Saying Goodbye To Lightroom

In the eyes of many photographers, Adobe made a fatal error the other day when they abandoned their standalone edition of Lightroom in favor of an Adobe Creative Cloud based subscription model. The excitement accompanying the launch of Lightroom CC 2018/CC Classic 2018 quickly turned to confusion and anger for a variety of reasons. Of course, some accepted the additional costs, while others with small libraries barely noticed the different pricing structure and how it scales. If that wasn’t enough, there was rampant speculation about security/ownership/access and so much more.

I could spend thousands of words exploring each of these issues, but one thing is clear… ADOBE ISN’T LISTENING TO THEIR CUSTOMERS! So why bother talking about how their pricing structure is designed to make stockholders happy and not photographers? The new Lightroom CC 2018 is a great product that delivers a lot of new features, but it’s not for Photographers, and Adobe isn’t listening to customers anymore… So who is?

If you follow me on twitter, ON1 and Alienskin reached out and are listening to what customers want. So are companies like Macphuns, that launched a page responding to Adobe’s misstep. There is also Iridient Digital, that makes a Fujifilm optimized RAW engine, and I can’t forget Affinity Photo. All of these companies are very responsive to their customers’ needs, and I am sure there are many more that I am forgetting or am even unaware of at this time. If a company producing a product based on your needs isn’t valuable to you, you can always go with Capture One Pro, Apple Photos, etc… they do a great job of telling you what you need and how you need it, which is good enough for a lot of users. Capture One Pro wouldn’t be in this lesser group if it supported all cameras equally, but declining to support the GFX and other cameras sets a dangerous precedent that can’t be ignored, especially when the cameras work via hacks.

The ubiquitous presence of proprietary software in the world of photography is something photographers have to start vocally disapproving of because it has contributed to this problem. Embracing multiple RAW formats, instead of getting behind one like DNG, is partially why Adobe has remained a defacto standard in the world of photography until today and, yes, I realize Adobe developed DNG. The race to support new cameras as they are released, and the ability of RAW interpreter programs to selectively prioritize or discriminate against cameras, largely comes from the burden imposed by these proprietary RAW formats that we all accept from manufacturers. This burden gives a large company like Adobe a substantial competitive advantage and, until recently, they often lead the way in supporting cameras first, which made them the defacto standard RAW editor for many.

The quasi-monopolistic stranglehold that we allowed Adobe to develop on photography technology becomes so much worse when you realize the retroactive damage that Adobe catalogs created. The years spent editing and curating in Lightroom wouldn’t be so problematic if there were a nondestructive, universally recognized sidecar file that allowed you to take your work anywhere, instead of being faced with the difficult decision of whether to leave, clean and even edit all of your photos again. Today, you can maintain your file structure at least, depending on how you setup your catalog, but little else; and if you move into the cloud at Adobe’s insultingly high prices, you are going to have an even more difficult time migrating later. So what is there left to use?

I’m currently shopping around for options and I like a lot of what ON1 has to offer, but I also like what I’m seeing from others too. I might stop using Lightroom for a while and try a new workflow in a few apps at one time. ON1 is promising Fujifilm simulation in the future, and it looks like they are building cloud support that will be cloud provider agnostic, which I look forward to seeing mature as their recently released iOS application grows. Macphun’s Aurora HDR product impresses me too, so I might give them an extended look. I also have access to a few more novel editors that I demoed, but didn’t seriously consider moving to until now, because I really want a RAW converter with a future. I’ll even try Exposure X3, which wasn’t on my radar previously, just because Alienskin reached out and has Fujifilm simulations. They want a customer compared to Adobe taking a customer for granted.

The future of photo editing is definitely being able to pick up any one of your devices to edit with and have it instantly sync, but how you go about that is important. Adobe wasn’t the first to pull off seamless access to a large photo library. Apple and Google both launched good solutions awhile ago, but they aren’t professional quality. Apple charges you for storage, while Google does not under most circumstances. Both cloud solutions are quite a bit cheaper than Adobe’s solution, and I’d venture to say they are more reliable. Here’s where fanboys go crazy, about a variety of small things, but both services work quite well and they aren’t overly proprietary.

