Lightroom vs. Aperture: Versions and Stacking

by Michael Clark

While working these last few days with Lightroom and Aperture side by side I've been playing with Stacking as well as Versions (in Aperture), which are called Virtual Copies (in Lightroom). The Virtual Copy tool in Lightroom is a very welcome addition and really helps with my newfound black and white addiction. To create a Virtual Copy in Lightroom go to Photo > Create Virtual Copy in the Library Module. Or you can also right click on any image and choose Create Virtual Copy. Pretty simple. In Aperture it is simple as well and they both perform about the same way. Both applications create copies of the original or master image without taking up but a few kilobytes of hard drive space. And you can create as many versions as you want in both programs. So now we can have the original color image, a sepia tone, and a black and white all right next to each other without chomping into our hard drive space. I don't see any huge differences between the applications on this front.


In the above image I have selected both the original image and the virtual copy in the survery mode.

Now in terms of Stacking, I was never one who stacked selects on my light table so this function seems a little strange to me but I know of a few Aperture users who swear by it. After playing with stacking in both Lightroom and Aperture, I have to say that it is much better done in Aperture because of the visual separation between stacks and the control you have as to how the stacks are made. Lightroom has similar controls to adjust and automatically form stacks but with the images all lined up right next to each other it isn't visually easy to delineate where one stack starts and another ends. For my workflow, I don't use Stacking so I'm not too worried about it. I tend to sequester my images by their star ranking and it works fine for me.



Above is a comparison of Aperture and Lightroom with the images stacked automatically.

In regards to some other observations on these two applications, Aperture only works on my 15" MacBook Pro at the moment. It will not load onto my G5 tower since the video card on the tower is not up to snuff - though it seems fine for all of my other imaging applications. That in it's own right is a pain since Lightroom will run on pretty much any computer working with Apple OS 10.4.

Aside from that problem though, I have quickly come to the conclusion that Aperture isn't really in its element unless you are working on dual monitors. I like the full screen mode in Aperture and actually prefer it to the normal user interface. But I don't like my image being covered up by the HUD for horizontal images. And I can see that the image editing process would be much nicer in Aperture if I were using dual monitors. I'll try to put my monitors together this week to see how it works. I am not surprised that in most of the Aperture videos on the Apple website they show Aperture being used with dual monitors. I can imagine it would be really sweet to have Aperture running on dual 23" or 30" monitors with one monitor as an image browser and the other as the image preview.

By comparison, Lightroom seems fine on any size monitor - even my 15" laptop which is great since I will be using it in the field and have quite extensively. I have also worked with Lightroom on a 30" monitor and it is incredible. On a 30" monitor forget about clicking off the panels - there is plenty of room to see your image at near 50% or larger with all of the panels open. I was drooling...

That's it for now. Thank you for all of your comments - keep them coming and I'll respond when I can.

Adios, Michael Clark


2007-02-21 11:40:19
Do you know, Michael if you can use Lightroom with dual monitors?
Michael Clark
2007-02-21 11:44:24
Ash, at this point I don't think you can. Or if you do the other monitor will be empty or could have photoshop open in it which might be nice.
2007-02-21 12:35:55
I have a 15" macbook pro, too, and a 30" monitor on my G5 tower. I think if you close windows you don't need open, that might help. You can select them in the Window Menu up top. For instance, once you import a new project, close the project window on the left (type the W key, or again, in the Window menu up top). You can also close the adjustments window, and bring up the HUD at any time by tapping H. You will have a screen width work area and a (resizable) thumbnail browser now... with the adjustments HUD just a key stroke away when you need it. Same thing for any of the other functional windows. If you look in the Windows menu you can close any of them with a key stroke or keyboard combination. So you can make your workspace as wide as the laptop's screen.

Anyway, the aperture work space can be laid out in almost any way you want. Some of this gets easier as you learn the app, the keyboard commands, and your workflow.

I'm not sure if you are thinking of stacks properly. I think the power of stacks is in comparing similar images so you can rate them, but you say you rate them before you stack, and sequester them by rating instead of stacks? I don't use stacks for organizing per se. In fact, I may get rid of them after I rate my images. This might explain it better:

If you learn to stack and compare, culling through a 1,000 images in aperture just doesn't seem daunting. It is fairly simple to learn, too.

Pam Procter
2007-02-21 12:36:25
I found that stacking is useful when editing a copy of an image from Lightroom in Photoshop. After the editing, the original and Photoshop edited one are stacked.
2007-02-21 13:19:00
"I like the full screen mode in Aperture and actually prefer it to the normal user interface. But I don't like my image being covered up by the HUD for horizontal images."

Check the Inside Aperture blog for a recent pots explaining how to set up the HUD not to cover the image in full screen mode. I think a CNTRL click on the HUD and select Avoid shoudl do the trick

2007-02-21 15:06:41
I do not understand your comments about monitors. When editing in Aperture hide the Projects panel, open the Adjustments Inspector, and make the Browser as big or small as you want. How is this any different than in LR's development module hiding the left and top panels, displaying the right panel, and making the filmstrip as small or large as you want? These are more or less identical.

Both products have a full screen mode, but only A gives you the option of a HUD to adjust the image full screen. However, the HUD is not a requirement for editing, the Inspector shows the exact same thing (like LR's right panel) the HUD does. You can choose whichever you prefer.

You are correct that A has an advantage over LR with two monitors because A enables certain features when it detects a second monitor (which is why Apple shows the pictures on its web site) while LR does nothing. But that does NOT mean the lack of a second monitor is somehow worse for A then LR.

2007-02-21 15:12:37

Actually, the full screen "trick" you refer to is for the Browser. You can use the option 'Avoid' and the image will not draw underneath it. On a wide screen display putting the browser on the left and making it a bit smaller along with using 'Avoid' takes very little away from the full screen and allows the full picture to display.

The author's complaint was about the Adjustment HUD covering the image in full screen, which is true. However, the HUD is simply an option Aperture provides should you happen to want to _edit_ in full screen as well as mark, tag, compare, etc. If the HUD covering the image bothers you, then use the Adjustments Inspector in "regular" screen mode instead.

2007-02-21 15:45:29

I've installed Lightroom 1.0 and so far love it. But, I do have one issue. I cannot seem to create Virtual Copies.

I do my import of photographs, and I put some of the photos in various collections. I then go the collection I want to work on first.

I select a photo in the grid view, right-click it (I'm running Windows XP) and select "Create Virtual Copy."

The grid's view remains the same (no new 'copy' of the picture with the little earmark appears) 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).

BUT, If I go to "All Photographs" in Library, instead of going to a collection, I do see the virtual copies in the grid view and filmstrip that I previously could not see in the collection.

From the Adobe forums, other window users are also experiencing this "Virtual copies only works in 'All Photographs'" issue. A few other friends running Windows XP are also having the issue (my mac buddies are not so far).

Am I creating virtual copies incorrectly?

Michael Clark
2007-02-22 20:43:51
Rodney -

Sounds like there is an issue with Windows XP and Lightroom. I am sure the Lightroom guys are already working on this. Sorry is all I can say....

2007-02-28 03:53:09
Rodney -

I have found the same issue as you an i'm on a mac. Stacks don't seem to work correctly unless you have a 'Folder' selected. Likewise if I am browsing a 'Collection' and want to create a stack, I have to first find the folder the images are in and create it from there.

Very annoying!!!