Blood in the Water-an Adobe rant

Blood in the Water-an Adobe rant

Delirium I

Nikon D810, Sigma 24-105/4 ART

ISO64, 1/160s@f8


There is blood in the water and the sharks are circling…

And the bloated corpse of the whale, Adobe, is doing little to help itself…

And I am thrilled.

Let me explain.

I use Adobe products because I must. My workflow is a rather complicated one, involving Lightroom for DAM (digital asset management), various raw converters, such as Optics Pro and PhotoNinja for raw conversion, and PhotoShop as an assembly table for the variety of plugins I utilize (including WOW, Alien Skin Exposure X2, The Topaz suite, Nik et al), where most of my manipulation takes place. I occasionally use adjustment masks to fine-tune images, and am somewhat addicted to the ease of print output given me by the plugin for my Canon Prograf Pro-1000 printer, which gets it perfect every single time.

I also have other suites, including On1 Photo Raw, which continues to get better and better with every iteration.

What I do have an issue with, and have had ever since they introduced it, is Adobe’s subscription model. The photographer’s pack, at around $NZ20, is great value, and I wouldn’t mind paying that, except for one issue. I also use InDesign and occasionally Illustrator for the design work I do.  This means that I must pay the full whack, for all the apps I will never use (I don’t even know what some of them do and I don’t care.). At $NZ67/month, that is too much.  Why can I not pay a little extra and nominate than extra app for, say an extra $10/month? It is like a subscription to Sky TV. The full package is $130/ month, and for that you get an enormous number of junk channels that will never be watched. I can get Netflix and Lightbox for a fraction of that amount. O, and you must subscribe for a year in advance with Creative Cloud.

Lately, as I have been prompted to upgrade my CC apps, I have taken a hard look at what is being offered. And the answer is: not very much. Incremental improvements that improve the app in only minuscule ways, and barely-discernible tweaks that do very little.

The problem is that, once in the ecosystem, having invested years in mastery of PhotoShop et al (20 in my case), it is hard to leave and easier to stay, since it” just works”. Moreover, Adobe have had little competition in terms of functionality, since, until recently there has been no viable competition to speak of. The Adobe Creative Cloud has, in my opinion, become a bloated whale, one that insists on chewing up the system resources in my computer, gobbling all that it can eat. And one that is basking in the arrogance of its own hubris. Ripe for hungry sharks, IMHO.

There are those who say: why should post-production matter? After all, a pure photograph should stand on its own feet. Like the young photographer who rang me the other day. I just want to photograph, he said. I can’t be bothered with all that editing. Something simple. I really want to do it in one click. I was about to launch, and then realised I had nothing to change his mind. Can I do it all in PhotoNinja? Well, no. Not if you care about the statement you are trying to make. He went away dissatisfied.

Ansel Adams summed it up brilliantly in his statement:

The negative is the score and the print is the performance.

Read for digital photography: the capture is the score and the post-production the performance.

And nothing has changed. Adams is still correct. When we press the button, we create the score. It is in the post-production that we will express ourselves and make our performance unique. Or not. That means work and study and experimentation and learning, as when tune the individual instruments in our orchestra, until what emerges is uniquely “us”. And that takes time and practice. At some time, we are going to have to climb the PhotoShop mountain.

Well, I used to think that.

Until now.

For more than 20 years PhotoShop has been the go-to mountain that we have, at some time, had to climb. Adobe know this and so, they have been able to dictate what we were given and what we paid.

Until now.

As I watch, a quiet revolution is underway, and the whale is under threat. The minnows of editing software have continued to grow, and are now morphing into sharks.

And increasingly, there are real alternatives to Adobe.


Case Study 1: The Rise of the Suites.


There are now suites which will compete with Lightroom and to a degree, PhotoShop.  The plugins are growing up and looking to feed. The latest version of On1’s suite, On1 Photo RAW 2017.5, now offers the ability to import Lightroom catalogues while keeping the edits. Its use of layers, brushes and blending modes, along with a staggering range of presets, makes it a viable one-stop alternative to LR and to a large degree, PS. Well worth a look, if you haven’t tried it.

Alien Skin, who have been making PS plugins since PS2, have now entered the fray. Their Exposure X2, which IMHO has always had the most comprehensive film looks, now has import and export functions. A classic documentary photographer who wants to stay true to the traditions of the medium, could live here happily. O, and you can combine and layer different effects. This is a powerful tool indeed.

Topaz, who have made superior PS plugins for a long time, have now released their Topaz Studio, which brings all their vast range of options together into one place. Expect to see them offering added functionality as time goes by, maybe even DAM.


Case study 2: A Contender Emerges.


The small English company, Serif , emerged a couple of years ago with their Affinity Designer, a direct threat to Adobe Illustrator. They accompanied it with a reasonably-priced workbook, which is a must-buy if you are going there. At $NZ39, it was impossible to resist, so I purchased it. It does pretty much everything you might want a vector graphics package to do, although it lacks some of the bells and whistles of Illustrator, like live tracing. However, the speed of development and the huge increments in functionality with each release, convince me that it is only a matter of time before the bells will come. A lot of professional designers are now using it exclusively.

