Do Aperture Users Need Photoshop?

by Josh Anon

One of Aperture's features is its ability to integrate with external editors, like Photoshop. But given the image adjustments that we can make within Aperture, one has to wonder why we really even need Photoshop. After all, between buying expensive cameras, lenses, and computers, it'd be great to not have to spend even more money to buy a very expensive program. Heck, I was just out on a photo trip for the past 10 days and only launched Photoshop once. I did all of my exposure, color, levels, etc. work in Aperture and didn't need Photoshop.

Well, why did I launch Photoshop, you might ask? I had a task that Aperture can't do at all--combining images. I'd taken a few sets of images over the week that I intended to combine, panoramas as well as montages (multiple exposures, something Canon digital cameras sadly can't do in-camera although some Nikon cameras can). For the panoramas, CS3's improved automerge tool is really amazing, and just by exporting my images, selecting them in Photoshop, and waiting for a few minutes, I had a great-looking panorama. Creating the montage images was almost as simple, except I needed to manually drag each image into one master image and adjust each layer's opacity. But if I hadn't shot any sequences like this, I probably wouldn't have opened up Photoshop at all during the week.

However, I might be deceiving you a bit at this point--as much as Aperture gives me while actively shooting and doing coarse adjustments/editing, I am sure that I'll take a number of these images into Photoshop before calling them done. For instance, I have a very nice image of a honeybee in flight, but I want to adjust the lighting (think dodging and burning) to help emphasize the honeybee. This complicated processing involves layer masks, adjustment layers, and various other tasks that again, I can't do in Aperture. I probably also have a number of images that I'll want to run through a noise-reducing tool before printing or trying to sell, just to make them look even better.

Speaking of making things look better, my sensor would look a lot better if I managed to clean it completely. About 200 images have this glob of dust on them that look like Pac-Man throwing up. Although I can get rid of most small specks of dust with Aperture's spot patch tool, I always need to use Photoshop's clone and heal tools, which just let me paint whatever shape I need, for these odd-shaped globs. To some people, this is part of the finishing process, but I like getting rid of dust as early as possible, even before posting a small version of an image to the web, whereas I'll do other things like noise reduction and sharpening at the desired output resolution towards the end of my workflow.

To answer the question I posed initially, I think that yes, Aperture users do still need Photoshop. Even if you're like me and 80% (or more) of your workflow is now exclusively in Aperture, that other 20% matters a lot. How do you readers feel? What do you use Photoshop for?



Christopher Mackay
2007-07-18 08:34:17
There's always going to be that little bit of dust on the sensor, the perfect group portrait that has one person with their eyes half-closed, or power lines that need to be painted out of that breath-taking landscape shot. Not to mention adding that 3D-modelled Nessie to that grainy Scottish loch photo...
2007-07-18 09:25:20
I suspect that as soon as I moved over to Aperture from iView Media Pro, in which Photoshop was a necessary step in my RAW workflow, I'm now in Photoshop about 90% less than I used to be, and I wish it were more. I understand Aperture isn't going to be an image editing program, nor do I necessarily want it to be, but 50% of the time I'm in Photoshop now is for things that I know Aperture could do (vignetting, more advanced color correction, printing controls which make sense).

Interestingly, I find that now I spend more time and mental effort getting the image right _in_ the camera, knowing that I won't be in Photoshop to mask, dodge, and burn. I have no objection to those steps, mind you (I know people who think that post processing on that level is cheating--I assure you I'm no such purist), but I find myself not reaching for those tools very often any more since they're less readily available.

My hard drives have thanked me, too. On average a converted RAW to saved .psd runs me about 80MB. In Aperture a developed RAW costs me about, what, 40k?

