Brian's Photo Blog — Article 125
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Plunging Into Adobe's Creative Cloud
Saturday 7 July 2012   —   Category: Processing
If you are very much into photography at all, then it’s very likely you use some sort of image-editing software to process your images on a computer. And the more serious you are about digitally processing your photo, chances are you are using one, or both, of Adobe’s professional-level programs: Lightroom and Photoshop. Of course, Adobe makes a lot more software than just image-editing.

I was first introduced to Adobe’s products way back in early 2004 when I was taking a course on video production at Allan Hancock Community College in Santa Maria, California. Because of the generous student discounts available, I was able to pick my own copy of the original Production Studio Premium CS1, which contained the following professional-level programs: Nearly two years later, at the very end of 2005, I upgraded to Production Studio Premium CS2. If you need two or three of these programs, it is definitely cheaper to buy the entire Creative Suite — even if it contains software you don’t need — rather than buying the applications separately. Because I was using all of these programs except for Illustrator, it was a super deal!

Because this a quite an expensive bundle of software, and because I’m using it as a hobbyist, not as a professional, I've tried not to upgrade to newer versions unless I really have to. When my MS Windows computer died in April 2009, and I decided to buy a Mac Pro as a replacement, I found that I also needed to switch my Adobe software from the Windows version to the Mac version. Adobe gave me a really great deal to make the switch, and upgrade from my CS2 version to the CS4 Production Premium, which has served me well for the past three years.

Up until this time, customers could skip one or two upgrades, and still receive a substantial discount once they eventually did upgrade. As you can tell from what I have already shared, I did not upgrade to CS3, but went straight from CS2 to CS4. Likewise, I stayed with CS4 during the following years when CS5 and CS5.5 were available. Buying every single upgrade along the way was just way to expensive. But because valuable — and sometimes even necessary — features are added to the software over time, it is vital to upgrade every once in a while to keep up with rapidly-changing technology. For some time I had been entertaining the idea of upgrading to CS6 when it came out later in 2012.

In late 2011, Adobe announced that it was changing the pricing structure for its software. From now on, Adobe said, customers would receive a discount only when upgrading from the immediately-previous major version, and no longer when upgrading from older versions. Therefore, a customer upgrading from CS5 to CS6 would receive a discount, while customers upgrading from CS4 and earlier would not, but would have to pay the full price. Yikes! It almost seems like Adobe had got its customers by the you-know-what, and now has decided to give a little squeeze!

For customers like me who were still using CS4, Adobe was saying that before CS6 was released, I needed to first upgrade to CS 5.5, so I would be eligible for the CS6 upgrade price. Otherwise I could pay the full price! But as I look at the Adobe Web site right now, it seems like they didn’t really follow through on this. The full price for CS6 Production Premium (PP) is $1,900. Upgrading from CS3 or CS4 (PP) is a hefty $950, but that’s still half-price. Upgrading from CS5 PP is not much cheaper at $750, but for those who already own CS5.5 PP, the upgrade is only half of that at $375.

To make matters more complicated (for me), I also own a number of Adobe programs which are not part of the Production Premium suite. When I had purchased CS4 PP, Adobe had removed Audition from the suite and replaced it with a less-capable Soundbooth. So at that time I was forced to buy a stand-alone version of Audition. Over the past few years, I have also purchased InDesign (desktop publishing), and more recently, for my RAW photo processing, Lightroom. I have also been toying with the idea of replacing my aging Windows HTML editor — HomeSite (which I am using to write this) — with DreamWeaver.

It’s much cheaper to maintain current versions of all these programs when they are bundled in a suite, as opposed to upgrading them individually. If I wanted to have the suite which contained ALL of the Adobe software I own, I would have to switch from CS4 Production Premium to CS6 Master Collection — that upgrade would cost me $1,400. Later, it would cost over $500 per year to keep my Master Collection up to date. It all sounds very expensive, but on the other hand, these are highly-functional, professional-level programs which have become industry standards, and which have many competitors but very few equals.

With the introduction of CS6, Adobe is offering an alternative path for keeping your Adobe software current which is the main component of their new Creative Cloud service. By paying a monthly subscription fee of $50, a customer can download and install ALL 16 programs which are part of the Master Collection, PLUS 4 programs which are not part of the Master Collection, one of which is the essential Lightroom. In addition, Creative Cloud includes access to online services for file sharing, collaboration and publish — I don’t think I’ll be using any of that very much. Finally, Creative Cloud includes upgrades to any new versions of all 20 applications upon release, any new software Adobe decides to add to the collection, and any new features and services between releases. What a deal!

Of course, the downside to all this is that I’m only renting the software, and not purchasing it. If I decide to cancel my Creative Cloud subscription, then all that software I've been paying $600 a year for will no longer function. At least when you pay for the Creative Suite, you’re actually buying the software for a one-time price, and can keep using it indefinitely without any further payment. In order to sweeten the deal a bit and make it easier to swallow, Adobe is offering current Creative Suite customers their first year for a reduced cost of $30 per month — a savings of $240 for the year. If only that was the permanent price!

With Adobe’s new pricing structure, no matter how you slice it, you’re going to be paying a good $600 a year to stay current with their software, even if you don’t upgrade each year. And because I use quite a number of Adobe’s programs, it made sense to me to go the Creative Cloud route, have access to ALL of their software, and ALWAYS have the latest, most up-to-date, most feature-rich versions. This last point is significant, because I don’t know how many times I've read about a feature I would like to use in one of my Adobe programs, only to find out it’s in a newer version that I’m too cheap to upgrade to. With Creative Cloud, that will never happen again!

So last Sunday, July 1st, I took the plunge, whipped out my credit card, and then began downloading application after application until my computer was well-stocked with the latest Adobe software. During the short six days since then, I've had plenty of opportunity to use a number of the programs. Of course, I use Photoshop and Lightroom pretty much on a daily basis.

I used After Effects to put together a time-lapse video of some pictures I took on the coast. It was difficult because I had shot them without thinking I would use them for time-lapse, but After Effects was up to the task. I also used Premiere Pro, Audition and Encore to edit video footage and then create Blu-ray and DVD discs of my daughter’s recent high school graduation ceremony. Not bad for a week’s work!

To Creative Cloud, or not to Creative Cloud — that is the question! Adobe has so many upgrade options that it can be hard to figure out which one is the best deal. A lot of it depends on how many Adobe programs you own (or want to own!), and how much you need the new features which are part of Adobe’s annual upgrades — AND how much money you have to invest in these professional-level tools. Only you can answer that question for yourself, but hopefully what I have written here can help you make that decision.
UPDATE — 21 April 2014: After nearly two years of forking over a lot of money to Adobe each month, I've decided to scale back. See Pulling My Head Out Of Adobe’s Creative Cloud for all the details.
Brian's Photo Blog — Article 125
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