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Capture One Adopts An Unfortunate Software Industry Trend

Capture One recently “bumped up” the price of its Multi-User plan by a whopping 344%, and this is part of an alarming occasional trend in the wider software industry.

It used to be the case that if you bought a piece of software, you pretty much owned it and the price you paid was all you were ever going to pay.

Even after many software packages moved away from physical products into the world of digital SaaS platforms, perpetual licenses remained common.

For many reasons, among them the hunt for higher profit margins, this has changed over time. Today, for software of all kinds (and with photo editing software being no exception) it’s common for platforms to charge users monthly or annually and shift prices nearly at their discretion.

The danger in this, at least for those users, is that once they’ve locked their workflow into a particular software, it can be costly in other ways to just leave it if they start to think prices have gone too far.

Software makers know this well, and at least some of them take advantage of it, in some cases to a truly excessive degree.

Capture One seems to be one of the latest cases of just such a tendency.

On the one hand, it’s understandable that the highly competitive software industry in any given niche involves a lot of profit searching by its players.

This definitely applies to photo editing software platforms, of which there are many, most of them competing with the giant known as Adobe, and all of them are subject to the threat of dropping margins.

However, if you’re going to lock in loyal customers who get used to using your product, it’s also a good idea to not flagrantly abuse them in the process of trying to stay profitable.

In Capture One’s case, the company recently moved away from a perpetual software license for its Multi-User plan. It then changed it to Capture One Studio for Teams, and raised the price of that by a whopping 344% out of the blue.

As the third-party site Capture Integration recently noted, via PetaPixel, Capture One Pro stopped being offered in the form of a perpetual license for “major” users such as companies and production studios and suddenly became an annual subscription service.

I say “major” because the definition of that word as far as Capture One is concerned seems to be any organization with more than one user. That’s a pretty low bar.

In any case, the new annual pricing plan itself certainly was major.

As Capture Integration explained, Capture One first went from letting multi-user customers upgrade their perpetual license for $183 per seat to having them have to pay $160 per seat for an annual subscription, as the perpetual licenses were discontinued.

Then however, quite suddenly that $160 annual subscription price tag per user was changed and a new seat for a now annual multi-user subscription was suddenly made to cost $550 per user. That’s a lot.

Thus, while before the abrupt bump, a 10-user Multi-User (now annual) subscription would have cost $1,598, it abruptly went to a price of $5,500, or 344% more.

Capture One apparently justified this price increase by pointing to a couple of new AI features and a new thing called “Tethering Boost”, but no matter how good your shiny new AI toys and other details on your platform are, squeezing customers so suddenly is entirely unwarranted.

The two AI features touted by Capture One are a thing called AI Crop and a faster AI in general.

AI Crop is designed to automatically reference an image for more precise and consistent cropping. On the other hand, the faster AI feature lets AI-controlled features like AI Masking work four times faster than they previously did while being 18 time faster at image selection.

Again though, 344% higher prices per year for these new details?

The AI craze has led to some pretty iffy tactics and marketing ploys by software companies during the last couple of years, but it’s hard to think of any new AI gimmick being good enough for such a serious price increase.

Even Adobe, a software giant in the image and graphic editing industry, which has built its own enormously robust AI technology almost from scratch as a user tool, hasn’t blasted prices for its CC suite through the roof as a result, and it has much stronger market lock-in than a company like Capture One.

Even serious long-term defenders of CO have sharply criticized this pricing move. The founder of Capture Integration, David Gallagher, who has spent years recommending Capture One as an excellent piece of workflow software, certainly did. He specifically states (about the subscription cost increase),

“This price increase is unprecedented and will cause some serious budget issues with the majority of our corporate customers. After speaking to a few today, they have expressed the desire to move to a competitive product themselves,”

It’s also not the first time that Capture One has made customers angry about things like this.

It’s worth noting that Capture One’s pricing for individual plans remains unchanged and also worth mentioning that perpetual licenses for individual plans still exist, though they no longer receive updates.

However, that Capture One made this kind of pricing and price change in the first place (even if it later ends up backtracking), speaks of a sometimes tiresome trend in the photo editing software industry that remains valid.

This tendency is of companies trying to lock in users through workflow dependency, and then unreasonably extracting higher revenues through arbitrary price increases without significant product changes to justify the new costs.

My suggestion? If you heavily depend on any given photo/video editing software for your workflows, it might be a good idea to keep other options open and practice with them regularly.

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