WHEN Adobe chief executive Shantanu Narayen was in Australia a couple of weeks ago he was asked at a press conference why his products cost so much more here than they do in the US. As one pesky journalist pointed out, you can fly to the US, buy the Adobe Creative Suite Master Collection, have a nice time and fly back to Oz and still save hundreds of dollars.
Like a good capitalist, Narayen simply refused to answer. He kept referring to a recent drop in the price of Adobe's cloud subscription service. Every attempt to get him to reply to the specific question about the disparity in software prices was sidestepped or ignored. It would be nice to think the parliamentary inquiry into software pricing by Adobe, Microsoft and Apple will result in some changes.
Flying pigs, anyone?
Photoshop 6 is so expensive here that only professionals and well-heeled amateurs can afford the latest version. Presumably that is a large enough customer base to keep Narayen happy, but it leaves a lot of photographers discontented with their ancient versions of the industry-standard photo-editing tool.
Although we're reluctant to put business Adobe's way while it sticks with its present pricing policies, we know there is no point in cutting off the nose to spite the face. There is an alternative to the ruinously expensive Photoshop - the $185 Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4. We still pay a whopping 50 per cent more than Americans, but the difference between $120 and $185 won't buy a return plane ticket to the US.
Lightroom is a file-management system and photo editor and, as such, demands a rethink of how we import photos and store them. The process with this program is incredibly complex and you won't work it out without help.
Similarly, the Print module in Lightroom is excellent but not intuitive. A guide is needed, so it is advisable to risk a few more dollars for Scott Kelby's book The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4 Book for Digital Photographers (paper, e-book or PDF). Mr K has a juvenile style but he knows the application and is a good guide through its intricacies.
The web module is a straightforward web-gallery creator and file-transfer set-up that is easy to use, and we like it and use it. The downside is that the gallery templates are not exciting and you can't use the animated Flash-enabled ones if you want people to see your gallery on an iPad.
Because Lightroom is, at its core, a RAW converter, the company sends out regular online updates to cover the newest cameras.
All in all, we would rate Adobe Photoshop Lightroom as great value for money and it almost makes Photoshop itself redundant. Pity it doesn't cost $60 less.