Sometimes I wonder if it’s just the nature of human beings to pit one thing against another in a never ending competition of features, rankings, and comparison.
Mac vs. Windows. Google vs. Yahoo! Apple’s Aperture vs. Adobe’s Photoshop Lightroom. If you’re running out of room in iPhoto and need more professional tools, which is better? The new Aperture 3? Or, should you wait for Lightroom 3?
iPhoto vs. The Pro Tools
For most of us there is nothing really wrong with Apple’s iPhoto. It will hold tens of thousands of digital photos. iPhoto is simple to use and not overwhelming with features.
What if you want and need more than iPhoto provides?
After all, the current crop of digital SLR cameras come with jaw-dropping features and lower prices.
First, think of what iPhoto does. Then consider what it doesn’t do. If you use keywords and events, finding photos is easy. Sharing photos is as easy as a few clicks. Organizing photos into albums can’t be easier.
What iPhoto doesn’t do is give you many tools to touch up your photos, perfect and enhance your creations. It’s missing all those functions, filters, brushes, tools, and presets that make photo enhancement an industry of its own.
But some of what we love about iPhoto now shows up in Aperture. And more.
It Costs More To Be A Pro
To fill the gap between the inexpensive iPhoto and very expensive Photoshop, Apple and Adobe introduced Aperture and Lightroom, respectively. Booth tools are comparable in features, but take a decidedly different approach.
Professional results require professional tools. How do we know that Aperture and Lightroom are professional tools? Because Apple and Adobe charge more money for each. Oh, and the real name is Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2. Lightroom is $299 retail. Aperture is $199. Both have upgrade options.
What are all these professional features that are worth paying more money? Roll your eyes over my Aperture list:
Photo tools for tweaking, sharpening, adding contrast; tethered shooting, light box, auto stacks, keyword stamping, fast (very fast) views, integration, meta data, vault backup (one click).
Feast your eyeballs on my Lightroom list:
Nondestructive tools to tweak until the cows come home, including a plugin system, runs on Windows, integrated with Photoshop, and creates a smaller photo library (we’re in the age of notebooks, which never ever larger hard disk drives).
The negatives for either Aperture or Lightroom are modest. Apple’s new Aperture 3 seems much faster, especially when displaying photos, searching, and editing images. Lightroom is typical Adobe. It’s clunky interface is work-flow challenged. Side panels seem to interfere with the UI rather than add to it.
Lightroom does not have the export or sharing functions of Aperture (no book creation). Then again, Aperture’s photo library can get huge, and Apple doesn’t come out with RAW updates as quickly as Adobe.
Still, there is much to like about both Aperture and Lightroom. Aperture, at version 3, leapfrogs Lightroom in a few areas; especially performance. Lightroom, at version 2.6.x is mature and stable, and the integration with Photoshop makes it a favorite among real photographers.
There’s good, there’s some bad, and there’s a few ugly points about Aperture. On to Page 2 for the complete list.
Continued from Page 1…
Adobe’s Lightroom 3 is currently in beta testing, and, as expected, comes with more features specially aimed at the more professional photographer. On the other hand, Apple’s Aperture is, arguably, a bit easier to use (in keeping with Apple’s traditional interface capability when compared to Adobe products).
What Does Aperture Do?
Let me cover the basics. First, Aperture lets you work faster (blazingly fast on new Macs) than Lightroom. Imports are faster. Photo sorting and management is faster. Photo enhancement tools are faster and more numerous.
And, photo organizing is faster, thanks to the ability to scan and organize thousands of photos by facial recognition and location (thank you, iPhoto).
Faces is the face recognition function from iPhoto, made even faster in Aperture. Places uses data from GPS-enabled cameras and displays locations on a map.
Aperture also lets you organize photos by keywords, ratings, flags, and labels, or dates, then store your photos on your Mac or another hard disk drive, and provides one click back ups of the entire Library.
