Aperture or Lightroom for 15” MBP?
Does anyone here have enough experience with both Aperture and Lightroom to assess which program might be better for my specific situation?
I’m in the process of buying my first computer and processing software dedicated solely to photography. Unlike many photographers in 2011, I'm buying on a clean slate: although I have used PCs for many years for other purposes, I want to buy a system now that will best serve my photography. After a fair amount of research and consideration, I've decided on a 15" Macbook Pro, which takes that threshold issue off the table. The question I really need to answer now is whether Aperture or Lightroom would be better for my specific needs. Obviously, the final call on that issue will be mine. Just as obviously, though, my decision-making process will improve if I consider the opinions of people who are far more informed than I on this particular question.
After a fair amount of research, I’m leaning strongly toward Aperture, with Photoshop to come later, if at all. I’ve looked on Nikoscope and generally online, but it’s not easy to find opinions from people who know both Aperture and Lightroom. My general online research did manage to find head-to-head comparisons of Aperture and Lightroom that say such things as these on the more editing-related functions, as opposed to the organizational functions:
-- Aperture is easier to learn for photographers who are new to photo editing (a description that fits me);
-- Aperture lets you edit/tweak/etc at any point in the process, whereas LR is so structured that it forces you to do any particular function only at its assigned place in the process;
-- Aperture is better for photographers who strive to "get it right in the camera" (as I in my persistent slide-film mentality still do);
-- Aperture is actually appreciably better than LR at the editing functions themselves (as one experienced Aperture user wrote after testing whether he should change to LR3, a point that might bias such an appraisal in favor of Aperture); and,
-- When combined with Photoshop, Aperture actually gives you access to a wider range of functions than when PS is combined with LR because (as you'd expect) Aperture does not overlap with PS as much as LR does.
The arguments favoring LR over Aperture often stress that most of the known world uses LR, that training is easier to find for LR, and so on. Focusing solely on the merits of each program for day-to-day use, though, my research suggests that Aperture is very likely a better choice for my particular situation.
#1. "RE: Aperture or Lightroom for 15” MBP?" | In response to Reply # 0esantos Nikonian since 10th Nov 2002Sun 13-Nov-11 05:51 PM
I have very little experience with Aperture but I have owned Lightroom since version 1. So you may take my comments with some salt.
The problem I see with your citings are that they are either from grossly ill informed sources, are not very relevant to making fair comparisons, and make some pretty bold statements that to me are just wrong.
#1 - I don't see how Aperture is easier to learn that LR since all photo editing and most tools follow the same basic principles. You have tools for adjusting contrast, brightness, color, tone, saturation, etc., etc. Maybe they are talking about differences in user interfaces but from what I have seen of Aperture it is not all that different from anything else. Almost all programs use the slider device or curves.
2# - Not true. There is no structure that you MUST follow in LR. You can easily jump from one adjustment tool to the next without negatively impacting your workflow. In a nutshell there is no linear process you must follow.
3# - This one made me chuckle. How does a program sitting on your computer back at your digital darkroom help you "get it right in the camera" when shooting out in the field? Editing tools help you enhance your photographs and that should be their primary utility. And sometimes they can be a God send to help you "rescue" poorly shot images. Getting it right in the camera is all about knowing how to use your camera and lenses, making the right exposure decisions, using the right filter(s), good framing and perspective, and applying sound shooting technique to maximize sharpness and execution.
4# - I have heard the opposite. The earlier versions of Aperture were not quite up to the high standards Adobe has set for the photo/imaging industry. It is quite possible that this has been overcome. In my opinion, LR has the pedigree of coming from Adobe labs. You simply can't get better than that.
5# - Another one that has me scratching my head. What does overlap (even if this really were the case) have to do with anything? Plus, the wider range would come from Photoshop and not Aperture per se. Again, LR and Photoshop go to together just fine. Why would Adobe go to the extent to create a whole new program and then extoll the virtues of pairing it with Photoshop if this weren't true? In fact the two integrate very well and do not impede on each other to do what they are best at. Finally, why would Adobe call it Adobe Photoshop Lightroom if they didn't want it to be associated with Photoshop?
