Just as everyone is entitled to an opinion, every business is entitled to its own strategy. A few years ago Adobe– of Photoshop and Illustrator fame– embarked on a new strategy which has become something of a trend among software developers.
Subscriptions. For one monthly price tag you get access to all of Adobe’s applications. Businesses love subscriptions because they are easy to budget. The rest of us are not keen to subscriptions because we recognize the payments go on forever. Let’s take Photoshop as an example.
If there is a better graphic design application around– one with more features and capabilities– I don’t know where it is, Mac or Windows. Obviously, Adobe’s strategy here is to pile on every feature known to mankind because Photoshop becomes the de facto leader– a graphic design application that can do everything.
Feature laden apps have one thing in common. Complexity. Adobe’s Photoshop is a very complex tool which can take years to master. Many of us with lesser career objectives in mind simply need a graphic design tool that works well but does not require a college degree to operate.
Enter the hole in Photoshop’s strategy. Price and complexity.
To combat part of those issues, Adobe priced Photoshop by itself at $10 a month (with Lightroom) which means in two years a customer will spend $240 with no end in sight.
Vacuums tend to get filled, and it takes little effort to find suitable alternatives and substitutes to Photoshop. Here is a quick list of my favorites to plug the hole.
Affinity Photo – I like to think of Affinity Photo as Photoshop Lite because it has tools that are Photoshop Like, including RAW image editing HDR, even PSD file editing, but with options to stitch photos into a panorama, retouch until the cows come home, paint, retouch, drop on lenses, map color tones, and enough to make the price tag seem like a bargain.
Pixelmator – Priced less than Affinity Photo is the much beloved Pixelmator which has a delightful iPad version. Paint, draw, layer, transform, almost any image element in a user interface that is fully Mac-like– unlike Photoshop, which seems to have its own interface quirks– but stacks the features to the sky. No subscription plan here. One price.
Pixelmator’s developers plan a Pixelmator Pro which more professional features to compete with Photoshop. This is one of those rare Mac apps I would buy sight unseen.
Acorn – Mac users have plenty of additional graphic and design tools that won’t leave you with more month at the end of your money. That includes Flying Meat’s popular Acorn app which blends Photoshop-like tools into an affordable, usable, easy to learn tool for the graphic and design inclined who do not what to eat, sleep, and breathe Photoshop.
Would I recommend Photoshop to an aspiring graphic designer? Yes, but only after recommending less expensive and highly capable alternatives first. Photoshop can be daunting, difficult to learn, and expensive as an ongoing subscription-based app. Those holes in Photoshop’s strategy allow for some capable apps to carve out a niche.