Sunday, August 9, 2009

Aperture vs. Lightroom - a competition

Well ..

In case you missed it. My post about not hiring uncle Bob (or me) to shoot your event contained a small side note that I hadn't yet chosen a post production software package. Obviously, I was looking at Lightroom and Aperture and I poked a little fun at Kevin Swan and Jason Aten (hey - I spelled that right on the first try Jason!) about telling me which was best.

57 follow on posts (or more) later and Jeff Youngren stepped in to suggest a bake off. Kevin may call me a chicken, but I'm going to say right here that I actually believe which one is better depends largely on what you want to do with it and on your personal preference and what you know. There are features in each package that trump the other - and - Lightroom has been around longer so it has more features. Lucky for you, if you don't have a Mac your decision is made - as Aperture is not available for a PC. If you have a Mac and haven't figured this one out, hopefully the bakeoff links posted here will help.

No matter what, I want to give a HUGE respectful shoutout to Jason Aten and Kevin Swan and the others, including Jeff Youngren (who submitted images from a recent event), Nathan Holritz who is also doing a Lightroom edit and Sara France, who may also do an Aperture edit. We're posting the links here and elsewhere so the entire pro-photo community can benefit from their hard work.

Onward and post away fellas.



Kevin Swan said...

Actually, Aperture has been around longer than Lightroom, Jim; not that it means much when people are deciding which one to buy. Just want to keep things real. :)

Here's my post. I chatted a lot during the edit, just talking about basic functionality, etc; so I wasn't going for just speed—but I still think you'll get the picture.

Kevin Swan said...

Via Twitter:
"Kevin, you just converted me from Aperture, well done!"

-- Bill Pennington

Jason Aten said...

I may have failed to mention it, but one of my favorite things about Aperture - you can import multiple cards/sources at the same time. I don't think you can do that in LR.

Jason Aten said...

FYI - here are my earlier Aperture vids in case anyone cares :)

Jason Aten said...

I hate vimeo so I posted it to:

Dorsey said...


If you were a guitar player I would say, "Wow, you sure know how to play that thing!"

But if I thought that I'm going to be that good at playing if I bought that same guitar, I would be very quickly disappointed.

Ford or Chevy - neither makes you a better driver.
Fender or Gibson - neither makes you a better guitarist.
Canon or Nikon - neither makes you a better photographer.
Light Room or Aperture - neither makes you a better photo editor.

You and Jason have both done an excellent job of showing the strengths of each program. Kevin you are maybe better at showing off the capabilities of your tool of choice - a better guitar player than Jason - but when Jason tagged his photos with keywords and automatically uploaded to Pictage right from inside Aperture, I thought to myself, "cool". Then when he started editing his images right inside his album I almost cried. I've used inDesign for years and along with being a completely different and expensive tool I had to purchase and learn along side photoshop, I can't edit my images like that! Sure I can "round trip" them but that is sooooo slow.

That said... tools are tools - they aren't going to make you a better craftsman.

Style is what truly characterizes an artist, in any craft, regardless of equipment, academia, or skill.

I do believe you have (both) found the right tool to fit your individual style(s).


Dorsey Coe

Kevin Swan said...


I haven't seen Jason's vid yet, but I thought we were only going to edit, not upload. Of course you can keyword and auto-categorize then upload to Pictage via LIghtroom: I'd be happy to demonstrate it if you like. I prefer just uploading my weddings and selecting the option where Pictage sorts my event for me--nice time saver (and they do a great job)!

In-program album design is certainly cool in Aperture!

Jason Aten said...

I didn't actually upload, just walked through how I edit a session.. Start to finish... So I just showed how I tag, and how the uploader categorizes for me...

Kevin Swan said...

Another note, my "guitar playing" was really just the rudimentary functionality of LR. I used a few presets (all if which you can find online) some basic editing, and some quick sorting. I firmly believe -anyone- can learn to be that proficient in LR.

I was even rusty, since I haven't edited for over a year.

You can do it!

