Aperture 3 vs. Lightroom Review

SUMMARY

I have used Lightroom for a few years since its first release.  I tried Aperture 1 and Aperture 2 and never found them compelling enough to switch from Lightroom.  Unless Lightroom 3 has video support (like Aperture 3) when it is released,  I  will be buying  a copy of Aperture 3.

 

My biggest headache before I used Lightroom  was getting through the editing process for weddings.   I was using Photo Mechanic for file management, Capture One for RAW processing,  and Photoshop to do any special effects or cleanup.  It would take me days to edit the 400 to 500 images from each wedding.  Lightroom cut that time in half.  The RAW processing wasn't as good as Capture One but the productivity gains far out weighed the image quality difference.  In my opinion, for smaller jobs where you have less than a couple dozen photos that you edit,  the editing workflow / products you use isn't going to make that much difference in your productivity. For bigger jobs, products like Lightroom can save your marriage.

The other headache that I have had was managing my photos and videos for my personal/home photography.  I see myself adding video to my professional work in the near future, so this fusion thing is important to me.  I tried IPhoto with IMovie but I found them kludgy and I just never liked how Apple would try to make the programs simple for the novice user and take away the ability to really manage your files (if you wanted to).   I also tried to use Lightroom and IMovie but that was not very elegant either. Aperture 3 allows me to manage my home photos and videos in the same program, store files where I want them, and produce great sideshows that integrate still photos, video, music, text and transitions in a very elegant manner.  

SO WHY DON'T I SWITCH MY PROFESSIONAL WORK TO APERTURE 3?

IT IS TOO SLOW!!!

What do I mean by slow.  The Aperture 3 user interface does not allow me to edit photos as fast as Lightroom, and the system is just too slow to keep up with my editing.  I found I was constantly waiting for the program to catch up to me.  These two things would kill my productivity when editing  large jobs ..... TOTALLY UNACCEPTABLE. On the other hand, when it comes to my personal photo and video editing,  Aperture 3 cut my editing time in half, made the management of photos and videos a breeze, and my output looks better than ever .... A REAL WINNER.  

THE DETAILS

Lightroom Beta 3 vs. Aperture 3

WHY IS APERTURE 3's INTERFACE SLOWER TO USE

The interface is not as intuitive as Lightrooms and many things take more steps in Aperture 3 than in Lighroom.  I tried to not critique things that I felt were "better" in Lightroom because I was more familiar with them.   When I began to use Lightroom years ago I don't remember struggling with the interface like I do with Aperture.  This may change with more Aperture usage ... we'll see.

