Mo' camera, mo' problems- Lightroom vs. Aperture, 2013 edition
June 19, 2013 1:44 PM   Subscribe

I finally made the jump to a prosumer camera (Sony NEX-6), mainly to take pictures of my painfully photogenic boy. Now I'm faced with a dilemma of what to do with the photos. I currently use iPhoto, rather messily, and am looking at Aperture vs. Lightroom as my next step.

Here are the factors I'm considering:

- My main repository is a Mac Mini (2009), with 4G RAM and an external 1TB drive.
- I like PhotoStream's dead-simple integration across my devices. If I can't preserve that, I'd at least like an easy integration with the Photos app in iOS.
- I also like iPhoto's easy library sharing, so my wife can easily access photos from her Mac
- I'd like a simple workflow for quickly cataloging new photos. Most importantly, I want the software to make me stick (as much as possible) to the workflow and not just dump my photos into a giant bucket.
- I'd like to do more advanced post-processing than iPhoto's "enhance" button, but don't have the urge to go crazy with it. I understand basic techniques, but don't want to spend my nights fiddling with histogram sliders. Lightroom's community-generated presets, for example, appeal to me; I don't know if Aperture has an equivalent.
- Aperture is obviously cheaper and syncs with iPhoto, but hasn't had a major update in a while. Is it getting long in the tooth?
- I'm not a user of other Adobe CS products, though I know my way around Photoshop.

What's my best path forward?
posted by mkultra to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
If you know your way around Photoshop/Bridge, get Lightroom. Most of the editing tools in Lightroom are pretty much exactly what Adobe Camera Raw is.
posted by inertia at 1:50 PM on June 19, 2013

Response by poster: FWIW, I have never used Adobe Bridge or Adobe Camera Raw. My Photoshop experience has generally been limited to making graphics web-ready.
posted by mkultra at 1:58 PM on June 19, 2013

Lightroom is great. It's easy and intuitive to use. It does everything you'll need it to do, from organization to editing.

Shoot RAW and knock yourself out.
posted by Sticherbeast at 2:02 PM on June 19, 2013

I'm an Aperture guy. One thing I love about Aperture is the way it all syncs with iTunes, and thus, syncs with my iPhone and iPad. I love having my iPhone camera roll in Aperture. Also, Aperture's Smart Albums are awesome.

I rate my photos in Aperture, and I have a smart album for photos with 5 stars, plus another one for 4 stars, etc.

I LOVE being able to open one of those albums on my iPhone and hand it to someone who wants to see examples of my photography. I cannot even begin to express how helpful that is.

The trick for getting the most out of Aperture is to have a system for organizing your stuff. I create a new project for every session, and I name the projects by date plus a bit of info. "6/5/13 in Seattle" for example. I have a folder named Editing for projects in the works. Beneath that, I have a folder for each year, inside which is a folder for each month. When I'm done editing a project, I move it from the Editing folder to the folder with the proper date (the June folder inside the 2013 folder, for example).
posted by 2oh1 at 2:30 PM on June 19, 2013

I am what some may call a drooling Apple fanboy and I prefer Lightroom. That said, Aperture fits in the Apple ecosystem better-- plays well with iPhoto and Photostreams, or so Apple says. I haven't tried it.

My worry with Aperture is I wonder how much of a priority it is to Apple. It hasn't had a major version update since 2010.

I think both are available as demos; why not try them out?
posted by entropicamericana at 2:31 PM on June 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

As a regular Aperture user, I suggest you get Lightroom. Aperture itself is fine but on more than one occasion updates to Aperture have busted my system. Such problems were very difficult to hunt down, too.

And yeah, do what Sticherbeast says. Learn to shoot (and process) RAW.
posted by chairface at 3:43 PM on June 19, 2013

I use Lightroom and recommend it as the standard in photo handling and editing. I tried Aperture, because I shoot with my iPhone a lot, and liked the seamless handling of those images. Aperture is very good, but I felt that Lightroom was better. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

- YES shoot RAW. It's amazing what you can get out of a RAW file with not much effort; and how much more you can get as you gain experience.

- Give yourself time to learn the Lightroom interface. I put off my switch to Lightroom for months, due to the interface being so different than iPhoto and Aperture. It's a world unto itself in many respects, so for awhile you might feel like you're in a country where you don't speak the language. But take your time, watch and read online tutorials, and understand that you will get much faster after an initial learning curve.

- Pay attention to your import settings and file handling! Understand the difference between Move, Copy, and Add, and where your original or duplicate files will be.

- if you want your iPhone images in Lightroom, you can obviously connect your iPhone to the computer and copy them. But, here's what I do: I keep iPhoto on my computer, and when I have a bunch of photos on my iPhone, I use Photostream in iPhoto and export all the images to my computer. From there I can import them into Lightroom. It's not quite seamless, but it doesn't take long.
posted by The Deej at 8:04 PM on June 19, 2013

Sticherbeast--Adobe Camera Raw is a part of Photoshop/Bridge. I don't think OP was saying that they don't shoot RAW. (I could be wrong).

I have used both Aperture and Lightroom. I switched to Lightroom years ago and I will never go back. Lightroom is great for organizing photos, I found it more intuitive than Aperture, and you can always do a free trial to see if you like it.
posted by inertia at 8:24 PM on June 19, 2013

Contra inertia, I find the way Lightroom's image organization works to be maddening. I've been using it for 2 years because I'm hooked on its near-magical noise reduction, but if Aperture steps up their game I may well move back (though inertia — the law of motion, not the user — may keep me in LR, who knows).

