Aperture 3 vs Lightroom 3 Beta 2

My first photography “library” program was Aperture 1.5. I bought it right about the time I got my first DSLR, the Nikon D40. I wanted to shoot raw, and needed something to process the images. I wanted to be able to file, sort and tag my images. I set out to evaluate Lightroom and Aperture. My results were here.

Aperture was working will for me, but then I got a little more demanding in my image processing, and that’s were I ran into trouble. Now, I am sure there are others that were incredibly happy with the editing tools in Aperture 2, but I wasn’t. I started to process the images that I most cared about by opening them in Photoshop. Then I decided I wanted to use Camera Raw, and needed to go find the actual NEF file first to open it in Adobe Camera Raw before opening them in Photoshop. I didn’t often need to use Photoshop layers and such, but I did every once in a while. Mostly I just like using Camera Raw.

That’s when I discovered that Camera Raw was the engine behind Lightroom. It was a library and UI with Camera Raw doing the image manipulation. Hmmmm…. So I did a trial of Lightroom, and then bought a copy of Lightroom 2. I was still using Aperture 2 for some things like Books, which Lightroom doesn’t have an answer for.

Now, I was fairly happy with Lightroom 2, but when Apple announced Aperture 3, I was thinking I might be headed back. The upgrade price wasn’t too much, so I went for it. I should have just done a trial. I had issues with it right from the start, but maybe you won’t. I will try to compare the two programs, only bringing up my issues with Aperture 3 at the end.

So, here I will try to compare what I like and don’t like about Aperture 3 and Lightroom Beta 3. For this comparison, I use past experience, and two events that I did where I processed a wedding on Aperture 3, and another party on Lightroom 3 beta.

1) To start with, I still like the library organization of Aperture better. I like folders. I like being able to group projects, books, slide shows and whatever else into a folder. It keeps things together. I had got used to the collection method of Lightroom, and how separate it keeps these virtual folders from the actual image location. For a while I thought it seemed fine, but when I went back to try Aperture 3, I realized I missed it.

2) In the beginning I was put off by the Modules in Lightroom. I felt that it was a bit restrictive. In reality, it was just fine. I got used to it quickly. Now in Lightroom 3 Beta, you have more access to your images in the Develop module (collections), so that area is improving as well. The floating Inspector in full screen mode in Aperture is pretty nice though. Full screen mode in Lightroom is a great feature, but I wish it had a floating window like Aperture. Yes you can remove all the other side bars, but it’s not the same.

3) I still like the Develop Module of Lightroom better than Adjustments in Aperture. Aperture 3 is much improved. Some of the deficiencies in V2 to Lightroom was the gradient tool, brushes, and presets. Aperture 3 added the brushes and presets which was welcomed. I still feel that I can adjust an image to better results with brightness, clarity and a touch of vibrance than I can in Aperture with exposure, definition, and a touch of vibrancy.

4) Brushes are a great Aperture 3 addition, however I find it much easier to add and adjust presets in Lightroom. I like the ability in Lightroom to adjust the brushes. I have presets, but I can tweak them as I would like. I have not figured that out in Aperture yet. I also just like how Adobe has laid out out the menu system for applying presets and brushes better. To me, the masking in Lightroom seems better than in Aperture. It might be subjective, because I wasn’t using the same images, but it just seemed to work better in Lightroom on the images I used it with. Also, I use the graduated filter on sky’s all the time. This is something that Aperture should implement.

5) I like the ability to move the linear points on the histogram in Aperture. I would often pull in the endpoints on an image that maybe didn’t get shot with quite enough light range.  I missed this in Lightroom, but after figuring out how to use the tonal curve, it is probably a wash, but moving endpoints in a little bit in Aperture is really easy. On the other hand, I am starting to use the ability in the Tone Curve and some of the other blocks to adjust while moving the mouse on the image. That way you select the tones you want to adjust, and Lightroom moves the tone curve. That is pretty cool. That was there in Lightroom 2.

6) Books. Aperture has, Lightroom doesn’t. Some people don’t care, but I like the layout engine in Aperture. I wish it had a few more features, and made it easier to export to my own book printer, but that may come. There is now the ability to for plug-ins to work with it. It would be nice to be able to create custom templates that you can save off, but there are only really hacks for this that involve saving copy’s of existing books, and swapping out pictures. I do use the book feature, and if I am sticking with Lightroom, will still keep Aperture around for this function.

