Adobe's "10 Free Images" Promotion: What You Need to Know

Saturday, June 25, 2016
Compass and Spyglass

Adobe really wants you to try Adobe Stock, and the company has changed the terms of its "10 free images" promotion to make the deal friendlier for users.

Launched in June 2015, Adobe Stock is a content service that's integrated with the company's design tools. It's available through a variety of pricing plans, including a $29.99/month plan that provides 10 images per month if you commit to a full year. The "10 free images" campaign gives you one month of the service for free.

But until recently, there was a catch: You had to sign up for an Adobe Stock subscription and pay for the first month, and then you'd get a refund. So it was more akin to a rebate than an actual giveaway.

And Adobe's terms were confusing:

  • Get 10 free images to use within the next month
  • Your first month will be refunded when you sign up for one year of Adobe Stock (10 images a month plan) at US$29.99/mo. (plus applicable taxes)
  • Cancel risk free within the first month

It sounded like you'd get the refund only if you went ahead with the full annual subscription.

Last week, I needed a photo for a blog post, and enticed by the offer of 10 free images, I prepared to sign up. Then I read the fine print and discovered a litany of complaints in an Adobe user forum. Making matters more confusing, a disclaimer accompanying the deal stated that it had expired on May 31. So I opted to purchase a single image for $9.99, then fired off an email to an Adobe PR rep to see what was going on.

Adobe Responds

A few days later, I received the following response from Adobe: "The offer for 10 free images currently has no expiration date. We no longer charge for the first month then generate a refund. All customers who sign up for the 10-image per month annual plan will not be charged until the start of their second month."

And the terms now make it clear that you get the free images regardless of whether you continue the subscription:

  • Get 10 free images to use within the next month
  • You won't be charged until your 2nd month when you sign up for one year of Adobe Stock (10 images a month plan) at US$29.99/mo. (plus applicable taxes)
  • Cancel risk free within the first month

The Adobe rep also informed me that cancelling Adobe Stock won't have any effect on your other Creative Cloud subscriptions. One comment in the user forum suggested that cancellation would reset your Creative Cloud subscription, extending it to a full year from the cancellation date.

If you sign up for the offer and don't want to continue with the subscription, it's important not to procrastinate. If you cancel after the start of the second month, you'll be charged 50 percent of what remains on the annual plan. (The same applies if you cancel a Creative Cloud subscription.)

The easiest way to cancel is to open the Creative Cloud application and choose "Manage Account" from the Settings menu (look for the gear icon in the upper-right). Or you can sign into your account on the Adobe website.

Great Concept, Badly Promoted

Based on the user comments and my own experience, it seems that the initial promotion wasn't handled well. That's a shame because the concept behind Adobe Stock is compelling. Images licensed from Adobe Stock automatically appear in Creative Cloud libraries, which you can open in Photoshop, Illustrator and other Adobe programs. Even better, you can download watermarked versions of images and place them in your layouts before choosing to license them. So you can try multiple images before settling on the one that works best. Purchasing the license removes the watermark.

This provides a significant productivity boost if you work with stock images. Adobe has been touting a study from Pfeiffer Consulting claiming that Adobe Stock's integration with the Creative Cloud yields a tenfold gain in efficiency compared with other stock image services. That sounds a tad generous, but the desktop integration is clearly a big advantage.

New Features

Adobe recently announced a Creative Cloud update that makes it even easier to use Adobe Stock images. Before, you had to download images to a Creative Cloud library and then place them on the canvas. You can still do that, but a new One-Click Workflow feature places images automatically. You can also license images from within the desktop applications. This tutorial shows how it's done.

Steampunk Letter A

The service launched with about 40 million assets, including photos and vector graphics. Now it's up to 55 million and includes videos. However, videos are not part of the subscription plans—you have to license them individually.

Another new feature in Adobe Stock is a Premium Collection featuring about 100,000 curated images from an elite group of contributors. "Premium" refers not only to the quality, but also the price: up to $499.99 per image.

Become a Contributor

Adobe is also encouraging artists and photographers to contribute content. At present, you do this through Fotolia, a stock content service that Adobe acquired in January 2015 (Adobe Stock is essentially a modified version of Fotolia). You get a 33 percent royalty, and the deal isn't exclusive, so you're free to offer content on competing services.

The royalty applies to all images sold on Adobe Stock and those sold through one of Fotolia's subscription plans. Fotolia also sells individual images and videos on demand, using a credit system—users buy a certain number of credits that they can redeem for content. If someone uses credits to purchase a photo, you get a commission based on your contributor rank and the degree of exclusivity. Your rank is determined by your sales volume.

Adobe says it will soon offer the ability to submit content directly from Adobe Bridge and Lightroom as well as the Adobe Stock website.

Does It Make Sense?

I'm not a professional designer, so I'm not sure if an annual subscription to Adobe Stock makes sense for me. But who can pass on the offer of 10 free images? So after Adobe clarified the deal, I went back and signed up. The images you see on this page were downloaded from the service and modified in Photoshop.

I'll probably cancel before the month is up, but it's likely that I'll purchase additional images as the need arises. Compared with competing services such as Shutterstock and Dreamstime, $9.99 per image is a pretty good deal, even when you don't account for the added productivity.


An important note, however: The deals mentioned here apply strictly to the standard license, and there are some restrictions that are spelled out in the Adobe Stock terms. For example, you'll need a costlier extended or enhanced license if the image will be reproduced more than 500,000 times in print or if it will be broadcast to more than 500,000 viewers. (This restriction doesn't apply to images displayed solely on a website.)

Does it make sense for you? The math is simple: If you expect to use more than three stock images per month, then the subscription plan is a good deal. The unused portion of each month's allotment rolls over to the next month, so you're actually paying for 120 images per year. Just keep in mind that you're committing to an annual subscription unless you're willing to pay a substantial penalty for early cancellation. And before signing up for any deal like this, be sure to read the fine print.

Correction: The original version of this story stated that images in the new Premium Collection are priced at $499.99. It's been corrected to state that they're priced up to $499.99.

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