What Are The Alternatives To The Creative Cloud Lightroom and Photoshop Subscription For Real Estate Photographers?

August 13th, 2015

LightroomCC-GPUEvery time we talk about the Adobe creative cloud subscription I get people that propose alternatives to using Lightroom CC and Photoshop CC. This last time was no exception. Peter suggested the following:

Perhaps there is an alternative to Adobe Photoshop to take into consideration: by Serif (Europe). It’s a new program that competes with CS at $39.99. I downloaded the program from Apple’s iTunes Store and it works.

Peter is in that relatively small population that find the whole concept of subscription software offensive. Yes, I understand totally. I used to feel that way, but I’ve gotten past it. Mainly because there are almost no software applications that even come close to replacing Lightroom CC and Photoshop CC for real estate photographers! Why?

Because the Key functionality for real estate photographers is lens correction features. You know, all that stuff in the Lens Corrections panel of Lightroom! For example, AffinityPhoto or OnOne photo suite has none of that stuff! They may someday, but they don’t now! To create quality work real estate photographers MUST be able to:

  1. Straighten verticals
  2. Straighten horizontals
  3. Remove barrel distortion
  4. Remove Chromatic Aberration
  5. Ideally, 3 and 4 will be done automatically based on a profile of the lens you used for the shot rather than manually.

What other applications other than Lightroom and Photoshop that can do all all five above and are available both on OS X and Windows? The research I’ve done leads me to only three applications:

  1. DxO Optics Pro ($129 or $199 depending on your camera and lens) 17,000 lens/camera profiles compared to 600 profiles for Lightroom and Photoshop. Many professional photographers claim that this application does RAW conversion even better than Lightroom. John McBay, the author of Image Editing For Real Estate Photography uses DxO Optics along with Photoshop CC and likes the results! I’ve talked to other top real estate photographers that use DxO Optics too, but they all use it along with Photoshop.
  2. Phase One Capture One Pro 8 ($299 or $15/mo) I can’t find which lenses are supported. I know this application is in use by at least a limited number of real estate photographers.
  3. CyberLink Photo Director 5 ($99) – Very limited number of lens profiles (60). This application appears to do 1 through 5 above but in a very limited way.

So there are probably only two strong alternatives (1 & 2 above) and they don’t eliminate the need for Photoshop completely.

Am I missing any?

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21 Responses to “What Are The Alternatives To The Creative Cloud Lightroom and Photoshop Subscription For Real Estate Photographers?”

  • I love using PhotoFXlab and their plugins.

  • Photoshop Elements is still a single payment application that will do all or nearly all of the tasks that a RE photographer will need to accomplish that would be done in the full version of Photoshop.
    On One’s Perfect Photo Suite is an alternative for many, but not all tasks. It’s under $100 for both Mac and Win.

  • Affinity Photo is an interesting new release on the Mac

  • Oops, just saw you mentioned it in the article.

    Maybe an old favourite, PTLens may be a solution but a quick web search suggests it crashes Affinity at the moment.

  • Not much joy with PTLens for me in Affinity, it didn’t seem to work but there is also a standalone app for PTLens that can be used.

    Opening a camera RAW file in Affinity does however allow you to use a Lens Correction Tab to allow you to straighten and correct lens distortion.

  • Playing with Affinity a bit more I see that you can go into the Develop Persona as they term it to gain access to the Lens Correction Controls to any file that is already open (it’s just like using the ACR filter in PS).

    So Affinity is an option for RE if you are really averse to Adobe’s subscription model.

    I also recently downloaded the GIMP a while ago and was impressed the functionality it had. It is certainly looking a lot more polished these days than it used to be. Apparently you can use PTLens as a plugin in GIMP

    Thing is though, I really like Adobe’s subscription model. To me it is awesome value compared to what I used to pay years ago for upgrades.

    Personally I use a lot of different software in the CC Suite so it makes it even better value to me.

  • I personally like subscription models. Yes, one pays more in the long run, but one doesn’t need to fork out $xxx or $xxxx in one go, delaying payment is much better for short-term and medium-term – ‘lease that which depreciates’ (or requires frequent upgrades).
    Since I also use Premier, Audition, Speedgrade (only a little really), Adobe Docu-sign, Adobe Acrobat Pro, probably others… it’s a no brainer.
    Most if not all photographers will eventually be doing at least a little video…

    I lease my computer for a similar reason – get the most powerful model, then upgrade in 2 years, rather than paying ~£3000 for something I’ll be stuck with for 4 or 5 years. I can also put the whole monthly lease amount into accounts as an expense, rather than messing around with capital expenditure allowance/depreciation percentages, etc!

