I went Adobe free for six months. Here’s why I switched back.

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It’s true, I was Adobe (Lightroom, Photoshop, etc) free for six months. And I survived.

Why did I quit Adobe after nearly ten years of faithful use? Namely, subscriptions. I don’t have much of a “rental” mentality. I want to own things outright. The idea of paying someone monthly to use software was a huge turn off for me. I had been purchasing standalone versions of Lightroom since Lr3, way back in 2010 and only upgraded every other update or so, at a reduced cost. That meant that if you broke down my annual cost of usage, I paid about $40 a year on software. The subscription model’s lowest tier is about $120 a year so you can see the huge variance in overall cost. Not to mention the subscription model includes software I don’t use at all, and likely never will.

I continued to use my standalone version of Lr6 until it stopped working last year. Then, I realized I needed to either jump on the Adobe Creative Cloud plan or find another editing solution. So, I began my search. I tried out several options including the free versions of PhotoscapeX, Capture One Express for Fujifilm, Dark Table and even Apple Photos.

There are some solid editing options you can utilize completely for free. The catch is that none of the free versions have the full suite of editing tools that their paid counterparts boast. Of those I tried, Capture One was my preferred choice, but it couldn’t do everything (batch renaming, spot healing, HDR composites, to name a few), which meant I had to utilize another software as well, to fill in the gaps. This added quite a bit of time to my workflow. That may not matter when working with my own personal family photos, but it’s a huge consideration when editing client work that requires a quick turnover. I would say that my editing time nearly doubled. And for someone who doesn’t like editing to begin with, that’s a big deal.

Getting used to new software had a learning curve, but if you have an understanding of editing to begin with, you grasp the differences pretty quickly. However, just because you grasp the differences doesn’t mean that it’s an easy transition. I found myself constantly looking for tools that weren’t there or looking for them where I thought they should be, only to realize that they were grouped differently in each new software. Maybe if I didn’t have such a long history with using Lr, I wouldn’t have found those things so challenging. I made it work, but again, it took much more time than it did with Lr. Even after months of using Capture One, I still found editing took me longer than in Lr.

Can I edit in other programs? Yes. You can teach an old dog new tricks. I don’t need Lr. There are other viable options out there that do a great job (and to be fair, I only tried the free versions). But having tried a handful of them, Lightroom reigns supreme in my book. It’s an all in one stop.

And so now I have a Creative Cloud subscription.