Photographers fret as Adobe tests removing $10 Lightroom-Photoshop plan

It's only a website experiment, but it's enough to get some photographers looking for alternative photo editing tools.

Stephen Shankland principal writer
Stephen Shankland has been a reporter at CNET since 1998 and writes about processors, digital photography, AI, quantum computing, computer science, materials science, supercomputers, drones, browsers, 3D printing, USB, and new computing technology in general. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces. His first big scoop was about radioactive cat poop.
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Stephen Shankland
2 min read
Lightroom Classic lets photographers edit and catalog photos.

Lightroom Classic lets photographers edit and catalog photos.

Screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET

Adobe is seeing how photographers respond to the removal of a $10 monthly subscription that combines Photoshop and Lightroom, and the answer when it comes to some shutterbugs is -- not well.

The subscription, introduced in 2013, combines Adobe's two main photography software packages and 20GB of cloud storage that can be used to sync photos shot with mobile devices. Adobe hid that option for some visitors to its website, though, presenting them instead with a $20 monthly plan that includes the two programs and a larger, 1TB chunk of storage, or a $10 monthly plan that includes only Lightroom and the 1TB of storage.

The original $10 option is still available over the phone (1-800-585-0774) or by visiting Adobe's photography plan website (though it's not visible there for some, including me). "From time to time, we run tests on Adobe.com which cover a range of items, including plan options that may or may not be presented to all visitors to Adobe.com," the company said in a statement Thursday.

The test left some unhappy, including professional photographer and YouTuber Tony Northrup. A price of $20 per month "is too high for most beginning photographers," he tweeted Thursday, soliciting recommendations for alternative software.

The move brings back echoes of complaints about Adobe when it switched to subscriptions from perpetually licensed software, which customers pay for once and then may use for as long as hardware supports it. Subscriptions can be similar in pricing to paying for perpetual licenses and periodic updates, but with perpetual licenses, your software still works even if you stop paying.

Adobe tested the removal of a $10 monthly plan from its website. It left in place alternatives with different combinations of cloud storage space and photography software.

Adobe tested the removal of a $10 monthly plan from its website. It left in place alternatives with different combinations of cloud storage space and photography software.

Screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET

Adobe's subscription plan, called the Creative Cloud, has proved popular with many customers, though, including those who couldn't stomach paying hundreds or even thousands of dollars up front for Adobe's suite of software.

Adobe has reported record revenue quarter after quarter, most recently with revenue growing 25%, to $2.6 billion, and profits growing 16%, to $674 million, for the three months ended March 1. $1.49 billion of that revenue was from creative pro software such as Photoshop, Premiere Pro and Illustrator.

It isn't simple for photographers to switch programs, though, even in situations where rival software is competitive. Photoshop can be tightly integrated with corporate workflow, and Lightroom can house catalogs with hundreds of thousands of photos with editing choices inextricably linked to Lightroom's proprietary editing tools.

For those who stop their subscriptions, Adobe still offers limited Lightroom utility, including the ability to view and print photos.

The most direct Lightroom competitor was Apple's Aperture, but the company stopped developing it in 2014. Apple said this week the current MacOS Mojave version of its Mac software is the last that'll run Aperture.

Photography site PetaPixel reported the Adobe test earlier Thursday.