Yarrrr!!!
Creative Commons License photo credit: turbojoe

In the last poll, I asked “What Photo Editing Software Do You Use?” About 40% of you said Photoshop and another 30% said Lightroom. These are both expensive pieces of software to own and keep up with, and reader Steve Crane was wondering how many of the Photoshop users were actually purchasing the software.

So this week, let’s see if we can be honest with our voting and find out what percentage of Photoshop and Lightroom users are pirates. Seriously, answer honestly — I’m not going to track you down and report you to the authorities. I have better things to do with my time. But I am really curious to see the results of this one.

I’ve got four different polls below, and you can vote on all of them if you’d like. If the polls start giving you problems, just reload the page and you should be good to go.

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Remember, answer honestly for the sake of the poll!

37 responses


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Aarghh me hearties! :D

Seriously though, I have in the past but now I just use free stuff (Paint.net and Picasa for management).

A friend from uni used to work at a big chain store and was talking to an Adobe rep about this, and the rep’s opinion was that Adobe doesn’t mind pirating so much as long as it’s not for commercial use. Apparently their belief is that pirated software will be buggy and people will end up purchasing the real thing, especially people like me who download programs to “test run” them in a real environment and not limiting trials.

I’ve actually bought software that I’ve pirated because I used it so often I felt I should show my appreciation to the developers.

March 18, 2008 2:19 am

For many years I have used pirate software but since buying a new machine in December I have decided to try and use only legal software.

Perhaps the purchased options in the polls would have been better as legal. I have and use legal copies of Lightroom and Photoshop Elements 4, neither of which I have actually purchased. I had purchased RawShooter Pro when it was first released and was therefore eligible to receive a Lightroom licence. My copy of Elements 4 came with a Wacom tablet I bought recently. If I didn’t have the copy of Elements I would probably just use GIMP for the few edits I do outside of Lightroom.

I try to use free or open source software where I can but am more than happy to support smaller developers when they charge for software I feel I need as they are usually so affordable as not to make a big dent in my budget.

I tend not to use any of the software that came with my cameras but given my decision to use legal software, I would now use it rather than pirate copies of something else.

March 18, 2008 6:16 am

You know, when I talk to a lot of people – and they talk Photoshop – they’re actually talking about Elements. My guess is that a lot of the “Photoshop Owners” are Elements owners.

March 18, 2008 7:18 am

Jason has a point. There should probably have been a split between Elements and CS. At least for owners. I’m going to guess that most of the pirate users use CS, after all you might as well be hung for a sheep as for a lamb. :-)

March 18, 2008 7:23 am

I don’t know guys… the last poll only showed less than 5% Elements users. I left it off intentionally for two reasons: the number of users seemed low and it’s a fairly inexpensive piece of software. Both Photoshop and Lightroom are considerably more expensive than most other software packages. But… there is certainly that possibility that folks confuse the two (even on the las poll).

March 18, 2008 7:31 am

GIMP! GIMP! GIMP!

March 18, 2008 7:32 am

I only use fully legal software on my computer. My morals would not me do otherwise.

Yes at time it does get a bit expensive with the cost of original program and any add-ons I add.

By paying for software it allows me to contact the provider and ask for help from time to time which I have done.

How could I ever complain about any of my images or other copyrighted material being stolen if I was also involved in stealing things.

I never judge or condemn others for their practices as it dosen’t mean they are bad people, only I think foolish choices.

I am a little surprised at the high percentage of pirated.

Niels Henriksen

March 18, 2008 8:25 am

That is an excellent point, Niels, how most photographers are rabid Copyright proponents, and yet many of them will disregard copyright as it suits them.

I would personally never use pirated software. But in addition, I would not pay a ridiculously high price for software either.

I’m one of these that would make do with free software at least until it kills me.

March 18, 2008 8:44 am

I fall in an in-between place. CS3 was not purchased by me, but I use it. My department purchases it, it goes on my computer, and I use it legally. I don’t have to shell out the big bucks but I get the benefit of using a great program that I love.

