Decoding The Creative Cloud Options for Photoshop Users

This past week at the Photo Plus Expo in New York, I heard from my team at the NAPP booth on the expo floor that there’s still a lot of confusion among folks who are interested in upgrading to the Creative Cloud, so I thought I’d do a real quick, simple post with what your options are all the way around, along with hopefully clearing up some other misinformation.

NOTE: Here I’m just focusing on the question at hand: how to upgrade to the latest version of Photoshop, not all the plans for the full Creative Cloud and all the other applications that come with it.

1: You have never owned Photoshop:
You can get Photoshop CC (the latest version) for $19.95 a month

2: You owned a previous version of Photoshop (any version from Photoshop CS3 to CS6)
For you, Photoshop CC is $9.99 a month PLUS you get Lightroom 5 as well and 20GB of cloud storage and a Behance Prosite (custom web portfolio) as well. Sweet!

NOTE: This deal is only available until Dec 31st of this year. If you wait until after the first of the year and miss locking in this insanely low price, whining is strictly forbidden (well, at least here anyway). 

3. You owned Photoshop as part of the old Creative Suite (any version from Photoshop CS3 to CS6).

OK, at this point, you’re kind of hosed, because there is no good “downgrade path” from the full Creative Suite to just one single product like Photoshop. So, you have three options:

Option 1: You can pretend you never owned the Creative Suite and pay the $19.95 a month for Photoshop alone.

Option 2: You can get the upgraded version of your entire Creative Suite, (the full Creative Cloud with Photoshop CC all the Adobe CC Apps like InDesign, Illustrator, Premiere Pro, After Effects, Dreamweaver, and a bunch more) for $29.95 a month, which is a savings of around $20 a month over what someone who didn’t own the Creative Suite would pay. This is probably the best option, since you wind up with a totally upgraded Creative Suite called “The Creative Cloud”

Option 3: Wait and see if Adobe comes up with a “downgrade deal” so you can go from all the Creative Suite applications you currently own down to just Photoshop and Lightroom for $9.95 a month. The problem with Choice 3 is; that deal doesn’t exist yet, and there’s no guarantee that it ever will.

Do I think Adobe might come up with a downgrade deal for CS users? I hope so, and I actually think so. I’ve talked directly with Adobe about how photographers stuck in this Creative Suite Purgatory feel and while Adobe hasn’t made some of these decisions as fast as many of us would probably like, they are listening. This is all new territory for them (and the biggest business decision probably in their history), and I imagine they want to hear from everybody on all sides, really analyze all this stuff, and make sure they make the right decision.


1. You don’t EVER run Photoshop in a browser. It works just like it always did. You just use your browser to download Photoshop CC onto your computer, just like you would from an App store.

2. Do you NOT have to be constantly connected to the internet to run Photoshop CC. You can run it offline just like you always did.

3. You don’t have to store your photos in the cloud. Ever. You store them on your computer just like you always did.

4. Photoshop CC is the latest version of Photoshop. When you upgrade to Photoshop CC, you get every Photoshop upgrade as soon as they’re released, as long as you stay a CC subscriber.

5. Photoshop works the same way it always did, so don’t let the word “Cloud” freak you out. The biggest difference from a usability standpoint is that instead of buying a “Box” of Photoshop at the store (like we used to do), instead now you download it (so you don’t get a box, but you still get Photoshop).

6. If you don’t want to upgrade to Photoshop CC, you can buy the last non-subscription version of Photoshop, which is Photoshop CS6. It’s $699. You still have to download it, but you don’t have to pay a monthly subscription fee.

I hope that helps clear the fog on a few of these issue for people who are interested in upgrading to Photoshop CC. If you’re not interested, I’m sure we’re going to hear from you anyway, right? ;-)

By the way: here’s the link with more info on Photoshop CC, including a download link.

