Aperture Vs. Lightroom: Day 2 - The Rainbow Filter?

by Micah Walter


I have never been too satisfied with the Aperture Import panel. Although I think it was well thought out in some regard, it seems to lack in others. First of all, I think they have given way too much space to the thumbnails. Now, while I think it is important to be able to see your thumbnails before you import them (so that you can pick the ones you want) I think they could have used this space a little more efficiently. The problem is the emphasis is on the thumbnails and I have a hard time looking at the important stuff on the right side, especially the metadata area way down at the bottom right.

I do like the way Aperture lets you line up the import with a particular project simply by clicking the desired project, but I wish I could more clearly see all that metadata and import option stuff a little more clearly. I guess this is just a pet peeve of mine.

But, the real problem with the import panel is that I can't create a metadata preset on the fly. I have to actually select an existing image, and use it as a template. It is true, I can go in and edit the template once it is saved, but this seems to be totally backwards in terms of workflow. It would make more sense for me to create that preset while importing the first card for a project. Lightroom allows for creating a preset on import, PhotoMechanic surely does, why can't Aperture?

Okay, on to the good stuff about Aperture. One of my favorite Aperture features is the way it handles Versions and Masters. Though I am sure most of you already know this, I will explain for the novices, and Lightroom users. Aperture calls anything that is an actual file on your hard drive a Master. This Master is used to create as many Versions as you would like. Aperture's Versions are nothing more than database instructions telling Aperture how to render your image. There is usually only one Master, and many Versions--it's that simple. What is really nice about Aperture is that you can have as many Version as you like. Say for instance you want to crop an image to an extreme panoramic for a website banner. Just create a new version and make your crop. You can go back to this Version at any time and it's right there where you left it, Stacked up with the Master and all the other Versions you may have already made.

Picture 5.png

This way of organizing things in Aperture really works for me. I never lose things anymore, and I can always go back to an old Version, or the actual original Master if I like. In addition, if I open the Preferences panel in Aperture, I can set the program to automatically make a new version whenever I start making changes to the Master.

With Lightroom, there is essentially one Version for every Master. Now, it is true, I can always go back to re-edit anything I want. I can change a crop, and I can re-adjust color balance, and I am never actually touching the original file, but I can't seem to make multiple Versions without making a duplicate Master file.

I am glad to see that Lightroom has Stacks available as a feature. Stacks have always been one of my favorite features in Aperture and I really think they can be a powerful editing tool on a number of different levels. So, it is great to see them present in Lightroom. But in Aperture, the Stacks, combined with the ability to have multiple versions of the same file, is a wonderful thing.

Today's shooting was pretty much a bust (aside from another rainbow shot). The early morning boat ride to the "Secret Beach" got cancelled at the last minute. I guess the lesson learned there is to never hire a guy to take you in a boat at 8 a.m. the day after Carnival. In the afternoon I walked over to Portsmouth again to look for more Carnival action, but found an empty town. All the shops were closed today and there was little going on except a bunch of Norwegians tourists cruising through the streets on bicycles.

So, I will have to wait until tomorrow to post my next gallery. In the morning I am going to the capital city, Roseau, and in the afternoon, if all goes well, I will be shooting some food setups and the interior of one of the local restaurants. It should be pretty fun, as I have become a regular at the place and the owners are eager to get some photos for their website.

So check back tomorrow when we get deep into the Develop module in Lightroom and how it compares to Aperture's Adjustments HUD. So far Lightroom looks really impressive on this front.

Also, I just wanted to thank everyone for all the comments. Discussion is what this project is all about, so keep them coming. That last comment about Lightroom's RAW processing capabilities is really interesting, and sounds like a call for some side-by-side comparisons, so stay tuned!


Michael Green
2007-02-20 18:56:01
The multiple versions functionality you're looking for is called "Virtual Copies" in Lightroom - just right click and create a virtual copy which can then be modified independently and stacked up with the original. You can also make "snapshots" while working in Develop to save off different points in the editing process for later reuse.
2007-02-20 23:57:06
actually, the final version of Lightroom does allow versions, got to the Library Modul and under the Photo menu select "Create virtual copy"- this feature is new to the final version
2007-02-21 01:05:22
Blah blah, I'm just envious you're taking pics in such a cool looking environment! (Joking aside, loving this post as it's exactly what I'm looking for - real world road testing of two great applications, so thanks!)
2007-02-21 03:31:22
NICE! Thanks guys. That is just what I was looking for. This is so cool. I point out somehting I don't see and you guys show me the way. It would be pretty ironic if the Inside Aperture blog ended up converting me to Lightroom!

As for the stacks, I do see that you cant create a stack in a collection, though, I am thinking this sort of makes sense. No? More in my next post...

