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Aperture vs Lightroom – Decision Time!

Wednesday 2 June 2010

So the winner is…

I’ll get to that in a moment. This process of comparing the two apps has been a great learning process. Each of them has their strengths and weaknesses. What is unfortunate is that although both manage photos very well, surprisingly, neither of them has the processing side nailed down as well as technology current allows. In other words, what is arguable the whole point of this exercise – producing the highest-possible quality of photographs – is not done perfectly in either application.

Both apps are missing what I deem to be a key feature: Transformation. I am not much a city person, but when I photograph buildings, I want to correct the inherent perspective distortion. I don’t usually remove all of it as I do want the give the impression of size and distance. This is only possible in Photoshop. Even Photoshop Elements has it, so Lightroom and Aperture should have it as well!!!

Lightroom lacks a truly useful spotting brush; it is still back in the days of a round-only, spot-only dust removal system. I don;t have a problem with dust – my problem is with errant twigs and stems of grasses. Aperture’s Retouch brush is a true brush that allows you to work with long, thin distractions such as twigs, powerlines and hairs – even iPhoto, Apple’s free photo app, has this feature! C’mon Adobe – this is a no-brainer. Just add your Photoshop Healing Brush to Lightroom!! Again, even Elements has this feature – surely Lightroom should, too!

Aperture is slow to use. I can’t count the number of times I get a spinning ball waiting for full res images to load (MBP 15″ 2.4Ghz Intel Core 2 Duo w/ 4GB RAM and nothing else open!). If I have to wait like this I would never be able to wade through all my images. Aperture has a superior GUI, though; e.g. the image filmstrip comes up on the left side – proportionately, I have more left-right screen real estate so putting on the side makes better use of my space.

I also love Aperture’s brushes and their implementation. Anything can be a brush and can be painted in or out. However,  in Lightroom I find it helpful to be able to turn on or off the mask created through using the Adjustment Brush. As well, having multiple changes using one brush is very helpful; e.g. I can increase exposure and contrast and decrease saturation all in one easily editable brush.

Ultimately, my decision is to use Lightroom for four main reasons:

  • Aperture is too slow in reacting to rather simple changes;
  • Lightroom allows Adjustment Brush “multi-tasking”;
  • Lightroom has a graduated filter – I use graduated filters frequently in landscape images;
  • Lightroom is backwards-compatible with all my previously-processed the raw files created using Bridge and ACR. Switching to Aperture would mean having to redo past images.

So, for those who have been following this saga, there you have it. It’s Lightroom – and, may I point out, Lightroom 2. I have downloaded Lightroom 3 Beta and will commit to it when it is a full version, but this comparison was actually between Lightroom 2 and Aperture 3 – rather telling.

In the near future, I will add a Lightroom workflow to give a sense of how I make use of the app.

UPDATE:

The new header was made from within Lightroom 2 using the LR/Mogrify2 plugin from Timothy Armes found at the Photographer’s Toolbox. Great app and it’s donationware, so please donate to Timothy to get full access to it. Wonderful as it is, I still needed Photoshop to create the luxBorealis.com in the font I chose as LR/Mogrify2 only recognizes .ttf fonts and doesn’t, as yet, add stokes to fonts. BTW it would be nice to have drop shadows for fonts and images, too (just in case you’r reading this, Timothy!)

UPDATE 2:

I’ve been taking a bit of heat from the Apple community about not supporting Aperture. Let me assure everyone that I am a staunch Apple supporter and have been for 20 years now, starting with a Mac Classic! I have used Mac and Windows for the same length of time and will always be a Mac.

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