How Much Would You Pay for Photoshop?

Stand and Deliver
Creative Commons License photo credit: teotwawki

Back in March, I ran a poll on software piracy. As a result of the votes, I found that nearly 60% of Photoshop Users are pirates. This article was picked up by various social media networks, and it still receives quite a few visitors and comments. A lot of these comments are based around the results not being surprising because Photoshop is so grossly overpriced. Every time I see another comment pop up on this article, it gets me thinking about what people consider to be a fair price. So let’s find out.

As the basis for this poll, we’ll be considering a license upgrade for the most basic version of Photoshop. This assumes that you keep up on your upgrades as they roll out every one or two years, you’re not getting a student discount, and you’re not buying the full blown suite or extended versions of Photoshop. Just the basics.

So what would you pay? The upgrade license typically goes for around $300 USD at first, then dropping to $200 USD. So if you don’t currently pay for Photoshop, I’d expect your answers to be below this threshold. And if you do pay for Photoshop, I’d expect your answers to be at or above this marker.


And be sure you catch up on the previous poll asking “Is Film Dead?” We had a few extremes saying that it’s either already dead or it’s the next big thing. But most of the votes were somewhere in the middle, stating that film is here… it’s just not really moving in one direction or another. Check out the comments too — lots of good insights as to where film is dead and where it thrives.

20 thoughts on “How Much Would You Pay for Photoshop?

  1. ramin

    I feel that the upgrade price for Photoshop is quite reasonable. It’s the initial cost of purchasing it that hurts.

    Another issue that is a real sore point in Europe is that the price in euros is around the same or more than in dollars – despite the euro being around 1.6 dollars at the moment. Somehow it doesn’t feel like we’d be talking about recuperating developments costs anymore.

    That being said, I’m just putting in an order for one of the CS packages…

  2. Jason Bell

    Photoshop is sorely overpriced even though I love it so much. Its just one of those things Adobe knows they can get away with. I really think that more people would actually buy it though if it was cheaper.

  3. Beth

    I answered $0 in the poll, but that’s because I use the GIMP. For someone at my skill level, there’s no reason to pay big bucks for a graphics program when there is one that is free (legally) that does everything I need. I think as open source options, like GIMP, become better and better, Photoshop just might get left in the dust.

  4. Janne

    Zero. That’s what an upgrade of Gimp costs me, and I’d be very reluctant to pay much more than that for Photoshop. Oh, with a free choice I could certainly accept $20 or so, if there was some extra value attached to it, like a couple of free support calls, a bound manual or something.

    And yes, I’m familiar with Photoshop and Gimp both; my wife is a graphic designer so we have Photoshop (and Illustrator and various other similar apps) on a couple machines. I use Gimp for most of my photo editing, but with our scanner hooked up to one of her work machines I use Photoshop for my film scanning and postprocessing there.

    Being familiar with both, I’m in fact hard pressed to mention any specific functionality or user interface bit that would give either a decisive leg up over the other for my needs. For my wife it’s easy – Photoshop files are the standard medium for exchange; she’s used to and comfortable with the application; and not the least, it has support for the Pantone color system which is again a standard for the kind of work she does. For me, though, processing images for posting on the web, they’re similar enough that I have the same workflow in either with only very minor differences.

  5. My camera World

    I agree with Janne that GMIP is a great program and for most photographers it should be the preferred choice.

    For my workflow the reason I still with Photoshop is the following needs:

    16 bit colour depth;
    Ability to embed RAW smart files;
    Proof profile printing and integration of colour space into printing workflow

    Niels Henriksen

  6. Pedro

    I just want the equivalent US price to be available in the rest of the world. It’s a download purchae for goodness sake what is the reason for the outrageous price increases outside of the US.

  7. Brian Auer Post author

    I said $300. I think they’re “right on the money” with that price point. It’s cheap enough to allow non-professionals to buy it. I’d probably still buy it if it were at $400, but I might wait until the price dropped to $300. If it were at $500, I’d probably be using something different. If I were a professional making 100% of my income via photography, I’d certainly pay over $1000 for the software upgrades. It’s a necessary tool for doing business.

    My “real” job is design engineering. The software we use (SolidWorks, Pro/Engineer, Catia, etc.) costs far more than a photoshop upgrade — and on a yearly basis, upgrades or not. These software packages cost anywhere from $1K and just to maintain a seat on a yearly basis. The initial cost can be well over $5K. If I were an independent design engineer, I’d be footing the cost of that yearly contract.

