downloaded and run locally, which means they are just as easy to crack as any other software (they do not actually run “in the cloud” as the name suggests). And to be honest, while I have purchased appropriate licenses to every piece of commercial software I have ever used, given Adobe’s grossly anti-customer conduct, I have no moral objection to anyone who pirates anything from the Creative Cloud. It is stealing from a thief, in my view.

    • 7.1) marko
      June 10, 2013 at 7:56 pm

      @PG, you said it. What I was trying to portray is that this practice is becoming more spread among professionals (especially the young ones) because they feel they are being ripped off. They also do not anymore have moral shame and admit the practice.

      Things really have changed.

  8. 8) Lois Bryan
    June 10, 2013 at 7:43 pm

    Thank you, Nasim. I’m as steamed about this whole thing as you are. Maybe I’m turning into a cranky old lady, but I’m tired of being bullied and pushed around by companies (and governments, but we won’t go there) that are simply getting too big for their britches. By the way, I have an older version of Capture NX2, on which I had the older version of Nik Color Efex. I have repeatedly preferred this method of working with raw (.neff) images. When I upgraded a few months back to the Nikon D7000 and the Adobe Camera Raw that went with PS 4 wouldn’t take the image, i was shocked. I had already purchased PS 5, so just for grins, I tried the Camera Raw that went with it. Lo and behold, it took the D7000’s image … but it wasn’t until then that I realized that there was a skunk in the woodpile.

    If Photoshop doesn’t watch out, they’ll go the way of other companies that thought they were hot stuff. Shall we make a list??

  9. 9) Spy Black
    June 10, 2013 at 9:14 pm

    I was hoping Corel would try to capitalize on this, as they have good resources for giving Adobe a run for their money, however they too plan to go the same route as Adobe. Too bad, if they had half a brain they would so jump on this opportunity.

  10. 10) Jason Schultz
    June 10, 2013 at 9:48 pm

    It’s clearly a regrettable oversight on Adobe’s part to make a one-size-fits-all cloud setup that doesn’t fit everyone. You can see Microsoft moving this way too with Office now being rented for $100/year. Bill Gates really started this whole thing with DOS and later Windows. It made him über rich! Working professionals might be able to justify the costs involved but what about everyone else? That’s where Adobe dropped the ball IMHO. I can see them wanting to cut down on piracy too.

  11. 11) Duncan Crawford
    June 10, 2013 at 9:59 pm

    You should try dealing with Adobe in Australia. As a general rule they charge around 50% more for most of the CS suites than USA prices. The excuse is always that it costs more to setup a support network here… Funny that, when you ring Adobe Support you always strike someone from god knows where that doesn’t seem to speak, or even understand English. While I like their software, I do not like their attitude, I think there’s a big opening in the market if someone can get it right.

  12. 12) MJohn
    June 10, 2013 at 10:42 pm

    I doubt whether Adobe recruits politicians to develop their software? This is excellent example of corporate monopoly.

  13. 13) Arun
    June 10, 2013 at 11:46 pm

    Looking forward for your upcoming articles: Alternative …. series.

  14. 14) zuus
    June 11, 2013 at 12:05 am

    The whole article is screaming “You are not forced to use Adobe software” and I’m happy that you come to the same conclusion. I’m sure there are several pieces of software out there that can compete with Photoshop. Not in every aspect, but in many aspects.

    We shouldn’t let them get away with their immoral business practice.We should show them, that we are the customers and that they depend on us.

    Start by switching from Lightroom to Aperture. It offers the same functionality and there hasn’t been a need to force-upgrade in two or three years.

  15. 15) Simon Speich
    June 11, 2013 at 12:43 am

    I recommend having a look at the open source programms <a hrfe="darktable and raw therapee as an alternative to Adobe Raw.

  16. 16) Marco
    June 11, 2013 at 1:02 am

    I completely agree with you. This is the main reason why I’m switching from lightroom (4.4) to Capture One 7 as raw converter (feeling comfortable for now). For photoshop I’m using Elements and rarely use it, but seeking an alternative for it too

  17. 17) Chris
    June 11, 2013 at 1:36 am


    As Ronald (WACON-images) said, I too switched to PhotoNinja which is a RAW-Converter with very pleasing results.