PS: you don't have to round-trip in indesign. Simply option-dbl click an image in indesign, it opens in PS, make your edit, save, it auto-updates in indesign, you move on. Just FYI.

Jeff said...

This was awesome, guys - it's so valuable to see both of these programs side by side with the same images being worked on! I think this will turn out to be a pretty valuable resource to folks deciding on which way to go...

And as a note, I did cull these images before sending them over to you a little bit!! :)

Holritz Photography said...

Watched Kev's video. Excited to see Jason's demo. I'll post mine in the morning. :)

- Nathan

Jason Aten said...

Kevin, indesign to Photoshop is no where near as fast as album design in Aperture..

Jason Aten said...

Hopefully my lack of video demo skills won't be held against Aperture :)

Kevin Swan said...


Notice I wasn't comparing ps/ind to aperture. I was simply telling her she didn't need to "round trip" back to LIghtroom to edit something in indesign.

There's no doubt being able to edit albums in aperture is cool, but as an image editor, I would hope they would improve image editing (localized adjustments, more compatibility with cameras, presets, and adjusting multiple images at once) before moving on to a secondary functionality like albums.

Jason Aten said...

What major camera isn't supported? And I've shown you can adjust multiple images at once.. Maybe not the way you like, but you can.

I agree with you on the presets and local adjustments, but clearly the result isn't suffering that much....

Holritz Photography said...

"I agree with you on the presets and local adjustments, but clearly the result isn't suffering that much...."

I beg to differ (are you surprised? :) and will demo on the video in the morning.

Let me suggest one more thing... This is primarily about image processing and the efficiency with which our software can handle the task. But a hugely important issue is being missed here, and that is the quality of the final product. So while we're showing how fast we can process, leaving out some of the images from the processing (resulting in inconsistent exposure and white balance) is of course going to make your processing seem a little faster.

I think we should all post galleries from the final images we processed in the video (on your honor that you haven't touched them post-video) to the web for everyone to compare. I'm not sure if Aperture can publish web galleries but it's an easy step for LR.

Alright... Off to relax for a bit. :)

Jason Aten said...

I'm not sure if Aperture can publish web galleries but it's an easy step for LR.

Are you kidding? come on. Aperture is fully integrated with Mobile Me. Nevermind there's about 100 export plug ins for everything from Pictage, Flickr, Picasa, etc.

Kevin Swan said...

Nice job on the vid, Jason.

After watching though, I don't really see we have apples to apples. You just did a basic edit down, color correct, and 3-4 black/whites. I could have done that in about 2 minutes, too.

I'd also point out that you didn't look at more than 2-3 images full size, where I went in and looked for focus issues on most (and there were several you kept that had motion blur). I'm assuming when you really edit, you're going to look closer?

I went through and -edited- my images. Applied effects, rotated, cropped, went past any just basic color edits. I hope Nathan posts a similar video to what you did, because that's what he (photographer's edit) specializes in: basic, clean, edits. For you to do any of the eye-brightening, cloud darkening, fun stuff like that you'd have to go out to Photoshop. In LR, you don't need PS at all.

We can do the smart albums in LR, the Keywords, any of that (just didn't know that was part of the deal).

The only thing I see that I covet is the album design. It's a nice add-on, but it's just that: an add on. As I've mentioned, I look at LR as my editing application. In that, I see that we have more flexibility and power than Aperture.

LR wins as an editor imho.

Kevin Swan said...

Here's my un-altered output:

Here's the video of me outputting (and a few more tips about LR):

Jason Aten said...

I will post a link to my edit as well.. I'm on the road today - actually just had lunch with Kevin - but they are uploaded.. I recorded a short vid on the upload as well. I'll get links up tonight when I get home :)

Holritz Photography said...

Video coming a little later than planned. Had a meeting this morning that trumped the video... Exporting now and will upload thereafter.


Holritz Photography said...

Alright, here is the video and resulting gallery. My video is longer than the others as I go into more detail about philosophy and technique. I hope it'll show the advantages of LR vs Aperture when it comes to actual image processing and help those who already use LR or plan on doing so.

Give the gallery about 10 minutes to upload.



