Why is Photoshop Only Available With a Subscription? [Free Alternatives]

While photoshop once went by the licensing model–where they allowed you to fully purchase the software–they have since changed. Now Photoshop is only available with a subscription. The subscription can be anything from annual to monthly payments. This has some of us scratching our heads, asking, why is Photoshop only available with a subscription? 

Photoshop is only available with a subscription because Adobe decided the pros outweigh the cons. A subscription is more accessible, easier to update, and it ensures customers stick around. Additionally, it falls in line with a trend of companies like Adobe and Microsoft switching their approach.

If you’re curious about why Photoshop is now only available with a subscription and the implications that come with that, you’ve come to the right place. In our guide below we will take a deep dive into why Photoshop is only available as a subscription service. Additionally, we’ll give you a few recommendations for free alternatives if the subscription doesn’t appeal to you.

Why Did Photoshop Change to Subscription?

If you’re old like me, then you remember back when Photoshop was software you bought in a one-time deal. The upside was that once you bought it, you had it. The downside was that you’d have to buy it again when a new version was released. 

  • It’s easier to Update: One of the biggest reasons Photoshop changed to a subscription-based model is so that they could provide users with updates as they made them. Now as a user of Photoshop, you don’t even have to buy a new version. Instead, the version you have is updated as you go. 
  • Subscription ensures repeat customers: Back in the day, a lot of the time, people would just stick with whatever version of Photoshop they bought and ignore the new ones until there were major changes. Using a subscription-based model ensures customers will continue to spend money on the product as it updates. 
  • It’s part of a wave of changes: Photoshop isn’t the only software to have switched to a subscription-based form of payment. For example, Microsoft Office has started to transition as well. It’s the “in thing” to do nowadays.
  • It makes Photoshop more accessible: Even if you’re not able to afford to buy the software all out, you can probably afford a small monthly fee. This makes the software more accessible to a wider audience, even if you end up paying more in the long run. In other words, it expands Adobe’s customer base. 

At the end of the day, it just made more sense for Adobe to go with the subscription-based model over the old licensing based model. They can draw in more customers, ensure those customers come back, and get more money from them in the long term. At the same time, the software becomes more accessible and easily updatable for the users. 

Can You Permanently Own Photoshop

If you preferred the old licensing model, then you’re probably hoping you can still permanently own Photoshop. Unfortunately, it is no longer possible to permanently own Photoshop.  

The nearest thing you can do is pay the annual subscription fee of $239.88. Then you won’t have to pay again until your year is up. Still, that may come as a blow to those out there who were hoping they could still own it. 

Why is Photoshop So Expensive

Photoshop is so expensive because it has the market cornered on image editing software. It is far and away the most relied upon and popular option in both professional and at-home use. 

It’s extra expensive now–in the sense that you pay way more over time–because updates are constantly added to it. You no longer have to wait for the next version to come out. If they have something new to add to it, they just add it. Your computer will automatically update and you’ll have new tools right away. 

Are There Any Free Alternatives to Photoshop? 

If you’re really averse to paying the fee, there are some free alternatives to Photoshop that you might want to consider. While none of these quite reach the heights of Photoshop, they are very functional and perfect for home editing. 

The following five software make for great Free alternatives to Photoshop:

1. Placeit.net (Our Recommendation)

Placeit.net is becoming very popular in the past few years because it is web-based. This means you go to their website to use their tool, rather than downloading their software onto each device you want to use it on. This means you can create designs on-the-go, and use any device with internet connection.

Also, Placeit uses a template based model. This means you can choose from over 90,000+ pre-made templates to customize to your specific needs. From logos, to t-shirt designs, to video templates, and mockups, Placeit is a powerhouse of templates. Placeit offers both Free and Paid plans.

Lastly, Placeit gives you full commercial usage rights so you can copyright, trademark, and sell anything you create from their website!

2. GIMP 

GIMP is also a well-known and battle-tested alternative to Photoshop. While the software admittedly takes a while to get the hang of, it has many features that are absent on other free alternatives. 

You can use layers, do touch-ups and even add effects with GIMP. Though it will take longer to figure out, you can still produce fantastic images using this software. 

3. PixIr

PixIr is another great free option that offers more than just the basics of other alternatives. While you can’t do as much with it as you can with GIMP, it is available for everything from PC and Mac to your iPhone. 

Similarly to Placeit.net, you don’t actually download this software. Instead, you do all of your work from their site. This means you can access it from any of your devices. 

4. Photo Pos Pro

Photo Pos Pro is packed full of features. To access them all you will have to buy the premium subscription, but still, the free version still has enough features for most people who just want to touch up their photos. 

5. Apple Photos

If you have a Mac, you’ve actually already got a photo editing software preinstalled on your computer. Apple Photos doesn’t have a whole lot of features but it does have all of the basics. Plus, you can try it out without having to download anything. That right there makes it at least worth a try!

So Really, Why is Photoshop Only Available With a Subscription?

At the end of the day, Photoshop is only available through subscription because Adobe thought the pros outweigh the cons. It makes the software more accessible, easier to fix if there is a problem, and it ensures customers stick around. 

Of course, there are benefits to the customer as well. Using Adobe as a subscription, you never have to wait for the next big release to get updates and you can pay in a way that makes the most sense for your situation. Whether you love it or hate it, that’s why Adobe switched to a subscription-based model.