When I leave this position this summer, I will probably end up buying it. It would bother me to not be fair about the software licensing.

March 18, 2008 8:53 am

Steve, Dawn… good point about the “purchased” versus “legal” thing. I guess that’s what I was trying to convey. If you have a legal copy of the software, somebody probably paid for it one way or another. If you got a free copy of Lightroom because you purchased RawShooter Pro, you paid for it. If you’re using a license from work, you’re paying for it with your time — it’s a job benefit.

March 18, 2008 9:19 am

I use legal, purchased software — but at the education discount. I could never afford it at the pro price. And the education license works for me since I don’t do anything commercial with my photos.

March 18, 2008 9:35 am

Photoshop is a pretty big investment but you only need to make that big plunge once. I have been using it for years and plunked down the $650 a long time ago. Since then, I am able to purchase the upgrade versions which are much more affordable (but still considered a bit pricey). I think this is one reason that Adobe came out with Elements. It was their way of giving the general public the cool photography related tools found in Photoshop without the bulk and at a fraction of the price. Elements also used to come bundled with a lot of flatbed scanners but I’m not sure if it still does. I guess the bottom line is that when you consider the cost of a decent DSLR camera and lenses and a flash and tripod, etc., the cost of Photoshop doesn’t really seem that outrageous. Especially considering how much it is a part of the image creation process.

Jeff

March 18, 2008 10:47 am

Awesome points Jeff! $200 to $300 each year for a Photoshop license isn’t terrible when you’re serious about your camera gear. I certainly spend more on glass and other equipment each year than I do software. When it comes time to get the next version, I just plan on getting it without contemplation — it’s just another necessary expense, like web hosting, Internet access, new computers, more hard drives, etc.

March 18, 2008 11:14 am

Academic discounts + CS3 suite available on a ton of computers around campus make me happy.

March 18, 2008 12:20 pm

While Photoshop is pretty much a standard it is not necessary to produce great images.

A friend on mine still uses film and the wet darkroom techniques to produce stunning images. I unfortunately never learned and therefore gravitated to the dry darkroom.

There are many times that Photoshop full version can be bought at near 50% discount.

My original version (8? Before CS) was acquired this way. There was a scanner site that offered a 50% discount if you clicked through their site. There was no requirement to actually purchase a scanner form this company.

As for upgrades there is no need to update every time unless you really want the new features, but if you wait too long then a full upgrade may be necessary, Many times, 2 or 3 older version still qualify for upgrade price.

There are student discounts available or if taking a course offered at a reduced price.

Niels Henriksen

March 18, 2008 12:55 pm

My first copy of PS came with a bottle of rum, Argh!! I used that for years until I needed RAW support. Then I ponied up for the real thing. I have a store bought legal version of CS2 now.

Great poll idea btw. With 188 votes in I’m a little surprised by the results. Maybe I shouldn’t be.

March 18, 2008 12:56 pm

bottle of rum… LOL. I’m actually not too surprised by the results of the poll. I figured I wouldn’t be too stunned if I saw around 50% pirated versus purchased. Photoshop seems to be more popular for pirates than Lightroom, which could just be due to the fact that there are many older versions of Photoshop that are much easier to come by. But overall, the Adobe software seems to be far more popular with pirates than “other software”.

March 18, 2008 12:58 pm

I finally ponied up for a legal version of PS in 2003… with the “scanner discount”. I got lightroom through my sister, who bought it at the student price (she bought it for me though, I have the box, the disk, etc).

The thing about Photoshop is that it’s not really terribly expensive to upgrade once you have it, it’s just paying for it the first time that totally sucks. I also think Adobe is sort of asking for people to pirate though, now that they offer full versions for trial… it’s not that difficult to find a keygen for most of their software.

March 18, 2008 1:01 pm

Here’s my own approach on this situation.