On the other hand, Adobe continues to make their catalog system more proprietary. If they really believed in the quality of their product, they would give us all an easy way to migrate our large libraries to the competition and back if we chose. Their promise to continue supporting standalone copies of Lightroom is laughable because the label “classic” is code for going away soon in the majority of minds; plus it’s a subscription product. The subscription model doesn’t lend itself to less connected software because Adobe has to keep checking the validity of your license. The trapping of thousands upon thousands of hours of work in the Lightroom catalog almost begs for the formation of a class action lawsuit to free our work from Adobes shackles. Migrating a huge catalog could be a catastrophic time sync, especially if you no longer wish to pay for access to Lightroom.

Hopefully, in the coming days, we will see companies come up with ways to migrate our edited RAW data from Adobe’s platform to theirs. If it proves to be a difficult task, then at least let us know when we might be able to import them with ease so we can retire Lightroom and switch with some peace of mind because the move to the cloud will make this task significantly more difficult. What should have been a celebrated release is becoming chaotic, with photographers jumping ship left and right. Photographers need to get back to work, so it’s likely that the first company with a good solution will capture the majority of the market because I highly doubt Adobe will fix this disaster.

It’s my belief that Adobe is trying to move us all to their cloud because it’s the ultimate proprietary solution to lock in customers. If they wanted to do cloud photo editing right, they would have used the hooks in a modern file system and cloud storage API’s to let us bring our own cloud service provider. Providers like Dropbox, OneDrive, iCloud, Google Drive, Box and more all have API’s for file synchronization, and Adobe could have worked with them if they had special needs. Many of us already have a lot of storage with these companies that we pay for because they are industry standards. The competition also would have driven down prices, which are artificially high due to users not grasping how inexpensive data center storage is at these levels. Even Apple has responded to pricing pressure in recent years because other platforms were significantly cheaper. These differences would all be great for customers, and would help drive adoption of Lightroom CC Cloud, which could even make up for the subscription requirement; but Adobe only thought about their profits.

Adobe avoiding criticism and dialog with the community should make everyone seriously consider leaving them for good. It just might be worth the trouble to see their revenues decline for once, and to put that money in a deserving company’s pocket. Companies should work for our dollars, just like we work for our money, instead of having an arbitrary amount deposited in their account every month for doing nothing. Does Adobe expect us to thank them for their brutal pricing model that punishes the most prolific photographers that almost certainly will want to use the cloud? This situation gets even worse when you consider that many have large amounts of unpaid work in their library that they now have to pay a monthly fee to store on the cloud at excessively high prices, which can’t be passed along to anyone. They shouldn’t have to split their library or pick and choose what to sync. I don’t have to decide what I sync from my Mac Pro\MacBook Pro\iPads\iPhones to iCloud because Apple scales their pricing tears reasonably instead of arbitrarily. I can also backup absolutely everything with CrashPlan for a very reasonable monthly fee, which amounts to more terabytes than I would like to admit. So why can’t Adobe manage reasonable storage prices if they must force us all to subscribe? Adobe dropped the ball and ON1, Macphun, Affinity Photo, Alienskin, Iridient Digital and others have this unique opportunity to pick it up and run with it now.

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  • Kant

    You can always, you know… use Free (as in “freedom”, not “beer”) software, also known as “open source”. that makes your data very future proof since no company can take away your capability of working with the files.

    I’ve been using Darktable for years on Linux, and it’s being ported to windows at the moment:

    • I am semi aware of darktable, but yes there are lots of great free alternatives like GIMP out there.

