To use Photoshop or Lightroom you need to subscribe to an Adobe Photography Plan. These are very good value compared to what it used to cost to buy these programs on a 'perpetual' licence, but it's important to get the right plan for your needs.
How do the Adobe Photography Plans work?
Adobe has now moved fully over to subscription-based software. Instead of buying a Photoshop software license outright, you pay an ongoing subscription instead.
It works out a good deal cheaper than the old method of buying a license outright and then having to pay for regular updates, partly because you don’t have to find a huge chunk of cash up front like you did in the old days, and partly because you don’t have to pay for new versions any more.
What’s more, you get new camera support as soon as it arrives, the ability to synchronize your photos with the web and your mobile devices (depending on the plan), and varying amounts of online storage for showcasing and sharing your work.
When you subscribe to a plan, or take the 7-day free trial, you download and install the Adobe Creative Cloud app. All your updates and software installations now take place via this app.
You will still need to choose which plan to go for, so here is more detail on each.
1. Adobe Photography Plan (20GB) $9.99/£9.98 per month
This is the ‘regular’ Photography plan, and the one we reckon is best-suited for most photographers. It includes Adobe Photoshop CC, Lightroom Classic CC, Lightroom CC and Photoshop for iPad.
So why two versions of Lightroom? Lightroom Classic CC is the version most photographers will be familiar with and is based around regular desktop storage for your photos. Lightroom CC is a more streamlined program designed around online photo storage using Creative Cloud. It doesn’t have all the tools of Lightroom CC Classic, but its stripped-down interface is fast and efficient and it’s ideal for working on the move in lots of different locations (and on different devices).
If you decide Lightroom CC best suits the way you want to edit, organize and access your images, however, the free 20GB storage you get with the regular Photography plan will soon be used up. This is where the Photography plan with 1TB comes in (next section).
2. Adobe Photography Plan (1TB) $19.99/£19.97 per month
To use Lightroom CC’s web-first storage properly, you need plenty of online storage space, and that’s what the 1TB plan is designed for (you can upgrade your storage capacity beyond this in the future if you need to). Obviously, cloud storage costs money, hence the price difference compared to the regular Photography plan, but this will enable you to explore all the advantages of cloud storage with Lightroom CC and you still get to use Photoshop CC as part of your subscription. Like the regular Photography plan, the Photography plan with 1TB also comes with Photoshop for iPad.
Lightroom CC’s ‘web-first’ approach brings some key advantages. It means that your full photo library, together with all your albums and edits, is available everywhere, and you can edit and download images at their full resolution. What’s more, because your images are stored in the cloud, Adobe’s Sensei AI technology can automatically recognise and ‘tag’ many different kinds of subject – you may never have to plod through manual keywording again!
In fact, if you decide Lightroom CC and web storage is the way forward, there is a third and less expensive Photography Plan just for you… see the next section.
3. Adobe Lightroom CC plan (1TB) $9.99/£9.98 per month
This plan costs the same as the regular Photography plan, but comes with 1TB of cloud storage for your photos. This sounds like a great deal, but what you need to know is that Lightroom Classic and Photoshop CC are not included in the plan.
The Lightroom CC plan with 1TB is perfect for those whose editing needs are relatively modest and covered by the increasingly powerful tools in Lightroom CC, but who definitely need to be able to access their photo library and all their images everywhere, and on any device.
If think you will also need Photoshop CC for more complex image montages, layers and effects, then the Photography plan with 1TB will be a better option. Otherwise, the Lightroom CC Plan with 1TB could be perfect for mobile photographers.
So here's a quick recap
For regular photographers who like to store and edit their images on their own computer, the regular Photography plan (20GB) is great value and comes with Photoshop CC and both versions of Lightroom (CC and Classic CC).
If you decide you like the flexibility offered by cloud storage, the Photography plan (1TB) is the logical upgrade or, if you’re ready to ditch desktop storage altogether and you can do without Photoshop CC, the Lightroom plan is the affordable alternative.