To be honest, I have barely been able to afford purchasing my own photo equipment (which isn’t that much), let alone Lightroom or Photoshop. I am young (college age), and am working hard to become a full-time photographer. When this happens, I will most certainly be purchasing legal copies of the Adobe software. If I was unable to pirate the software now, I would not know how to use it, and would not have the opportunities to cross over from amateur to professional. In the end, Adobe will be making more money from me than if I was unable to pirate their software.

I could use Gimp, or other programs, but I would just have to switch when I go pro, and I can’t imagine trying to learn photoshop at that point, the program is just too gigantic to do that. These are my personal justifications, and I really don’t care whether you agree or not, just remember that there are a lot of people that pirated software provides opportunities for.

March 18, 2008 2:41 pm

Actually, you make a really good point. This whole thing reminds me of Microsoft’s Visual Studio software. Years ago (as a poor college student), I had been using pirated copies of the software. This helped me develop my programming skills and become familar with their software. I’m pretty sure 95% of the CS students did the same, even though they offered educational versions at a decent price. Had I pursued programming to the extent I’m pursuing photography, I would be buying the full version of Visual Studio.

It turns out, several years ago (and several years after my days of being a pirate) Microsoft started releasing the components of Visual Studio for free. Not just trials or crippled versions — totally free. The call them the Visual Studio Express packages (though, the full-blown Visual Studio software has a few extra features that 99% of non-corporate users don’t need). So now, when I want to write a C program, I can just download the software and use it rather than having to worry about hacked software or key generators screwing with my nice clean computer.

I’m willng to bet that the amount of piracy on the Visual Studio product (the one that isn’t for free) has gone way down since the Express modules came out. I’m not sure if it’s a model Adobe could follow, but it’s an interesting thought.

March 18, 2008 3:04 pm

Several years ago I had a pirated “Limewire” copy of PS7( to process my minolta s404 shots). As it ran slower than dirt on my then P3 512mb desktop, I replaced it with Elements 3.0(purchased). When I got my D80 I used the supplied Picture Project for RAW conversion and most processing tasks and then PS3 for anything PP couldn’t handle. I am now running a purchased copy of Capture NX for 95% of my processing and still using Elements 3.0 only for those tasks I can’t complete in NX such as cloning out dust, etc. Aside from possibly upgrading my version of Elements someday I don’t see a need to move to a full version of PS. However if they run it again at $299 I might be tempted.

March 18, 2008 5:28 pm

I remember the first time I bought a copy of Photoshop CS. I had been using PS for almost 5 years by that time but never had paid for it (the studio I worked for bought my copies).

It was really strange to finally pay for something I had been using for years. Like getting married after you’ve been living with your girlfriend and your kid, it’s just a piece of paper. Nothing changes except the balance in your checkbook.

I didn’t particularly feel better about it, but the copies I used prior were paid for by someone else so no moral issues here. I think Niels has a great point about copyrights and pirating. I will have to keep that in mind about other things as well.

March 18, 2008 8:45 pm

I have used a pirate copy of Photoshop in the past just because of the price, but since Photoshop Elements came out I use that, legally.

March 25, 2008 11:38 am


Well, your poll is certainly accurate for the piracy but 83% is largely biased due to the theme of this site.
I use Picasa and The Gimp and that’s more than enough if you aren’t an artist. No need for Photoshop if you aren’t a pro.
Most of the Photoshop pirates use it to resize photo anyway ! No one would pay for it to do that. Maybe that’s why a free edition “Express” is coming out right now.