    At the moment I am impatiently waiting for the relase of iMatch (version 5) which will be an extraordinary digital asset management tool. So you may have a look at this one too as soon as it is available (at the moment there is a closed beta testing going on).

    Looking forward to your favorite alternatives.

  18. 18) Peter
    June 11, 2013 at 7:25 am

    Oddly enough, the mountain of negative complaints over the last month about Adobe’s practices can be reinforcing their view that their products are exceptional. People “can’t live” without them, and there are no perceived alternatives to their products. People don’t want to change their post-processing habits…learning curve horrors.

    Can you imagine what Adobe top management would be saying if NOBODY objected to these changes? “They don’t need us; we’re in trouble.” Now, they are probably saying to themselves: “Give it time; this too shall pass.” Or “if our customer base can spend big bucks constantly upgrading to newer camera and accessories, they certainly can afford a few extra bucks a month for software.” They have a point, here.

  19. 19) Jim
    June 11, 2013 at 8:07 am

    It might be worth noting that CEO Narayen’s total compensation package (according to Forbes) is $10,825,110. The money has to come from somewhere.

    • 19.1) Peter
      June 11, 2013 at 9:03 am

      Every CEOs compensation in the world comes from somewhere, so what does that have to do with this issue? He’s charging more for Photoshop so he can increase his own compensation?

  20. 20) marko
    June 11, 2013 at 9:21 am

    Corel PaintShop Pro is selling for $59.99. It’s a superb program. I used to use it about five years ago and unfortunately, they kind of stopped improving it for a while so I went back to PS7. Then I just continued with Adobe. However, the program today is a robust piece of software run by Corel.

    Another alternative that actually will be very easy for PS users is GIMP. It’s a powerful open source (read FREE) editing software.

  21. 21) NoMore
    June 11, 2013 at 10:21 am

    Amen, thanks for saying out loud what almost every photographer I know is already thinking. I’ve been using Photoshop since before digital cameras, don’t like to think about how much money I’ve spent on upgrades. But for most of them, the money bought some real functionality that I believed I needed. But that’s not true anymore — Adobe got too greedy. Photoshop will end up being the program everyone used to use, and the shareholders that are going to lose their shirts will have nobody to blame but themselves.

  22. 22) Neil
    June 11, 2013 at 10:27 am

    I’ve been looking into alternatives, too, since the announcement. PhotoNinja looks promising but lacks some needed features. DXO and CaptureOne look promising but I don’t think they maximize the raw file. As a Nikon user I keep coming back to NX2 as the best alternative. The hard pill to swallow here is the same as Aperture (which I’d love to try but won’t pay $80 just to try): Is the product actively being supported/developed? Thom Hogan says it isn’t. So the long term viability just doesn’t seem to be there.

    Adobe had the market in their hands and as they squeezed some important parts are leaking through. I hope some company steps up to claim it.

  23. 23) Allanjo
    June 11, 2013 at 11:03 am

    Looking forward to your review of Capture One Pro. I love mine for my D800 raw files.

  24. 24) Csaba
    June 11, 2013 at 11:16 am

    I’ve been trying to avoid using PS as much as I can. I don’t know Corel myself, but one tool that I’ve been using more and more is Perfect Photo Suite – has lots of useful modules and layer support.

    The problem of alternatives is that PS has become a plugin platform for most 3rd party software. The only way of coming up with an alternative would be to have most of these developers (Imagenomic, Nik’s, Topaz, Perfect Photo Suite, etc.) support another platform. Perhaps Corel, or perhaps Perfect Photo Suite could become such a platform itself.

    Hope you’re going to review the Perfect Suite – they have a very reasonable price for what they offer.

  25. 25) Vipul Kapadia
    June 11, 2013 at 11:41 am

    I agree with you. Although I have Lightroom and love it, I have also been using (just for fun) RawTherapee It’s quite similar to Lightroom and it’s free. Yes, there is a learning curve involved with this one but it is not very steep. In fact it is pretty intuitive. Give it a shot. This is the only program that I thought comes close to replacing Lightroom or Aperture.

