Dear Adobe, “No.”

Last week Adobe, which has been so successful printing money with their Creative Cloud subscriptions every other developer is trying to mimic their model 1, decided they wanted to see how hard they could poke their users before they squeal in pain. In some regions their photography plan, which includes Lightroom and Photoshop, jumped in price from $9.99 a month to $19.99 a month.

Adobe, faced with a backlash of alarmed users, explained the non-universal price-jump this way,

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.

In other words, they wanted to see if their users would just roll over and take it.

I’ve seen the writing on the wall for the photography plan for the past two years, and have bene pausing longer and longer before renewing my subscription each December. Adobe has been sending out surveys to see what people would find acceptable for a shift in the plan, and the introduction of “Lightroom CC,” which splits from the more capable “Lightroom Classic” was an indication of where Adobe wanted to funnel hobbyist photographers. During this span they have added a cloud library, with some plans offering 1 terabyte of storage, which I suppose Adobe felt would make people feel comfortable with either a higher price or reduced capabilities 2. The 1 terabyte of photo storage is tempting, but it would put me at the mercy of Adobe. I either keep ponying up or I lose all the work I’ve done organizing and developing my files.

Because I’ve seen the writing on the wall, I’ve spent the last two years exploring some Lightroom Alternatives.

My first purchase was Luminar, which has not impressed me. At present, Luminar can’t find any of my photos which are stored on an external drive 3. As this is pretty much a standard workflow for photographers, I find this situation a frustrating oversight. I’ve done some back and forth with tech support, but things always come back to, “We recommend you put either you photos or your library file, preferably both, on a local drive 4.” That’s not something I’m able to do, nor is it something most folks can do, so I can’t recommend this application at present.

My second option, which I have been keeping an eye on for a year and a half or so, is On1 Photo Raw. This app may be the closest I’ve seen to a Drop in replacement for Lightroom 5, and will probably be the way I go. It produces nice results and has an excellent HDR feature. It will even bring over non-destructive edits from Lightroom 6! That last bit is a great selling point.

This doesn’t mean On1 is perfect. I’ve listed a few weaknesses of the app below.

On1 isn’t as snappy as Lightroom 7 on my MacBook Pro, and things like culling files can be a bit more of a chore. I’ve found this speed descprency occurs when a non-cataloged directory of raw photos is being browsed. While it can be a hassle, the ability to select which directories will be cataloged is actually on of On1’s selling points. I see it as both a positive and a negative. On one hand, there is no need to import photos into library to open and edit them in On1 Photo Raw. Files may be on whatever on whatever drive you are using, opened for editing, and even rated. All changes are saved in a side-car file. This is convenient, but when using spinning drives on a slower machine 8 the delay in moving between photos can be annoying. A cataloged folder, however, acts much the same way the Lightroom Library behaves. Cataloged folders create On1’s equivalent of a smart media preview, so images load much faster in the browser – though a bit of a delay remains when opening a photo for editing. On1 recommends photographers catalog photos for projects on which they are currently running, rather than their entire library. I’m not certain if I’d catalog everything, or just my most recent projects 9 – limiting the cataloged folders would reduce the size taken up on my hard drive, but at a serious speed disadvantage.

On1 Photo Raw has no mobile editing app 10. As I much prefer editing photos on my iPad, this is a huge bummer.

On1 has no ability to send to photo sharing sites from within the app. Flickr, 500px, and Smugmug users will have to export photos from the app in order to share them elsewhere. That’s a pain.

Some of my go to tools, like color adjustment and curves, aren’t found in the develop module. Instead, these are considered “effects.” I suppose it makes a bit of sense, given the way the app is laid out, but it took me a bit to figure it out. What I’m saying is there’s a bit of a learning curve.

With exception of no mobile editing 11, these are relatively minor quibbles. At this point it looks like Adobe is itching to raise their photography plan price, and On1 Photo Raw looks to be my refuge from subscription madness.


  1. Thank you, Scrivener for not succumbing to this insanity. 
  2. For example, Lightroom CC lacks the ability to batch rename, cannot do DNG conversion, and does not give users the ability to choose a lens profile. 
  3. That is, all of them. 
  4. Preferably an SSD. 
  5. Capture One might be better, but after indenturing myself to Adobe for years, it’s out of my price range. 
  6. I have not tried it yet, but I want to. 
  7. And Lightroom is not exactly a speed demon. 
  8. Which is the workflow I’m saddled with. 
  9. Cataloged photos are also able to be shared to the mobile app though Dropbox, Google Drive, or One Note. I don’t know why iCloud isn’t an option. 
  10. They do have an iOS app, but it’s for viewing and culling only. I’m hoping this changes in the future. 
  11. I hope this is being worked on. 

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