Buying Adobe Photoshop used to be simple. Even though Adobe would come out with an update every year or two, the application remained relatively the same.

If all you wanted to do was basic image editing, you could buy Photoshop once and go years without upgrading.

Talk about the good old days! Today the options of how to buy Adobe Photoshop can be rather confusing.

Unfortunately, there’s no such thing as a Photoshop one-time purchase. (The subscription-based Photoshop pricing may put off some people. too.)

However, Adobe Photoshop remains the number one software for photo and graphics manipulation, and it keeps getting better with every update.

This guide will help you decide which version of Photoshop is the right choice for you.

You can buy Photoshop by subscribing to one of the following Adobe Creative Cloud Photography Plans:

  • RECOMMENDED: Photography Plan – US$19.99/mo – Includes Lightroom, Lightroom Classic, Photoshop on desktop and iPad, and 1TB of cloud storage – this is the lowest Adobe Photoshop price you’ll find – get it here >>
  • Photoshop Plan – US$20.99/mo – Includes Photoshop on desktop and iPad and 100GB cloud storage. Comes with Adobe Fresco for drawing and painting.
  • All Apps Plan – US$54.99/mo – Includes 20+ Adobe desktop and mobile apps, including Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Premiere Pro and Acrobat and 100GB of cloud storage.

With each plan, you can also choose to add a 30-day free trial of Adobe Stock.

The lowest price Adobe Photoshop is within the Photography plan, which includes Lightroom and Lightroom Classic – confusingly, if you choose to subscribe to the Photoshop plan, it’s actually more expensive.

Can you just buy Photoshop outright anymore? Unfortunately not – if you want it for home use, you’ll need to enter into a Photoshop subscription.

However, if you just need the cheapest way to get Photoshop, that’d be the Photography plan – it’s the one I use.

What’s the Best Way to Buy Photoshop for Mac or Windows in 2023?

Photoshop has been an industry standard in photo editing for decades. Despite the numerous Photoshop alternatives springing up, there’s nothing that comes close to its power or mobile app support (the Photoshop CC iPad app is simply incredible!)

Both professionals and amateurs look to purchase Photoshop for any sort of advanced photo manipulation, from combining different images as layers, to extensive retouching, warping and color editing.

(3rd party additions like Photoshop plugins can even extend its capabilities beyond image editing.)

However, since many photographers these days shoot their photos in RAW format and use a catalog-based workflow, it is not Photoshop but Adobe Lightroom that has become the initial starting point for most photo editing. Why, check out Lightroom vs Photoshop comparison guide here for detailed explanation.

Adobe now offers Photoshop as part of a monthly subscription plan, known as the Adobe Creative Cloud Photography Plan.

The Adobe Creative Cloud Photography Plan comes with the following:

  • Lightroom CC
  • Lightroom Classic CC
  • Photoshop CC
  • Your own portfolio website and social media tools
  • 1TB of cloud storage (about 20,000 raw DSLR images or 200,000 JPEGs)

So what about if you don’t need Lightroom, and just want Photoshop? What are your options?

1. Buy Photoshop as a Subscription

1) Photography Plan

Here’s the first confusing part of Adobe’s subscription plans that you need to be aware of, especially if you assume it might be cheaper just to get Photoshop and not Lightroom.

Simply put, Adobe has two low-cost subscription options: the Photography plan, and the Single App plan. However, the Photography plan is $19.99/mo. while the Single Apps are around $21/mo each.

This means that if you try to get Photoshop without Lightroom, you’ll end up paying about $11/mo. more!

Obviously, the best option is just to get Adobe’s Photography plan – even if you only need Photoshop, (or only need Lightroom), it’s the best value option.

2) All Apps Plan

If you’re a multi-discipline creative or production company that needs a whole arsenal of Adobe applications, the full suite of Creative Cloud apps offers it all, with the Photoshop price included in a complete plan.