I’m up in Boston today, teaching my “Shoot Like a Pro” seminar, so I won’t be able to respond to any of your comments here, but hopefully some of my crew back home might jump in and help if they can. I hope to meet some of you here today in Boston so make sure you come up and say “hi.” By the way, if you’re coming to my seminar, I would dress warm. Brrrrrrr — it’s cold up here!

  1. Will CS6 co-exist with Photoshop Creative Cloud on my computer? Can I choose to run CS6 for Premiere Pro/Efter Effects and choose to upgrade to CC for just Photoshop and Lightroom (I own a separate photoshop CS3 license)?

  2. Scott, I attended Photoshop World in Las Vegas recently and received the 1 year free CC subscription offer from Adobe. I would like to take advantage of Adobe’s offer for the free year and then go on the $9.99 plan since I have purchased PS all the way up to and including CS6. But I guess I won’t be able to get on the $9.99 plan after the free year is up, which will obviously be well after the Dec 31, 2013 deadline. Is that correct?

    1. Jerry, I actually spoke to Terry White (Adobe Evangelist) about this at PSW in Vegas and he told me that you WILL be able to take advantage of that 9.99 price after your 1 yr subscription is up as long as you use the same Adobe account. Apparently Adobe’s system will recognise that you were a customer before/during the offer was available.

      My guess is that you’ll probably have to speak to a customer service rep to get the 9.99 deal though since it may not be displayed on their website…

      1. Interesting, I got in early on Photoshop CC at $19.95.mnth. When I called Customer Service, I was told, because I did not own a previous version of Photoshop, I was not eligible for the $9.95/mnth offer, period. I hope this changes and Adobe shows some love to those customers that bought into their CC strategy as opposed to purchasing a full version.

      2. Well the 9.99 deal does specify that you need to own a previous version of Photoshop to qualify. They may do something for people who want PS & LR as a bundle but don’t own any previous versions; but I wouldn’t hold my breath…

  3. I would love to be able to take advantage of $9.99 deal, however, I purchased both cs3 and cs5 educational version and I am unable to take advantage of this deal because it’s not the full retail version. Any news on if this will change? I’ve read the adobe forums and there are many people upset with this. Thanks

      1. I paid US$183.69 for the full education version of PS CS6 Extended, which is a savings of over $500. It would take more than 4 years paying the extra $10 per month to offset that savings. Although I’m disappointed I don’t qualify for the $9.99/month plan, the $500 I’ve already saved does not make me feel second-class.

      2. That’s the challenge, Kevin. I no longer work at the University and I don’t want the entire CC. I only do photography, so the other stuff isn’t cost effective. As someone said, I got a good deal when I was there, so I can’t complain too loudly. My biggest concern is that Adobe just told me I wasn’t eligible without explaining why. Very Microsoft-like.

    1. There is still educational pricing for CC IF you are a current student. What many people are upset about is the fact that after you graduated, legally you were supposed to stop using the Educational product and get the full version. Oh well.

  4. did anyone get the snail mail letter from Adobe about their account being breached and the offer of one year free fraud prevention? Thanks Adobe for the warm fuzzy feelings! wow, what a deal $9.99 a month, forever. What will that get you? some small filter like “features”? when was the last meaningful feature in Photoshop?

      1. kind of convenient how a new CC only feature will make scripts break/incompatible with old photoshop versions. I kind of question the timing of that. just like how only new versions of the raw converter support new cameras. Milk that cash cow and force upgrades! with CC you have already agreed to pay for every upgrade for as long as you will keep paying. don’t worry will be the most secure site ever, you can’t hack a site that is always down. try doing a google search on “worst security record” guess who comes out on top when I run that.

      2. So you expect Adobe to continue to add functionality to old versions of products. I suppose you want those features for free as well. Who does that?

        I did that Google search and the article that listed the 15 worst security attacks of the 21st century didn’t involove Adobe at all.

        Plus I’m surprised that search didn’t come up with Microsoft since Windows has more patches then anything else.

  5. If you are a newer photographer and you have never owned PS is there a package that includes PS and Lightroom, other than the full creative cloud?

