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Lab Notes Blog

Rethinking Just How Necessary Photoshop Is

August 31, 2013

Tags: Adobe Creative Cloud, Photoshop, Corel PaintShopPro

Unquestionably, Adobe Photoshop is the queen of photo editing, the number one go-to, must-have software program for professional and serious photographers. And she knows it, preening imperiously, and behaving as though she’s the only game in town.

She isn’t. In fact, Photoshop is far too complex and feature-rich for the vast majority of users. What’s more the program is very expensive.

Many users were more than willing to overlook all that, because Photoshop is also remarkably powerful professional software that delivers on quality, creativity enabling and reliability. Then came Creative Cloud – the new Adobe software branding that supplanted Creative Suite 6.

With Creative Cloud, Adobe has jettisoned all traditional software sales (in which the user owns the software outright) in favor of a new subscription only model. In other words, if you want to continue to use Photoshop, you will need to pay Adobe $20/month… forever. As soon as you stop paying the monthly fee, you will lose access to the software. (We’re focusing here on the Single App plan, rather than the complete Creative Cloud offering, which includes all of Adobe’s creative programs.)

While there is much of value to Creative Cloud’s new software subscription model (which we covered in a previous blog), it makes financial sense only if:
  • You are the type of consumer who upgrades to the newest version of Photoshop as soon as it comes out, rather than tends to wait for one or two versions before upgrading.
  • You are a business or studio that needs an extra Photoshop license for only a month or two (such as for a temporary employee or a special project).

All this presupposes that Photoshop – and only Photoshop -- is truly necessary for your photo editing.

With Adobe’s introduction of Creative Cloud, and their unilateral determination that their users will never again be able to purchase perpetual licenses to Photoshop or any of the other Adobe creative software, many users are beginning to question just how imperative it really is for them to have and use the newest Photoshop.

Corel Corporation, a major competitor to Adobe, conducted a survey of their own customers, asking three questions:
  • How likely is it that you would purchase Corel PaintShop Pro as it is currently offered today (i.e. non-subscription, perpetual license)?
  • How likely if it were offered on a month-by-month subscription?
  • How likely if it were offered as a 12-month subscription?

Corel Survey As you can see from this screen capture of a slide from the press briefing we had with Corel last week, 58% of the respondents would be very likely purchase a perpetual license (and only 7% very unlikely). However, they were over 80% very unlikely to buy into a month-to-month subscription and 69% very unlikely to opt in for a 12-month subscription.

While this survey was given only to Corel customers, we project that it represents the feelings of all potential photo editing software buyers. Unlike Adobe, Corel took this and other feedback from the photo market very seriously. As they prepare to launch the newest version of PaintShop Pro , they have decided to continue to sell it as a perpetual license ($79 for the standard software, or $99 for the Ultimate package), which includes a free basic cloud membership with extra content, tutorials, upgrades, etc. Even if you buy into the premium cloud membership, and then decide to not renew it, the software on your computer won’t turn into a pumpkin (the way Photoshop will). You own the license… forever.

Obviously, PaintShop Pro is not only a bargain, but one that gives users greater flexibility in terms of purchase versus subscription licensing. But is it a viable alternative to Photoshop CC? Our answer has long been yes ever since we first started reviewing PaintShop Pro in the 1990s. While most professional photographers feel they need the greater depth and functionality that Photoshop offers (and others feel they need to be seen to use only top professional tools, such as the Adobe software), most photo enthusiasts and even some pros will be quite satisfied with PaintShop Pro X6, especially now that it is a 64-bit program with much better performance numbers.

Our advice – especially if you are among the many photographers who resent Adobe’s manhandling of the market into their Creative Cloud plan – is to download the free trial of PaintShop Pro and see if it provides you with all the tools that you need for your own photo editing.


  1. September 5, 2013 8:33 PM EDT
    The other annoyance is that Adobe's "cloud" offering isn't cloud at all, it's SaaS. You're still running the code on your hardware, which means you can't go to another machine, log on to your account and work. True cloud computing involves hosting, too, not just hostage taking.
    - Bill Dyszel