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Bye Adobe: Why I’m looking for alternatives

Shooting mit Alex Soller und Sophie Dean in München.

(Coverpictures Alex Soller and Sophie Dean during a photoshoot in Munich)

You may have heard about it: There is a controversy regarding Adobe, this time regarding the new terms of service. Users are being locked out of the programs unless they agree to allow Adobe to access all their projects and works. Officially, this is partly about protecting against software misuse.

In the end, however, it should be clear to everyone: Adobe has nearly a monopoly on creative industry software and thus sits on a treasure trove of data like no other company. After all, the majority of the creative industry, from design to images to the film industry, uses an Adobe program. Therefore, it is very tempting for the software giant to access this material to train its in-house AI, Firefly.

This approach is nothing new, by the way. After all, Adobe has used stock images, videos, designs, and illustrations that users uploaded to Adobe Stock for AI training. Users were not asked for permission, by the way. Instead, the terms of service were adjusted, and many rights holders did not notice in time that their works were being read by an AI.

Adobe bites the hand it feeds

This is particularly aggravating as Adobe has just launched an advertising campaign with the slogan “skip the photoshoot.” The idea is to skip the shoot entirely and create the images directly with the AI software Firefly. This is especially bitter when considering that Firefly is directly undermining the market of all the artists who unknowingly fed it with their intellectual property.

It is not new that media material is being mined by large companies for their own purposes. But with the new terms of service, there is a crucial difference: it involves works that are not published on the internet but those that comes into contact with the cloud via the programs—unpublished and privately owned.

This can range from family photos to private holiday snapshots to intimate shots for clients who booked a boudoir shoot. Adobe reserves the right to read everything that has come into contact with their cloud.

You can read more about this topic elsewhere, as this blog post is not meant to focus on it. Experts who are far more knowledgeable are already dissecting the issue. It is an evolving process, and the information mentioned here could change by next week.

Instead, let’s look at my needs for a creative software that could potentially replace Adobe in the long term, what requirements it must meet after five years of using Photoshop and Lightroom, and which programs I will be exploring. Or rather, where a new software might fulfill needs that Adobe products either lack or frustrate me with.

My requirements after five years working with adobe

After five years of working with Lightroom Classic and occasionally Photoshop, my entire workflow as a photographer is tailored to these two programs. Therefore, an alternative has to fill some big shoes because there are several things these programs do really well.

A sorted image library with practical import functionality

Within Lightroom, I have organized images from 2019 to 2024 into various structures and folders. That’s over 47,000 images from assignments, portfolio projects, and personal works, all enriched with color codes, metadata, and keywords. I could reopen a project from 2021 at any time and continue working right where I left off three years ago.

Additionally, every editing step for each individual image is stored in the program and can be adjusted or changed at any time.

Moreover, the presets I’ve created and purchased—essentially more complex editing filters—are fully integrated and available at the click of a mouse. This not only massively simplifies the editing process but also allows me to stay true to my own editing style and quickly switch between a variety of possible looks.

These presets are tied to Lightroom, which means I will have to do without them in the future. I would have found this unthinkable a year ago, but since I am editing less and trying to keep the images as authentic as possible, the thought bothers me less and less.

What is indispensable, however, is the ability to edit many images simultaneously. If I have, for example, 30 shots of a scene, I do not want to edit each image individually but instead, apply the adjustments to all the images. This works very well in Lightroom Classic.

A successor, therefore, must offer good overview and the ability to transfer editing steps to multiple images at once. These requirements do not worry me much. However, it will be a shame to lose the huge database with all the adjustments, although the thought of not having all this information and images in one place also brings a bit of relief.

Something I’m gonna miss: Integration with Photoshop

One of the biggest strengths, and perhaps also a curse, is the practical integration and connection to other Adobe products. Lightroom is fantastic for quick editing, exporting images, and maintaining an overview. When it comes to detailed work, you can switch directly from Lightroom to Photoshop and have all the tools available for fine-tuning.

Additionally, Photoshop, armed with the capabilities of Firefly, is easier to use than ever before (spoiler: it is still quite a complex program) and allows users to perform formerly complex tasks with just a few clicks. While I use Photoshop relatively rarely, when it comes to tasks like object removal, I can hardly imagine a program that works as well and as easily as Photoshop.

It is very practical, intuitive, and the integration of Photoshop files within Lightroom’s database is hard to overlook. This is also a curse, as it makes users dependent on a variety of programs, which incur additional costs.

I hope to find software that offers Photoshop’s functions directly within Lightroom. However, it gives me headaches wondering if such a solution exists to a comparable extent.

Not used often but worthwhile: Mobile-App and Cloud

With an Adobe subscription, you also get 20 GB of cloud storage, which allows you to conveniently edit photos between Lightroom Mobile and the desktop version while on the go, if you choose to.

In practice, I haven’t used the mobile app as frequently due to its limited editing capabilities. Nonetheless, it has proven practical, especially when needing to quickly upload and pre-edit images directly from the camera to my phone at a location. During press events or weddings, I could easily edit photos on-site with my phone and share them within minutes.

An alternative with a robust mobile app would be highly practical for these specific moments.

The cloud storage, although useful, has seen minimal use from me because the mobile app only handles JPEGs and not RAW files, which I prefer to work with on desktop. There’s also the option to create online galleries and share them for selection and review with clients or friends, which sounds great in theory. However, Adobe limits access to viewers who have an Adobe account, which is unfortunate because otherwise, it would have been a fantastic feature.

