The gloves are off?

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The photo workflow part of the net seems to be abuzz with experts on the demise of Lightroom with the introduction of Aperture 3. Fellow Irish based photographer Marco Davi make his case for Aperture. And of course he’s welcome to that opinion, and he does have some valid points. And one bizzare one.

First up he calls Lightroom’s UI clunky. Personally I’ve stated for years that I find Aperture cluttered. And Aperture 3 certainly has done nothing to change that perception. His statement that he constantly has to click on scroll bars shows that maybe he’s not the expert he thinks he is. There are certainly times when scrolling is necessary, but with simple modifiers like Control/Command clicking on a panel to collapse all, and Alt/Option to invoke solo mode, it’s not an all the time thing. Personally I can find pretty much most tools under my fingertips. That’s because I learned the single key shortcuts that cover the bulk of the getting around in Lightroom. G,E and D, being key to getting about (pardon the pun). Having collections in Develop with LR3Beta means that the library disconnect is gone. In truth, I don’t work that way. I do my file management, get my selected images, and then develop those selects. Then back out as needed for export etc. Of course, if you have all the Adjustment options selected in Aperture, then you have to scroll too.

Next up Marco states that brushes work better. Well, yes and no. The mask options do allow the emulation of blending modes in Photoshop, along with mask inversion. These are an excellent addition this type of tool, and Lightroom should have them. Lightroom does allow you to build individual masks with a mix of settings. Mixing Flow and Density, you can easily build quite complex masks. These can be used with the Graduated Filter, which I don’t see in Aperture as yet. No doubt it’ll be on the must copy list also. With Lightroom brushes, even if you paint with a full setting, you can start a new brush in the same spot and double the amount. Another thing is that if you hover over a brush pin in Lightroom, you can click drag to change the overall setting for that mask, similar to using layer opacity (so if clarity was -100 and sharpening 50, dragging clarity to -50 would force sharpening to 25 for example). For me, there isn’t a clear winner, but I’d like to see the improved mask options go into Lightroom.

Presets. No different than Lightroom, so I’m sure this is a reason to switch?

Loupe. If you’re on a single monitor system, open the 2nd monitor window. Make it loupe sized, zoom in to 1:1, click Live Loupe. Viola. No charge.

Light Table. Can’t deny this is nice, but you can emulate it a fair bit using Custom Package in Print. Again it’s not the same, but while I really wanted this feature way back, I rarely need it. When I do need to see many images, I just use Survey Mode.

Full Screen? If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll know my favourite shortcut: Shift Control/Command F.

Competition. I’m all for competition. It drives technology forward. But buying two products and into 2 upgrade paths? That’s not competition, that’s bad finances. Bizzare.

Lightroom 3 Beta has new demosaicing and improved noise reduction that make the image quality outstanding. And as a photographer, this is what truly matters. Everything else is a distraction.

And as a Web plugin developer? Web in Aperture sucks, unless you want to make your own full pages from scratch using tokens. There’s no way to make something that can offer the level of customisability that you can get in a Lightroom Web plugin. My website plugins couldn’t happen in Aperture.

There’s still great stuff in AP3. Video import, video inside slideshows. Timeline is a great feature. But, there’s very little customisability for the user, same as Web. Places is excellent, but to me faces is more consumer oriented and not really beneficial to my workflow. Maybe if I shot more events?

I’m not the only one commenting on this, Matt Kloskowski has a post over on Lightroom Killer Tips too.

11 thoughts on “The gloves are off?

  1. I like and use both Aperture and Lightroom. As a user of both, let me state what the biggest problems with LR2/3 are compared to Aperture 3 (or the biggest advantages of Aperture 3) that you haven't mentioned:

    1) Aperture 3 healing/cloning/retouching tools is leaps and bounds better than Lighroom. Lightroom's seems gimped just enough to require Photoshop in all but the most simple cases. Clever, Adobe.

    2) Curves are also gimped in LR. Aperture 3 has real, RGB curves that can be stacked. This is probably Aperture's single most powerful feature compared to LR. Again, the solution for LR users is to open Photoshop. Notice a trend?

    3) The brushes in Aperture vs. the local adjustments in LR are no clear win either way, but in general Aperture allows anything to be locally applied in any order at any time whereas LR is much more controlling in both what can be locally adjusted, the order you must do it in. I don't like my workflow dictated. LR has the advantage in that the same mask can be used to apply multiple local adjustments, but in every other way Aperture offers MORE local adjustments (blur, curves, multiply, you name it) and a more free-form work-flow.

