Lightroom or Aperture?

Aperture verses lightroom

I just answered this question over at Nikonians and I figured it might be useful here too.


I’m OK with Aperture but not any more than that, and a photographer friend has told me great things about Lightroom—to the effect that it has, in almost every instance, replaced her other post processing and organizing programs, including Aperture. (We both use MAC Book Pro.)

So, I have two questions:

  • Do you prefer one of these programs over the other?
  • How easy / seamless / difficult is it to move photos from Aperture to Lightroom?

I prefer each of these over the other. Not a trick answer, what I mean is:

Generally both are very capable and powerful and both should keep you from having to use Photoshop for the majority of your post-capture workflow.

Generally, too, both do most of what you need to do with so much overlap in capability that owning both is, distracting and unnecessary expense (although Aperture has become very affordable from Apple’s App store now and for that reason alone I’d recommend it to new users equipped with a Mac).

So it comes down to the differences. As another poster says noise reduction in LR is superior to Aperture (but this is only significant if you believe noise to be a huge issue, which it usually isn’t to most non-obsessive members of your audience). I don’t find such a big difference in the sharpening capabilities but I do find Lightroom’s masking in the sharpening panel very useful indeed.

Aperture also does photo books very well and has more strength with slide shows. Lightroom is doesn’t do the former and is weaker on the latter.

Aperture is more beautiful to look at and more pleasant to work with—but it is more of a resource hog than LR so you lose out if your Mac isn’t well endowed with RAM and, especially, a powerful graphics card/GPU.

Moving from one to the other is easy enough but not trivial. They both have great non-destructive raw editing, leaving your original files untouched. The downside of this for moving from one to the other is that they can’t/don’t read each others adjustments as described in the sidecar files etc. So the easiest thing to do is to output full resolution tiffs of all images that you’ve adjusted in one and import those into the other. The tiffs will have the adjustments baked in so now you’ll have your original files plus at least one tiff for each that you’ve edited in any way. This, of course, means you’ll be using more disk space, but that’s not too pricey these days.

I have both Lightroom and Aperture. I prefer Aperture but I use LR most of the time because it’s quicker. But I have good reason to have both since I teach both. I’d go with the advice we often hear, which is to get really good at one and realise that whatever advantage one has over the other will usually be addressed in one or two updates. That and get what your friends/colleagues have so you can learn from each other. And if you are already comfortable with Aperture, the time you spend getting to know Lightroom could have been spent outside taking stunning photos. The other danger is that, once you make the switch, you’ll always be looking over your shoulder checking the capabilities of the other, which is, again, a distraction from your art.

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