Is There a Cloud Hanging Over Your Future?
By now many of you will have heard that Adobe is planning to replace their Creative Suite applications including Photoshop with the new Creative Cloud, available only by subscription. Even if you haven't, they are. So is there a Cloud in your future?
First off, Creative Cloud isn't new. It was announced as one of the version choices a year ago when CS6 was released. Unless you are a graphic designer by profession, you probably passed on that choice opting instead to upgrade the suite version you already had or, like me, to pass for the time being on CS6 entirely. From my perspective, Photoshop CS6 just didn't have enough new features for photographers to justify an upgrade. Since I have been licensing the Design Premium suite, I had to upgrade the entire suite to CS6. Adobe won't let you upgrade just one program unless you licensed it separately in the first place.
With Lightroom continuing to improve over the past couple of releases itself, I rely less and less on Photoshop, so it seemed I had reached a fork in the road with CS6. It still feels weird as I've had every version of Photoshop since version 4, well before the Creative Suite started. In a sense, I liken it to the feeling I had when I got rid of all my film as I made the switch to digital. Both film and then Photoshop had been such a part of how I defined what I did, how could I give up on either?
At any rate, whether you upgraded to CS6 or not, Adobe has announced this month that the future will be all Cloud. They will no longer sell standalone versions of any of the Creative Suite products, including Photoshop. Instead, users will need to pay for a monthly subscription to Creative Cloud (CC). You can get a single application such as Photoshop for $20 a month. The full suite will cost you $30 a month for the first year if you are upgrading and $50 a year thereafter. New users get to pay $50 a month from the get go. There's also a special rate for students and teachers if you qualify. While upgrade fees for versions of Creative Suite have never been cheap, it seems obvious that unless you upgrade regularly, the subscription route could cost even more. And of course there's the psychological factor of not even being able to own it anymore. With Creative Cloud, you become a renter.
If you're a dedicated Creative Suite user who regularly depends on multiple CS applications, the Creative Cloud is actually a good deal. There's definitely a silver lining to the Creative Cloud if this describes you since you'll get access to the full range of CS applications, updated automatically, for about the same price or perhaps even less than you are paying now. If instead you're an occasional user or an occasional upgrader, or currently own just Photoshop or any single CS application, the Cloud will look more like a dark storm cloud on your future horizon, costing you more, with no real way to opt out in down the road since won't even own the software anymore. Stop paying those monthly fees and you don't get to use the program. You're just a renter who stopped paying his rent.
Reactions so far to Adobe's plans have been "mixed" to put it kindly. Angry posts are everywhere but you can also find glowing praise. There's an active online petition requesting Adobe to change course and keep the non-subscription option around for those who want it. Change never pleases everyone, but this one seems polarizing indeed.
So what about Lightroom? I've long wondered (even as an April Fools joke) why Adobe never made a Creative Suite version for photographers that included Lightroom. Officially, the program is even called "Photoshop Lightroom" yet it's not part of any edition of the suite. The Creative Suite has long had an equally ambivalent relationship with Acrobat, bundling it with the suite but never labeling it so. The current Creative Cloud offering included both Lightroom and Acrobat.
At this point, it isn't clear to me whether or not Acrobat will continue to be available standalone, but Adobe has clarified that they consider Lightroom to be a special case and while it will be part of the Creative Cloud umbrella it will also be available as a separate program just as it has been until now. So if you want to make the switch to Lightroom completely, you can safely ignore the Cloud it seems. Lightroom 5 Beta is available for public download now, and the future of Lightroom seems safe from storm clouds for the time being at least.
If you are considering taking flight into the Cloud, you will indeed get something for your subscription beyond what you have now. First off, subscribers to the Complete offering will be able to download and use pretty much anything they want. No more missing out on any of the Creative Suite applications because the edition you paid for doesn't include it. Now you get everything in the Cloud.
And the new CC versions just announced include new features. I'm not going to list them all here, but photographers will get some new goodies in the new Photoshop CC. A really cool "Camera Shake Reduction" tool could come in very handy. Camera Raw version 8 gets layers support. Smart Sharpen gets some tweaks to its algorithm to create even more natural looking results. Upsampling gets am overhaul as well. The new "Intelligent Upsampling" looks like it will do an even better job that the current "bicubic smoother" versus "bicubic sharper." Smart Objects get even smarter with the ability to non-destructively add blur and other effects not previously possible. All the features from Photoshop Extended will now be included for everyone and the distinction between Standard and Extended goes away. Photoshop Actions get conditional logic capabilities to allow them to automate more complex tasks. And no more waiting 12 to 18 months between major releases either. Adobe can add new features to the Cloud version any time they want to.
The upgraded Creative Cloud applications will be available beginning June 17. Time once again for us all to decide what to do.