Lightroom vs. Aperture… again

Since Apple released Aperture 3 a few weeks ago lots of folks are debating the pros and cons of Lightroom vs. Aperture. It’s natural for folks to want to take sides, and pick one program over the other. It’s equally unlikley that most people will be able to effectively use both products, which supports the need to choose one.

I’ve casually used and kept up with Aperture updates since it was first released. After all, I’m a huge Mac fan. For twenty years I have passionately preferred all things Mac to anything Windows.

When Aperture 1 came out, it was a time of dramatic change in photography, when digital cameras were starting to become more popular than film. Clearly, new software was needed to support the new digital photo workflow. Though other software had been produced in attempts to deal with this (Adobe Camera Raw and Bridge, Capture One, iView Media Pro etc.) Aperture really represented a significant improvement in the photographer’s workflow. (And this was before Lightroom came out.)

I still love most Apple products and always stay current with what they are up to. In several ways, Apple is well poised to change computing as we know it – as they have done several times in the past. So I never count Apple out – even in the case of Lightroom vs. Aperture.

When it comes to the important and difficult choice, then, of what software to use to process our digital photographs, when clients, students and people in the general public ask me why I prefer Lightroom over Aperture, here’s what I say:

1. Platform independence: true, I believe OS X is a superior operating system to all flavors of Windows (even 7, which doesn’t suck). That said, I think it’s a big mistake to limit your work to using Macs only… and Aperture currently will only run on a Mac (and a new, fast one at that). I myself use both Mac and Windows every day in my work, and being able to use Lightroom on both platforms is a huge advantage. Maybe someday, the majority of people will be using Macs (we can only hope) but until that day, platform independence is essential.

2. Company focus: Adobe is the undisputed champion in digital imaging software. I trust their products completely and they have led the way for two decades. Though there will always be little things that we wish Adobe would add or improve, there is no doubt that the people working for Adobe are the best and brightest in the business. Conversely, Apple contunues to show it is really a hardware company. That happens to have some really kick-ass operating systems, oh, and the industry leading video editing program ;-)

3. Workflow: there are some really crazy, frustrating things about working with Aperture. One example is the Image Vault concept. This is very much like the approach taken by the horrible iPhoto, and serves no purpose other than to ensure it will be difficult to migrate away from Aperture in the future. I myself have helped a number of people through the extremely painful and nervewracking process of moving from Aperture to Lightroom. On the other hand, Lightroom’s handling of files is simple and unobtrusive. You could safely use Lightroom for all your photos for the next few years, then switch to something else, essentially without a hitch. Not so with Aperture.

These three points illustrate the main reasons why I believe Lightroom is still the way to go. The list could go on and on; other folks have already talked about Lightroom’s superior noise reduction, processing algorithms etc.

One way that I agree Aperture outshines Lightroom is the interface itself. Lightroom is designed to let you easily get the interface “out of the way” while you’re working; there are lots of cool tools to work directly on your photo, with only the photo showing on the screen. However, Aperture’s interface is clean, elegant and beautiful, providing the kind of experience where you might not want to get the interface out of the way.

Unfortunately, for me (and I believe the vast majority of photographers) the interface itself is not a good enough reason to choose one product over another.

I hope this article helps you understand why Lightroom is the better choice. I’d love to hear your thoughts, comments and questions on this topic.

Thanks for reading!

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from Nat Coalson Fine Art + Design