I hope you don't misread my comments. I am not at all down on Aperture. It is a fine program. I just felt I needed to point out that the talking points you listed seem very biased and incorrect. I would recommend that you download both programs and give them a try. They both have a 30-day trial period.
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#2. "RE: Aperture or Lightroom for 15” MBP?" | In response to Reply # 1Sun 13-Nov-11 06:43 PM
Thanks as always for the responses, Ernesto. Even though I'm hoping to hear from folks who have experience with both programs, it's good to hear from someone who knows LR as well as you do.
Actually, I was expecting someone to "chuckle" (as you put it) at the apparent contradiction between what you list as #3 and #4. The point of #3, as I understood it, was that Aperture is less-heavy-duty for editing purposes, not that it somehow magically reverses the procedure of capture and processing. In other words, if you strive to get it right in the camera without turning post-processing into a crutch, then Aperture is the better fit (because it's simpler etc). -- If that's the case, though, doesn't that point to some extent contradict #4 (the assessment that Aperture is actually superior to LR in editing functions)?
But that's the into I found, such as it is, in the few sources that make meaningful comparative assessments based on actual use of both programs. It will be interesting to see how others on this site weigh in on this inquiry.
#3. "RE: Aperture or Lightroom for 15” MBP?" | In response to Reply # 2ericbowles Nikonian since 25th Nov 2005Thu 17-Nov-11 01:52 PM
Given that you re early in the process, I think you should consider that Adobe is the de facto industry standard and without a compelling reason to use an alternate program, I'd start with Lightroom.
Another factor to consider is that third parties look to Adobe compatibility first - then everyone else in due time if ever. That means Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom are the programs referenced for printer instructions, plug ins, monitor calibration, camera contests, etc almost always use Adobe products, terminology and examples.
My primary editor is Capture NX2 - used with View NX2. In looking to capabilities, there are no major gaps with a workflow based on Lightroom. I can't speak to Aperture one way or the other, but the inherent problem is that Aperture depends on prioritization from a computer company with a dominant consumer market position while Adobe is a software company that is the industry standard for photo editing.
If it were me, I would chose Lightroom.
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#4. "RE: Aperture or Lightroom for 15” MBP?" | In response to Reply # 3dgs2 Nikonian since 30th Sep 2004Thu 17-Nov-11 07:19 PM
Eric certainly makes some very good points about why to choose Lightroom. I have not used LR, but I have used Photoshop for eight years, currently using CS4. I also use Photomechanic, NX-2, Aperture, and the full Nik Suite for Aperture/Lightroom, as well as some plugins for CS4.
I'm very happy using Aperture and it has become my main photo editor, in combination with the Nik Suite of plug-ins. Of course they are also available for Lightroom. I still like NX-2 in spite of its quirks, and would use it convert and at least initially edit an image that I were going to print for display.
At $79 from the Apple App store, Aperture is certainly the most economical way to go. Lightroom is list $300 although often found on sale. Adorama currently is selling it for $150, which is still almost twice the cost of Aperture.
The thing I like about NX-2, Aperture and the Nik software is it seems user-friendly to me. CS4 on the other hand is decidedly NOT. Aperture stikes a balance between user friendliness and power. FYI I've never been a fan of iPhoto.
If this is a bit of a ramble, I apologize. My main goal is to say I like Aperture and find it easy to use and process a lot of photos. I'm currently using it to go through eight years of photos of our granddaughter and family to produce an annual calendar for 2012. Perhaps Lightroom could do this just as efficiently, but I can edit and export the RAW files, jpgs. and tiff scans of slides all to sRGB jpgs ready for uploading for the calendar.
Perhaps if I were starting from scratch, I'd use Lightroom and if I had the time I would try to 30-day trial to compare it to Aperture. Perhaps that's the best advice - download the trial versions of both Aperture and Lightroom for 30 days and see which one you like.
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#5. "RE: Aperture or Lightroom for 15” MBP?" | In response to Reply # 0
Many thanks again to all who responded on this thread. It's looking like my stated preference to hear opinions from folks who know *both* LR and Aperture might have kept the responses to a minimum.