In Aperture you can have a project with a bunch of images in it and then create sub-folders for different edits of that shoot. You can approximate this functionality by using Collection Sets but it really doesn't do the same thing.

Lightroom also insists on overlaying a description of what action you just took when using key commands. That is: if you increase your saturation using a key command a black bar with white text pops up that says "Saturation +20". Over the image. On top of the image that you're keeping an eye on to see if you like the change. It's incredibly distracting.

These are my two biggest gripes with Lightroom but they are really fundamental to the experience of using the software and they make my blood boil all the time.

Aperture has it's own quirks which I remember being frustrated by, but none as much as these problems.

Given that you dig a lot of the features Aperture provides (photo stream, iPhoto connection) I recommend Aperture. Lightroom may be favored by many but Aperture is still a fine product for what most folks want to do.
posted by wemayfreeze at 12:22 AM on June 20, 2013

Also: from what I can tell people who get the most out of Lightroom's organization are naming and organizing files on disk. Lightroom provides a Folders pane for this and tool on import to help you name and place files.

What I want out of a photo editing tool is to not have to worry about where anything is on disk and let me organize images in groupings that work with how my mind works: a folder for all a project's images and subfolders for sorting. Aperture allows this and Lightroom does not.
posted by wemayfreeze at 12:36 AM on June 20, 2013

Lightroom also insists on overlaying a description of what action you just took when using key commands. That is: if you increase your saturation using a key command a black bar with white text pops up that says "Saturation +20". Over the image. On top of the image that you're keeping an eye on to see if you like the change. It's incredibly distracting.

Are you on OS X? This isn't the case for me. Or perhaps you're using a version before LR 4? I'm using LR 5 now but LR 4 never did this, nor does 5 on Windows for me.

I love Lightroom. I had some issues with some bugs (actual bugs) that were resolved relatively promptly in their betas, and past that, it's an amazing tool from a workflow perspective.

The Develop tools are phenomenal. I can't believe what I can do with the photos I have, and tools like adjustment brushes and gradiated filters and quick spot removal are fantastic.

I also love non-destructive editing as a general rule (which I'm pretty sure Aperture also offers) and native dual monitor support is really great as well. You can do some amazing things to your photos with nearly no effort and very little learning curve, and the ability to copy and paste your Develop settings to multiple photos is really helpful as well.

I also use Blurb for photo books which LR supports natively, and I like that it maps my geocoded photos as well. I've also found its lens correction tools to be fantastic, and there are a lot of other features that are really great.
posted by disillusioned at 1:33 AM on June 20, 2013

Behavior exists for me in LR 4 And LR 5 on OS X. If there's some way to turn it off by god I would like to know!!
posted by wemayfreeze at 1:45 AM on June 20, 2013

I think I know what wemayfreeze is talking about. When you hit undo and redo it'll tell you what it's undoing and redoing. I personally find this incredibly valuable. I can't see a way to disable it.

Lightroom does automatically manage your photos for you - that's one of the most valuable things about it. Here's my workflow for casual, personal photographs. More formal shoots are handled differently.
  1. Insert the card into the card reader.
  2. In Lightroom, go to File -> Import. (I turned off auto-import because I found it annoying.)
  3. Once, long ago, I ticked the Into Subfolder checkbox, and chose to Organise by date and changed the Date Format to 2013/06/20. Thankfully Lightroom remembered that and now I don't have to do anything at all.
  4. (Optionally (but usually (because I'm a responsible citizen))) I add a few keywords into the keywords box.
  5. I then click Import, and the photos start downloading to my computer, into an automatically created folder for the date.
If I had a multi-day set of photos that I wanted to organise the pictures into, I could do one of several things.
  1. On import, I can choose to Organise Into one folder. Once they're in there, I can select a set of photos, right-click on a folder and create a child folder within one. That lets me split one collection up into multiple shoots or whatnot. I like this, because it doesn't tie the organisation to Lightroom.
  2. Sometimes I don't want to manipulate them on disk. Perhaps the photos fit into several categories. Perhaps I want to collect photos from across multiple shoots. This is not a problem. I just click the plus button next to Collections (or hit CMD+N) and I can create a new collection of photos. It even automatically invites me to add the images that I've got selected. What's really awesome is that I can instantly create new Virtual Copies of the photos I've just added. Maybe someone's asked me for a set of B&W versions of a shoot? Well, now they're separate from the rest of my photos, and the development on those doesn't affect the main ones.
  3. Sometimes I want to casually separate photos from within a bunch of them. Maybe there are some fun ones to send around, then you've got your prize selection of the best, to go on your website or whatnot, and then you've got the ones where your friend borrowed your camera for 5 minutes, and you want to make sure she gets all of those, etc etc. In this case, I tend to just use colours. Easypeasy - you just select a group of photos and hit 6, 7, 8 or 9. If you want to filter them out, you just go up to the top, click Attribute, and you can filter by colour (as well as rating or flag).
  4. There are other ways to organise your photos too, but trying out those methods is quick and very effective.

posted by Magnakai at 2:38 AM on June 20, 2013

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