7) Printing. Lightroom has been much better than Aperture in this regard. The print module in Lightroom 2 is great, and is a little improved in Lightroom 3 beta. I don’t print much from my own machines, but I have used it to create print layouts and print packages that I have exported to jpegs that I have had printed elsewhere. You have great control over layout with Lightroom. There are a few tricks to getting it to work. I was glad that I had purchased Adobe Photoshop Lightroom for Photographers by Scott Kelby.  Aperture 2 has very basic printing ability. You couldn’t print different images on the same page. Aperture 3 has improved the printing ability, but I still don’t think it can match Lightroom. If you print a lot of your own images, you should probably look into this a bit more.

8 ) Slide shows. Lightroom 3 beta added the ability to match the time of the slide show to the length of the song. It will automatically adjust the length of each slide to match the song. this is very cool. Aperture 3 has a feature that allows you to press a button in real time to adjust the length of time the image is displayed. This sounds better than it works in real life for me. Maybe I just need more practice. On the other hand, the control you now have over the Ken Burns theme is amazing. You drag rectangles (like cropping rectangles) on the screen to specify the start and end sizing for each individual image (if you want) to get great control on how the image moves and expands. This works really well. This extra control is definitely a plus over the slide shows that Lightroom supports.

9) Web Galleries. I can’t say much about this. I keep thinking that I will use these features, but I don’t. I end up exporting my images and using custom javascript or using gallery software like Zenphoto. I end up exporting my images and FTP’ing the images myself. I have played with the built in galleries a bit, and some of the galleries that Lightroom has look pretty nifty. Neither seemed to have the perfect gallery for me. I looked at the effort it would take to create a custom gallery, and it looks like some are available for Lightroom  and that it would be the easier of the two to actually create a custom one.

10) Because I don’t use the web galleries, I need to get my images somewhere. To do that, you need to export them. There were several places I would put images, including Flickr, Facebook, and websites. With Aperture 2, I would export images separately, then use the Flickr uploader. With Lightroom 2, I found a Flickr plugin that I could use to upload the images directly. One of the issues though, is trying to keep track of images that you had already uploaded. I tried to add a flickr keyword to my images, but often I would forget. Aperture 3 and Lightroom 3 beta have improved upon this situation. They now let you create a linked folder/collection to these services. This allows you to see what has been uploaded, revise flickr images (with pro account), and sync new images. Unfortunately both programs give you very little control or options. I would like to be able to specify a set, for example when uploading to Flickr. Another issue that I had was with watermarking. I would on export use a plugin to put my name and a border on my images. Lightroom 3 has improved it’s exporting function so that you can apply watermarks whenever you export now. That is welcome.

11) Faces and Places. Aperture wins her. I don’t know how many professional photographers will want to use Faces. I find it a nifty tech, but haven’t committed to it. Probably because I haven’t committed to Aperture. I apply tags to photos of family members names right now. For my other work, I don’t tag them with names. I think it would be a better way for dealing with family photos though. The GPS integration is another story. I have yet to get a GPS device because it seemed like such a hassle to deal with the GPS data. Lightroom does have a couple of plug-ins, but I haven’t tried them. Aperture is the first with a out of the box solution. I imported some iPhone pictures, and also tagged some of my other pictures on a map. I thought it worked well. I like the map view. I think this is a great step. I would definitely think about getting a GPS unit if I am using Aperture long term.

12) Video is slowly starting to become more a part of a DSLR shooters workflow. I was quite excited to see that Apple has started to address this. It works pretty well. Aperture imports the clips with your other photos, and applies your metadata. While viewing your images, you are able to view video clips, and can even adjust the start and end points. What would be fabulous is if you could adjust the clips. Right now no editing is possible. Lightroom Beta 2 has a first glimpse at dealing with video. Before this second beta, Lightroom would tell me that it had files it couldn’t import. Then I had to go move them to another location my self. I have forgotten to do that more than once, before formatting the card. Lightroom’s version doesn’t allow you to view the files or trim them. They will open in a default player however. Better than nothing. I have seen a demo of how CS4 Extended will allow you to take an adjustment layer an apply that to all frames in the video, even as the objects move through the frame. That would be super cool to see in a future Lightroom version.