Kevin Swan said...

Hahah. Looks like all our effort was wasted. No one watched/commented.

Kevin Swan said...

Nathan's use of shortcuts in develop is a w e s o m e. I need to learn me some of those. I bet it increases your productivity by 40% minimum.

Great stuff, N!

Does Aperture have keyboard shortcuts for editing like that?

BTW: had lunch with Aten today. He confessed that LR was a better image editor, but that Aperture had more "total workflow" functionality. I've never doubted that (I wish I could do albums in LR!), but my point has always been that we're judging -image editors-, since that's their first function. Other things are add-ons and, while cool, don't make up for lacking functionality at the core purpose of the application.

Holritz Photography said...

Hahahaha. Wow. Glad I made the effort. LOL! Hope it's helpful Jim. :)

- N

Jason Aten said...

Well, that's almost true. I acknowledge that LR has some image processing tools that are far more powerful. I didn't say it was a better image editor.

I haven't seen Nate's vid yet, but it does have fully customizable keyboard shortcuts.

I still believe Aperture is a better tool for Jim and all photographers. I'll share my top 5 reasons tomorrow. I think that Aperture and LR are about even on what the basic adjusments can do.

LR gets points for brushes. I guess it gets ponta for presets, but to discount lift and stamp is disingenuous. If saving adjusments to apply in mass is your goal - it works.

But I think Aperture offers a lot more that has real value (even beyond just album design). I think to say that they were designe for slightly different reasons. Aperture was designed to organize and process images - as well as mak it super easy to use them for things photogs do.

LR was designed to keep everyone from jumping ship from Photoshop to Aperture. As a replacement for PS, LR is probably better. As a real world workflow solution, I still think Aperture is better.

pam said...

Ok, I must have the IQ of a rock because I can not get to Nathan's video. Everything points back to this point.

Nathan said...

Excellent showdown guys! I've been an Aperture user for a couple of years now. I've tried LR but haven't been able to get past the UI/workflow differences to really give it a fair chance. I think Kevin's video has given me enough to really get in there now.

I would disagree with Kevin that Aperture is primarily an image editor. I think of it more as a library or image manager that allows you to make adjustments and enhancements to your photos. Lightroom fairs far better for those who would have used Photoshop before to add those artistic styles. I can't see it as a library, which is why there is Adobe Bridge.

Anyway, keep it up. I'm really glad I can verbalize the pros/cons to each tool now. I look forward to more!

P.S. Nathan, I got this error on your album: Parse error: syntax error, unexpected T_STRING in /home/photoedi/public_html/lightroomvsaperture/index.html on line 1

Holritz Photography said...

Link to the gallery fixed. Unfortunate how much the images get desaturated, but you'll get the general idea. :)

- N

Mark Hayes Photography said...

Excellent things and examples to consider all around.

I'm glad Nathan added in his version as well since he is a less preset special look type of editor, and was more going for clean looks much like Jason was.

Of course for me the real killer is I use a 5DmkII and use sRAW1 and 2 a lot. Love RAW, don't need 21mp all the time and Aperture still seems to burp on these files. If I have to take the time to convert to DNG just to avoid the unsupported image format that's a huge hiccup in my workflow.

BTW, Jim, how about allowing Name URL replies so we don't have to get a google account to reply or host our blogs with wordpress.

Jason Aten said...

My gallery is online:

I also published a second video about the top 5 things I love about Aperture - and why I think it's a better solution for Pro Photographers.

Kevin Swan said...

If Aperture could get presets right and have the localized editing (without making copies of the files, what's up with that for dodge/burn with aperture?!), I would switch to it—JUST for the album design capability.

I suspect, though, that LR will have album design plugins available.

Can't watch your video yet, but looking forward to it!

Jim said...

I'll throw in my "thank you" for the time and effort you guys put into your respective videos.

I continue to vacillate back and forth between both applications (thus not getting a great deal out of either one).

If anything, it's really nice to see how someone else (who knows the tool-set) is using the applications.

Thanks again guys

Holritz Photography said...