    I’m not saying that Photoshop should be priced in such a range, but I just wanted to add some additional perspective.

  8. frombrandon

    Part of me wonders if one of the reasons it is so overpriced is to make up for some of the loss that happens as a result of piracy. I’ve been trying to get my hands on a legal copy of CS3 and Craigslist is just full of offers of people bringing a copied disc of the entire CS3 suite. I’ve also lived the last year in Ukraine and you can buy a single disc with thousands of dollars worth of software for a few bucks.

    I’m sure we share part of the responsibility. It is a business, and if they can’t keep people from stealing their programs, their only other option is charge more for it.

    But I would love to find someone to legally sell me a copy of CS3 for around $200. Still dreaming, though…

  9. BangaloreGuy

    I’d probably pay *upto* 50$ base on my current rupee earnings – and if I already have free/pirated Photoshop.

    Mostly I find it ridiculous that folks who have dollar/euro/pound paychecks pay on par, or sometimes *less* than folks like us on Rupee paychecks – when we earn what – 10 times less?

    There just has to be a differential pricing cos the wallets are way different.

  10. Mark

    Another a couple other interesting polls you could do:

    What would you expect to be paid for one of your photos to be used in a nation/world-wide advertising campaign? Private Gallery? Commissioned Work?

    What do you think someone doing that type of work is actually paid?

    What would you expect to be awarded in a copyright infringement case if your image was used without your permission? What if it was used in a way that completely went against your beliefs?

  11. DRB

    As a few others have mentioned, I also use GIMP and have always found other free (or cheaper — Paint Shop Pro) software packages in the past which have been able to meet MY needs. I understand that not everyone’s needs can be met by the alternatives to Photoshop however I wonder how many Photoshop users really do require Photoshop.

    If anyone is interested in learning to use GIMP as an alternative to Photoshop there is a series of video tutorials which may be helpful at

    If you are interested in reading more about Photoshop versus GIMP there is a fairly balanced discussion at which ultimately reveals that Photoshop has more capabilities but that not everyone requires these benefits.

  12. Kris

    The price I’m willing to pay would really depend on whether I thought the new features were worth upgrading for. Photoshop upgrades are so expensive that I generally skip several versions and just buy it new when Adobe comes out with something genuinely compelling.

    If Adobe would like me to upgrade with every version, the upgrade needs to be under $100. Otherwise, I’ll just keep using my current CS3 until 2012.

  13. Mark Groves

    I said $300, I would like it to be lower, but it is a very good piece of software. I expect to pay something, but as Kris points out I think it is important to judge the new features against the upgrade cost.

  14. NRG

    I think Photoshop is priced about right, personally. I could not stomach any other ‘photo editor’ out there.. so even if Adobe charged $400 or even $500 for an upgrade, I would bite and get it.

    The vast array of functionality and tools available makes PS such an attractive app.. And with rumors swirling around about having possibly CS4 making use of your video card (thus Photoshop running MUCH faster) and with the rumor of Photoshop being rebuilt from the ground up to be more robust and efficient makes it all the more worthwhile (but of course, these are at this point rumors).

    But even as is, I don’t think there is a mre powerful, fully featured app like PS out there.. Sure there are alternative that offer more ‘bang for your buck’, but I for one could not do without PS. So yeah, $400 or so seems quite reasonable to me.



  15. Pingback: News Flash: Photoshop is Overpriced (which could be hurting Adobe’s profits)

  16. keithAs

    I read somewhere that adobe has a pretty good guesstimate on how much Ps is pirated. As a high school photo instructor my kids snicker at the cost of buying PS, because they don’t.

    Thanks for the link to the Gimp vids, as a photoshop instructor I want to be familiar with other popular photo editing programs. There’s also Picasa – which is great just to organize your image files, if you used it for nothing else. is one I recently installed – just to see what it offers, seemed OK. Nothing to write home about though.

    PS continues to be the industry standard for image editing. Perhaps one factor that’s not considered when thinking about the cost of adobe software & that’s the money adobe spends on development.

    As for a reasonably priced alternative to PS, buy Elements. It has nearly everything that the full version of PS. What doesn’t it have? I’m still trying to figure that out. And for most editing needs, its got everything you’ll want.

  17. Sarah Volker

    I’d hold off as much as possible on upgrades. All it really is, is an excuse to charge the consumer several hundred more dollars for basically the same thing.

    Right now photoshop cs3 is like what, 500 bucks? Meh. I’ll stick to my older Photoshop.

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