Adobe promises access to Lightroom photos even after subscription ends

After a course correction in the newest Lightroom version, people who cancel Creative Cloud subscriptions still will be able to manage, print, and export photos.

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Adobe Systems' Lightroom
Adobe Systems' Lightroom screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET
With the newest version of its Lightroom software for editing and cataloging photos, Adobe has made good on an earlier commitment to ensure people don't lose access to their photos even if they stop paying for subscription access to the software itself.

Adobe offers Lightroom in two ways: first, through sale of a traditional perpetual license that means the software keeps on working, but that doesn't grant access to software updates; and second, through its Creative Cloud subscription plan in which customers pay monthly to use the latest version of Adobe software. That includes the $50-per-month full Creative Cloud that covers all Adobe's software, but also the $10-per-month Photoshop Photography Program, which includes Lightroom and Photoshop.

Some photographers, though, were leery of subscriptions, worried they'd get locked out of their photo catalogs. Starting with the newest Lightroom, released in June, that won't happen, though they won't be able to perform detailed editing operations or to add location data to their photos anymore if they cease their subscriptions.

The subscription tweak could mollify some of the abundant Creative Cloud subscription skeptics. Although Adobe has showed steadily climbing subscription rates, rising to 2.308 million at the end of May and bringing recurring revenue at a rate of $1.2 billion per year, a vocal group is angry at the idea of software that stops working when they stop paying.

Here's how Tom Hogarty, Lightroom's principal product manager, described the change this week:

With Lightroom 5.5, at the end of a membership, the desktop application will continue to launch and provide access to the photographs managed within Lightroom as well as the Slideshow, Web, Book, or Print creations that we know many photographers painstakingly create. The Develop and Map modules have been disabled in order to signal the end of the membership and the need to renew in order to receive Adobe's continuous innovation in those areas. Access to Lightroom mobile workflows will also cease to function.

An iPad and iPhone version of Lightroom (and an Android version still under development) let people make some edits to their photos and synchronizes with a PC-based Lightroom catalog. That synchronization takes place through Adobe's Creative Cloud service.

Lightroom's Library module, chiefly used so people can add captions and titles to photos, organize them, and export them, also includes some basic editing functions. Those will continue to work, Hogarty said in comments to his post.

Adobe's principal competitor, Apple's Aperture, is fading away. Apple said in June it will cease development of future features for Aperture, steering people toward iPhoto instead.

For those who bought a Lightroom perpetual license and then signed up for the Photoshop Photography Program subscription, the full features of the perpetually licensed version will still work, Hogarty added.

Though the change could mollify some critics, it's not a move made in preparation to phase out traditional perpetual licensing, which remains available for Lightroom though not the most recent versions of Photoshop.

"This post has no impact on our perpetual commitment and just reassures those customers who have chosen to adopt the membership model going forward," Hogarty said.

(Via John Nack)