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Last updated on May 26th, 2021

Adobe Lightroom is an industry leader in photography software. In past years, photographers were able to buy Lightroom which came with a perpetual license. In recent years, Adobe has moved to the Creative Cloud business model and changed the cost of Lightroom to a subscription method.

Some users are against the Adobe subscription plan and others see it as a benefit.

In this guide, I’m going to discuss the different Lightroom price options.

I’ll point out some important differences you should be aware of and give you some tips on how to save money if you decide to buy Lightroom through a subscription.

Did you know there are two different versions of Lightroom? Understanding the differences is a must when you’re considering to buy Lightroom. I’ll briefly explain it to you a bit later.

Finally, I’ll provide you with some alternatives to Lightroom. Other photography software can save you money if you don’t need all the features of Lightroom. But right now, the best Lightroom alternative is Capture One Pro.

What is Lightroom?

Lightroom is a comprehensive image management and editing software.

Users are able to complete the photography workflow from importing to exporting images and everything in between. Photography enthusiasts and professional photographers won’t be disappointed. It’s an outstanding software and justifiably so. I’ve been using Lightroom for 7+ years.

But Lightroom isn’t magic. You’ll still need to know how to use a camera and apply techniques such as perspective in photography or using different vantage points.

Can You Buy Lightroom Outright?

Unfortunately, it is not possible to buy Lightroom outright.

Adobe stopped selling perpetual licenses of Lightroom after Lightroom 6. Previous versions of Lightroom usually sold with a retail price of $299 but often times you can buy it on sale.

The subscription-based model for Creative Cloud Apps, including Lightroom, is more profitable for Adobe.

It also seems easier for Adobe to stop the piracy of illegal copies of their software. An issue they were facing with the Adobe Master Creative Suite which included perpetual licenses of all their products.

Adobe Lightroom Prices

Which Adobe Plan to Get

You’ll want to avoid getting the Adobe All Apps plan. It is expensive at $52.99/month. And since you’re reading this guide, it is unlikely you will use the non-photography software that are included.

This leads us to the more economical plans available to photographers.

Adobe Lightroom Plan vs Photography Plan 

The Adobe Lightroom Plan and the Photograph Plan both include Lightroom.

However, there are different versions of Lightroom in the plans. And it is imperative that you understand these differences. It can entirely change your photography workflow and expenses.

The different versions of Lightroom Adobe offers is confusing for new photographers.

Let’s first discuss the Adobe Lightroom Plan with 1 TB.

The version of Lightroom that is included in the Adobe Lightroom Plan with 1 TB is called Lightroom CC (Creative Cloud).

Lightroom CC is the newest or latest version of Lightroom.

lightroom cc screenshot

It’s a cloud-based software that was designed to sync all your photos between your desktop, laptop, smartphone, and web.

The idea is you can manage and edit your images anywhere.

As per its name, the plan includes 1 TB of Adobe Cloud Storage. This allows users to sync thousands of photos across multiple platforms while using Lightroom CC. However, there are better cloud storage options for photos.

Lightroom CC is user-friendly. It’s efficiently user-friendly. So much that the software is geared only towards amateur photographers. Adobe says otherwise that professional photographers can use Lightroom CC. Technically this is correct but not ideal.

If you’re looking to get full control of your photography workflow and do advanced editing, then you’ll need the other version of Lightroom: Lightroom Classic CC.

Now let’s compare the Photography Plan.

The Adobe Photography Plan includes Lightroom Classic CC, Lightroom CC, Photoshop CC, and 20 of cloud storage.

Let’s focus in on Lightroom for now. You can already see that the Photography Plan includes both versions of Lightroom.

The naming isn’t the greatest, which is why new photographers can get confused.

I already discussed Lightroom CC.

Now, I’ll go over Lightroom Classic CC, which I’ll simply refer to as Lightroom Classic.

The original version of Lightroom is Lightroom Classic.

lightroom class screenshot

It has more editing tools than the alternate version, and is primarily used for a desktop-centric workflow.

Professional and amateur photographers prefer Lightroom Classic because it is more powerful than Lightroom CC.

For example, you have full control of how your files are managed locally or on the cloud. Another feature it has is soft proofing, which allows editing images for print.