(If you’re interested in a discount on the Adobe CC All Apps plan, Adobe has created an exclusive offer for Shotkit fans – click here to claim it.)

The entire collection of 20+ creative desktop and mobile apps including Photoshop CC, Lightroom CC, Illustrator CC, and XD CC, 100GB of cloud storage, your own portfolio website, premium fonts, and social media tool.

Here are some FAQs about the All Apps plan:

Does Creative Cloud All Apps include Acrobat?What is in the Creative Cloud All Apps?What Adobe apps are free?Can I cancel Adobe CC?

Remember that in all cases, it is possible to cancel your subscription within 14 days of making the purchase, to receive a full refund.

Pros of Buying Photoshop CC as a Subscription

Some photographers may be critical of Adobe’s subscription model because their revenue has increased dramatically in the years since they first debuted the CC subscription plan.

However, the main benefits of having a subscription plan, whether you have the basic Photography plan or the complete All Apps plan, is that you’ll always have the latest version of the apps, and the fact that Adobe releases major updates at a fast rate.

1) You get the fastest, most-optimized version of Photoshop

This is not critical to everyone, but it is indeed very convenient to always have the latest, greatest, and usually the fastest version of Photoshop.

If you’ve ever used Photoshop CS6 or any of the previous releases of standalone Photoshop, you’ll know that it would crash from time to time, and things would tend to slow down – this would especially be the case when using Photoshop Actions.

I’ve found that with Photoshop CC, things seem a lot snappier in general, probably because of the frequent updates that serve to keep everything well-optimized.

If you have a modern MacBook Pro with the M1 or M2 chips, you’ll notice how much quicker Photoshop can run.

2) You get all the latest Photoshop Features

If you want the latest features, (or new and improved versions of existing features) then the only way to get them is via the subscription. Things like Live Blend Mode Preview, Content-Aware Fill, Multiple Undo and other genuinely useful features are only available in Photoshop CC.

The immensely impressive AI-powered Generative Fill and Generative Expand tools are also only available to subscribed users.

3) All of the most recent cameras are supported

If you shoot raw, (RAW, NEF, CR2, ARW…) then before you even get your images into Photoshop, you must convert them from their raw format. So, you’ll need to use either Adobe Lightroom or Adobe Camera Raw, to process your raw photos. You can also use a free cr2 to jpg image converter tool.

Adobe Camera Raw, which is also the stand-alone application known as Adobe Bridge, comes with Photoshop, even if you buy Photoshop without Lightroom.

Unfortunately, Camera Raw (and Lightroom) need to be updated every time a new camera comes out, in order for the new raw file format to be supported.

This means that you won’t be able to buy an old version of Photoshop and use it to process all your raw photos. You’ll need to get a CC subscription or use Adobe’s DNG converter to make your new raw files compatible with your old raw converter.

4) You can take full advantage of Mobile Editing

  Photoshop CC on the iPad is coming soon, and it looks to be absolutely mind-blowing. Being able to make all the same edits on your tablet as you can do on your desktop looks to be a game-changer for the creative industry.

While the app itself will be free to use regardless of whether you’re a subscriber or not, the full syncing capabilities will not.

In other words, if you subscribe to one of the Adobe CC Photoshop plans, you’ll be able to start off editing on your desktop, then pick up where you left off on your mobile device.

5) Your files will be backed up in the cloud

Since the Photography Plan includes 20GB of free cloud storage, all your precious Photoshop (and Lightroom CC) files are automatically backed up online.

If you’re like me and don’t want to have to remember to make manual backups, this feature alone is worth the cost of a monthly subscription.

The 20 GB of cloud storage can also be upgraded to 10 TB for power-users.

Cons of Buying Photoshop CC as a Subscription

The only real con of purchasing Photoshop CC is the cost involved. Many people simply have an issue with adding yet another monthly subscription to their already subscription-filled lives.

