How to Annoy Users

Fear not, executives at camera companies reading this, this article isn’t about you ;~).

I was once in the software business, so I know how it works: you either need to find new users to buy your product or you need to milk your current users for more money. Programmers that know what they’re doing are expensive and tough to keep if you don’t feed them. 

But remember how annoyed you all were when Adobe stopped selling products and went to a subscription base? Believe it or not, there are worse cases.

As much as I like some of Skylum’s software capabilities—I still use their Creative Kit Intensify plug-in—their history has been a constant demand for customer tithing for similar things in new cladding. Recently Luminar became Luminar Neo (after first going through 2018, 3, and Flex iterations) and Skylum again asked for fresh cash from you. 

Now Neo is becoming a neo Neo. The carrot Skylum is waving this time is that if you subscribe, you’ll get free extensions (HDR, Noiseless AI, Sky AI etc.) during your subscription. Oh, you can still buy a standalone version and the extension pack separately, but you don’t get new extensions as they’re released. 

Skylum’s Evgen Kushnirchuk says “Luminar is coming to its full potential, becoming a platform, therefore we’re not releasing the new version of it, and keep bringing improvements to the existing product.” Seems I’ve heard that line before, and Skylum needs to get its naming consistent. Luminar is not the same as Luminar Neo. 

We already have Skylum dangling the affiliate income carrot to all your favorite photography sites to attract your latest tithe. And, in the best Internet practices three-choices fashion, we have the usual Pro Monthly (sucker), Pro Yearly (best deal), and Lifetime (don’t like subscriptions and want to pay more) confusion. If I’m reading things right:

  • Existing Neo owners updating to subscription: US$59/year early bird, US$179/year normally
  • New Neo Luminar and extensions subscription: US$89/year early bird, US$179/year normally (minus affiliate site coupon discounts)
  • Neo Luminar standalone: US$89 (minus affiliate site coupon discounts)
  • 2022 Extensions pack standalone: US$199 early bird, US$299 normally (minus affiliate site coupon discounts)

Quite obviously Skylum wants: (1) lots of early bird sign-ups; and (2) subscribers instead of standalone purchasers.

Here’s my problem. Skylum wants us to believe that they’ve finally settled on one way of doing business, which will cost you somewhere between US$90 and US$180 a year if you agree to it. However, in the long history of Skylum (formerly MacPhun), they’ve had a constant churn of what they’ve done to raise money. They’re now asking for Adobe-level dollars for product I’d judge to be less well-rounded, less subtle, and more of a random walk (what are the other six extensions this year?). Can we trust them? I don’t know. But if you want those early bird discounts—I’ll bet they won’t be the last discounts given Skylum’s history—you have until August 30th.

Having just bought Neo a short while ago, I’m annoyed. While it looks like I’m getting a US$30 discount, what they’re really asking is that I end up paying US$150 for about 15 months of using the product. Adobe-level pricing for a product I don’t use nearly as much. And can I even count on that cost staying the same in year two (they’re suggesting the full price is US$179/year)? Oh, and did I mention that one of the new extensions I’d need to pay for is HDR Merge, and that many of us previously bought Aurora HDR YYYY from them one or more times? 

Skylum isn’t the only one thrashing their customers; we’re going to have more of this from at least two other major providers in the coming months. This is not going to end well for at least some of those digital photography software companies. Adobe stirred the pot by transitioning to subscriptions, but most of the other software companies are trying to get an equal level of money from customers while providing less in terms of product as well as constantly annoying their customers. 

Pick a lane and stay in it, I’d say. I’ll give Adobe credit: they did. I hear far fewer Adobe complaints these days than I used to. I’ll bet I’ll be hearing more complaints about other software products soon, though. 

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