CREATIVE CLOUD — HERO OR VILLAIN?

INTERNATIONALLY ACCLAIMED PHOTOGRAPHER AND FILMMAKER DREW GARDNER SHARES HIS VIEWS ON ADOBE’S CONTROVERSIAL NEW SUBSCRIPTION-BASED SERVICE

IN ADDITION ТО knowing a thing or two about software, the people over at Adobe certainly know how to stir up a lively debate. No one can deny them their software-making ability — the vast majority of photographers, in fact the creative world as as whole, ‘would grind to a halt without it! However, you’re probably aware that Adobe recently threw the industry a curveball with the launch of Creative Cloud.

The software ship seemed to be sailing along just fine (with Adobe offering the option of subscribing to a service if you wanted access to a wider range of software and features),but then it delivered a bolt from the blue — you can no longer buy its software. You must subscribe to it.

While most were taken aback, upon reflection, Adobe’s rationale does seem make sense — no more software piracy, a constant, regular income stream and no more DVDs in expensive printed packaging, Adobe is wetland truly in the driving seat.

It’s not only for Adobe that the move makes plenty of sense. If you’reaworking professional who regularly stays on top of technology, snatching up the latest and greatest version of the software as soon as it hits the shelves, then the constant stream of software updates and new features offered by Creative Cloud could save you a fortune over the years.

On the other hand, there are plenty of people out there who are accustomed to, and enjoy, the good old-fashioned system of purchasing and owning their software without a monthly direct debit leaving their bank account. Furthermore, if you’ve bought into the cloud way of working and, God forbid.come across financial hardship, your access to Adobe’ssoftwarewill be on the chopping block. This obviously leaves you few options to work your way out of the financial hole you’ve found yourself in. Professional photography is an increasingly difficult industry to thrive in, so this is a genuine issue for some photographers.

Without Adobe, the photographic world would be a much unhappier and frustrating place to operate. But you have to question any manufacturer that.without warning, takes away theconsumer’s choice, imposing a new method of distributing software. Old hands in photography, like myself, may recall that this isn’tthe first time that Adobe has ruffled feathers in such a way — remember Adobe Stock Photos? Adobe’s take on royalty-free stock images was greeted by swathes of the photographic community with the same enthusiasm that one might greet a hole in the head. As a result, Adobe Stock Photos was kicked to the kerb soon after and is now a distant memory.

This is often the problem when you become an undisputed market leader in any field — you can become, dare I say, a little disconnected from your customers with more than a delicate whiff of Schadenfreude. Is Adobe guilty of this? Come to your own conclusions.

Now Adobe has uncorked the lamp and released the genie into the big bad world, it might find it difficult to put him back in. It might just have opened the door for some clever startup programmer to offer similar software that you can just buy outright, the old-fashioned way. There may, heaven forbid.come a time when professional digital photographers use a non-Adobe product to polish their images. This may seem far-fetched.but consider the example of Microsoft Word and Excel — once upon a time every single computer shipped with this software installed.but little by little its grasp on the market loosened and its market share was eroded by affordable and compelling alternatives, such as OpenOffice, Pages and Numbers,

Another interesting observation is that Adobe has chosen to force consumers to subscribe to Photoshop et al, but not Lightroom. The reason why? Competition, Photoshop’s competition is about as non-existent and non-threatening as a fish in a jousting contest on a unicycle. Lightroom, on the other hand, faces opposition that is both vibrant,compelling,user-friendly and effective — Capture One Pro 7 and DxO Optics Pro 8 to name but two. This competition keeps Adobe honest and gives them a good run for their money — moving Lightroom into the cloud would leave the door wide open and potentially lose them market share in an instant.

My view is that, despite this, Adobe will remain at the top of the pile — after all, many professionals I’ve spoken to see CC as a bargain. But I equally believe that there will be a small but vocal community of users that do not wish to be forced to pay a monthly subscription — it’s the community that will drive competition into action. It’ll be interesting to see if, in the next couple of years, Adobe will live to rue this daring approach. Only time will tell.

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