Ok, so where am I at? First of all, Aperture is almost unusable for me. It is very frustrating. I get distorted images, where they turn green, or pixelated, or have a big X across them. This started when I was using Aperture 2, and from what I have heard on the web, was probably about the time I upgraded to Leopard. I still  have issues with V3. I haven’t used it as much lately because of it, but it seems like the issue is becoming less frequent.

Second, Aperture 3 is slower than Lightroom 3 beta. Especially on images that have used the new brushes. I have a 3gig 2.2 iMac. It’s almost a couple of years old. I am careful to close all that I can when I am running Aperture or Lightroom, but the issue is most obvious on Aperture. The computer becomes unresponsive. It appears to be processing something, but there is no message, and no ability to interact with the program.

I still feel more comfortable with, and feel like I can get better results using the develop module from Lightroom, and it’s brushes than I can with Apertures adjustment panel and it’s brushes.

To me, Aperture wins some of the “extra” categories like Faces, Places, Books, and handling of video. There are also some parts of the library functions I like better with Aperture, such as the combining of items into folders. I am getting used to how to use Collections in Lightroom however, and I am liking the key wording area too. One little nicety of Lightroom is the little arrows to the right of items in the library. These arrows usually bring up some extra information. The ones I like the best are the ones dealing with files and the file system. When in a collection, if I want to see the Lightroom folder where this image came from (if I am looking for other similar ones) there is a button next to “folder” that will take you right there.

So right now, I fell like I want to use Aperture, but will be sticking with Lightroom, and upgrading to v3 when it comes out. I will be keeping Aperture around for using the books feature. You may have different conclusions, but those are mine.

If you have a Mac, I recommend giving each a solid couple of weeks of a free trial with real images, and see how things go. You get to make your own decision.

Aperture 2 Dodge and Burn

I am not sure why I was acting to ridiculously. When version 2 came out, I was super psyched, then I found out that if you wanted to use the Dodge and Burn tool, Aperture would make a copy, and send you to the plugin. If you had made any adjustments before this, you couldn’t tell anymore, all the sliders would look reset. It bugged me that the dodge and burn plug in wasn’t non destructive. So… I ignored it.

Just recently I came across an image (can’t find it now) that was adjusted with this plug-in, and I had a “what the heck” kind of moment. I immediately fired up Aperture to re-check out this tool. To get to the plug-in, right click on an image, select Edit With… and pick Dodge and Burn.

Selecting Dodge and Burn

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Organization in Aperture 2


There is a post on the Pixelatedimage about organization in Lightroom, and I thought hey! I could do one about using Aperture. Truth be told, they have some similar concepts.