There's not doubt Aperture's strength is integration. The question is whether or not you want the most efficient image processor or a one-stop shop that does a half-way job at image processing EFFICIENCY. I thought that was the original issue anyway.

By the way you can create collections of images (for use in categorization) in LR that do stay with the catalog the client's images are in. Let me know if you need a video.

Lastly, I found it interesting that Jason's images were further processed beyond what he demoed in the video; I thought we were posting images untouched directly from the video (see screen shot at ). Apparently we were allowed to further tweek our images. :)

Happy processing to all. :)

Jason Aten said...

Nate, that's not cool. I didn't do anything else to the images and I'm kinda tired of the way you continue to insert passive aggressive attacks. You show a screen shot of the images I marked as blog images... But if you watch the video you'll see I had already batch cc and processed all the images with lift and stamp.

I posted ALL the images that I ran through the demo, including the ones I simply batch processed.

It's fine that you don't like Aperture - but to question my character just so you can attempt to discredit the work I did on the images is way not cool at all man.

Jim's orginal question was about which program would be better for him. I've tried to make a case for why it's a better program, and at every opportunity you've taken shots at me. Well, frankly I expected more.

Jason Aten said...

Efficiency doesn't end at image manipulation. It's about the entire workflow process. Maybe Sara, or someone else you respect will do a demo since you seem to be unpersuaded in my attempt to show that Aperture is just as capable at efficiently editing images.

Mark Leonard said...

Loved the videos. Thanks for the effort.

Holritz Photography said...

Jason, you're suggesting continued pointed comments at you, and I would ask where all those "attacks" are?

I purposely picked a screen shot from your video right before your upload to Pictage demo. What am I missing? That was the last thing you did to those images in the demo!! It's why I suggested way at the top of all these comments that we post finished images from our demo because I saw (and you said out loud) that you didn't even touch some of those images. Again, what am I missing?

Again, I apologize for the "tone" in my text and how that would have come across.

It's an understood fact that using a mouse will generally slow a person down in computer workflow. Aperture uses a mouse. I can do most of my color correction/processing with the keyboard.

It's also plain logic that a process that takes multiple steps would be less efficient than a process that only requires one step. Aperture doesn't have presets and requires multiple steps for applying a look to an image. Lightroom can do the same with one click.

- Nathan

Holritz Photography said...

Still feeling bad... Really didn't mean this to get personal. Just playing hard ball on a topic I'm passionate about. And it doesn't matter if it's you Jason, or Sara, or Colon, or Davis, or whoever. I'd still debate hard. :)

Kevin Swan said...

How many of those big guns really do their own editing?

Kevin Swan said...

In fact, aren't the Davises clients of yours for editing, Nathan? Feel free to not answer—not sure if it's a big deal if people know who processes what.

Maybe Dawn uses Aperture to do album design?

Jason Aten said...

Just had a good convo with Nate :). So At the beginning of the vid, I did a lift and stamp to all with a few basic corrections. By the time I finished the video, it hadn't even updated all the previews.

Aperture doesn't have those fancy presets, so it took a bit longer. You'll have to take my word - it doesn't usually take that long :)

Holritz Photography said...

Got a chance to talk to Jason earlier on the phone, and he explained that the "lift and stamp" he applied to all the images at the beginning of the workflow hadn't rendered on the images yet when he finished his video, and that's why the images looked untouched in his video.

So my bad on the assumption and any problems caused.

And one more check-mark on the side of Lightroom for speed and efficiency. (smiling at you Jason)


Jason Aten said...

Thanks Nate :)

I think we can all agree that LR has some stronger tools for advanced image editing - and that presets are awesome! Nate is a pro at this, and he does a GREAT job of showing a powerful LR workflow.

I think that "most" would also agree that Aperture is a more robust, integrated workflow tool that has some really strong tools that help photographers with a lot of the other things involved in their workflow. I happen to also believe that the editing and processing tools are just as good - with the exception of presets and local adjustment brushes.

Is that a fair statement?

Kevin Swan said...