O, if only they had a PS alternative, I mused. Tadaaa! There it was. Affinity Photo. Again, not all the functionality of PS, but the important features are there. Layers, blending modes and masks, the real power of PS. Again, a wallet-breaking $NZ39 on intro. I can live with that. And most of my plugins work on it.  Not only that, but it is fast, a consequence of the fact that Serif were able to design the rendering engine from scratch. No need for a supercomputer to drive this baby. It does mean that I will have start from scratch and learn how it works, which I am doing. And the changeover isn’t that difficult. Unless you are the lazy type. O, and current pricing? $NZ59.99! What is not to like?

O, if only they had an InDesign alternative, I mused. Then I could dump Adobe. A gentle cough from the community. Have you heard about Affinity Publisher, their InDesign Alternative? Realllllyyyy???? Due out sometime this year (2017). Be still my beating heart.

And the latest whisper?

A DAM alternative to LR. Apparently, they are working on it as I write.

Now imagine being able to buy all four apps for $NZ240, on a subscription-free model, instead of the $NZ795 I pay Adobe for the honour of being able to access their software. That is, once you have paid for it, you own it. Period. And only pay for full version upgrades.

I am going to go out on a limb here.

I think 2017-18 is the last year I will be paying Adobe to use their bloatware.

And I think I like swimming with the sharks….



13 Responses

  1. Vi says:

    Thanks Tony!! I am still using CS6 because I refuse to go to the subscription model. I will read with interest, future developments. For an old bird, it might be a challenge getting used to some new system, but maybe that is what I will have to do.

  2. Sasquatch says:

    I’ve told you brefore Tony that you should come across from the dark side and join the open source revolution, and mostly the price will appeal to any Hibernian blood coursing through your veins.
    InDesign –> Scribus (for a start)

  3. Anjie says:

    Great post Tony I agree wholeheartedly (in principle)

  4. Tony Bridge says:

    Hi Tiny One
    How wonderful to hear from you!
    I am thrilled.
    I am doing the workshop again this aug-sept but will focusing on my processes.

  5. Tony Bridge says:

    No Go remain blood here but a fair amount of Netherlands…havent looked at Scribus…will do…
    Love charitable
    Signed wannabe penguin

  6. Thanks, Tony. Some good information in your “rant” as usual. I will definitely be looking at the Affinity software as I want to get into design and, as you say, the full Adode subscription is hard to justify. Nevertheless, I won’t be rushing out to dump my LR/PS subscription. At $AU 15 per month I still reckon it is good value and I really love the Lightroom catalogue and simplified editing. I bought OnOne some time ago for $150 and shortly thereafter they came out with OnOne Raw for a further $150. That’s 20 months subscription to Adobe Photographer’s package.
    Loved your Ansel Adam’s quote – very apt.

  7. Tony D says:

    Great post, Tony! I still use CS5 & LR4.4, being totally against expensive upgrades which include nothing I really want/need (a bit like MS Office, really) or this ridiculous CC model. Not surprisingly, I have yet to find something that I am unable to do – even after reading all sorts of things about up-to-date post-production techniques.
    Still trying to get my head around Affinity, but the suites you mention are wonderfully useful, usually with free upgrades.
    I wonder, will the behemoth get its head around this better way of getting customers to love their products?

  8. Michael Greer says:

    You forgot to mention that not only do Adobe screw the subscription model pricing for those of us in these far flung antipodean islands, but they have unrelentingly increased the “Photographer’s Bundle” pricing by 50% over the past 3 years. And if anyone believes the increases will stop there, they’re smok’n that Far North stuff. Like you, I’ve been around PS since ’98 (not quite 20 years, but near enough) – but I finally, albeit reluctantly, pulled the plug in April this year. There are now other, more photographer-friendly, cost-effective options out there – several of them rapidly attaining the standards required to achieve high quality digital-darkroom outputs.

  9. Stephen says:

    I suggest you have a good hard look at ACDSee moved a couple of years ago and once past the early learning curve have found it brilliant and although not all plug ins work with it mosg of the importang ones do

  10. Peter Newfield says:

    One problem seems to be that in evaluating the alternatives to Adobe products all reviewers seem to talk in terms of comparing the product to LR or PSNZ. In other words, the seem to assume a degree of expertise in using them is a prerequisite to using the competing product. That makes the prospect of changing from a system you are still learning to another similar but different system very daunting. So it ends up: “Better the devil you know …..”

  11. Wendy says:

    Thanks Tony, timely post. I got Affinity when it came out as it was the replacement for Macs original software, cant even remember the name, but I liked it and used it so was sad to see it go. I have played with Affinity a few times and it looked promising, but inertia and techyphobia meant I didnt take the time to changeover. Phocus is ok, but not a DAM replacement for LR. I hate paying a subscription for a suite when I only use 3 parts of it. And InDesign has its issues as well, so keen to see it

  12. Jules says:

    I’ve just cancelled my subscription. Great article

  13. Natalie Smith says:

    Hi tony. Thanks for this, makes interesting reading. I find Scribus very unintuitive- just my thoughts. My only concern would be the paying for the full version uploads on the serif software. ONOne started out lie that & now they always seem to be asking for money. I’ve given up trying to keep up with them for the time being. My big bug bear with Adobe is the fact that we are charged in A$ and the have to pay GST on that. IVe emailed them so many times that it’s about time they recognised that we’re a different country from Australia – they don’t seem to be able to come up with a suitable reply

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