  • Aleksei Isachenko

    I purchased Iridient Developer in September 2014 and since that moment forget about Lightroom. Moreover LR can’t perform demozaic of Fujifilm RAFs as good as Iridient does. I am not using catalogue, so for me it is not important at all. The only thing I’m still using is Photoshop. During years of retouching I wrote a lot of actions and I like ACR as filter inside Photoshop. I’m sure, I will have someday enough free time to go deeper in Affinity and if I see that can do the same as in Photoshop I will cansel my subscription.
    It’s a pity that Adobe is no longer customers oriented company.

  • perceptivelight

    If there was ever a topic to get my hobby horse rocking this is it…

  • Drew Bryden

    Macphun charges $$ for a software upgrade (see their 2017 to 2018 HDR or Luminar upgrades), so they are no better, perhaps worse, than paying a minimal monthly fee.

    • tronam

      I don’t mind paying for software. What I don’t want is yet another overly sticky subscription lock-in by a company that cares more about shareholders than working professionals. Lightroom has been languishing for years now, evolving at the speed of wood and getting perplexingly slower despite continual improvements in computer technology and performance. Macphun is a forward thinking company that I actually *want* to support that makes tools which I find to be a joy to use and are totally reasonably priced. If their DAM solution is even remotely good, that will be the new home for all my new images from 2018 onward.

  • Should check out ACDsee, you can import all your LR cats. I use it more and more even though I have Lightroom. It’s faster too. And better than On1 in my opinion. Not subscription based either.

    • I used to use ACDsee when it first launched, but haven’t tried their RAW engine. They always made a great product. I will check it out.

      • They are always improving and I think are underrated. They are on version 10 now and their RAW engine seems quite good to me. I think I joined them when they were at version 7 and used to switch btwn them and LR. I am using ACDsee more now as LR was as slow as molasses (I have a huge catalogue) and ACDsee is so much faster. I prefer them to On1Raw, which I find slow and pricey. Plus there is the choice of importing or not importing. If LR Classic CC is kicked into the sunset (which I think will happen) ACDsee is my go-to. It also integrates well with my other plugins and external editors. I could quite happily stop using LR today.

        • ACDsee has always been a great way to brows through a lot of photos very quickly. It’s part of why I used them so much when they first released their software in the 90s…

      • Also, it is non-subscription.

  • Nigel Barnes


  • Walker

    I guess you weren’t paying attention when they said LR Classic isn’t going away and will continue to be developed. They admitted that the new lr wouldn’t accodomate everyone and promised to keep improving the Classic workflow.

    • Classic would have been acceptable if it has a stand alone price, but folding everyone into the subscription model is not acceptable. It makes you beholden to Adobe and many do not support that model of software release.

      • drororomon

        Highly disagree. Just did some excel sheet maths, and with most programs you pay for the base product, and then an upgrade cost if you want to keep up to date with the latest version, which you certainly want to almost all the time. And those costs add up.

        So, say C1 for example. The base product is 299, and upgrade of 99 per version up. If you started at C1 v8 in Sep 2014, upgrade twice to v9 and v10, you would have ended up paying $497. For the same 39 months of Adobe Photography Plan, you would have only paid $390

        For On1, say you start at Perfect Suite 8 in 2014, which is $80 for the base standalone product, upgrade $50 to v9, another $50 to v10, and then a discounted price of $90 to Photo 10, $80 to 2017, and another $80 to 2018. You would have spent $430 to date.

        I’m not saying Adobe CC doesn’t have it’s flaws, and the article raised some good points like cross storage provider APIs can be considered, but pricing isn’t the horse we should be beating on. Is it brutal? Far from it.

        • That’s your calculation and it’s totally valid, but someone like me it balloons. I already have access to my library across many devices because of the way I store copies of my catalog in the cloud for significantly less per-month than adobe. Photographers with large libraries, which is pretty much anyone shooting for 2 years or more will have to pay well above what you figure… Not to mention people that only upgrade every other version or so when they buy cameras… There are lots of calculations to be made and that’s why I didn’t include one. Lots of people are falling through the cracks here and many will pay more rather than less, but good for you if you pay less in the beginning.

