But What About Aperture?

by Derrick Story

Often, when I'm asked to speak at amateur photo events, the organizers have specific topics they want me to address. For example, last weekend I covered Adobe applications at Popular Photography's Digital Days. Adobe, Sony, and a handful of other sponsors helped fund the two-day workshop.

Event organizer Phil Mistry working with attendees and models during a shoot at Digital Days. Photo by Derrick Story.

I think the current crop of Adobe applications are well designed, and I like showing budding photographers how to better use them. But I'm noticing a trend that I wanted to share with you. After the formal presentations, when I'm answering questions one on one, I always get, "But what about Aperture?" My first response is typically, "Well, you'll need a Mac to run it." That never seems to be a problem.

Then the conversation flows into Aperture's features and how they stack up to those I just discussed on the stage. Anyone using Aperture knows that it compares very well to any photo management tool.

I'm posting about this because I think there's a genuine interest in Aperture among amateur photographers. I know that Apple's target customer is the pro shooter. Good choice -- the app is perfectly designed for that level. But I think there are some real opportunities with the amateur crowd too. Many of them want the best possible tools, and they will do their homework before making a choice. Live presentations help that research.

Based on the questions I'm getting, maybe Apple should get more involved in amateur events... People want to hear what they have to say.


Michael Ball
2007-07-23 09:38:55
Yes. Especially because Aperture is 1/2 the price of photoshop and equal to Lightroom.
Of course there would be no point if these conferences cost too much-and having student discounts for some.
Thomas Pindelski
2007-07-23 10:53:03
Interesting article, thank you.

Apple's positioning of Aperture as a 'pro' app is mistaken, IMO. After all, the serious amateur market must, I'm guessing, outnumber the pro market by one or two orders of magnitude.

Apple would make more sales if they repositioned the product to a new target audience - after they make it run at decent speeds on less than $5,000+ Mac Pros, that is. There are only so many sports and wedding photographers making a living with this tool, after all.

2007-07-23 11:55:11
There'd be a whole lot more interest if Apple made it run on PC too.... That's where the amateur crowd is.
2007-07-23 12:50:19
Yes, they are marketing it as Pro, but the price is more like advanced amateur. There is already a amateur application for free as can read raw files, iPhoto.

Remember that Aperture is just a tool to get the photos were we want them; to the web, to print, to magazines, to news papers, to slide shows, to presentations, you name it. And on the way improve what we could not do before the photos were taken. I would be more than happy if I didn't need to care about Aperture, Photoshop, color balancing, color calibration of monitor, scanners and printers.

But I do agree, it would be fun, if Apple supported more activities.

Matthew Brown
2007-07-23 13:05:10
I don't think it's necessarily a mistake to market it as a 'pro' app - after all, fortunes have been made selling 'pro' equipment to amateurs with aspirations for practically forever. However, Apple should be aware that keeping this market happy is also important, and that they should not limit themselves to only those that make money through photography, especially when it comes to marketing and awareness.

That said, Apple should make sure to keep pros happy; being the tool used by pros is always great marketing.

2007-07-23 13:13:22
I'd rather see iPhoto get just a few of Aperture's attributes and go cross platform. If iPhoto had non-destructive editing and a few of Apertures tools I'd use it again for many things.
2007-07-23 14:08:35
Memory is the key for Aperture performance, I've found. You really need 2GB+. I'm running on an early PowerMac G5 with 2GB, and it flies.
Bakari C
2007-07-23 15:53:22
I started out thinking that Aperture would be great for the amateur photographer, but I think moreso that it's for power shooters--people who shoot lots of photos on a regular basis. iPhoto needs to remain an entry level photo management tool, but improved batch processing features must be added.
2007-07-23 15:56:35
I'm test-driving Aperture and I like what I see. I'm an amateur but I like my pictures to be catalogued and orderly. I'm on the fence but I'll keep at it. Good article.
2007-07-23 16:40:33
as an "amateur photographer" hobbyist myself, I can say that yes, Aperture DOES appeal to that demographic. Who's to say that those of us who are the "prosumers" aren't fit to use the pro tools? We need more than what the basics have to offer, even if we're not spending $5K on a lens.

Yes, it needs horsepower. I'm running a copy on a 17" 1.67ghz PB. It can be a dog. BUT, it does everything I ask it to do, albeit a smidgeon slower than I'd like (OK, a handful of smidgeons). BUT, it still works.

I think Apple's marketing it right. They're showing you how pros put it to use. It doesn't mean - to me, anyways - that it's ONLY for pros, simply that it's so good that pros feel comfortable lending their workflow to it, and thus you can trust in it, too. It's begging the prosumers to get on board. I know; I did!

Should they do more amateur-type events? yes they should. They should be teaching us prosumers how to get the most out of their professional-level product. Get us in, get us away from lightroom, which simply IS NOT as good, even the adjustments - I've tried even the 1.1 release, and though you *think* while you're in LR that you're flying through it and it looks wonderful, once you export it and compare it to the same image you do in AP, the AP one always looks mo' betta. Go figure.


2007-07-23 21:05:58
I would also classify myself as an amateur hobbyist and aperture appeals to me too. What drew me to it was it's simplicity and ability to do just about everything. I also would like to see iphoto upgraded with a few of apertures abilities such as non-destructive editing and maybe a few more editing tools.
Jess Have
2007-07-24 00:45:27
I'm posting about this because I think there's a genuine interest in Aperture among amateur photographers

:-) you are absolutely right! The amateur photographer might not want to know about all the bells and whistles of Aperture, and probably doesn't need to know. However I think Aperture is well-designed to cope with different levels of knowledge of the application's features. A good way to learn about them little by little is listening to your podcasts. So it would be nice to have Apple more involved in the amateur photography. And of course also on a more worldwide level... Most of the events are taking place on American soil.
And the amateur crowd is not only on the PC side of things...
2007-07-24 05:57:52
As a working Pro who is using Aperture, I get all sorts of clients and passers-by (when on location) coming up to my Macbook and asking "Is that Aperture?! How do you find it? Can you show me some stuff?"
Many serious amateur friends of mine are looking to move from iPhoto to Aperture. Its a very similar move as iMovie to Final Cut Pro.
Louis Baer
2007-07-24 09:03:51
There are many shades of amateur, from those who can be happy with iphoto to those with $1000+ camera bodies and a choice of lenses. The latter "amateur" can often go out for a day and shoot a few frames a second, 2-300 on a $100 4Gb card, and so for a period has many of the stresses and needs of the professional shooter.

So there is big interest in workflow programs, but the interest starts shrivelling up when they see Aperture is limited to the Mac. Only a sliver of that market is ever going to buy a new computer to run one piece of software. After all, they want to do more on their computers, bring work things home, or take the PC into the office so the IT guy can add another hard drive etc. And why should they choose their computer for one program? Lightroom has already stopped Aperture stone dead, and other traditional raw developers and new entrants will take advantage of OS-based raw support and meet the needs on the PC side. So long as Aperture remains limited to the Mac, it's going to stay an obscure niche. Interest, yes, but not long lasting.