Bring photos to full screen with a click and compare enhanced photos with originals. Moving photos around on screen is blazingly quick, faster than Lightroom.
Photoshop Effects Without Photoshop
One thing I noticed about Aperture 3 is how it’s positioned against Adobe’s Lightroom and Photoshop duo. Adobe wants serious photographers to drop the bigger coin for Lightroom and Photoshop.
Apple’s approach is to give Aperture 3 users more adjustment presets—a quicker way to add professional imaging effects and filters—on a single photo or many photos, including some auto correction tools.
Unlike Photoshop, Aperture provides nondestructive brushes so you can alter a section of a photo without having to create and manage masks or layers.
Looks Are Everything, Fernando!
Apple eye candy is evident in Aperture 3. Sure, you can create a photo slideshow from a project or library, but now you can add audio. And video. In fact, Aperture 3 will create a full on multimedia slideshow—still photos, HD video, audio.
In true Apple fashion, sharing is at the top of the list—Flickr, Facebook, or MobileMe—all choices which make it easier to display and share photos online.
I’ve used iPhoto to create photo books as gifts for relatives. It’s just so freakin’ easy to do. Create an album. Select a book design. Click. Click. Done. The book shows up a week or so later.
Aperture 3 brings similar ease-of-use and professional results to book making. There are more book themes and more printing options.
The New Stuff: Good, Bad, Ugly
Apple claims that Aperture comes with over 200 new features. That’s good, right? Sure. But it’s also a problem with 20th century feature creep. Features are overwhelming. It’s the 21st century already. Make features easier to use.
Aperture’s full screen projects view is made for the 27-inch iMac screen. Fill the whole screen with thumbnails and drag and drop to reorder images in a project. Want to see a close up? Double-click. Done.
How do you navigate dozens of albums in iPhoto? It’s that giant list in the left hand column. It’s growing. Aperture makes navigating a bit easier with the full screen browser attached to a drop down menu navigation.
That means you can bounce all over the place looking for photos, never leaving full screen browser mode. Importing photos is better and bewildering. Better as in more import options, especially if you’re bringing in hundreds of photos, and want to set up adjustment presets on import.
The problem is the options. There are so many—autosplit projects and headers, change import locations, checkboxes, checkboxes, checkboxes. Join RAW and JPEG images or separate. Add specific AppleScript options to a project after import.
Did I mention importing photos is fast? Just drag and drop a folder onto the Aperture icon in the Dock and it takes care of everything else—including much faster thumbnail loading.
The ugly of Aperture 3 is the bewildering complexity. No, I think it’s worse in Lightroom. After all, Adobe, like Microsoft, loves to smother users with more features, more features, more features. And regular update that cost more money.
Apple’s approach with Aperture 3 is to position it between the iPhoto crowd who yearn for more capability, but don’t want to get into Adobe Photoshop Lightroom expense and complexity.
Despite the few hundred new features, Aperture’s learning curve is also typical Apple. Not too bad, but there’s a healthy jump between Aperture 2.x and Aperture 3. For me, the highlights are as follows:
Audio and Video: Apple stays on the curve by giving you ability to bring in HD video (all the rage these days on digital SLRs) and some editing tools (looks and works similar to iMovie). It’s not Final Cut Studio, but it’s integrated nicely.
Slideshow: Nothing in Lightroom matches Apple’s ability to put on a good show. There are more slideshow themes, more transitions, and the ability to mix and match photos with video and audio, and even add text (character generation) overlays.
Printing and Photo Books: Better, better, better, more options. That’s all good, right? Except that’s where the ugly begins. There’s no way to cram that many features into an app without scaring somebody. I’ve been using Aperture (and Lightroom) for a few years. The former is easier for the non-pro. The latter is scary, even for pros.
Aperture 3 fits well between iPhoto and the Lightroom-Photoshop duo. Well done. Worth the upgrade price, for sure, but be prepared to spend some time learning where Apple put all the pieces.