Looking on the bright side

Oaks at Sunset, Sierra FoothillsCanon EOS-1D Mark II1/250 secondF/11.0ISO 200131 mm

Oaks at Sunset, Sierra Foothills
Canon EOS-1D Mark II
1/250 second
ISO 200
131 mm

There has been a lot of photographer hand wringing in the wake of Adobe’s Creative Cloud power play. I know of very few photographers, amateur or pro, who are happy to suddenly be forced to pre-pay for Photoshop upgrades they’ve always been able to evaluate before deciding they’re worth purchase. Now our choices are between biting the bullet and signing up for Adobe’s rental plan (“You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave”), or hopping off the Photoshop upgrade train.

Applying the most optimistic spin possible, my hope is that Adobe’s new Photoshop rental paradigm forces photographers to evaluate their Photoshop habit and (fingers crossed) realize that having the latest processing tool isn’t as essential as they might think. I can’t help but flash-back to my color transparency days, when I had no idea at capture whether I’d squeezed the scene’s light in the narrow dynamic range (and hadn’t somehow included my thumb), knowing that I’d be pretty much stuck with whatever came back from the lab. Compare that to today’s instant feedback and the processing magic possible with raw capture and Lightroom/Photoshop. Pretty cool. I mean, in my film days if someone had offered me all the capabilities of, say, Photoshop CS2 for the rest of my photography life, I’d have been thrilled. But somehow we became hooked, and no matter what the current processing capabilities are, we can’t live without the next great thing. While progress is wonderful, I’m afraid our upgrade addiction has created many photographers who care more about processing than capture.

So. Let me suggest that do yourself a favor and take a deep breath before committing your photography future to Adobe’s whims. Consider this an opportunity to use the time you would have spent learning the next processing tool or technique to work instead on your photography. What a concept. For example, if you can’t get your exposure to within 1/3 of a stop of where it should be with the first click, you and your camera have work to do. If you can’t determine the aperture and focus point that gives you the desired depth of field (or you can’t determine when the desired depth of field isn’t possible), you and your camera have work to do. And most importantly, no matter how strong you are with exposure and hyperfocal focus now, your vision and composition skills always have room to grow.

Am I opposed to Photoshop? Absolutely not. Nor am I suggesting that you shouldn’t commit to ACC (and I can’t even say that I’ll never do it). I just think that before committing to ACC, you understand that once you do, using anything above Photoshop CS6 means paying Adobe every month for the rest of your life, regardless of features, quality, and service. And the alternative, to stay with CS6, might just free you up to spend more time taking pictures. I can think of worse things.

About this image

One spring afternoon a few years ago, instead of sitting at my computer working on images, I tossed my camera bag in the car and headed for the hills. There was nothing particularly compelling about the conditions, I just wanted to take pictures. I ended up on a narrow country road near Plymouth, south and east of Sacramento. With sunset approaching, I picked these trees to frame the setting sun. This ordinary scene on an ordinary evening became an image that makes me very happy, something that never would have happened had I not just gone out and looked. It’s what photographers do.

8 Comments on “Looking on the bright side

  1. Lovely image! The Adobe situation has been good in a way for our video production business because we can get all the programs we need for one low monthly price. We use primarily Premiere, After Effects, Illustrator, Photoshop,and occasionally Lightroom on up to two computers. If we had to buy those for each computer it’s quite a financial outlay. I guess we have been on the upgrade train over the years. I understand and agree with the argument that creativity may be out of the window because there is no motivation for innovation on the part of Adobe. My two cents.

  2. Hi Gary,

    Beautifully stated!! I agree with you 100%.. I have NOTsigned up with Adobe since I”m not wanting to put that much money into their products when I should be able to get a ‘decent’ capture without all the post processing.. And you’re right.. If I can’t then I need to work on it more.

    Photoshop may have just shot themselves in the foot with this latest move. They are NOT the only game in town.

    thanks for the blog..

    take care Gail

    PS.. love this photo

  3. I think you are right on the money. How do we stop the tyranny of big business?

    • The alternative would be socialism, which comes with its own set of problems.

      I don’t think Adobe is inherently evil, but like any publicly traded company, Adobe is a ruthless profit seeker. The best thing the rest of us can do is spread the word about the long term ramifications of the new Adobe model. Do you like your cable and cell provider? This is something many photographers, distracted by price concerns, have overlooked. Nobody should start paying rent to Adobe without understanding that they’re locking themselves into lifetime payments regardless of Photoshop’s improvement, quality, price, and support going forward. It’s naive to believe that after removing the prime incentive for innovation, product quality, support, and competitive pricing, Photoshop will continue to evolve exactly as we’ve come to expect. I hope I’m wrong.

  4. My old stomping grounds (Placerville and Pollock Pines)…. thanks for the beautiful memories of those glorious oak trees.
    And…. I so totally agree with you, but still working on developing those photography skills with the DIGITAL camera. For me, it’s an old dog learning new tricks. 😉

  5. The issue is monopoly. Adobe has virtually cornered the market on this type of photo processing technology so they can do whatever they want, even if it means limiting the options for their users. They are basically telling us to “stuff it.” I have been happy with CS5 and see no reasons to upgrade to CS6, however the issue becomes one of not being able to get any service in the future if you get glitches in your software and haven’t upgraded. They will eventually deny service to older versions, if they haven’t already. Eliminating stand alone versions of the software and requiring users to access it only through a monthly fee effectively constitutes monopolistic restraint of trade. You can resign yourself to find work arounds or give up entirely, but we shouldn’t fool ourselves about the nature of what this company is doing.

  6. I am a fairly new follower Gary and appreciate the philosophy statement here. Although I am not new to photography, I am new to Lightroom (not photoshop … yet) and took a very long time to finally make the purchase. I too grew up in the pre-digital-age (PDA) and wonder about the editing craze which we’re experiencing just now. I believe your call to better photography is right on … I think many folks rely too heavily on their computers to make OK pictures something they’re not. The image, its composition, and its message come first – always – and I believe many folks don’t see that too clearly. Anyway … thanks for being on what I believe to be the correct side of this issue. D

  7. Pingback: These are a few of my favorite things | Eloquent Nature by Gary Hart

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