  • Cropping and Straightening - I use these tools on almost every photo ... this is big ... in Aperture 3 you hit the C key which brings up the crop window, instead of giving me an open crop window that fills the frame like Lightroom, I have to drag the window from end to end. If I want to straighten a photo in Aperture 3 I have to hit the G key and then hold down my mouse and move up and down to tilt the photo one way or the other.  The Lightroom crop  tool also allows you to straighten the photo by tilting the crop box.  The Aperture 3 straighten tool seemed a bit jumpy and was much harder to control than Lightrooms.   For five photos no big deal, but for 500 photos it adds up.
  • White Balance - This is something most photographers adjust on almost every image so you think it would be fast to get to, you have to hit Command-Shift-W in Aperture 3 to bring up the White Balance tool vs. just hitting W in Lightroom.  There is no Auto WB in Aperture and I had to go up to the presets drop down menu to get options such as Flash, Tungsten, etc..  In Lightroom all the options are right there in the white balance box. 
  • Crashing - Aperture 3 just crashed on me as I am writing this article ... Lightroom isn't perfect in this category either, but seems much more stable than Aperture 3 at this point.  I haven't lost any work in Aperture 3, but it just frustrating when it  keeps crashing. 
  • Retouch - I  love the ability to make free-form strokes with Aperture 3's retouch brush. In Lightroom you are restricted to circles.  But if you make say 10 adjustments in Aperture and you want to edit the first retouch adjustment you made, you have to DELETE the nine adjustments that you made after the first adjustment to that to get to the first one.  I found this almost unbelievable.  And there was no way to bring up another retouch panel in Aperture to try to keep them separate and editable.   In Lightroom you just hit H and it brings up little circles to designate where your retouches are and you can click on them and edit them individually. 
  • Adjustment Brush - Aperture 3 added this feature in this new release ... it was badly needed.  It gives you more parameters that you can "brush" onto your image than Lightroom does.  Things like curves,  blur (Lightroom doesn't have this at all),  and noise reduction.   But one thing that I like about Lightroom's implementation is that it allows you to paint the mask of the area that you want to adjust and then you can change multiple parameters (brightness, saturation, contrast, color, etc.) of the area that is masked.  In Aperture 3 you can only change one paramater per mask and if you want to change another parameter you have to repaint the mask.  I couldn't find a way to lift and stamp a mask from one adjustment brush to another.  The way I work, the Lightroom method seems to be quicker and more flexible.
  • Speed - I have a MacPro  .. here are the specs
  • Model Name:    Mac Pro
  •   Model Identifier:    MacPro1,1
  •   Processor Name:    Dual-Core Intel Xeon
  •   Processor Speed:    2.66 GHz
  •   Number Of Processors:    2
  •   Total Number Of Cores:    4
  •   L2 Cache (per processor):    4 MB
  •   Memory:    7 GB
  •   Bus Speed:    1.33 GH
    •  and a Mac Book with 2.4Ghz processors and 4GB RAM.
    • Neither machine is brand new, but I  would consider them a bit above average.  
    • Lightroom runs fine on both machines.  
    • I find that the "Processing" indicator is flashing a lot in Aperture 3.  More importantly I find that  when I change something in Aperture it takes a second for two for the program to catch up and reflect the changes on the screen.  This can be REAL FRUSTRATING.  When I would use an adjustment brush I would go over an area and nothing would appear on the screen and my first reaction was to do brush over the area again, only to find out a few seconds later that Aperture did pick up my first stroke but it took a few seconds to appear on screen.  This is a SHOW STOPPER for large volume work.
  • PHOTOSHOP Interface - Lightroom allows you to select multiple images and have Photoshop open them as layers.  I don't  do this that often, but when I need to it sure is nice to do this with one click of the button.  From what I can see Aperture can't do that.  Also, you can choose in Lightroom to pass your RAW file directly to Photoshop without creating a TIFF, PSD, or JPEG file.  This is possible because Photoshop and Lightroom share the same RAW engine, Adobe Camera Raw.  If you make adjustments to your file in Photoshop, Photoshop will have to generate a TIFF, PSD, or JPEG file to send back to Lightroom.  On a number of occasions I go into Photoshop to "tryout" some enhancement and decide I didn't like the way it looked and I just closed the file without saving it and there was no 40MB PSD file that was created unnecessarily.  Aperture can't do this. 
  • Gradient Tool - Lightroom has it, Aperture doesn't.  You can try to brush in a gradient in Aperture but it will take time and probably not look as good.
  • Syncing Adjustments -  both products can sync adjustments that you make on one photo and sync them with other photos in the library.  The Previous button in Lightroom is a big  time saver, it just takes the last photo that you just worked on and applies those adjustments to the current photo.  If you select multiple files from the browser and hit the sync button in Lightoom a window will all the adjustment parameters and you can select which ones you want to sync.  Aperture allows you to hit the O key to bring up the Lift and Stamp menu box and then you have to hit the little triangle to expand either the Metadata or Adjustments options and then you can select which options you want.  To me the Aperture way seemed kludgy, but maybe this is one of those things you get better at with time.

In my opinion the above items are what keeps Aperture 3 from becoming my editing tool for my professional work.   Aperture only runs on a Mac, so if you are using Windows,  Lightroom is your only choice. There are some great things (that I didn't mention above) that Aperture does that Lightroom  doesn't incorporate.

  • VIDEO SUPPORT - this is huge.  With the fusion thing happening, this really is needed. The video editing is pretty much limited to trimming your video in Aperture, but being able to manage it in the same database as your images and create very professional sideshows that integrate video, stills, music, and text is a game changer.
  • BOOKS - Aperture has had a very nice book creation feature.  This is great if you want to design albums or photobooks.  Lightroom doesn't have anything like this. 
  • Face recognition - I don't use this, but some people really like it.
  • Places - You can use GPS data or locate where the photo was taken on a map
  • Blur - the ability to add blur is really helpful, it saves me a few trips to Photoshop.
  • Skin Softening - Aperture does a nice of this. Lightroom tries to do softening by reducing the contrast (Clarity) in a given area, but it isn't as good as Aperture.
  • Tether Support -  Aperture can tether to a number of DSLRs.   Lightroom can't do it directly.  You have to use a third party program for tethering with Lightroom and Lightroom just monitors the directory with the images and imports them into Lightroom.

There are things like camera support, camera calibration, sharpening, noise reduction, web galleries, printing, etc. that both do but implement them differently.  For some photographers, these may be show stoppers for them, they just aren't critical for me. There are a lot of other things that one program has over the other, some of them are objective and some are subjective.  I tried to stay away from the subjective.  As I continue to use Aperture 3 and learn more about it I will update this post.