      • drororomon

        Somehow my previous comment was flagged as spam. I guess it’s because of all the pricing comparisons.

        My point again is this. With almost every product you pay for the base product and then an upgrade fee when a new version rolls around, which you almost certainly want to update and those costs add up.

        Say for C1 as an example, if you start at at version 8, which is September 2014, you’ll spend almost a hundred dollars more than what you would have spent on the Adobe Photography Plan for these 39 months.

        If you’re on On1 and started on Perfect Suite 8 in 2014, you would have spent forty bucks more compared to Adobe CC. If you start now on Photo Raw 2018, and if it’s on a yearly upgrade cycle, then it’ll take Adobe into the fourth year to become more expensive than On1.

        I’m not saying Adobe doesn’t have it’s flaws, but pricing and the subscription model is the least of it’s problems.

        • I just have to approve it which I will… Anyways… That’s your calculation and it’s totally valid, but someone like me it balloons. I already have access to my library across many devices because of the way I store copies of my catalog in the cloud for significantly less per-month than adobe. Photographers with large libraries, which is pretty much anyone shooting for 2 years or more will have to pay well above what you figure… Not to mention people that only upgrade every other version or so when they buy cameras… There are lots of calculations to be made and that’s why I didn’t include one. Lots of people are falling through the cracks here and many will pay more rather than less, but good for you if you pay less in the beginning.

          • drororomon

            Ahh. I see. Nothing’s changing if you take the Photography Plan using Lightroom Classic CC. We still get to use whatever we want (in my case, Dropbox). Stuff are still stored locally and you’re not tied to and don’t need to subscribe to Adobe’s cloud storage at all. It’s still the usual stuff.

            Lightroom CC however, ties you to their Cloud. It’s what the old Lightroom Mobile was. It’s a stripped down version where changes you make are tied to the their cloud and you need to constantly sync your stuff. You can also think of it as Lightroom Lite.

            Nothing’s really changed, except names.

    • tronam

      They also assured us we would continue to have the option to buy standalone Lightroom without a subscription. Just the name LR Classic, which was once Lightroom CC, should be an alarm bell that it’s now a legacy product with an uncertain future while they bulk up their Cloud-based true flagship product in parallel. If people thought ecosystem lock-in was bad before, just wait until all their RAW files and edits are in Adobe’s proprietary cloud. This is a pure $ move because they know the *real* money is not in working professionals, but instead the mainstream aspiring consumer market. They’re raking in record quarter after quarter and now we know where they’ve been investing the majority of their resources. Just look at how watered down the new Lightroom CC is and how much functionality is missing. The Lightroom Queen has an awesome chart comparison between the two. It isn’t geared toward me at all and this will be my last re-up of Adobe CC. All new images moving forward will be on another platform. Thankfully LR will continue to open up old image libraries without a subscription, so I’ll still be able to get to them.

  • Tomas Diego

    I think I’d rather go back to film…

    • If they didn’t keep killing film off and developed some great high ISO film I would give it a look again.

  • Wally Kilburg

    I don’t get the big deal. $10/month for LR and PS – 2 coffees at SBux – and all my files are on my local drives. All. I always have updated product. Granted, I shoot all Fuji now so I use ID Developer and X-Transformer (mostly for DNG conversion of the massive GFX files) to convert my RAW files and set basic enhancement. Plug ins make it pretty seamless. I use LR to catalog and for further post processing. LR brush tool and radiant filter are tops and easy to use. Transform is very nice to have. Camera profiles are sent over by ID, and provide a nice base to work from. The tools are even better with Classic now and much, much faster. I am not an Adobe fan (hate them actually) and have a version of Capture One too, bought and paid for but since it doesn’t do GFX – I never use it anymore. Hating Adobe, I tried ON1, I have used their products for a long time but this RAW thing they call a product is too amateurish to me. I do not like their workflow. I spoke to them about and they were gracious enough to take their product back with refund and take my comments into account but its not a product for me and my workflow. I have tried MacPhun, and other products mentioned but none do as much as my ID/Adobe combo right now nor do they do it as well for me. None of my clients complain about the finished work. And $10/month are a small part of my business expenses, very small. I don’t get the big deal over this.

