For nearly 3 years, I was searching for an alternative to Adobe Lightroom Classic. Finally I made a decision so I can move on with my photography.

Readers of my blog will recall that I was not too happy with Adobe’s choice to remove perpetual licenses. For a while, I did continue with my perpetual license. But at the same time, I kept looking for an alternative to Lightroom.

In nearly 3 years, I have tested Phase One Capture One, On1 Photo RAW and Skylum Luminar. Now I made a decision. To cut a long story short: My alternative to the Lightroom perpetual license is the Lightroom subscription model.

You: Are you f&%$§# kidding me? I hear you. If you visited this post to read about a non-Adobe alternative, I have to disappoint you. But I encourage you to read on to understand why I came to this conclusion.

1.Lightroom alternatives

Believe me, I did take my time testing software alternatives to Lightroom. I did own licenses for Photo RAW and Luminar and updated them at least twice. For Capture One, I used their evaluation version. I have published an infrared photography specific part of this comparison in my article Why You Should No Longer Consider Luminar 4 for Infrared Photography, if you are interested.

One of the most heard complaints is the (lack of) speed in Lightroom. That is true. But then it is not. It is only true if you compare the software alternatives to the last perpetual Lightroom version 6.12. For a true comparison, you will need to compare against the latest version of Lightroom Classic. Once you start comparing the latest versions, Lightroom does not feel slow at all.

Also, I need to mention that I am usually not looking at results at 200% magnification. For me, a smooth workflow is more important than maybe a 3% better result in RAW sharpening or color grading. Tons of presets is also nothing that is of interest to me, quite the opposite. I like to create my own presets and apply them sparingly. And I guess nothing beats the new marketing slogan Artificial Intelligence these days – one click and you are there. Sorry, but not for me.

1a.Feature comparison

Are you actually aware of how many features have been added to Lightroom since version 6.12? If you are not 100% sure, I highly recommend reading Victoria Bampton’s post What’s new in Lightroom Classic since Lightroom 6?. You will be surprised by how much has changed.

In the end, none of the alternatives were a perfect fit for my work style. I use the map module a lot, I print a lot and I work a lot with infrared pictures. Here, Lightroom is still the leader of the pack, especially when it comes to more complex print layouts.

I have to say that I liked the layer model in Photo RAW a lot. Truly I hope this is something we will see in Lightroom at a later time. The ability to blend pictures was simple and yet powerful. I know I can do it in Photoshop, but that adds another workflow step with another intermediate file.

1b.Upgrade pressure

Eventually, I had to make a decision because my new Nikon Z6 was not supported by Lightroom 6.12. To convert all my Nikon RAW files to DNG is not an option for me. So, new software was required.

What helped me the most was a set of videos offered by Matt Kloskowski. Matt compares most of the Lightroom alternatives and adds his conclusions. The videos are available for free (registration is required): Making the Switch From Adobe?

I have a lot of respect for Matt and I believe he did a great job with his comparison. No emotions, just solid facts – presented in a logical and structured manner. If you are searching for a Lightroom alternative, please watch these videos. It will help you with your decision making.

It was this set of videos which got me seriously thinking about the Adobe subscription model. So, ironically, watching videos on how to switch away from Lightroom made me reconsider Adobe.

Photo RAW is something I really wanted to like. They update the software frequently, it is stable and fast. What did not work for me was the printing module. Other than that, I would recommend that you at least take a look at it. I plan to keep it on my PC just to see where the development is heading.

Skylum should receive the price for the most ridiculous software upgrade: In Luminar version 3, they had introduced a handy channel mixer tool (together with other tools), which they removed again in version 4. Huh? How does this help their users? Sorry, but this kind of unpredictable feature planning is a no-go.

2.Pricing models compared

So this leaves us with Capture One. If you compare the current update price of Capture One ($ 159) to the annual Adobe Photography plan ($ 120), Adobe is actually cheaper. Let’s also not forget, Adobe includes Photoshop. Capture One users will likely have to purchase additional software like Affinity Photo, if they need layers or advanced masking.

At this point, I was already leaning towards Adobe. And again, Matt Kloskowski was the reason for my final decision. He wrote a blog post with the title: Why Is No One Mad at Capture One? where he compares the pricing models and the features added in the last 12 months to Lightroom and Capture One. For me, this was the final piece of the puzzle.

Here is a quick tip for you: Adobe is not the only place where you can purchase the annual Photography Plan. Especially around holidays, you will find special deals on Amazon, B&H and the like. I purchased *2* annual licenses for € 99 each on Amazon. That is € 8,25 per month, compared to the regular € 11,99 per month. And yes, I am now fully licensed for 2 years.

A quick thought on subscription models in general: they are the future of software development, and they are here to stay. I didn’t like it either, but then I figured out how many subscriptions I already own: Microsoft Office 365, various desktop software licenses, cloud services, the list goes on. Why should Adobe be an exception?


In summary, my key reasons for choosing the Adobe Photography plan were:

  • Instant availability of features I need for my workflow
  • Competitive pricing model
  • Lack of switching costs: no additional time required to learn a new piece of software. Do not underestimate this!

In hindsight, I wish I had earlier come to a conclusion. Thinking about how much time I have spent testing software – I could have achieved a lot in this time. Anyway, I am happy that I made a choice, because it allows me to focus on what is really important – my photography.

Did you also look for for an alternative to Adobe Lightroom? If yes, what did you do? Let us know in the comment section below!

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Picture of Robert Reiser

Robert is an enthusiast amateur photographer from Austria with a preference for black & white and infrared photography. He is an active member of the Austrian Association of Wildlife and Nature Photography (VTNÖ). In his spare time, he likes to take pictures and write about various photographic topics. More about Robert.