A Tale of Two Tools

by James Duncan Davidson

Picking what tools to use in the digital darkroom is hard. For a while, it was difficult because all the tools were apparently built by people who weren't talking to photographers. For a long time, we all suffered through using a combination of Photoshop and the Finder (or Explorer on Windows). Adobe Lightroom and Apple's Aperture changed that and we now have a pair of tools that have been built with a wealth of input from photographers and which promise to continue to evolve with our input. But, having two good tools in the form of Aperture and Lightroom means that there's another choice to be made.

Web 2.0 Open Schedule

For the last year or so, I've been working hard to avoid making this choice. I kept my master library in Aperture and using it for most tasks. For those tasks where the beta versions of Lightroom were noticeably better, notably printing, I would take that image into Lightroom and print it. However, the master was still back in Aperture. That's where all of my organization happened. I continued this pattern throughout the betas for Lightroom as I wasn't ready to commit my world to it. My workflow with Aperture was working well and for the kind of work I do, I can't have my workflow let me down.

To put things into perspective since this is my first post on the Inside Lightroom blog, I should introduce myself a bit and note that the bulk of my photography—at least in number of shots taken—centers around event photography. For the last two and some years, I've been the photographer for all of the O'Reilly conferences and have shot events for Apple and other clients. When I shoot an event, I stress all the tools I use to the max. For example, at the recent Web 2.0 Expo, my shooting partner and I shot over 6000 frames, pushing well over 50GB of data, in 4 days. Then, we had to edit that down to less than 1000 to deliver to my clients. I'm not easy on my software, and I'm always looking for a better way to get things done.


David Medina
2007-05-02 17:39:01
Traitor! JAJAJA
Rob Meyer
2007-05-02 20:07:03
I only tried the trial of aperture for it's 30 days to compare it to Lightroom. I like Lightroom's comparing, sorting, and developing tools much better. I do prefer Aperture's library management...Lightroom's seems a little half-baked by comparison, but I'm sure that will improve as the version number marches upwards.
George Mann
2007-05-02 23:24:18
Great Apple (Reverse) Switch story Duncan. You might not get any more event shoots from Infinity Loop though.

Welcome to the Inside Lightroom team.


Don Ricklin
2007-05-03 03:44:47
I think you will find even more reason to stay 'converted' down the line.

I am not surprised you found yourself using Lightroom so much.


James Duncan Davidson
2007-05-03 15:02:05
David: Whoa!

Rob: Indeed, Aperture's Library stands way beyond Lightroom's. But I do hope that improves significantly.

George: Thanks for the welcome! And hopefully, I haven't munged my prospects. After all, the pictures are the same... :)

Don: We'll see how it all goes. I know that over the next few years, there's going to be a lot of improvement on all fronts. This party is just getting started.

2007-05-04 09:22:51
Thanks for the honest report. It's nice to see someone who has used both extensively provide insight. You were spot on in letting the decision make itself (insert Deep Thoughts spoof here). I find that when comparing tools, it's best to just use them and see where it takes you. Most often you'll end up with the decision already made.


Moki Mac
2007-05-04 16:07:22
Aperture is like a Ferrari -Kitcar. While it does have a bit more polish to the interface and dual head support, the thing shudders and shakes at speeds above 65. Then there are the times the steering locks when you swerve to avoid the sudden beachballs bouncing onto the freeway :)

LightRoom on the other hand is like real Ferrari perhaps an older slightly used one that could use a paint job, some burned out dash board lights need replaced and perhaps a new interior, but daaayammm the thing lurches when you ask it to by stopping on the gas, and it can cruise at 150 MPH, yet feel like a Sunday drive as you take it through tight canyon corners.

In the end, which is easier to do? Polish the real Ferrari or fix the kitcar? Adobe has the advantage IMO, and Apple has a tough road ahead.

I too was an Aperture Apologist until I realized the freedom that LR gave me.

Output speed is nearly 3x that of Ap, to add to that it is in the background allowing me to work on the next job, now that is multitasking workflow.

TAT and other tools are absent on AP. YES APPLE, I use the vignette tool, DAILY!!

The clone and heal tool WORK, WELL.. so well in fact I can pre spot images and often avoid CS3 on many images. Additionally, I can use it in my sports work to move a baseball, soccer ball, or hockey puck to a more exciting position as well as remove edges of unwanted items to accommodate a more artistically exciting crop :) Yeah cloning and healing are THAT good. The tool in Ap was herky-jerky and barley good enough to ONLY use on dust spots.