While it's true, LR users need to use design programs to create albums; Aperture users need to use Photoshop to do editing that can otherwise be done in LR. So, on that front, your statement that the editing and processing tools are just as good isn't correct.

It boils down to what's more important to a particular photographer.

Jason Aten said...

Ehh, I haven't used Photoshop for anything other than the RARE major cloning or MAJOR retouching in years. I demoed how you could use it, but I honestly use PS for maybe a handful of images in an entire wedding SEASON. So, yeah, there are some great tools in LR, but for a simple, clean, authentic edit and processing, the tools are just as good.

notice I said "I believe that the editing tools are just as good." It's my opinion, and it's based on my experience that the extra tools in LR aren't that valuable because I don't use them.

The benefits in Aperture (organization, album design, etc) are valuable because I use them.

Jim said...

Is it possible to benchmark the 2 programs to get some baseline data for "stock" tasks (like importing for example)?

Ideally, you could take the same user, with the same proficiency in each application, and give him/her a edit to complete using the best tools in both programs. That would be a great way to see how the 2 applications stack up (although still flawed to a point).

Short of that (because that would be challenging at best), are there certain tasks that can be benchmarked (imports, exports, generating previews)?

In the end, those tasks probably don't represent a significant percentage of workflow time (maybe they do?), but at least the times could be representative of the applications' overall performance?

Jason Aten said...

Great question. Not sure - the biggest problem would be that it varies so much on your system. Further complicating it would be that it would be hard to benchmark both since most of us are far more proficient in one than the other.

On a fast computer, I think that Aperture acts a bit faster (Kevin noted this at lunch), but a slower machine would crush Aperture - it's more resource intensive I think. I also think Aperture would win hands down on import - simply because you can import as many cards as you have readers at the same time.

As for editing, clearly Lightroom applies presets faster than you can apply Lift and Stamp in Aperture. (Although it's usually much faster than my video edit - Screenflow is VERY resource intensive so it slowed Aperture down a lot).

Nate makes EXCELLENT use of keyboard shortcuts, so that's quicker (although you can assign just about anything to a keyboard shortcut in Aperture).

I think that basic adjustments are probably just as quick in both - but again, I have no idea because I only use one.

Holritz Photography said...

The thing about import/export is that they are tasks that can be started and walked away from, so while the stats might be interesting, it probably wouldn't be a huge decision-maker... Just my two cents.

A side-by-side race was an idea suggested quite some time ago on the OSP forums, but it never happened. Could be fun for sure.

Keyboard shortcuts can't be applied to the basic processing tools in Aperture - I've tested that. As I said in my video, you can customize keyboard shortcuts for some functionality in Aperture, but the biggest draw-back is that there is no way to assign keyboard shorcuts to basic processing tools. And of course these are BUILT-IN to Lightroom.


Jason Aten said...

Let's do it at PartnerCon :)

Dorsey said...

I noticed when I Googled Kevin Swan and Lightroom that he is selling his presets for $60.00. Now I totally understand his vested interest. Presets (I call them filters) are totally cool, but not a big sale for the way I do editing. I purchased Aperture, and have been very pleased so far. I especially like the clone tool, I may never need Photoshop again! This is a bit off topic, but is there any way I could get a hold of those CR2 files you guys used in your videos. I shoot an older nikon and am considering a newer nikon or canon, but I've never had the opportunity to mess with cannon raw files. I might just buy both! I would respect copyright (of course), I'd even do a workflow demo (I particularly like the stacks feature and efficiency) if anyone was interested. Either way, thanks to everyone for such excellent tutorials. This thread should turn into a full blown "here's how the pros do it" feature!

Best regards,

Dorsey Coe

Kevin Swan said...

Dorsey, please. I posted those 2 years ago. Heck I'll make them free. I don't sell any of those any more. It was popular when LR first released, but now you can get thousands of them all over te place.

To suggest that I'm using or promoting LR because I sold presets just makes you look silly.

Dorsey said...

Sorry Kevin, I was just poking fun after reading the "Don't hire Uncle Bob" comments. ; )

Tim Halberg said...