If you want more information, you can read up on the Lightroom Classic vs Lightroom CC comparison.

Going further, the Photography Plan comes with only 20 GB of TB. This isn’t a big deal if you have backup your images on external hard drives or use another cloud-based service like Dropbox.

Another important factor and advantage the Photography Plan has is that it includes Adobe Photoshop CC.

Photoshop is widely considered the most powerful image editor. This is because it includes layers, supports blend modes, precise local adjustments, superb masking, etc.

Many photo-editing requests that are not able to be done in Lightroom Classic are taken into Photoshop.

Even Capture One user’s sometimes need to use Photoshop for advanced image editing.

Furthermore, Photoshop can be used for graphic design, including text-based graphics. As a result, users won’t need to use and pay for Adobe Illustrator unless they need a dedicated vector-based editor.

I personally find Lightroom Classic to be better than Lightroom CC as well the Photography Plan to be better than the Lightroom Plan with 1 TB.

With the inclusion of Photoshop, the Lightroom price in the Photography Plan is appealing.

If you want to know more about the different versions of Lightroom, read my Lightroom CC vs Classic summary.

You should also understand that when people write or talk about Lightroom, including myself, they’re usually referring to Lightroom Classic. This is because it’s the preferred Lightroom version.

On the other hand, when Adobe writes or talks about Lightroom, they’re usually referring to Lightroom CC. More confusing, huh.

Buying Lightroom vs A Monthly Subscription 

I remember when I first bought Lightroom in 2013. It was like I was starting a new journey into photography and Lightroom 5 validated my path.

After Lightroom 6, photographers were no longer able to buy Lightroom outright. I thought it was a downer at that time since it was going to eat into my expenses.

In addition, I needed to use Photoshop. And once in a while I needed to use Premiere Pro and After Effects.

What I would do is sign up for the All Apps plan when I needed to edit videos and change back to the Photography Plan when I was completed.

The Photography Plan costing roughly $120 per year is worth it for me.

You need to consider that you always have the most updated versions of Lightroom and Photoshop at all times.

Considering I bought Lightroom 5 for $99, but I get Lightroom and Photoshop for $120 per year, I feel the subscription plan has more value for me.

I can’t remember what the exact cost of Photoshop only was before the Creative Cloud, but it was much more expensive than Lightroom. I feel I’m saving a bit of money.

But I definitely understand where consumers don’t want to be paying for a subscription plan, especially if you seldomly use Lightroom.

Adobe Student and Teacher Discount Offer

Students and teachers are eligible to receive a 62% discount off the first-year membership of the Creative Cloud All Apps which works out to $19.99/month. After the first year, the monthly cost will increase to $29.99. This is a significant savings compared to $52.99/month.

Students are eligible if they are at least 13-years old and enrolled in a college, university, primary school, secondary school, or homeschool program.

Teachers are eligible if they are faculty or staff at college, university, primary school, or secondary school. Homeschool teachers are also eligible.

The best way to purchase as a student or teacher is through the Adobe website. At checkout, you’ll need to provide the name of your educational institution and indicate if you are an administrator, educator, or student.

You’ll be able to instantly verify eligibility if you use an email address from an accredited educational institution. Otherwise, documentation will be required as proof.

Can You Get Adobe Lightroom for Free?

Technically, you can use Lightroom for free; but only for a few days. Adobe offers a 30-day free trial of Lightroom. After the trial expires, you’ll need to subscribe or discontinue using it.

I’m sure there are many users that are trying to get a cracked, standalone version of Lightroom for free; but I advise against it.

Downloading a pirated version of Lightroom is going to introduce you to trouble. Many of the websites that offer illegal copies of Lightroom come with malware and viruses. Even the best antivirus or antimalware software aren’t going to protect your computer. You don’t want to clean out your hard drive and have to reinstall your operating system.

You should also know that the Creative Cloud plans allows 2 active installs of Lightroom. But you can only use it on one machine at a time.

If you have a friend that already subscribes to the plan and doesn’t use Lightroom, then try getting that extra install for free. Or you can use Lightroom when they’re not using it. But this is against the Adobe end-user agreement and is not recommended.