2007-02-21 06:11:46
Another "Aperture-only" feature, versions, de-bunked! I bought Aperture back when LightRoom was Beta4, and haven't looked at it since. Sounds like Lightroom took some of Aperture's best features. Keep up to the good work, you might make me convert to Lightroom yet!
D. Kasaj
2007-02-21 06:18:31
I think it would be cool to do a down and dirty comparison on how both applications arrange their libraries, on the file level. I remember Aperture vaults are packages that have project folders inside, and inside each there is a folder for every RAW file that also contains the "versions" metadata. Too bad I'm away from my Mac to check what's the story on Lightroom
2007-02-21 08:29:09
You are right about not being able to stack in a collection, which is currently a major gripe in the Lightroom community. It does make perfect sense that you should be able to do it. I suspect this may be a limitation of LR's file structure, to which Dr. K alludes.
2007-02-21 09:56:44
Speaking of Virtual Copies, I find there is an issue (a few other friends have this issue) with Windows XP.

It seems I cannot create virtual copies. I select a photo in the Library's grid view, I right-click it, and select "Create Virtual Copy."

The grid's view remains the same (no new 'copy' of the picture with the little earmark appears within the grid) and on the Film Strip, I see a new gray box at the end of the strip, but no picture is in the gray box. If I click the gray box, nothing happens.

If I try to create another virtual copy (of same photo or a different photo) the same behavior happens again (no change to the grid, and yet another gray empty placeholder where a new photo should appear).

Am I creating virtual copies incorrectly??? I've tried the simple things (reboot after install, uninstall and reinstall of software) but I'm getting the same result. I've tried this on 2 PCs (different manufacturers) and a laptop (all running XP home edition with SP2).

Any advice would be appreciated!

Rodney ( rodneyj725 at gmail dot com )

2007-02-21 11:19:01
as far as "becoming a convert" ;) is concerned: personally, I like Aperture better in terms of interface and organizing, but I just can't be made to like the image controls: whenever I change the "Higlights..." slider for example, the whole picture changes dramatically even with the lowest setting, and the controls don't seem as sohisticates as in LR with its recover, fill light, curves etc.
Tough choice
Allan W.
2007-02-21 11:48:36
Some interesting technical comparisons here: http://arstechnica.com/reviews/apps/lightroom.ars/7

I am quite impressed with the whole "select an area and just start sliding (to adjust a tonal value)" thing in LR 1.0*. I would also love some kind of vignette control.


Allan W.
2007-02-21 11:49:02
I love and hate stacks as implemented in Aperture 1.5.x. Great idea - but when I want to see a smart album or make a light table with an image *within* a stack, it brings the whole stack. Annoying. Stacks are really only useful for shots that are *very* similar, not for a broader range of a shoot (say, 3 different angles of a person).
Michael Clark
2007-02-21 11:50:30
FYI: I just posted to over in the Inside Lightroom website a blog comparing the Versions and Stacking features of Lightroom and Aperture. Just thought I'd post a message here as well.

Keep up the good work Micah. If there is anything I've learned from the comparison so far it is that I need to take more vacations on tropical Islands!

2007-02-21 12:56:04

Don't take this badly, but I have the impression you are writing about Aperture - then mentioning Lightroom. eg No versions in LR (you should look at how to select versions which is where Ap is better than Lr where you must save them in collections). Michael seems to be using Aperture and writing about it, then seeing how it compares. Feel free to delete this observation - but please give it a moment's thought.


2007-02-21 13:26:32
Gio, and everyone else,
Wow, great comments so far. This is really fun, and exactly what I was hoping for. To quickly answer your question, I am pretty new to Lightroom. I have tried out the Beta at various times over the past year, but have never really taken the time to really learn all of the details. This is basically what I'm doing here. I wrote last night that it didn't have Versions, because I couldn't find them. Now I know, and I think it's pretty nice.

Allan, I totally agree. The Stacks are one of my favorite features, but it takes a little time to figure out how to use them. This goes without saying for a number of LR features. For instance, I have used Labels in iView before, but never really thought I needed them. Now I see they are available in LR, and I'm not to sure what to use them for. Right now I basically add stars as I go through my edit process.

Tonight I am going to write about the Develop module and also a few more nuances I found in the Library area. This series of articles isn;t really meant to go to deep under the hood. I'm out here shooting and trying to use a program I know little about. In fact I think it is somehting to be said about LR in how easy it has been to learn so far (I have only opened the Help a couple of times so far).

Anyway, thanks to all who commented, be sure to check out Michael's posts on the Lightroom site, and check back often!

2007-02-21 15:23:04
Michael, I wish I could do that more too. Then I might be able to sell photos as a teenager. Pictures of my cat probably won't sell well.

Micah, wow, love the comparison. I was wondering if maybe you could discuss Lightroom's interface and arrangement of panels. The thing I love abt Ap is how, not just that I can hide & resize panels & elements, but I can completely put then in a different place. I also love Ap's HUD's. Dose Lr have things similar to these?

A neat/annoying thing (O.k. that makes no sense) it that I can put my name or logo in the upper-left corner of the interface. I say it's annoying because I think that Adobe doesn't need to show a big Lr logo, and it's wasted screen space.

Also WHY hasn't either application allowed you to set the background color for fullscreen editing to gray instead of black; which is more neutral & better for comparing & viewing colors. And that's my other thing w/ Lr, the interface is really really dark, not neutral.

Hope I didn't bore anyone w/ my rambling. ;)