Huge selection of Plugins; Like negative lap pro

Something that unfortunately won’t be replaceable are the plugins specifically designed for Lightroom and Photoshop. Being the market leader, Adobe naturally attracts many plugin developers, whereas competitors often cater to niche markets.

For editing negatives shot on film, for example, I use Negative Lab Pro, a plugin available exclusively for Lightroom Classic. This is just one of many add-ons I’ve purchased for Lightroom and Photoshop, which I’ll have to forgo in the future.: Was mir Adobe nicht geboten hat

Things I wont miss from adobe products and stuff I’m excited about

Adobe may be the market leader, but that doesn’t mean they set the gold standard in every field. I look forward to discovering entirely new software for myself and finding out what new possibilities will open up to me. Here are things that I definitely won’t miss with Adobe and where an alternative could score points with me:

Alternative to an subscription plan

One thing that really bothers me about Adobe is the subscription requirement. None of their products are available for a one-time purchase; instead, you commit to monthly payments to use them.

However, I’m one of those users who prefers to own a product, especially in a work context, rather than lease it. This preference is especially strong when the product’s price can fluctuate at any time or its terms of use can change overnight, as we’re experiencing painfully right now.

Furthermore, I don’t need most of the updates they release, and over the years, I’ve experienced significant performance fluctuations right after these updates. It’s frustrating when Lightroom Classic suddenly becomes unstable and constantly hangs just because the software has integrated a new experimental feature like facial recognition or artificial blur.

These are features I don’t need at all, and I also find them questionable from a privacy standpoint. After all, I don’t want datasets of people I’ve photographed to be accessible at the click of a button.

Example DaVinci vs. Premiere: Fixed price instead of subscription

And it works fantastically without a subscription with fixed-price products. Adobe Premiere may be the standard for video editing, but I opted from the beginning for the fixed-price competitor DaVinci.

After two years and a handful of video projects, the software has not crashed once. It runs incredibly smoothly, is easy to learn, and offers a variety of tools. Simply a great program that doesn’t even hog much computing power from my system.

Which brings me to something I definitely won’t miss.

Performance und stability issues with the adobe suit

I’ve previously hinted at how Lightroom has struggled with performance issues on my system over the years, despite continuous updates. Over the last three years alone, I’ve invested at least 1,200 euros in hardware upgrades (new graphics card, RAM, switching to SSDs, and so on) to meet the increasing demands of Lightroom and Photoshop.

The crazy part is, with few exceptions, I’m still doing exactly the same workflow and tasks in the programs: my workflow and requirements haven’t changed, but the software just keeps getting hungrier every year. And this is true whether I’m working with an empty catalog of 100 images or a massive one with 47,000.

Even now, after upgrading my computer to the level of a gaming PC, I still have to restart it regularly to keep Adobe programs running smoothly. The software crashes almost daily, and with each update, previous tasks can suddenly take three times as long to complete.

Bound to the american juristictions

Honestly, especially in recent years, American monopolistic corporations have increasingly intruded into the privacy of their users, and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down. International laws have not kept pace with these changes, meaning we must be very vigilant about what happens to our online identities.

Perhaps we should even consider withdrawing until the legal landscape catches up.

I prefer European manufacturers because I feel more confident that at least the fundamental protection of my data is more secure compared to the United States. So, for me, it’s a nice-to-have.

By the way, this is particularly relevant now as the giant corporation Meta will now collect all its users’ data outside the EU for training its in-house AI, whether they want to or not. Only EU citizens are initially protected from this massive intrusion. Therefore, it makes sense to look to European companies in the future and, if possible, to distance ourselves from these monopolistic giants that abuse their power.

Possible alternatives to adobe

In the coming weeks, I plan to explore the cream of the crop among Adobe’s competitors and evaluate them based on my workflow needs. Here’s what I’ll be looking at:

  • ON1 Photo RAW 2024 from Portland, which is focused on AI editing and may initially offer too many editing options, but let’s see (Price with discount €170).
  • Affinity from the UK, which looks promising but also seems a bit too inexpensive at under €40.
  • Finally, Capture One from Denmark, which I’ll test last because I find it the most interesting. Price is approximately €350.

In a follow-up article, I’ll delve into which program I’ve chosen, why, and how the transition from Adobe went successfully. Until then, feel free to read more about the struggles of freelancers and having too much time here.

Outlook: We need to protect our data now

I would like to emphasize in this blog post once again and encourage users in general, especially those dealing with companies that hold a monopoly position, to pay close attention in the coming years.

Legal regulations often lag behind technological advancements, and major tech giants exploit these legal loopholes. The current example with Meta illustrates this more clearly than ever: Starting from June 26, 2024, all data from images, videos, and chats will be extracted for use in AI training.

As a user who not only sends private and intimate messages via Facebook or Instagram but also has images that define my style stored on their servers, this is a massive intrusion.

As a citizen of the EU, I am temporarily protected, but how long will this protection last? And do I want to accept that millions of users outside the EU are simply denied the right to data protection?

Currently, there is a risk that our entire intellectual property – whether it’s images, private messages, videos, music, or illustrations – will be stolen, and this now affects not only posted content.

If governments do not protect our data, then we must do it ourselves.

Personally, I would recommend to everyone who can to leave these platforms and only return once the laws have caught up. There are alternatives: For example, the platform Cara for illustrators, which has integrated features to make works harder for AI to read through encryption upon upload.

It’s a fantastic app that has been experiencing a surge in new users for weeks, and one that we should definitely support. As soon as I find an exciting alternative for photographers, you’ll hear about it on this blog.

Stock-Bilder geschoßen in Hamburg mit dem Model Leona Joia und Daniel Schubert als Fotografen.
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