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Software Subscriptions – A Perspective

by | Mar 22, 2024 | News, Photo Software Reviews | 0 comments

Software Subscriptions – A Perspective

In October 2011, Adobe moved to a subscription model. People didn’t like it. Many doomsday predictions were voiced on forums, such as Now, 13 years later, the world hasn’t ended and Adobe are at the top of the photo software food chain.

Let’s face it, Adobe were smart. They had three main products for photographers: Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, and Lightroom. Photoshop was their flagship product and its price reflected it. If I remember correctly, back in 2011 it cost over £600 to buy a new license and around £300 a year for updates. That put it firmly in the professional (and rich amateur) category.

But that model put Adobe under pressure to deliver new functionality every year that their customers will shell out £300 for. Of course, some may have updated every 24 months instead, and I’m sure Adobe kept a close eye on the percentage of customers upgrading regularly.

In 2019, I commented that Adobe, from a business point of view, was entirely right to move to a subscription model. However, their approach was daring. They charged just £9.99 a month, that is just under £120 a year for Photoshop plus Lightroom. Previously, had all their customers purchased a yearly upgrade for Photoshop, Adobe had a regular income stream of around £300 per customer. And they had £600 coming in for every new customer. Now, they were only getting £120 per customer per year, assuming that the customer stuck around for an entire year. And, they were giving Lightroom away.

That is a huge reduction in income, isn’t it? Both yes and no. Adobe likely realised that they were losing customers, and income, because the initial price of the full Photoshop was so high. Moving to a low-priced subscription model made Photoshop + Lightroom affordable for everyone. Additionally, Photoshop plus Lightroom suddenly became competitors to the ‘budget’ photo software alternatives that hobbyist photographers relied on.

What Adobe did changed the face of photography software and I think the shock waves are still being felt. I don’t use Photoshop and Lightroom. I used to, but after trying out alternatives from DXO, Topaz, and Luminar, I moved to Photo Lab, Photo AI, DXO Nik Collection, Affinity Photo, and Luminar. I did that because I think these products are superior and I want quality. Am I paying more to do this? Yes, I think I am, especially if I keep the software up to date by upgrading each year.

Alternative Strategies to Software Subscriptions

Over the years, I have observed DxO, Topaz, and Skylum change their pricing and upgrade policies to both compete with Adobe and stay financially stable. DxO, for example, releases upgrades to its various products at different times every year. This helps to stabilise cash flow, but leads to anomalies where DxO Pure RAW (a subset of DxO PhotoLab) has better features than PhotoLab. PhotoLab users either have to wait, for several months, for the PhotoLab update or buy PureRAW as well. Although it may not be an anomaly. Maybe it’s by design…

Topaz have slimmed their product line down to Photo AI, Gigapixel AI, and Video AI, and moved from free updates for life to paid updates each year.

Skylum Luminar has been through more incarnations than Doctor Who, and now is a reasonably priced subscription or an expensive perpetual license.

Interestingly, all this jockeying for position has opened the door for excellent budget price photo software. I have just reviewed PhotoWorks and PhotoPad, both of which presently cost less than $40.00 for a perpetual license. They are astonishingly good for the price.

Camera Bits 

The latest company to move to a subscription model is, who produces Photo Mechanic and Photo Mechanic Pro. Photo Mechanic is a specialist tool, particularly aimed at professionals who want to use extensive metadata and the Pro version is a step into the world of Digital Asset Management. I am aiming to review Photo Mechanic this year, so I won’t comment on its functionality, but I will comment on the subscription. In my opinion, it is crazily overpriced. And, judging by comments on their forums, I am not alone in that opinion. Adobe showed that a subscription works when it attracts new customers and keeps old ones. Photo Mechanic’s subscription is more expensive than the old perpetual license. That is utter madness, I think. I own Photo Mechanic Pro, but I would have to pay more than the original price every year just to receive upgrades. No, thank you.

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