Adobe CS6: Buy or Subscribe? So many choices!

Today, Adobe publicly announced the Creative Suite 6 and the Creative Cloud, which has been generating a lot of controversy since it was first unveiled last fall. The new products, shipping in the next 30 days, will require a bit of head-scratching to decide how to upgrade. So here are a couple of scenarios for photographers:

  • Just use Photoshop and Lightroom? To buy the upgrades is $199 for Photoshop (standard) and $99 for Lightroom if you upgrade at the same time: total $298.
  • By comparison, a year of Creative Cloud costs $49/mo, or $600. That’s a lot more than $298 and its only for a year. Next year you’ll need to spend another $600 – but that is offset by the fact that you’ll need to pay for upgrades if you didn’t get the subscription anyway.

It seems to me not worth it if all you use is Photoshop and Lightroom. BUT if you use any other Adobe programs – Illustrator, InDesign, Dreamweaver, Premiere, After Effects – then a Creative Cloud subscription DOES become worthwhile. An upgrade to the Master Collection (what you get with Creative Cloud) costs at least $525, and that doesn’t include Lightroom, Photoshop Touch and other apps that come with Creative Cloud. There is also the 20GB of cloud disk space, web-hosting, on-line resources, and social features that may or may not be useful (Ping, anyone?)

  • If you own any CS3/CS4/CS5 Suite or individual product you can subscribe to the Creative Cloud for $29.95/mo. (special intro price and 1 year commitment). This is an insane deal, $360 for a year of Photoshop Extended, Lightroom 4, Photoshop Touch, Premiere, Dreamweaver and every other product Adobe makes.
  • You could also purchase Lightroom and subscribe to Photoshop. The Photoshop subscription is $19.95/month (1 year commitment) and the Lightroom upgrade is $149. So $389 for a year altogether. This doesn’t make sense to me, though.
  • Actually to me, subscribing to Photoshop at $19.95/mo doesn’t make any kind of sense if you’re upgrading. $240 for the year vs. $199 to buy the upgrade. If you don’t have Photoshop and just need it for a year, then a subscription might make sense though.

But lost in all the teeth-gnashing about the cost is the real reason Adobe is doing the Creative Cloud. Think about your web browser. There are frequent updates (in some cases, daily updates) that fix bugs and add new features. Adobe would like to add new features to their products frequently too – but because of accounting regulations they (and every other packaged software vendor) are prevented from adding new features without charging for them. So Adobe has to save up the features until they accumulate enough of them to sell you an upgrade.

But a subscription model doesn’t have this limitation: they can give you new features as soon as they come out of the oven! So look for lots of new updates that those who bought the upgrade won’t get access to until they can upgrade to CS7.

I realize that everyone is different, but personally I can’t wait for the Creative Cloud to get released. I use Photoshop, Lightroom and Dreamweaver every day; and InDesign, Premiere and AfterEffects at least once a week. So I need all those apps, and for me the Adobe Creative Cloud is more and better features for much less money.