However, if you were the type of person who used to buy each one of the major updates to Photoshop, the cost actually evens out in the long run.

Instead of paying a few hundred dollars every few years for the latest version of Adobe Photoshop, you pay a few dollars every month.

One thing to note, however, is that if you ever stop paying for your subscription, you’ll no longer have access to the application itself –  if you ever want to process old photos again, you’ll have to keep paying for the CC subscription.

2. Buy Photoshop Elements

Adobe Photoshop Elements - alternative to buy photoshop, but no cloud storage. Should you use Photoshop or not?

Adobe Photoshop Elements (2023) may look very different from the professional version of Photoshop, but the basic functionality is the same.As of 2023, Photoshop Elements is the most simple and affordable alternative to Photoshop that Adobe offers.

(You may also be interested in this article: Photoshop Elements vs Lightroom).

Photoshop Elements is an up-to-date, “lite” version of Photoshop (see the latest price here).

If all you need to do with your images are simple tasks such as layers, brushes, or other basic adjustments, this is the most affordable way to still get (most of) the Photoshop environment, with a one-time payment.

Pros of Buying Photoshop Elements

Buying a stand-alone, perpetual license of Photoshop comes with two simple, major benefits.

1) It’s Cheaper (in the long run) than a Subscription

If you only need the basic editing features of Photoshop, why pay a monthly fee? Photoshop Elements is great value for money, and a one-off payment.

2) It will never Expire

With a subscription model, your access ends when your subscription ends.

Suppose you want to be able to perform random edits to photos in the future without paying for a subscription or re-subscribing every time you want to edit photos.

In that case, you’ll need to buy a standalone version of Photoshop.

With Photoshop Elements, you pay once and own it forever. See our review of Photoshop Elements to learn more.

Cons of Buying Photoshop Elements

1) You won’t have all the latest features

If all you need to do is basic layer masking and other types of simple edits, then you might not need the latest features in the current CC version of Photoshop.

However, all photographers progress in their skill level over time, and eventually, they often realize that they need a certain advanced feature. Whether it’s for portrait retouching or nightscape photography compositing, you may eventually want the current version of Photoshop CC.

2) No Lightroom Classic CC

If you buy Photoshop Elements, your only way to edit raw photos will be through Bridge/Camera Raw, which is admittedly rather clunky.

You’ll be missing out on Lightroom Classic CC’s desktop and mobile applications, which offer a great cross-device workflow for performing all manner of edits.

Also, being able to cull, organize and even edit photos on a mobile or tablet (with Lr CC Mobile) is incredibly liberating, not to mention a lot of fun!

3) No Cloud Backup

With Photoshop Elements, all your files are stored locally on your computer – there’s no ‘safety net’ of a cloud backup, nor cloud syncing, like there is with a Photoshop monthly subscription.

Obviously, you can make manual backups to DropBox, or just to external hard-drives yourself, but having to think about this each time may impede your workflow.

Adobe Photoshop CC vs. Photoshop Elements

Adobe Photoshop CC Latest Features - how to buy photoshop with cloud storage

Adobe publishes major and minor updates to Photoshop CC on a regular basis.

If you’re trying to decide between the subscription version of Photoshop CC, or the standalone Photoshop Elements software, this feature comparison table should help.

CLICK TO EXPAND:Creative cloud Photography Plan vs Photoshop Elements

CLICK TO EXPAND:Compare Adobe Photoshop products

How to get a Photoshop Discount

Adobe Photoshop Discount - how to buy photoshop and save

You can get a 15% discount to the Adobe CC All Apps plan

Occasionally throughout the year, Adobe gives a discount on Photoshop and its other Creative Cloud products.

If you don’t mind waiting, you can keep checking this link to see if there are any good offers.

Another option is if you’re a student or a teacher (check eligibility here). If eligible, you can save up to 67% on Creative Cloud products using this link.