    • As I have said before there are many individual use cases that can justify the cost, but the standalone fee is far easier to justify for many. It also limits commitment so Adobe can’t just switch up pricing like they did by forking Lightroom into Cloud and Classic. Classic could be cheaper than other options, but Cloud will be the focus going forward, because people want those kinds of tools, but the price premium once you get above 1TB starts to become outrageous. When blogging and writing articles like this I have to think about everyone. A large chunk of photographers are going to fall through the cracks now and the huge traffic surges that this article has received prove that photographers are looking to leave. Now is the time for other RAW manufactures to step up. Have you tried anything else recently? I am impressed with how far ON1 has come since 2017 and Iridient Developer has always had a solid product.

      Further what do you do as you wind down your carrier and have a 100TB library that you now pay x amount a month to adobe to store? You really have to think about the future and if Adobe is hitting us all this hard now imagine how much of your income will go to them in the future to store things that you want protected, but don’t necessarily need to access right this second. I gave my cloud backup solution as an example and I backup well over 10TB of photos/video etc to them for $10 a computer and I am only backing one up…

      • Wally Kilburg

        I have nothing in the cloud and never will. Every full time working photographer I know works off local drives, not in the cloud. The cloud is for mobile use, I don’t make a dime off my mobile stuff, its just for fun.
        Sure some people will do nothing but mobile, and sometimes when shooting on locations it might be nice to do mobile work but my images stay on my hard drives. Thats the way I work. On1 can’t tether, or photo merge…they can’t do a lot and know it. On1’s goofy handling of RAW, converting in place on demand, doesn’t fit my workflow. Its good, I always have liked their controls and such (used them for years as a plug in) but their RAW product isn’t for me. Paying $120/yr for up to date features and support isn’t a big deal. I dumped more than that on a bunch of now worthless RoboShoot triggers. I’ll bet everyone wastes dollars every year on stuff they never use or don’t like. I just don’t get the big deal here on a subscription piece of software.

    • Tom

      What about all the people who this is not their business? I have had LR since the very early days when it first came out. Upgrading every other cycle. That’s $79.00 every other year or so. Now that same software (while it last) is $240.00 over the shortest time span I would have upgraded.
      The fact that they have killed standalone after they said they would keep it indefinitely leave me with zero faith that they are not lying again now. They will kill classic in less than 2 years and force everybody on their cloud. Once they have your data captive, you will pay even more.
      I am switching to something else now (its how google found this page for me, looking for other choices) because the idea of adding another year of pictures to a proprietary catalog that will be dead soon is just a waste of time and putting off the inevitable.

    • Leonardo DaVincci

      Wally, you’re missing the point. The one reason that we (most of us) went with Lightroom in the first place was the ability to search and find stuff long after we shoot it, but Lightroom developed into a much bigger tool than just cataloging, and is now, tool-wise, a good process. But if they take steps toward making Lightroom slowly disappear so that you can’t save your files onto your local desktop or other local storage, and force you onto their cloud, then all your images must reside non-locally, and you have just given over your intellectual property to Adobe. That’s what everyone is up in arms about. Not necessarily just the cost of everything. It was bad enough that we’re having to shell out constantly year-after-year for a program that once was a buy-once use many years model. But now not only will you be paying every month, getting forced upgrades as a “benefit,” but eventually when they shut down all desktop programs, you’ll lose your catalog, and you’ll lose access to the image edits that you’ve made, unless you go with their cloud program. That hasn’t happened, yet. But this move by Adobe makes everyone nervous because the writing is on the wall. That’s the long-term intention.

  • Kryn Sporry

    IMO Adobe still has a good product to offer.
    It’s affordable at 10$/month and provides a good workflow for most people. I’m not aware of other products that provide an end to end solution. To get what adobe offers you’d need to spend 3 times as much easily.