2007-07-18 09:28:38
I fully agree with you. I use PS2 for all my editing/manipulation and Aperture for archiving and printing. I like to work in real time when editing, but i noticed that Aperture's adjustments HUD is really slow for some reason. I'm running a dual 2gHz G5 with 3GB ram and 2-250GB internal HD's (plus 4 500GB ext HD for storage & back up). When I adjust, say exposure, I move the slider and it takes like 3-5 sec's for the adjustment to take place whereas in PS2 is real time. If anyone know's how to fix this, please email me at Thanks...
2007-07-18 09:59:20
I would agree, I use Aperture for cataloguing and picture editing and photoshop for more detailed work which could really be classified as pixel editing.
2007-07-18 10:50:54
Anything other than gloabl adjustments you're gonna have to use another app. If what you want to do is primarily dodging and burning, I suggest you take a look at LightzoneRT and the tool it has for quick intuitive D&B. The RT version is a lighter version specifically made to be a helper app to Aperture. I find it a far more intuitive solution.
Don O'Shea
2007-07-18 12:30:43
Also, when you have to remove a power line from a gorgeous landscape, Photoshop is the only answer.
2007-07-18 14:20:31
Yes but for most of these tasks Photoshop Elements is more than sufficient.
2007-07-18 19:12:41
Since moving to Aperture it has cut down my use of Photoshop by 90%. I only use it for those really big editing jobs or for retouching portraits.
2007-07-19 02:12:23
Bill Griffin
2007-07-19 05:08:37

The more I use Aperture, the more I sense it's usefulness as a digital asset management application with B+ image editing functionality. I am amazed with the organizational capabilities of Aperture. I stopped archiving to CD's last January by purchasing extra external HD backups. It's so convenient and fast.
On the issue of optimizing image quality, at least for now, it is a very distant second to Photoshop. And I think Apple Engineers even admit that. I only wish they would have designed Aperture to allow me to export RAW file versions to Photoshop instead of Tiff. I miss the functionality of Adobe Digital Camera Raw.
Apple has momentum at the present. It wouldn't surprise me that over the next few years they advance CORE Image with higher end editing in this application. When compared to Lightroom, it is the best DAM ( digital asset management ) app.
One last point. When you have an image or series of images that don't need much editing, Aperture is the right choice. MY PSCS3 use has dropped substantially as well.
2007-07-19 05:55:10
I'll concur with Bill's embrace of Aperture as a DAM and archivng to HD's. If Inside Aperture wants to cover more HD storage issues, RAID, etc it would be a good thing.
2007-07-19 10:41:58
Even some of Aperture's global image editing options don't give results which can compare to PS, at least not as quickly and easily. In particular, I think PS's Unsharp Mask is superior in its results to Aperture's own sharpening algorithm. Another extremely useful PS tool lacking in Aperture (particularly for Black and White images) is the curves panel. These two tools are the most common reasons I send images to PS, even more so than localized editing.
Jan Steinman
2007-07-19 22:57:43
As photo editor for a magazine, I did nearly everything in Aperture EXCEPT final conversion to a 20% dot-gain, grayscale image.

I think Aperture does most of what I want it to do as a photographer. It falls down in what I want as a publisher. Adobe still understands the commercial printing market better.

Chris R
2007-07-21 09:09:10
I must confess first that I use both Lightroom and Aperture. I've just migrated to Lightroom for personal work and only use Aperture now for keyword intensive professional work- where I think it is clearly superior. But Aperture's image adjustments have always left me wanting more. In particular the algorithm they use for levels adjustment seems to just starkly convert to black causing posterization and an unnatural transition from black to grey. Photoshop's levels adjustment seems to curve the black levels such that a smoother transition is created. What are other thoughts on this?
I get frustrated easily using Aperture's images adjustments for anything but straightening, sharpening, and white balance. Though I should equivocate by saying I'm a Photoshop guru and frequently mask photos, use several adjustment layers, and am addicted to blending modes to achieve the look I'm going for. (I do this without altering the look of the photo I captured, but by subtly enhancing it) That and I'm paralyzed without a curves tool. Also, I prefer to work in LAB for most color images as this color space best replicates the way the human eye sees.
I've been very upset with the lack of usefulness of Aperture's image adjustments. They feel like child's play. For that reason, I consider the software a powerful organization and proofing tool, but still use Photoshop indispensably.
A sidenote, when I export images to my external editor in Aperture (Photoshop) and convert them into the LAB color space, Aperture can no longer preview the image, and shows an "Unsupported Image Format" badge. This was a major buzz kill for me.
2007-07-21 17:40:25
I get by with Photoshop elements 2. The geek in me keeps wanting to buy CS3, but the realist in me says I will not use it enough to justify the cost. But some version of a tool like photoshop (gimp, works too) is needed for the masking/layers/combining type work.