Finally, it’s worth mentioning that you can download a free Adobe Photoshop trial or play around with any of the other Adobe products here.

If you’re interested in a discount on the Adobe CC All Apps plan, Adobe has kindly offered all Shotkit fans a 15% discount on your first year as a Creative Cloud Member – sign up for the newsletter to gain access to the code.

Do you Qualify for an Adobe Student Discount?

how to buy photoshop with Adobe Student Discount

You could save up to 60% with a Student Photoshop Discount

If you’re a student or teacher, you can take advantage of the best Photoshop discount currently available.

By using this link and selecting the ‘discount for students and teachers’ option, you could reduce the Creative Cloud All Apps plan from US$52.99 to $19.99 – a 60% saving!

Free Adobe Photoshop Download Warning

Yes, everybody knows that “pirated” versions of Photoshop exist. What people don’t realize is, these applications can potentially be quite harmful.

Any time you install illegal software, you’re putting your computer, your images, and even your personal information at risk.

In this day and age, it’s just not worth it. Just think of it like this – the price of an Adobe Photoshop/Lightroom subscription is just a few cups of coffee per month.

In return, the stable, seamless user experience and always-current update environment are benefits worth paying for.

Whether you’re a professional photographer or an enthusiast, you definitely shouldn’t be entrusting all your most precious memories to sketchy software. Anything could happen, including data corruption, and of course, you won’t have the latest version of Photoshop if you buy a new camera.

In summary, please do the right thing! Don’t take the risk! There’s simply no such thing as a ‘free Photoshop’, guys! If you plan to edit your images frequently, the Photoshop cost is more than worth it.

How to Get an Adobe Photoshop Trial

how to buy photoshop CC Trial (no cloud storage)

Adobe offers a free 7-day Adobe Photoshop CC Trial as part of the Photography Plan Trial

The one official way to get a ‘free’ version of Photoshop is via the Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Trial, which is only available on the Adobe website here.

The only drawback is that you’ve just 7 days to play around with the software, but at least it’s a fully functional version of Photoshop CC with all the latest updates.

You can convert your trial to a paid Creative Cloud membership during the 7 day period, or after the trial expires.

The Adobe Photoshop Trial works on both MacOS and Windows – if your computer is compatible, you have nothing to lose 😉

I recommend simply picking a week when you’ll have ample time to play around and take full advantage of the 7-day trial period.

How much is Photoshop after the free trial ends?

US$19.99/mo. This includes Photoshop on desktop and iPad, Lightroom, Lightroom Classic and 20GB of online storage.


What is the cheapest way to get Photoshop?

The cheapest way to get Photoshop is through a student or teacher subscription.

Otherwise, you should consider settling for Photoshop Elements. Although it comes with fewer features than Photoshop, you would only pay a one-time fee.

Can you buy Adobe software outright?

No, you can only use Adobe Creative Cloud software through subscription plans. However, a few Adobe products are available for a one-time purchase, like Photoshop Elements and Adobe Captivate.

How much is an Adobe license?

It depends on the payment plan you choose and the kind of user.

For individuals, Adobe offers three Creative Cloud All Apps plans. You can choose from a monthly plan for $82.49 per month, an annual plan (paid monthly) for $54.99 per month, or a prepaid annual plan for $599.88 per year.

As for students and teachers, the Creative Cloud All Apps plan costs $19.99 per month for the first year. After that, it automatically switches to $29.99 per month.

Can you buy Adobe permanently?

No, you can’t pay for a permanent version of Adobe software. You have an option to either pay for a monthly or yearly subscription.

How much is Photoshop for Mac?

When paid monthly, Adobe Photoshop costs $20.99 per month for an annual subscription. As for a prepaid yearly subscription, you pay a sum of $239.88. The monthly subscription, on the other hand, is the most expensive option with a fee of $31.49 per month.

That said, if you subscribe to the photography bundle, you can get Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop for as little as $9.99 per month.