  • I don’t mind $49/mo subscription (Full CC) while I am bringing in income, but I am also 64 y/o and planning for when not brining in income it becomes an issue. While I won’t be 100% dependent on a SS check, one still has to look at monthly outlay, particularly when usage drops to occasional. Some of the more senior people in a local photo club have the same orientation about another fixed monthly cost in retirement. Reverting to $10/mo might be OK, the goal is to eliminate it totally while supporting other photographic pursuits in retirement. Lightroom as a stand alone would appear to be a solid base, then plug-ins, of which I hear Affinity is one. I used Paintshop (Pro) for decades, beginning when it was one of the ‘must have’ shareware programs and through JASC and now Corel ownership and would return, but unfortunately is not available for Mac. Corel’s Lightroom wannabe program falls way short and no vertical correction. Then there are the other programs Premiere Pro/After Effects/Speedgrade would be FCPX or Premiere Elements or others on PC. Illustrator, a long time favorite vector graphic drawing program is Scribble, but I see Affinity has a sister graphics program. Corel Draw is PC only. Dreamweaver/Muse – A full HTML program like Dreamweaver is difficult to replace, but standalone WYSIWYG programs like Muse are easier to find, both PC and Mac, and of course web based such as WordPress. I just downloaded Sparkle (Mac only) over the weekend with 50% off sale. What attracted me was not being dependent on prescribed templates like most competitors, but you can start from a blank screen with the look and feel of Apple’s Pages, iframing widgets for HTML, and unique handling of photos for various platforms from a retina display down to mobile. It is a very new program (v1.2) and a notable shortcoming is the lack of internal FTP, so have to use an external program like Cyberduck for uploading. Now the hardest to replace – InDesign. In retirement, one of my goals is to create professional looking e-books that in addition to providing information, has an active link back to my site (zenfolio) where they can purchase photos. It can be accomplished in iBooks, but it outputs IOS only, and not epub for Kindle and others. Plus, I like the precision of InDesign’s layout (and Muse is InDesign for the web) as it is far more precise than Microsoft’s Publisher – which print shops despise – and Apple’s Pages.

  • $10 a month (the cost of two lattes at Starbucks) and you have access to the absolute best photo editing software in the world. And, the programs are continually updated with bug fixes and new capabilities. The last price that I saw for Photoshop before it went to subscription was over $600. That’s equal to 5 years of the subscription, not counting that you also get Lightroom as part of the package.

  • Just the thought of learning and using something other than LR/PS makes me sick after investing years of learning these products and I still try to learn another technique every week. Guess I am stuck with whatever I need to do. I have LR 5.7 and CS 6, I will always have those as a backup.

  • Sigh. I guess I will have to be dragged kicking and swearing into the subscription model. I am too old, I realize, to learn a whole new app as complex as photo processing today becomes. But it usually takes me, at my doddering age, an entire version of PS before I feel I have integrated the upgrades to the user interface. I don’t normally change my work flow since I know it so well and can use it without thinking about my tools. If my PS is constantly being updated, I know I will be constantly fighting the work flow process which will slow down my work flow speed.

    Frankly, at 68 years old, I could probably carry on with my current photo equipment and my trusty CS6 for years. But unlike the days of film, the digital process has taken over the marketing tools for which our work must keep up with as well. So I guess I will just have to wrap my aging pale grey cells around new technologies with the help of the online video tutorials from Actually that is a great resource which for $25 a month, you have access to all their video tutorials going back many years that cover not only all our softwares for RE but everything else from business applications, video and even marketing. Its great for us oldies who have to keep going back to tutorials to make sure we can retain the instructions. They have covered the Adobe cloud apps virtually from the time they came out. Pretty good value for money. As a creature of habit, I know this will be a wrench but on the other hand, as they say regarding about brain cells “use ’em or loose ’em.”

  • Peter, you cracked me up and put so well into words what my Frail 67 years was thinking, pale grey cells and all!

  • Why has no one mentioned any open source alternatives. I use Rawtherapee and Gimp. They are both available for Windows and iOS, as well as Linux. Both are awesome and FREE! Rawtherapee can use Adobe Lens Correction Profiles for correcting distortion, vignetting and chromatic aberration.

    Did I mention they are FREE?

  • I start laughing when I read your guys ages. I have passed the age of 79 and retired from real estate over a year ago, but still love reading your experiences. I must be rotten old.

  • I find it much easier to pay $10 per month than $200+ for a new version of PS/Lt every 18 months. I do have DxO and oN1, they have their place but I still find PS handles 99% of my photo needs.

  • Everyone seems to be ok with the $10/month.. Good, now other software publishers are seeing how well Adobe is doing with this model so it’s a matter of time until you are forking over $2-3 hundred (or more) a month for Windows, MS Office, Dreamweaver, Live mail, etc, etc… Once that happens, you could be deciding if you want to eat or compute. My concern is for the future not the $10 present.

  • @Bob Stone

    How is adobe or any other company asking for monthly payment to “use” their product any different than what photographers do? (charging for the use of a photo)

    Its pretty simple, either pay to use their product or don’t, its your choice….nobody is forcing you to do anything!

    Its amazing how many professional photographers whine about paying such a small monthly fee for a product(s) that you in turn use to make photos that you charge people to use….lol

  • @Chris

    My comment was not directed toward just photographers. Other people use software and I’m more concerned about the future for everyone, and yes, I know nobody is forcing me to do anything, but thanks for the tip.

  • And yet nobody mention Acdsee pro 8,the best editor ever and fast

  • I’ve used Paintshop Pro since its early shareware days. It has every function PS has plus more, supports PS plugins, layers, adjustment layers, Lens and perspective distortion correction, etc. It has had great built-in tone mapping for years. I find its user interface more intuitive and easy to use than PS. It’s a fraction of the cost of PS. I just upgraded to the latest version for $75 that comes with separate program for RAW processing.

  • @Michael – And its only available for Windows.

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