  6. Since I bought LR5 I hanpvent once used my PS5. I don’t see any need for PS in my workflow, and for the very rare adjustment that might require it, I have PS5. My concern is that Adobe will eventually discontinue selling perpetual licenses for LR, and then I’ll have to by LR CC for $20/month. Adobe is, after all is said and done, an American corporation, no different than any other. They sell a product to make a profit- as big a profit as they can squeeze out of the market, and when they squeeze too hard they back off, let the noise die down and then squeeze again.

  7. Scott…obviously I am aware that you have been joined at the hip with Adobe for many years…and, I benefited from that relationship but, the CC deployment was the final straw for me as a 15 year user of Adobe products. I am glad for new people that are not burdened by the up front investments I have made over the years but I will NEVER be a cloud user and will readily embrace the day a reasonable alternative comes to the marketplace. I hindsight I see how greedy Adobe has been and the kool-aid tasted fine but I have switched to tea.

    1. it is amazing how many people have made a career of teaching how to use Photoshop. That really speaks volumes about how intuitive the user interface really is.

      1. Or it just says how versatile and valuable the program really is. The user interface of a pencil is real easy yet how many people make a living teaching others how to use it.

      2. Anyone can pick up a pencil for the first time and at least make some scribbles. Just look at the face of a person the first time they start up Photoshop. Even people very computer literate, will have the deer in the headlights look. I use photoshop, and have for years, and its user interface can best be described as a clumsy. I always find it ironic when mac people fawn all over photoshop. I doubt steve jobs thought much of photoshop’s interface.

      3. Photoshop is for professionals. I don’t expect anyone to pick it up and start using it. They can use Elements if they just want to play around. The price point is much more entry level as well.

  8. My only motivation right now to locking in the $9.95 deal is the fear that my current PS5 will not run on Windows 8 when I eventually have to get a new computer (Otherwise I am very happy with PS5) Do you know if there any compatability issues with PS5 and Windows 8? I can’t find the answer anywhere. 2nd: If you ever stop subscribing, will all your Photoshop documents be useless for use on earlier versions of PS. Would saving as a tiff solve that potential issue?

  9. I started out as a PS Elements user over many versions before moving to CS5 Design Std for education. Just checked my serial number & I’m not eligible for the $10/mth Photoshop Photography Program. Bummer. I only use PS from the suite & I’m not looking to upgrade the suite, just PS. For my two cents, I’m hoping Adobe decides its in their best interest to include folks like me in the program. I would like to hop on the new train & not be left on a dead-end track.

  10. Forgot to add that the cloud also entitles users to have their information hacked into. But that’s ok because adobe will pay for one year security monitoring. They also tell you all this in the mail, awhile after it happens rather than in email. I am really looking forward to switching to the cloud, they will protect my files and my information with the utmost care. Oh wait…. This is adobe…never mind, their cloud was already hacked into and my account compromised.

  11. I was signed up for the $19.95 deal. I was under the impression that I couldn’t have two subscriptions under the same user (since that is what the Adobe FAQ said). I checked and it said I was eligible for the $9.95 deal. So I ordered it. I expected their system was smart enough to give me the down grade. It wasn’t. The next month I received billing for both. So I called Adobe and told them what I did. They cancelled the $19.95 subscription without charging me for the rest of the year. They were surprisingly helpful. I had more difficulty downgrading from the original CC plan to the $19.95 plan (I’ve been on all 3).
    I’m amazed people are still griping about this deal. PS Ext and LR for $120 a year, always up to date for roughly the upgrade price of PS Stnd if you upgrade once every 2 years. How is that bad?