After further research, including Thom Hogan's post this week about Adobe's new user-averse pricing policies for Photoshop (which I have to assume will inevitably trickle down to LR et al. too), I've gone with Aperture instead of LR and Pixelmator instead of PS. This course has the long-term advantage of sparing me from feeling forced to keep ponying up to Adobe even when I really don't need to (and, hopefully, Apple and Pixelmator will continue their more humane pricing structures for the foreseeable future). As for Aperture's and Pixelmator's functionality, as Hogan observes, "there's not a lot you'd need Photoshop for if you have Aperture or Lightroom plus something like Pixelmator or Picture Window." Someone likely will say that it's precisely that little bit of need that makes PS essential. At this stage of the game for me, though, I can live with that gap in functionality.
Eric's case in this thread for PS/LR was not easy to overlook, but I'm not convinced that I'll ever have much need for the manipulation functions that are PS's bread and butter. If that thinking leaves me out in the cold in an Adobe-dominated world, then I'll just have to live with that outcome. Reviews (including Hogan's, which carries a lot of weight with me) indicate that Pixelmator is very good and still improving. Besides, what I've read and heard clearly suggests that most photographers use only a tiny fraction of PS's capabilities anyway. Given all these considerations, in my position, at the bottom of a steep learning curve on all things software in this area, it seems eminently reasonable to me to pay $30 (Pixelmator) instead of $600 (PS) for image-manipulation software at this time.
This week I also found more of the scarce comparative assessments of photographers who have used both Aperture and LR. Adding these assessments to the head-to-head comparative assessments I'd already seen, my informal tally is that probably 2/3 to 3/4 (certainly a majority) of the people who have used both Aperture and LR (and who have posted their preferences online) prefer Aperture. Even with the obvious problems of methodology in this research, I have a strong sense that those findings have weight.
If these choices don't pan out, I will be out relatively little money, and I can adjust as necessary in due time. As with most choices, it will be interesting to see where this new chosen road will lead.
#6. "RE: Aperture or Lightroom for 15” MBP?" | In response to Reply # 5ericbowles Nikonian since 25th Nov 2005Wed 30-Nov-11 11:19 AM
<...probably 2/3 to 3/4 (certainly a majority) of the people who have used both Aperture and LR (and who have posted their preferences online) prefer Aperture...>
The thing you need to be careful of is a sample bias. The most advanced users probably don't use Aperture, so what you are seeing is a larger response from the non-Photoshop/Lightroom users.
I can't fault your decision to go with a lower cost solution until you clearly need more.
Nikonians membership — my most important photographic investment, after the camera
#7. "RE: Aperture or Lightroom for 15” MBP?" | In response to Reply # 6Wed 30-Nov-11 12:30 PM
That's yet another problem of methodology that I was not even accounting for. On the other hand, although I have my spots of familiarity at the front end of photography in 2011 (i.e., capturing images in the first place), I'm in no sense of the term an "advanced user" on the back end with all the current possibilities of post-processing. In that context, it's possible that my very informal study sample will indeed yield better results for my specific situation, at least for now.
And as for "going with a lower-cost solution," that factor played a surprisingly large role here, given (a) the level of my current ignorance of post-processing, (b) the extent of my other expenditures this year on my photography, and (c) the context of Hogan's post this week about Adobe's burdensome pricing changes. I also note that, even though an advanced user such as Hogan is not comparing Apple-only to Adobe products, he's also going so far as to recommend Aperture/Pixelmator as a viable alternative. It's possible that this path will run its course and lead me to Adobe, after all -- or maybe it won't.
Like any other equipment decision, this one posed a surprising number of variables, all of which had real impact on the selection process. I remember a post from a few months ago in which TomCurious cautioned someone to "think it through" even though the new 35/1.8 lens the OP was considering was "only" $200. How right that approach is -- and how good it is to have a place like this site in order to hear perspectives from all around the table.
#8. "RE: Aperture or Lightroom for 15” MBP?" | In response to Reply # 7Wed 30-Nov-11 12:46 PM
Check that: It was not TomCurious who cautioned careful consideration in that earlier post (though he undoubtedly would have done the same). It was PAStime. But whoever said it, it was a good point to take away.