    4) Aperture's presets are stackable or overwriting. LR's are only overwriting. Aperture is more flexible here.

    5) Managed libraries. Aperture will do the work for me if I let it, whereas LR insists I manage myself. Given that Aperture 3 now allows exporting and syncing back of individual projects back to the same master library, even a multiple user set-up can now use a managed library effectively and LR simply does not allow such time-saving options. This goes back to the common idea that Aperture is a better organizational tool than LR, which is something I think still holds true to this day.

    6) Even if you think of Faces as just another method for keywording, it's still an automatically generated option for keyboarding that LR does not offer. The argument that it started in iPhoto and therefore is not pro-grade is just silly. I've batch tagged thousands of photos with the people in them in seconds with Aperture, all without having to manually select any photos. This is not possible in LR.

    7) The brushes in Aperture have much better edge detection than those in LR. You can quickly brush in a sky and not spill into the foreground subject in Aperture while in LR it's a much more particular (and time consuming) affair. This one's a big deal.

    In general, Aperture 3 functions much better at removing the need for Photoshop than LR. You have to go to PS for pro-grade cloning/healing brushes with LR but you don't for Aperture. You need to go to PS for pro-grade curves with LR, but not with Aperture. etc. Yes, LR has a local exposure brush, and a gradient tool, and better noise reduction where Aperture doesn't. But Aperture has dozens more local brushes than LR, a blur tool, and (arguably) a better plug-in system. LR also requires more round tripping to photoshop for basics like cloning/healing, curves, etc. Again, this is not surprising since Adobe obviously wants to sell you both programs.

    But this idea that LR does everything that Aperture does (or vice-versa) is just foolish at this point. They have obvious features the others do not and they ones they share are often stronger in one vs. the other. But the fact is, if I'm not going to do a quickie gradient filter or my image is not too noisy, LR doesn't offer too many image processing or organizational advantages vs. Aperture at this point in time.

  2. I think, a better way of geo-tagging would be a nice feature to go with LR3

    Anyways, I agree with most of the pro/cons of LR & Aperture, but the question remains, WHEN is LR3 is coming out ?

  3. Chris, it's not that hard, in fact there's a high degree of cut and paste from the SDK that'll get the images ready. You just need to need to get the formatting right.

    Now try making a page that can be customised using those base settings by a large number of users, especially those not HTML/CSS literate. You can't.

  4. "Unless you want to make your own full pages from scratch using tokens."

    Which is what I wanted to do! its a bit of a shame that Lightroom (or rather the supplied examples) doesn't accommodate plug-in developers AND those of us who just want to hack stuff into an existing layout.

    I've got there in the end (i'll get round to blogging a "how-to" soon) but its just a shame they made it quite so complex. But then it is difficult to be all things to all men I suppose.

  5. Faces is a consumer feature, so I suspect it'll be slow coming to LR. Places would be more useful to me, but I geoencode stuff I really need to via plugin.

    Whatever about video editing, I'd like video import, but that's probably obvious based on how much whinging I do about it.

  6. I'm more than aware of the cross platform nature of Lightroom, which gives it huge reach beyond what Apple currently have on Mac. Every piece I write or video covers both platforms in general, and if it doesn't I usually mention it in the title. In this case I was being cheeky. It's like a Nikon Vs Canon argument. There are no winners. They're all just tools. There will always be leap frogging of technology.

    Recent surveys show that Lightroom has a higher percentage of users vs Aperture on Mac, something Apple would be hoping to change with the new version.

    Obviously comparisons are moot for the PC user.

  7. one more thing that might not be immediately apparent to Mac users. There are many people using Windows, for which Aperture simply doesn't exist, Lightroom's multi-platform compatibility is a big advantage there.

  8. Great post, Sean. One thing about Lightroom that should not be overlooked is that Adobe often adds features — both major and minor — in dot releases. When compared to Apple, who allow even minor bugs in Aperture to sit unfixed for years, the decision for me was easy.

    – Eric (a recent Lightroom convert after using Aperture for years)

  9. Actually, if you did events with more than a few people in each shot, you'd find Faces a real pain in the arse – it'll try to identify all the in-focus faces.

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