  26. 26) Chris Zeller
    June 11, 2013 at 12:03 pm

    Amen! But I’m a bit confused. Does this mean that if I keep my lightroom current I can use the updated raw converter with my PS 6?

    • 26.1) Neil
      June 11, 2013 at 1:59 pm

      If I understand you, the answer is no. If you keep lightroom current but Adobe doesn’t update Camera Raw for your version of Photoshop anymore then Lightroom will only edit in photoshop by rendering the raw file first and then opening the rendered file into photoshop.

  27. 27) Joni A Solis
    June 11, 2013 at 3:02 pm

    Please check out Serif’s PhotoPlus for photo editing.

  28. 28) Michael Colman
    June 11, 2013 at 3:46 pm

    I have been using LR4 for over a year but wonder how it differs from DXO and Nik software. A simply understanding of how DXO and Nik differ from LR4/5 would be useful for me.

  29. 29) toni
    June 12, 2013 at 12:46 am

    Adobe is a monopoly in image editing software. And this is the explication of CC versions.

    Lightroom is almost a monopoly but there other software (dxo, camera one,…). This is the only reason because they drop lightroom price in the past. And this is the only reason because they have a no-CC version of lightroom now.

    Monopoly are really bad.

  30. 30) Asaf Chelouche
    June 12, 2013 at 5:13 am

    Hi Nasim,
    I would love to see a comparison between Photoshop and Pixelmator (OS X app), and since you mentioned you consider addressing only LR in a different article, I’d love to see how it fares out in comparison to Aperture, which to me seems as the closest competitor.

  31. 31) Manuel
    June 12, 2013 at 3:51 pm

    Hi Nasim,
    What do you think about Nikon Capture NX2?

    • 31.1) Peter G
      August 24, 2013 at 7:16 pm

      I use Nikon Capture NX2 for processing of my photos. It works for me . Currently run D3S, D3 and D2Xs . I only shot Raw files BTW.

  32. June 13, 2013 at 6:55 pm

    On a semi-related note, I just received a request for participation in an Adobe survey. I’d love to fill it out and give them a piece of my mind, but I’m reluctant to click the link. Anyone else receive one of these?

  33. 33) David Snyder
    June 14, 2013 at 10:42 am


    I can appreciate why you and so many others are displeased with Adobe but I have no significant problems with their decision to become Cloud based.

    I currently have a licensed version of CS6. (I have been using Photoshop since Version 7). I have no interest in any of the other Adobe products. I use numerous other providers plug-ins to supplement Photoshop.

    Several days ago, I entered a subscription for the Cloud based CS6 as a single product user. In addition to getting CS6, I now have everything that is on CS6 Extended. On or about June 17, I will receive all of the new features that will be exclusively for CS6 Cloud based subscribers. Some of these new apps are worth the price of the subscription alone.

    I am not a professional in that I have no interest in selling or displaying my work online so I may not use the 20GB of free Cloud storage that is a part of the subscription. I am, however, most interest in Behance (part of the subscription) that will enable me to see the work of others.

    I would suggest that those who have concerns look carefully at Adobe’s site and all of the features that will be available to them.

    Now the icing on the cake. As I licensed user, my first year’s subscription is $9.95 per month. After that, the cost will increase to $19.95. (That is the current information given to the sales department) The sales representative with whom I spoke did not know how long the $9.95 special would continue.

  34. 34) Bill
    June 27, 2013 at 8:28 am

    I have moved to Phase One’s Capture One Pro. Have never been a real fan of Adobe. There is more bang for the buck with Capture One Pro.

  35. 35) Daniel
    June 28, 2013 at 6:40 pm

    The biggest rip-off is Adobe’s refusal to provide CS6 (version 12) users any non-Creative Cloud updates made to the version. The long-standing policy was that a customer received updates as they were released. Now Adobe is only supplying maintenance “builds” for retail customers and reserving “upgrades” for Cloud customers. Never mind that many of us have been supporting the company for 30 years. Our investment in their profits isn’t worth a cent to them.

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