Aperture 2 vs. Adobe Lightroom 2

aperture_fullscreen.jpgThe answer to the question “what is better, Aperture or Lightroom?”, as always, is…. It depends. I use both Aperture and Lightroom on a daily basis (as well as Nikon NX2, etc, etc) If I didn’t need to know both of these products extremely well I would probably use Aperture 2 for my own photography (Just letting you know what my bias is). The answer that I always give to my private clients as well as participants in any of my workshops is this - Once you know what your priorities in a tool are, pick one based on your needs. Both are light years ahead of managing and processing your digital images the way you may have back in the dark ages before either of them existed. Now I know that’s not at all helpful so here are the strengths of both in a nutshell: Aperture 2 pros:

  • Way better organizational capabilities that are not at all tied to the underlying file/directory structure.
  • Completely do anything anywhere flexibility, you are not forced into a workflow in any way. If you want to bring up the adjustments HUD and monkey around with the colors while laying out a book, have at it.
  • In general a less cluttered and more flexible user interface but this may be a matter of taste.
  • Books - Aperture books are really, really, flexible, nice, cool, and, did I say wonderful. Not just the ones printed by Apple or just the templates supplied out of the box but the concept in general. If you take the time to figure Aperture books out you can make some really nice stuff really quick and have just about any service print it up. Too bad that there is virtually no documentation on how to really do advanced book things in Aperture. Almost anything is possible but also almost completely undocumented.
  • Stacks, stack mode, compare mode, full screen mode, stack picks, and album picks.....Uhhh if you don’t really know Aperture than this means nothing to you so let’s just say once you figure out how stacking, stack picks, etc work you can improve your productivity by about 1000% if you shoot a lot of images and you need to narrow it down to a few. If you shoot tons of images Aperture shines at streamlining your ability to get through them and end up with the best of the best extremely quickly compared to anything else including LR2
  • Customization. You can customize the user interface in ways that suit how you work, what metadata is displayed where, what keys do what, etc, etc, etc.
  • Keyword hierarchies once you understand them.

Lightroom 2 pros:

  • Local adjustments. No need to bounce your image out to an external editor to do really flexible non-destructive adjustments. Just make sure you have a really powerful machine to keep things speedy. Aperture’s out of the box dodge and burn plug-in is a joke.
  • Way better standards support for metadata but still not perfect.
  • Better print module, especially the output specific sharpening and the like.
  • Adjustment presets.
  • Windows (yuck) and Mac OS X.
  • Fabulous DNG support (of course) and especially the camera model presets that emulate the manufacturer’s RAW conversion or roll your own with free tools. See my preview here.
  • Out of the box more flexible web delivery but only out of the box (if you have tons of time you can make aperture do some amazing stuff but not for most of us)
  • Better but not perfect integration with Photoshop CS 3
  • Keyword synonyms.
  • There are strong and weak points to the adjustment capabilities of both applications but overall I have to say LR2 nudges out Aperture’s adjustments by a hair.

Bottom line - Both applications are fabulous considering that neither of them existed just a few years ago. You can’t really go way wrong with either choice. I have highlighted what I consider to be the strengths of each application. Trying to quantify which application in superior overall for every photographer is pointless. If you are curious about a head to head detailed comparison on any particular feature that is really important to you and your photography shoot me an email or leave a comment and I will be happy to let you know what my experience has been.

RB

Update: Do to a lot of requests on some more detail I have started a series of articles with more detailed comparisons. I will continue to update this as time permits.

Aperture2 vs. Lightroom2 - File Management

Aperture2 vs. Lightroom2 - Stacks

Aperture2 vs. Lightroom2 - Adjustment Presets

Aperture2 vs. Lightroom2 - Keywords

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