  1. Referenced, or library? I don’t keep all my images in the library. I like to keep them in a file structure on my hard drive. I do this for¬†three¬† reasons. First is for backup. I like to be able to backup my images with simple tools. I run an rsync script to my backup server. (more about backups later)¬†This also allows me to access the raw files directly from Adobe Bridge if I so choose instead of creating an “edit” copy for Photoshop from within Aperture. I like to be able to use Camera Raw on the raw files sometimes. Third, my library file isn’t HUGE. It still get’s plenty big. All the meta data, versions, and edits go into the library. Also, the files aren’t on my machine. I use an external drive to store the masters. More in the backup section.
  2. File Structure. I have created a structure on my hard drive that works for me. Actually, I have redone this a few times. I even started with the files in a library before changing my mind. Aperture will let you move files around with amazing aplumb. So, I have a “Aperture Masters” folder that I then have folders for different years in it, eg 2007, 2008, 2009. Then within this I choose to break it up into family, photography, work. I did it this way partly to make it easier for my family to get to and find the family pictures if they need to, on my computer, or on the backup server. The split of photography and work may not make sense to you. I don’t get much “work”, but I wanted to make it easy to distinguish me out shooting water falls from a client’s photo shoot. I could use tags or colors. I choose folders. To each their own. I may change my mind. Note: you have to actually make these folders in aperture, it wont mirror the file system.
  3. The import process. I usually have enough cards that I wait until I get them to my computer to upload the pictures. Before I upload the pictures, I create a new project. I usually name it something like “Apr 7 – night shots”. It would probably be better to use numbers on the projects so that May sorts before Dec, but I have been doing it this way anyway. I like the having the date and a very shot description to the project. This¬†will also be the name of the folder under the year¬†folder. Next is to make¬†sure that Aperture puts the pictures where you think they are going. On the right of the import screen there is a¬†place to choose library vs referenced, and if you pick referenced, you pick the file location. This highlights¬†a drawback to my system. I have to switch the path every time I switch an import session between family and photography. Yes I have forgotten¬†once or twice. A big pain. You can also select an import preset. I have one created that sticks in my city, my name and copyright as tags with every picture. I wish I had more to say on this. I obviously don’t quite get it, because I spelled my name wrong on the preset and can’t change it! If anyone knows how to manage these, please blog about it and point me to it. Thanks.
  4. Ratings. I rate before keywording.¬†I do a fairly quick pass through with the browser window open at the bottom, and the view window above. I use the number keys to rate the pictures. Aperture supports marking as rejects (9) or 1-5. I don’t really use 1 and 2. First time through I mark stuff as rejects (out of focus, etc), nothing, or 3’s. The 3’s are ones I am pretty sure are some sort of keepers. Now I can filter the browser to only show “*** and above”, or images rated 3 or higher.¬†I then switch to full screen mode. Now I only have one big image in the view window with nothing hiding the image. I then go through all the images and pick ones to promote to 4’s and 5’s. David only has 5’s, why do I have 3, 4, and 5? Partly because he shoots more 5’s than me. I will still keep 3’s that are family pictures, or include some 4’s in flickr. 5’s are ones that I might want in my portfolio at some point.
  5. Keywording. I only keyword my 3 and up rated images. I try to give them location tags too. Not exif data, but I have a hierarchy of location tags that include city names, and then parks or landmarks under them where the picture was taken, or what it was of. For family shots, I have tags for each member of the extended family. I often fail to tag with them, but it is great later on when I get asked if I have any pictures of Alex to go on the yearly family calender my wife is making.
  6. Tweaking. This is the adjustments part of the exercise. I am shooting raw, so the¬†things that I tend to do are white balance, exposure, levels adjustments, increase blacks, and sometimes some vibrance.¬†Saturation tends to go straight for the over the top bin. A little vibrance boost can be nice. I probably do a little more than I should here. I am getting better at nailing my exposure, but I often just use the D90 auto white balance, and it often needs tweaking. Sometimes I will create a new version to try something different. Maybe make a B/W image, or a different crop. These are not copies, just versions of the original that Aperture applies it’s raw recipie to, so they take very little space. Sometimes I am not happy with what I can do in Aperture and I send the file to Photoshop with the open in external editor command.
  7. Folders and Smart Folders. These are special¬†folders (both) that don’t really exist. They are just for orginization in Aperture. I will make special folders to agregate projects, or for just part of a project. It really doesn’t matter how many you make, copies of your images are not created. Just links. I have done with with vacations, or to group different trips to the same landmark. I love smart folders. I have one of 4+ of my kids for example. In Aperture you can create a smart folder just as if you were searching your entire collection, then save it. So I say that I want all images for the year 2008 that are 4+ with keywords Lily or Kate. Sweet. I also do this for flowers and my favorite images. One cool thing is that these smart albums are available to the OS and the iLife apps as if they were just a folder. When I sync my iPhone, I select the smart folders I created like Kate and Lily 2008, and Portraits, and Portfolio, and then they get synced. Sweet. No messing around picking what to take. Every sync they get updated with the latest images.
  8. Uploading. Next comes uploading to various places. If I have family pictures I use the Gallery plugin to send my images to my family website at annieandchris.net. If I have other interesting images, I will send them to my flickr account. First I change the browser filter to 3+, or 4+, then select the images, right click and pick my export plugin. The flickr pictures I first send to BorderFX. This allows me to add a border (funny about that) and put my name in the lower right corner. I export these to a temp folder. I then use FlickrUploader. Why don’t I use the plugin to send directly to flickr? I like to add my name to the images, and recently I have been adding borders to most of the pictures too. It does add an extra step though. I then delete the exported images from the temp folder. If I am planning on printing some images, I use the export versions command. I don’t have a good home printer, so I usually use whcc, or sometimes family pics at shutterfly and pick them up at Target.¬†¬†I export the images as jpegs at full size to a temp folder again, then use the ROES software with whcc. After they are sent, I delete the temp images.
  9. Clean up. This is more a step that I say that I am going to do, more than I do. I do delete all the temp pictures that I create when exporting, but do I really need to keep a bunch of not really good enough pictures. What should I do with the 1’s and 2’s that I didn’t rate. Why am I keeping them? Good question. Chicken I guess. Every once in a while I reject more than usual. But I often end of keeping them. If you don’t want to back up your rejects, you should actually delete them too.
  10. Backup. I don’t have a drobo. Scott Kelby just bought a new one (well, two) maybe I can dumpster dive for the old ones. What I have instead is a home built NAS. Well, actually I have a partial NAS. I am still rebuilding it. You can follow along (and build your own here, hope to have more soon). So the first thing I do, is from my mac, at the command line, I kick it old school (did I just write that?) and do a rsync command. This copies all changes (new files) from my iMac to my NAS. I just realized, I blogged about my backup strategy here last May. I am actually storing all my images on an external drive. I also use rsync to create a mirror to another identical removable drive that I periodically bring home, sync, then store off site. Then there is the library. It contains all the meta data and edits. I use the Aperture vault system and store the vaults on both my backup drives.