Presets, sync, suto sync and the previous button are HUGE timesavers, especially when working on 600-800 images at a time from youth sports.

Auto sync is a killer app within this killer app when working on sequence shots like the pitcher winding up and releasing.. adjust and crop one, select the 8-15 others in the sequence, hit auto sync and BOOM! I just pp'd 15 images.

Stack all of the tools in LR onto the high output quality and BOOM you have a winner.

Round trips to CS3 are smooth as butter and sweet as cream.
Based on what V1.0 has already done for me, I am confident LR V1.1 will be huge.

What did we expect from the imaging powerhouse of Adobe?

Adobe makes the best imaging apps and Apple makes the best platform. Great matchup.

Will Ap v2.0 leap Lr v1.x? Me thinks not.

Off to shoot 1,000 frames at tonight's games...


Moki Mac
2007-05-04 16:31:22
Additionally to the comments of Lr advantages, is the fact that I can apply adjustments, crop, etc, in any order I choose.

I Ap I had to do things in a particular order or it would get real herky-jerky until the world championship beachball of death games began :)

Back to the car analogy, when driving the Ap car, you must shift sequentially and always use the clutch or it will stutter. In Lr, its like starting in 1st gear, redline it, and clutchless shift right to thrid or fourth and smoke rolls off the rear tires as I hit the next gear...

I can do virtually any adjustment at any time in the creative culling, cropping, correcting phase, AND any amount of adjustments with no perceived slow down.

Not the case with Ap, even on a Quad 2.66 Ghz Mac Pro with 3 GB RAM and x1900xt graphics card...

Ok off to the games now!

James Duncan Davidson
2007-05-05 00:11:07
Brian: Yah. In retrospect I shouldn't have even tried to overthink it. It's all about using the right tool for your own situtation.

Moki: I'm actually really looking forward to seeing Aperture 2.0 and what the team on it does. I fully intent on evaluating it based on its own merits to see how it might work in my workflow. I actually have a slight fear that I might be flip flopping between products as they are both developed.

Mauricio Matos
2007-05-05 02:57:10
I too went from Aperture to Lightroom. I got Aperture almost as soon as it got out and love the program. I really love the vault thing (although a lot of people have something against it) and I do love the full screen mode. Then I got Lightroom for free (as a former RawShooter Premium user) and it just works so much faster (on the same machine). As I travel quite a bit, I rely on my laptop a lot...and on my macbook pro Core 2 Duo Lightroom works much better than Aperture.
Andrés Vattuone
2007-05-05 03:21:20
On a time perspective, I think Lightroom is the right choice. I dare to say so even tough I don´t know Aperture. That said, there are many improvements that ought to be done. Stacking is very disappointing in Lightroom. Flagging also has some flows. Finally, I think it should truly do nondestructive processing, optionally saving xmp sidecars instead of embedding metadata in anything but proprietary raw, as did the beta version. This is very important for DAM.
Andrés Vattuone
2007-05-05 03:31:05
I forgot color management, soft proof, etc.
Don Simon
2007-05-07 00:29:14
I have been using Aperture, and used the beta edition of Lightroom until the final release was published. I chose to purchase and use Ligthroom after I lost the beta version. I think the workflow is smoother in Lightroom. I like you do not dis Aperture. I do not think that if there had not been an Aperture there would have been a Lightroom. I think that Adobe may have tweaked Lightroom with a few more features in the final release. I have also taken a look at DXO optics Pro and if the Universal/Intel Mac version were available I might have chosen it. You might try their demo offer to see if it fits your needs. I think we made the right decision.
Jeff McPheeters
2007-05-10 15:43:22
I am waiting to see how well Apple and Adobe move their initial products forward. I'm happy with Capture One Pro + iView Media Pro for now. I tried Aperture 1.5 and LR 1, and found both intriguing, but not really faster than my current workflow. Apple has advanced their Pro apps generally faster and with much more determination than their competitors, to this point. On the other hand, LR isn't tied to the Adobe CS suite path, so it's possible it will progress rather briskly over the next 18-24 months. And Apple may not give Aperture the attention it does its other higher priced pro apps, so time will tell.