Aperture vs. Lightroom – An Easy Way to Confuse Myself

I take a lot of photos – or at least I want to take a lot of photos.  I used to keep all of my photos in iPhoto, but once I started taking “professional” photos (with my SLR), I began to want to separate them from my “home” photos.  I tried both Apple Aperture and Adobe Lightroom and settled on Lightroom as my photo management application of choice.  That was about a year ago.

Apple released a new version of Aperture, 3.0, a couple of months ago and Adobe has a beta of Lightroom 3.0 available right now to try.  I decided that I’d give Aperture another chance while I was on vacation and use it to manage all of the photos that I took with my new lens.  My plan was to use it for a week and then decide if I wanted to switch to it or continue with Lightroom.

One of my biggest turn offs from previous versions of Aperture was what Apple calls the “pro” interface.  All of the buttons and controls are smaller, which I guess allows them to put more on the screen but it

just makes everything more crowded and difficult to see for me.  The new version still uses the “pro” interface, but the controls are larger and have been reorganized.  This was one of the features that attracted me to the new version.

So far it has been very easy to use and responsive.  It has a lot of new tools including brushes that allow you to paint on adjustments such as dodge, burn, exposure, contrast, and the like.  It allows you to create slideshows and edit them as if they were a movie, setting transitions, text, and timing for each individual slide.  It’s not a feature that I’d use often, but I was surprised at the amount of control that it offers

.  It also offers photo book plugins that allow you to create professional “coffee table” photo books with thick cardstock pages (think a wedding album). I like the way that it organizes albums, slideshows, and books under the project to which their photos belong.  It makes it really easy to find things.

Since it isn’t an Adobe product, it doesn’t sport the Photoshop integration that Lightroom does, but I can just copy the images into Photoshop, edit them, and copy them back into Aperture if needed.  That’s what I do with my panoramas.  I haven’t had a chance to play with RAW + JPEG handling yet (I just got a 16 GB CF card so I have room to do it) but I know that I don’t like the way Lightroom handles it right now.

After a week of using it I find Aperture to be very pleasant to use, but I’m not sure if I want to switch to it yet.  I want to continue using the Lightroom beta that Adobe has out and see what new tools they are planning to add. They are trying to improve responsiveness and working on a new RAW processing engine that is supposed to make existing photos look even better.

Switching applications comes with additional headaches as well: I’d have to convert all of my Lightroom photos to Aperture or maintain two libraries.  Either option is a pain.  If I convert my existing Lightroom photos to Aperture I think I’ll lose all of my adjustments.  That is a problem.  Maintaining two separate libraries is an option, but that would make searching for images a bit more difficult.   So I’m not sure what I want to do yet.  I’m going to continue to evaluate and see how it feels.  I’ve still got 3 weeks left on my Aperture trial and Adobe just released a new beta of Lightroom 3.  There is still time.

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