How to Get a Few Months Free Off the Adobe Subcription Plans

While you are enrolled in one of Adobe’s plan, try cancelling the plan.

Adobe generally offers a retention discount. I’ve tried it a few times and they offered me 2 free months.

This method of receiving a few free months off the subscription is not guaranteed. I’m just throwing it out there that it has worked for me as well as one of my friends.

Adobe can change their retention process at any time.

Value Added Apps

The Lightroom and Photography Plans both include Portofolio, Fonts, Spark, and Bridge.

They add extra value for the price you pay for your subscription.

various adobe app logos

What is Adobe Portfolio?

Adobe Portfolio is included with each plan. As the name suggests, it seamlessly allows photographers to create a website and showcase their work.

The service includes templates, hosting, templates, and a subdomain such as yourname.myportfolio.com. You can also use your own domain.

You’re allowed to create up to 5 sites with Adobe Portfolio.

What are Adobe Fonts?

Included are also 1000’s of fonts that can be quickly activated on your Windows or macOS systems with one-click install.

The Adobe Fonts are integrated into several Adobe apps. Unfortunately, Lightroom is not one of them as it doesn’t support text layers. However, the fonts come in handy with Photoshop.

The licensing of the fonts is already setup for personal or commercial use. You won’t need to worry about paying extra for the right to use the fonts.

What is Adobe Spark?

Adobe Spark is a user-friendly, web and mobile-based software that allows non-designers to quickly create graphics, video stories, and web pages in a few minutes.

If you decide to forgo Photoshop, Adobe Spark will be useful for your social media and branding needs.

Adobe Spark can be used for free with limited features. All the Creative Cloud plans include the full version of the software.

What is Adobe Bridge?

Adobe Bridge is a digital asset manager. Think of it as a Windows Explorer or Mac Finder dedicated primarily for media.

The software allows you to view, organize, apply metadata, and label images.

I don’t use Adobe Bridge because I already use Lightroom to view and organize my photos.

If you’re a Photoshop-only user with Lightroom, then Adobe Bridge can be beneficial to your workflow.

Lightroom Mobile

Adobe Lightroom Mobile is a powerful photo editing app. You can make your photograpy aesthetic with a few adjustments in the app.

Lightroom Mobile is free with limited features.

If you’re looking to sync your Lightroom photos with your other devices, then you’ll need one of Adobe’s subscription plans.

The paid version of Lightroom Mobile also includes selective edits. These tools allow users to make local adjustments to only user-selected areas of the image. This comes in handy if regularly post images to social media. 

Lightroom Alternatives


If you decide to purchase Lightroom, the subscription plan that you choose will depend on your situation.

But if you have a choice, the best Lightroom price option is the Adobe Photography Plan which includes Photoshop. The PS software is so powerful and you can do some amazing work with your photography. There is no other advanced image editor that compares to Photoshop.

If you’re comparing Lightroom and its cost to other similar software, then I recommend Capture One Pro. It’s the closest software to Lightroom and is competitive. Many professional photographers prefer Capture One over Lightroom. You can read my Capture One review to see if it’s right for you.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does Lightroom cost?

Lightroom costs $9.99/month as part of the Adobe Creative Cloud subscription. It includes Lightroom CC, Lightroom Classic, or both. Depending on which plan you choose, you can also receive access to Photoshop or 1TB of cloud storage.

How much is the Adobe Student Discount?

Students receive up to 62% off the Adobe All Apps Plan. It costs $19.99/month for the first year. Thereafter, it costs $29.99/month. Adobe will require you to verify student status.

How much is Photoshop and Lightroom?

Customers can purchase both Photoshop and Lightroom for little as $9.99/month with the Adobe Photography Plan. Currently, they come with a free 30-day trial.

Is there a free version of Lightroom?

The only free version of Lightroom that is available is Lightroom Mobile, which is available on Android and iOS devices. It comes with limited features. For the full version, users will require a subscription.

Is Adobe Lightroom worth it?

Yes, it’s worth paying for Lightroom because it’s a comprehensive image management and editing software. For the price of $9.99/month, it’s a great value for photographers.

Can you buy Lightroom without a subscription?

No, you can’t buy Lightroom without a subscription. However, a limited version of Lightroom Mobile is available for free on Android and iOS devices.