March 28, 2008 2:52 pm

I believe that the manufacturers themselves actually create the cracks/patches/keygens required to use software illegally.
Think about it: Adobe don’t want you to use freeware, learning it and finding out that it’s actually good enough for what you want to do, they’d rather help you use Photoshop for free so that you learn their software. Technically they haven’t lost out, as you wouldn’t have bought it anyway! One day, when you go into business and have to actually buy your software for the first time, are you going to consider Paint Shop Pro, or are you just going to buy the piece of software that you already know inside-out? it makes good business sense to ignore piracy for personal use, and concentrate on ensuring that business users always use legal software.
This doesn’t apply to Adobe alone, I think that it is in the interests of all large software developers, (including Microsoft!) to help people who can’t afford their software to use it for free. (Microsoft would rather you’re using a pirated copy of Vista, than a free version of Linux.) No manufacturer can offer a fully operational free version, as this would undermine the bloated price of the legal version, so they just release the aforementioned tools to help you get around the legalities.

March 28, 2008 5:18 pm

Without the availability of pirated copies I would not have the opportunity to use Photoshop or other programs such as Visual Studio. I can’t afford them. I thoroughly believe that without pirated copies we wouldn’t have as rich of an internet as we do today. Many of the developers and designers wouldn’t have had a chance to get started, as I have, for free.

Pirated copies actually make the American dream more of a possibility in that someone like me, who can’t afford to spend 800-1000 dollars on software, can still use it, learn it, and develop job skills that will allow them to be able to afford it.

March 29, 2008 12:52 pm

I believe the reason Photoshop is advanced and popular as it is, is b/c it’s pirated like mad! When Joe Developer goes to work, he has his company pony up the dough for the latest CS version so he can be the most productive. I used a pirated copy of CS3 for a while, tested it extensively and then had my company purchase two copies. The end result is that popularity from piracy makes them more money in the long run since 800 bucks isn’t shit for a company to pay, besides, it’s a tax write off.

March 30, 2008 5:27 am

Here in China it’s compulsory to run pirated software and I’m not to happy about it!
Unfortunately in the west they don’t give a shit!

March 30, 2008 10:30 am


If you are expert enough to use photoshop then you certainly earn enough money to buy it ;)

April 1, 2008 1:53 pm



I fell on this list while looking around at my options to pirate Photoshop CS.
I bought it fair and square back in ’04 or something; my old computer is now headed for the scrap heap, and I seldom use photoshop any more. Having installed Windows on my macbook, I decided to reinstall the software on it.
Well, there is a problem; every time I boot up, I get a dialog box insisting that my hardware has changed, that photoshop will have to be re activated again.
After spending half the day on the phone with various reps (India I guess) I was told that I’d have to upgrade to a newer version, that I’d have to talk to someone in another department (at which point I was forwarded to Purina’s feedback line for Dog Chow) and that my version strangely had too many digits in its registration code, so I should call back after reinstalling it.
So now I don’t care any more. I paid $$$$$$ for this product and cannot use it because the company cannot support it, cannot pay people enough to actually help on the phone, but did have the time to sabotage the software for long term use.
So my only recourse to get usage out of the product I paid for is through piracy?!?!? Someone recommend me a good hack.
Needless to say, I won’t be very likely to buy from Adobe in the future!

November 7, 2008 9:05 pm

I use Adobe Photoshop for many reasons. But I haven’t used Lightroom. I use Purchased software. But I’ve seen pirated software for like 1$ (US). Specially in the sub continent. They sell pirated software for a very cheap price. Most people can afford it. So they have a very good knowledge. Because of that computer Literacy rate is rising very rapidly. I hope there’s a good solution to stop selling pirated copies without affecting those reasons.

May 27, 2009 8:07 pm

In earlier days I used a pirated copy of photoshop. Those days my country it wasn’t illegal. But after some time I realized it is’nt a good thing and now I’m into purchased software. I agree with the earlier comment too. It has some important points.

June 24, 2009 7:01 am

Hi

I happen to use Adobe Photoshop as and when required. Though I am unfamiliar with Lightroom. It has been normal human tendency to use pirated software for many purposes. But honestly I prefer using purchased software. As pirated software comes very cheap which most people can afford it. So they tend to buy it. I hope a good solution will soon be discovered to stop selling pirated copies.

September 23, 2009 5:04 am

Comment now!