Should Adobe's Change Send You Back to Film?

With Adobe announcing that Photoshop's future lies in monthly rental fees and no perpetual installation available, a number of you have asked the question: maybe I should go back to film?

Ah, were it so easy. 

If this were 1985, I'd say sure. We had plenty of local labs and printers then, and it was easy to find ones that you could work closely with to get the best possible results in your final output.

Unfortunately, this is 2013. The truth is simple: if you shoot film there's a very strong likelihood that it will be scanned into digital at some point in the process. Your only other choice is likely a distant (and expensive) lab (unless you live in one of a few big cities) that still does all wet darkroom work. 

True, if your local printer does the scan and Photoshop work, you don't have to pay the monthly Adobe tithe on the software. But you still won't own and be able to access the changed digital data, so you're right in the same spot you'd be as if you'd let a subscription to Creative Cloud expire. 

I would argue that if you scan film, you actually have a greater need for a product such as Photoshop. All the scan tools available at reasonable costs to individual users that are still available need some downstream tool that can perform cleanup. Indeed, I tend to do more Photoshop work on scanned film than I do on raw conversions. After all, we don't have scanners that perform automatic lens corrections.

So, perversely, I'd say the analog crowd (film users) really needs the digital tool (Photoshop). I suppose if you only shoot slides and only project them, you're an exception. But most of you who shoot film have to print: it's your only output. You're either then dependent upon automated print machines that stay in the wet realm (and rarely create repeatable results), or somewhere your film is being scanned and printed digitally.  

Bottom line: many film users are as stuck with Adobe's decision as DSLR users are.

Update: one reader pointed out that one thing that does change when you shoot film is that you no longer need ACR. Thus, older versions of Photoshop work just fine for your scans. That's certainly true at the moment, but introduces the same problem that all perpetual license Photoshop owners are facing at the moment: at what point does an OS or hardware change break existing Photoshop versions?

So scanning with Vuescan or Silverfast or another program and then editing in Photoshop CS5 or CS6 works fine today, but can't be expected to last forever.

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