  12. I took the plunge a little while back and the only surprises for me were (1) that it’s an annual subscription, so after the 30-day trial, you are obligated for a year, (2) the other day, it made me “accept the terms and conditions” all over again, for each app, which was annoying, and (3) it automatically installs both 32 and 64 bit versions of each app (if appropriate) and you have to go back and uninstall the 32-bit version if you don’t need it… (4) …Except for Photoshop, which will not allow you to uninstall the 32-bit version, eating up nearly a GB of disk space. It’s really annoying and Adobe’s response has been that you might need the 32-bit version. Duh. But what if you never use it? Why can I uninstall the 32-bit Illustrator, InDesign, etc. but not PhotoShop? Other than that, I’m still pretty underwhelmed by the CC apps vs. CS apps, but it’s not like Adobe gave us any other choice.

  13. Scott, there’s one kind of user missing from your description above: me! I never owned Photoshop prior to Adobe’s introduction of the cloud a year or so ago. I subscribed to it as a single app for $19.99/month plus tax (I bought Lightroom outright). I’ve been paying my monthly tithe, but recently contacted Adobe about the new deal for photographers. After playing verbal dodgeball with Adobe, during which I was told I could switch plans, and then was told I couldn’t, Adobe dug in their heels and informed me that since I didn’t own a previous version of Photoshop with a key code, I was ineligible for the new offer (the CC version I subscribe to obviously does not have a key code). They informed me they’d be happy to let me go ahead and continue to pay the $19.99/month. This really chafes me that Adobe was so unresponsive (and unfair) about this. Really leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

  14. I understand a lot of people are upset that their educational versions are not eligible for upgrades to the new offer. Adobe has never offered “upgrades” for student or educational versions of their software. You always had to buy the full (educational) priced product for each version. Also, you may not realize this but under the ULA for those products, you were supposed to stop using them after you graduated and purchase the full licensed version. Of course many people didn’t so think of it as a trade off. You got a deal all these years on your educational software but now can’t get in with the regular licensed people who paid thousands more over the years for their software. It may seem like it stinks, but it’s fair.

  15. Scott,

    Kind of sad that a year later you have to write a post like this as there is still a many misunderstanding on CC.

    Adobe has done a miserable job selling the idea and providing a roadmap for the future. To be fair the halcion days of new PS improvements are behind us and the public’s taste for digital photography is peaking… Two facts which I am sure haven’t escaped you as an businessman, author and educator.

  16. Scott, here’s one question I have not been able to get the answer to, and I’ve tried calling Adobe: I went to Photoshop World, so I get the free year of CC. Can I get the $9.99 Photoshop/Lightroom deal after that year is up? (I have CS6).

  17. Scott, I have never been in a situation to buy Photoshop. However, I would love to be able to use both photoshop and lightroom. Is Adobe likely to come out with an option for those who have not yet owned photoshop other than outright buying lightroom or spending $19.95 per app?

  18. I assume buying a full version of an old Photoshop now wouldn’t qualify you as a “previous owner?” I’ve never owned it but heard you could just buy an old version and use that key to get the deal. It’s a lot of money up front but would eventually save you money.

    1. I’m wondering along the same lines. If I have an older qualifying version (like CS5) and “license” it now with Adobe, will I be able to get the $9.99 price going forward?

      1. As long as you have a valid license key, you do exactly that with CS3 or newer. If it doesn’t find the program on your computer, it will give you the opportunity to input the key.

  19. “Option 2: You can get the upgraded version of your
    entire Creative Suite, (the full Creative Cloud with Photoshop CC all
    the Adobe CC Apps like InDesign, Illustrator, Premiere Pro, After
    Effects, Dreamweaver, and a bunch more) for $29.95 a month,
    which is a savings of around $20 a month over what someone who didn’t
    own the Creative Suite would pay. This is probably the best option,
    since you wind up with a totally upgraded Creative Suite called “The
    Creative Cloud””

    I don’t know what world you live in but I have to pay $53.74 (including tax) per month for my Creative Cloud CC membership. Yes, there was a honeymoon period when you first sign up but then it is full price for ever. I expect once they rope more people in the price will creep up quickly too.

Leave a Reply
Previous Post

Here’s What’s Going On This Week

Next Post

It’s Guest Blog Wednesday featuring John Harrington!