Are You a Photoshop Pirate?

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.


Remember, answer honestly for the sake of the poll!

31 thoughts on “Are You a Photoshop Pirate?

  1. the_wolf_brigade

    Aarghh me hearties! :D

    Seriously though, I have in the past but now I just use free stuff ( 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.

  2. Steve Crane

    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.

  3. Jason

    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.

  4. Steve Crane

    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. :-)

  5. Brian Auer Post author

    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).

  6. My Camera World

    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

  7. JS Nature Photos

    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.

  8. dawn

    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.

  9. Brian Auer Post author

    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.

  10. Sarah

    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.

  11. Jeff

    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.


  12. Brian Auer Post author

    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.

  13. My Camera World

    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

  14. Al

    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.

  15. Brian Auer Post author

    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”.

  16. Sarah

    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.

  17. Brian Auer Post author

    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.

  18. Frank

    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.

  19. Damien Franco

    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.

  20. Mandy

    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.

  21. Pingback: 60% of Photoshop Users are PIRATES!

  22. Fred

    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.

  23. Thomas

    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.

  24. Reason Being

    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.

  25. Shanghai

    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!

  26. Pingback: How Much Would You Pay for Photoshop?

  27. Bryce Parker

    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!

  28. Lovelinks

    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.

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