So Adobe has announced that there will be no “CS7” versions of any of their software and all future released will be known as “CC”.  What this means to you is that if you want to stay up to date with any of Adobe’s future software releases, you’ll need to pay a “subscription fee” either once a month or (if you choose) yearly.  This post is about Photoshop specifically and what options you have if you don’t want to pay a monthly or yearly fee to use it, especially if you are a photographer.

Quick update (September, 2013): Adobe is now offering the “Photoshop Photography Program”, which is $9.99/mo for anyone who owns any version of Photoshop from CS3 forward. The bundle includes Photoshop CC, Lightroom 5, 20 GB of online storage, Behance ProSite, and access to Creative Cloud online training resources.  They also said this price is not due to change anytime soon.  You can read more here –

Before I get into the various options, the first thing you should do is grab yourself a copy of Adobe Lightroom ($98).  It can be purchased as a stand-alone piece of software (not part of the Creative Cloud), so when you buy it, you own it.  Since I’ve been using Lightroom I’ve used Photoshop a LOT less often for photo retouching.  The only time I really use Photoshop is when I do HDR work, stitching panoramas, or when I need to do some serious photo editing that involves cloning/masking, etc.  So if nothing else, get a copy of Lightroom.  Ok, on to the other options:

Option 1Photoshop Elements ($68). If you want to stick with Adobe, you may want to consider picking up a copy of Photoshop Elements.  As of this writing (May, 2013) version 11 is out and can be purchased from Amazon for only $68.  Photoshop elements gets you about 90% of what you’ll find in the regular version of Photoshop, and as a photographer most (if not all) of the tools you regularly use are in it.  It can open RAW files, has healing, layers, masks, etc.  Add Lightroom to the mix, and you are just about where you need to be for professional photo editing.  You can send files back and forth between Lightroom and Photoshop Elements, so the integration is there.  Elements is only $68 and Lightroom is $98, so basically for under $200 you’ll have just about everything you need.  And the software is yours to keep and use whenever you want.

Option 2 – OnOne Perfect Photo Suite 7 ($99 – $199 depending on version).  If you haven’t tried out Perfect Photo Suite, it’s worth taking a look at.  It’s geared specifically for photo editing (hence the name) and has some extremely powerful features.  The interesting thing about this software is that the interface is modular, so you work on each specific task individually.  It has layer support, so as you work you continue to build layer upon layer (similar to Photoshop).  So, for example, you can enter the “perfect portrait” module and utilize tools specifically designed for portrait enhancement work.  From there maybe you want to go into the “Focalpoint” module, where you can add selective focus and depth of field effects with ease.  All of the modules are integrated into the same interface, so moving around is easy.  The full version of Perfect Photo Suite is only $199, however there is also a “Lightroom and Aperture Edition” which is only $99.  The only difference between the two is integration with Photoshop/Photoshop Elements.  The full version works as a plug-in for Photoshop or Photoshop Elements.  The Lightroom/Aperture version does not.  All versions work standalone, however.  OnOne have already jumped into the void Adobe created by going subscription only on Photoshop, as seen by this page on their site.

Option 3 – GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program – FREE).  Wanna really stick it to the man?  Go open source with Gimp.  Gimp is 100% free, has been around for years, and has several of the features found in Photoshop. You can open PSD files with it, it has layer support, and (gasp) it even has healing.  There’s even a “Photoshop Skin” version you can download! GIMP will also open RAW files, but it requires an additional plugin, which can be downloaded here.

Option 4 – Portrait Professional ($39.95 as of this writing).  Portrait Professional is similar to the “Perfect Portrait” module that can be found in the OnOne Perfect Photo suite.  This software is strictly for editing portraits, so it’s not exactly a replacement for Photoshop, per say.  It does integrate with Lightroom (requires manually setting up, but it’s easy to do).  The software finds the faces in the images you open with it, then allows you to selectively edit various details, such as skin smoothing, teeth whitening, hair touchup, etc.  It’s pretty powerful, can save you a ton of editing time, and the price really can’t be beat.

Those are the four software packages that I’m most familiar with and can recommend (ok, there’s really five there if you include Lightroom).  Other options that I’m not as familiar with are:

Also you can also still buy CS6 products (for now) and own the software.  The link to purchase CS6 products is a bit buried on Adobe’s site, but here it is.

Adobe’s switch to the Creative Cloud has really shaken the industry (and a lot of people) up, but at least there are options out there if you decide not to become a part of this new “subscription only” model.  Also, for what it’s worth, there is an option to upgrade to Photoshop CC for only $10/mo if you own a previous version from CS3 on.  Even if you are against the whole subscription model, $10 isn’t so bad.  That’s less than you’d pay for 3 gallons of gas!  That price is likely to change though, as they are calling it a “promotional price for the first year”.

Thanks for reading this post, I hope it helps!  If you have any other ideas about Photoshop CC alternatives, feel free to share them in the comments below.