    I got my opinion on the article, which I shared on Facebook. Basically I disagree.

    However, just like Microsoft pre-millennium, and Apple today, Adobe does run a risk of becoming persona non grada. And as per pre-millennium Microsoft, that does mean a downfall if the company, and at the expense of us users.

  • n11

    I wish Adobe would lose the attitude and give us more options. Instead their like apple’s little buddy, would explain their business practices and why they’re typically slower on the windows side.
    Seriously considering changing my plan to a photoshoot/bridge/lightroom pack. I don’t need the 20+ applications they’re charging me $70+ CAD every month. Why can’t they have a “pick your own package”? “Choose 5 programs for $30 bucks a month” or something. Adobe is out of touch, and will soon be with some of my money.

  • arthur schwartz

    You can still get Lightroom as part of the Full Adobe CS6 Collection which has all Adobe Software for just One Hundred Fifty One Dollars and it downloads directly from Adobe and there is not any Adobe Monthly Subscription Fee from a Company with an A rating from the Better Business Bureau by calling [3O5] 7617617.

    It has Lightroom; Photoshop CS6 Extended; Illustrator CS6; Indesign CS6; InCopy CS6; Acrobat Pro; Dreamweaver CS6; Premier CS6; Fireworks CS6; Flash CS6; After Effects CS6 and more.

  • arthur schwartz

    There is another Option to get Lightroom without paying for the Monthly Subscription. But who ever post this seems to not want you to be able to get it. It is Censorship by the person who wrote this Article since there is a way to get it without the Subscription legally.

  • tronam

    We know this, but it won’t be developed or updated beyond 2017, so I’d consider that a folly investment unless the upgrader had no intention of buying new cameras or lenses in the future and only shoots in JPEG.

  • We all know you can buy this software, but the D850 is the last camera they are supporting. The end of life for the software was immediate and unacceptable. Someone else chimed in trying to sell this software from their store front because everyone is trying to dump any inventory they have now….

  • drororomon

    And again, you don’t need to move to CC. CC is the mobile version of things. The Lightroom Lite. It’s not supposed to replace Classic. While it’s perfectly ok to freak out whether they’re going full cloud in the future, the slippery slope stops somewhere. They won’t kill the full desktop app the same way they won’t kill any of their other desktop apps.

    That’s how things happened for me. I had the Photography Plan, and I couldn’t find a way to change Classic to CC, and what used to be LR Mobile on my phone is now Lightroom CC. Lightroom CC is like Adobe’s attempt at throwing a mobile photo editing app like Snapseed and a storage service like Dropbox and rolling them into a one stop solution, that also comes with a Desktop app so you can work on any machine.

    Lightroom CC is the new Lightroom Mobile.
    Lightroom Classic CC is the old Lightroom CC and is NOT the new Lightroom CC.

    Let me stress this again, you don’t need to use CC if you don’t want to. I didn’t bother using their cloud features before, and I’m still not going to use them now and maybe the foreseeable future. Classic still works perfectly fine in places without Wi-Fi.

    And you’re right. Adobe now has a way into our wallets. And that’s the whole point as a business and as a business they follow the money. This subscription model has turned would-be pirates into legit paying customers while the pricing is still competitive when you crunch the numbers.

    • That’s your right to trust a Corp that answers to shareholders over customers. It has always been possible to pirate Adobe products if you want. Lightroom always existed at a price point where people could justify the purchase. Your argument is all over the place and very condisending. You are completely missing the point and I do not see a reason to continue. Many feel as I do and many are switching as we speak. Feel free to write about it on your own site. This back and forth is going nowhere.

  • T N Args

    Macphun had a recent name change (perhaps mention this in your article), and it is being interpreted as a hint that they are about to bring out a multi-platform competitor for Lightroom.

    The thing I don’t want to lose when I move from LR is being able to edit raw directly in the DAM section without needing to save edits as TIFF/JPEG.