OK, so I’ve been using Photoshop since the day I first acquired it back in the 90s. I think that was version 5, and I was running some variant of Windows and I was broke and not yet even in University. I didn’t even have a true reason to own Photoshop, except I got a little bit of joy out of manipulating pixels. It was a brave new world then, and I liked to run around in it.
Fast forward to the early 2000s, and I found my love of photography. Digital cameras came into the world in ways that made taking film photos a ridiculous prospect, ritual aside. The dark rooms of old were replaced by the well-lit computer desks I loved and photoshop was the tool. I loved photoshop. I loved what it could do with the images I was taking, and many of my photography mentors used nothing else, and would offer up tutorials on how to do things and it was lovely to learn and live in this awesome bit of image software.
And then Adobe pissed me right off. In 2013, just as I’d found my mojo with CS, Adobe moved to a subscription model for all its software. That’s like literally the only sin a budget-conscious software geek like me cannot forgive. I loathe the SaaS model. You can try to explain it to me all over the place, but I’ve never read or heard any argument that was supported in any factual way that it is “the only way forward” for software. That’s a load. And the thought that people “prefer” it is silly. It’s hostile to users, and the only reason to want it at all is to have the latest and greatest software to use at a fraction of what you’d need to shell out to buy that software for yourself up front. I have always been of the mind that I want my workflows self-contained and not contingent on uncontrollable forces—at least, as much as I am able. If I own my camera, I own my computer, and I own the software on it, then my workflow is assured for as long as these things keep working. I will never spend another dime. If I (god forbid) should lose my income and I’m beholden to the latest Adobe psd spec and I have hundreds of photos that won’t open for processing in anything other than the latest version, then I am screwed. Essentially, being unable to pay Adobe means I lose the ability to work with my own data. Screw you, Adobe.
So for a while now, I’ve just not really been all that active with taking pictures. It’s not just because of photoshop going SaaS, although it was part of it. It was more about friction. It felt like it took so much damned effort to create something and then at the end of it, I stopped feeling good—it was more like I felt exhausted. Having yet another thing to worry about was just more icing on the shit sandwich.
But then this week I was watching a playback of WWDC and there was a dude up on stage manipulating photos using something called Affinity Photo. I was intrigued. I mean, there’s been other software that I’ve bought hoping against hope it would hold its own against Photoshop, but in the end, it’s always fallen flat on the very things that I do in my photography workflow. I’m less interested in all the special effects—I want a digital darkroom, and Photoshop was the only place where I could get that kind of control.
So I took a look, and then I kept looking, and then I downloaded, and then I bought it, and holy crap, it’s awesome. Not only does it tick every last box I needed it to tick, it’s cheap. Even back when Photoshop was buyable, it wasn’t anywhere near as cheap as Affinity. I’ve spent a little time toying with it, and reprocessing some older photos and the results are totally on-par with the best I ever got out of Photoshop:
After four years, there’s finally a piece of software that can go toe to toe with Photoshop and win for me. And the iPad version is feature parity with the desktop version. I cannot wait to try that out. Imagine processing images on a tablet. Could be way, way cool. After a few days, I can more than recommend this to anyone who wants to give it a shot. Get out from under the yoke of Photoshop.
Things are looking up for some more photography this summer. Time to dust off the SLR and go on a road trip or two.
Well done, Serif! Well done.