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(Last updated on December 6th, 2021)

Are you ready to use Lightroom for your photography? But are you wondering if there’s an easier way to pay for the application besides a subscription fee? Read on to learn all about Lighroom’s pricing structure and if there’s a one-time purchase fee.

Adobe Lightroom is one of Adobe’s most robust apps when it comes to editing photographs. It’s a non-destructive editor built for making everyday photo edits quickly. This is made possible with the app’s usage of sliders and a speedy import process.

As the ideal app for making essential tweaks, you may be wondering if there’s a cheaper way to use the program. Though subscription models seem less daunting in the short term, they can add up over time. This new method of software payments has made one-time fees all the more appealing.

One-time purchase fees are less common in several higher-profile software. This is especially true with Adobe which relies primarily on subscriptions for the bulk of the creative apps. Let’s go over Lightroom and its many iterations with how they are priced to see if there’s a way to avoid subscriptions.

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1. Adobe Lightroom

When it comes to using Lightroom, you have two options. There’s the current cloud version of Lightroom and the desktop-only version of Lightroom Classic. Each of them has varied features, but both essentially cost the same.

Lightroom on its own will cost you $9.99 monthly. This subscription model gives you access to Lightroom for desktop and mobile. It also gives you 1TB of storage for your photographs, making it easy to edit your image on various devices.

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Lightroom Classic can only be purchased with the Photography Plan. This subscription model of $9.99 a month gives you access to Lightroom, Lightroom Classic, and Photoshop. This is the only way to purchase Lightroom Classic and also the cheapest way to purchase Photoshop.

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The only catch with the Photography Plan is that it only gives you 20GB of cloud storage. While that may not be a deal-breaker, you may want the 1TB for more of your projects. For that size of storage, you’ll need to pay an additional $10, though that still makes the price a tad cheaper than paying for Photoshop on its own.

The more expensive yet comprehensive pricing plan is the complete Creative Cloud package. For $52.99 a month, you’ll have access to the entire Adobe catalog of creative applications. This is beneficial if you’re working in more than one medium besides photography.

2. Adobe Lightroom Mobile

You can save some money if you’re only using Lightroom on mobile devices (iPhone, iPad, Android). For starters, the app itself is free to use with some limitations. This version contains most of the basics for editing contrast, brightness, and a handful of other features with the slider options.

It should be mentioned that this version of Lightroom won’t work on your desktop. It can only be used on your mobile device. So if you prefer editing photos on a desktop computer, this may not be the right choice.

A premium version can be purchased for a monthly subscription. The price ultimately depends on how much cloud storage you need. This can be as little as $1.99 a month for 40GB or $4.99 a month for 1TB of storage. There are annual subscription costs as well, in addition to mid-range options for 100GB of storage.

Unfortunately, there is no one-time fee for this version of Lightroom. You’re essentially saddled with either sticking to the limited free version or the subscription-based premium version. All that being said, it’s still the cheapest way to use Lightroom.

Photoshop Elements: The One-Time-Fee Alternative

Since Lightroom only has a subscription pricing model, you may be seeking some alternatives. Thankfully, Adobe has some other apps for photo editing that don’t require a subscription to use.

Adobe Photoshop Elements only costs a one-time fee of $99.99 for lifetime access. You will have to upgrade if you want the latest version, but there is a discount available.

Photoshop Elements isn’t like Lightroom in terms of usability. You won’t have the same sliders as Lightroom and you’ll have to find your way around the program for making photography edits. Since the program is better targeted at consumers, it’s not too difficult to learn.

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There are a few advantages that Photoshop Elements has over Lightroom. For starters, you can actively add graphics, text and draw over your photographs. This can be a crucial component if you’re editing your pictures for graphic design projects.

Photoshop Elements is also more adept at making more complex changes to facial photos. Elements can automate much of these fixes with ease if you’d like to remove the red eyes or a blemish here and there. Lightroom doesn’t have these features.

Another exclusive element is video. Photographs edited in Photoshop Elements can easily be made into an animated GIF or video slideshow. There’s no need to fiddle with a video editor if you’ve already got this application.

Unlike Lightroom, Photoshop Elements will only work on a desktop computer and not a mobile device. You also won’t have cloud storage, so you’ll need to keep things managed on your computer.

ProductRegular PriceDiscounted Price
Adobe Creative Cloud$52.99/monthCheck here
Adobe Lightroom$9.99/monthCheck here
Photoshop Elements$99.99 (one time)Check here
Photography Plan$9.99/monthCheck here

Which Option should you Choose?

With everything considered, what’s the cheapest option for Lightroom? Since there is no one-time-purchase option for Lightroom, your best bet would be using Lightroom Mobile for free. It’s limited in features but won’t cost you a dime.

If you want to work on desktop computers, however, Photoshop Elements is your best alternative. It can accomplish most of the essential parts of photo editing. It’s a good deal for simple photo edits.

If you want to get the most out of Lightroom, however, you’ll have to purchase a subscription. Thankfully, Lightroom is only priced at $9.99 a month. Since the more high-profile apps of Photoshop cost over $20 a month, that’s a good deal.

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For the most cost-effective option, we recommend going with the Photography Plan. It costs as low as $9.99 monthly. You’ll have access to the essential Adobe photography apps (Lightroom, Lightroom Classic, Photoshop).

If you know your more of a professional than a hobbyist, you’ll want to invest in the complete Adobe Creative Cloud. It’s a more expensive investment for $52.99 a month but worth it for placing your photos in publications, videos, web galleries, and more.

Frequently asked questions

How much does it cost to buy Lightroom?

Lightroom can cost under $20 a month, depending on your needs. The solo program costs $9.99 a month with 1TB of cloud storage. For higher quality photo edits, you can purchase the Photography Plan bundle that includes Lightroom, Lightroom Classic, and Photoshop for $9.99 a month with 20GB of storage or $19.99 for 1TB of storage.

Is Lightroom a one-time payment?

Lightroom costs a subscription to use from the Adobe Creative Cloud and doesn’t have an option for a one-time payment. For a cheaper solution, you may want to consider the free yet limited version of Lightroom available on mobile devices. The app can accomplish most of the basic Lightroom edits and can be upgraded at an even cheaper monthly cost, depending on how much cloud storage you require.

Is Lightroom for PC free?

Lightroom does require a subscription fee to use, but it is not limited to PC. Lightroom is also usable on Mac computers as well as iOS and Android mobile devices. The mobile version, however, does come in a limited free version. If you need to make basic edits and don’t want to pay for the program, you can use that version.

Can I use Lightroom without a subscription?

There was a time when Adobe products all came with one-time purchase fees to use. However, since moving to the Adobe Creative Cloud platform, almost all applications require a subscription fee, including Lightroom. You’ll need to purchase one of a few pricing options to use Lightroom, depending on how much space you need and how high quality the photos are that you’re working with.

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