Help me choose between Aperture and Lightroom!
June 16, 2010 7:42 PM   Subscribe

Aperture vs Lightroom?

I have done lots of reading on the newest version of each online, only to become more and more confused.
I'm on an late '08 model macbook pro, shoot in RAW and have a canon 50d (doubt the last part is relevant but figured I'd add it anyway).

Which is better in your opinion and why?
posted by PossumCupCake to Technology (9 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I don't think this can be answered in the context of "which is better". Get an eval for each and seeing which you prefer. When it comes down to it, personal preference will win out over any technical differences.

fwiw, I use C1 Pro. In my opinion, it's better because I've used it more and because of that can get images from camera to finished product with less time and fuss.
posted by devbrain at 8:13 PM on June 16, 2010

There's been a long-running debate on another forum I frequent that has several professional and semi-pro photogs as members, and the consensus was for Lightroom speed-wise up until the release of Aperture 3, at which point, I think everyone has leaned more towards Aperture, for speed, features and ease-of-use.

I use the Adobe Creative Suite every day, and the interface to Lightroom was still clumsy and weird to me. I think Aperture is easier to understand out of the box, at least as far as the rudiments go.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:42 PM on June 16, 2010

This is a pretty big can of worms in the photography industry. My opinion: you gotta make that decision for yourself based on how each feels in your workflow. They're two different beasts that have different approaches to tackle the same tasks. Fortunately, both have free demos for you to try out, so you can see which you prefer.

Disclaimer: I've taught workshops for Apple/Aperture in the past, and I'm a devout Aperture loyalist -- so I'm obviously biased. But the main reason I prefer Aperture is that it feels more transparent to my workflow. I prefer Aperture's project-based organization over Lightroom's. It just feels more intuitive when managing every weekend's worth of shoots. Additionally, I prefer Aperture's usability. Lightroom feels bulky and like it's constantly in my face with different bells and whistles -- feels kinda bloated to me. Aperture feels more streamlined -- it "gets out of my way," and lets me focus on the images instead.

That said, Aperture is a resources hog, and requires hefty processing power. You should be able to run it just fine on your machine with your 50D-sized files. But if you upgrade to, say, a 5D Mk II with 24MB+ RAW files, you'll find that it slows to a crawl pretty quickly.

One of the most popular features of Lightroom is its "presets" infrastructure. There's an entire industry built on creating presets for Lightroom, which let you quickly apply different effects to your photos. This is very popular, especially among newcomers, because the quick and dramatic effects do wonders to hide exposure miscalculations, etc. Aperture recently introduced its own preset capabilities, but if this type of thing appeals to you, you're probably better off with the bigger community already locked-in to Lightroom.

Most of why I love Aperture rests in the way it feels, and I think that's important thing for you to evaluate for yourself. There may be a few things offered by one and not by the other, but the vast majority of what you'll need to do can be accomplished with both. How each one feels, however, will depend on your own preferences and needs.
posted by Hankins at 9:27 PM on June 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

Both have trial versions available for download. I prefer Aperture, but ultimately it's up to you to get a feel for both suites.
posted by halogen at 9:28 PM on June 16, 2010

I haven't used either but Lightroom 3's noise reduction is seriously impressive.
posted by 6550 at 10:00 PM on June 16, 2010

When I had to make the choice, it was made for me: lightroom supported my camera and aperture didn't. Adobe does seem to be faster at adding support for new cameras, it took over 6 months for apple to release an update that did.
posted by cftarnas at 11:39 PM on June 16, 2010

I'm currently in the process of moving all my photos from iPhoto to Lightroom, and am doing this by importing them to Aperture and from there on to Lightroom (it seems to be the best way to avoid losing too much metadata). So I've used both Aperture and Lightroom a little (mainly for organisation/metadata stuff so far, rather than adjusting photos).

The most noticeable differences so far seem to be:

* Aperture, like iPhoto, stores your photos and data in a folder which you have to 'View Package Contents' to see inside of. The organisation of files in there is pretty opaque - it's not designed for you to look at or fiddle with. This is fine if you're always going to have Aperture around and are always happy to rely on it for getting at your photos. Lightroom is more transparent in this respect - it stores your photos in standard folders on disk, and the organisation you see within the Lightroom interface exactly mirrors what's stored on disk. So if, for some reason, you find you no longer have a working copy of Lightroom, you can still get at your photos. (I understand that going to the Lightroom preferences and setting it to store XMP Sidecar files with each of your photos will also store the photos' metadata on disk with each photo, rather than solely in Lightroom's proprietary files, which I also like the sound of.)

* Aperture lets you manually create Projects, Folders and Albums, as well as Smart Albums. Lightroom, from what I can tell, is less flexible in this respect - your photos live in a single place in your folders, whether you choose to organise them in a structure based on projects or dates or whatever. Lightroom does let you make Smart Collections which, if you gave groups of photos common keywords, would let you mirror some of Aperture's organisational flexibility. (All this did initially put me off Lightroom, but I've come round to it now.)

* Aperture has support for Places and Faces. Lightroom might have such features someday, but doesn't now. If that's important to you, then consider it.

* The interfaces are very different, although I'm not sure either is "better". People will have different preferences. My initial thought was that I'd prefer Aperture - it's much more like every other Mac app, and I dislike companies creating some entirely new system. But I now much prefer Lightroom - by eschewing standard Mac conventions I think they've made something which is better suited to this specific task. But others will disagree, and they're no more right or wrong.

* I've read a lot about photo metadata recently and it sounds like Lightroom handles this stuff better, and in a more standards-compliant way than Aperture. For example, read this page. I've no idea if this is accurate or biased, or how well Lightroom compares but, having spent a lot of time setting correct dates/times, keywords, etc, it makes me wary of Aperture. The just-released 10.6.4 OS X update claimed that it "addresses IPTC metadata compatibility issues" - I've no idea what this actually fixes.

Neither choice is wrong. I went with Lightroom because my initial reaction to it was better, because I much preferred the transparency of its file structure, because it seemed more popular, and because more of my friends use it.
posted by fabius at 3:26 AM on June 17, 2010

The Lightroom 3 has pretty amazing noise reduction and automatic lens distortion correction.
posted by the jam at 7:15 AM on June 17, 2010

"Aperture, like iPhoto, stores your photos and data in a folder which you have to 'View Package Contents' to see inside of"

I can't really comment about Lightroom, but Aperture actually has 2 options for "file storage": managed and referenced. Managed images are stored in the aperture library and are less accessible to the user/finder (as suggested above). Referenced files reside basically wherever you want in Finder. You can even organize/change the folder structure from within Aperture on the fly, in addition to the album/project organization.

Both programs in my opinion are equally capable and well supported in terms of third party plug-ins. I think it will (as said many times above) come down to personal preference wrt the interface.

I would check out the free trials and download the user manual for each to browse through.
I prefer Aperture.
posted by kenbennedy at 7:49 AM on June 17, 2010

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