Well, thats my system. Or at least my plan. I will be one of the first to admit that I can get in a hurry and not keyword. I have shooting days from earlier this year that I haven’t even rated. My NAS is actually non functional right now (soon I tell ya, soon!!!), and I have had the “off site” drive sitting beside me for a couple of weeks. Sigh. Maybe it is more of a wish…

Aperture Links

I had been asking on a forum about moving projects between two machines, and Ian Wood from the site Aperture-Assistant sent me a bunch of links, so I thought I would post his list here :

http://forums.dpreview.com/for…forum.asp?forum=1017 – this isn’t Aperture-specific but has quite a lot of Aperture-related threads.

Articles and blogs:

Note – I write for both the AUN and O’Reilly, so may be a bit biased…


Video tutorials: http://www.apple.com/aperture/tutorials/
Plug-ins: http://www.aperturepluggedin.com/ & http://www.apple.com/aperture/resources/plugins.html
General list of resources: http://www.apple.com/aperture/resources/

http://aperture-assistant.com/…ows-and-applescripts – this is my own site.

Lastly, you can find a ‘presets’ Project on my Aperture Assistant site: http://aperture-assistant.com/freebies

Apple Updates Camera Raw

Apple has updated it’s camera raw compatability to 2.3. The big news here is that it now can handle RAW files from the D90. This means that Aperture will now have the capability. Woo Hoo !!! Time to move back to useing raw. I didn’t want to take a bunch of raw+jpeg for the last month or so I had the D90. I was just shooting jpeg, but now I will switch back to shooting in Raw mode.

This message was greeting me from Apple’s software update:

This update extends RAW file compatibility for Aperture 2 and iPhoto ’08 for the following cameras:

Canon EOS 50D
Nikon D90
Sony DSLR-A900
Nikon Coolpix P6000
It also addresses issues related to specific cameras and overall stability.

Aperture Update

Apple updated the software to 2.1.2 a couple of days ago. For just a moment I was quite excited. I thought that maybe Apple had updated Aperture to handle RAW files from a D90. Nope, Apple just says it updates book printing. Yippee. It was a little silly to dream of an Aperture update adding RAW D90 support. That will come as an OSX Core Image update, and then Aperture will be able to support it, just like the any other Mac application. What would have been a great update would have been the ability to do graduated ND filters in software like Lightroom now can. I guy can dream.

Where’s the Aperture Love

Several of the blogs and books I see on photography talk about Photoshop (full, not Elements, but that’s another post) and Lightroom. Not Aperture. I realize that Aperture only runs on a Mac, and Lightroom runs on both Windows and Macs, but information on the web is scarce. I tried to come up with a list. This is all I have.

Thats it. Really? All of those sites have links to each other, and no where else I can find. What gives? Where is the info on settings for best sharpening results, or how to get different looks out of your pictures. I have read articles on using Lightroom for this recently, but I have trouble transferring the knowledge over. Anyone know other resources?