Aperture 3 – A Quick Personal Comparison to Lightroom

For starters, I feel that I need to qualify this review with a little bit of my history with Apple Computers and Aperture software. I bought my first Mac over 20 years ago and have been using them exclusively as my publishing platform since. My standard saying is, “You can have my Mac when you pry it from my cold dead fingers.” I purchased Aperture 1 on the day that it was available and haven’t used it since Adobe released Lightroom, I found that Lightroom was better integrated with Photoshop for the way that I worked on my images. I know that the issues I had with the first version of Aperture have since been resolved from reading other people’s reviews; so with the release of Aperture 3, I felt a strong urge to give my “until death do us part” hardware company another shot with their software. I have spent a total of about 8 hours working in Aperture 3 prior to creating this review. I loaded it into a 2 year old Mac Pro, with OS 10.5.8, 2 x 2.8 GHz Quad-Core Intel Xeon processors, and 8 GBs of ram.

I also want you to have a brief overview of my current workflow. All of my initial editing, renaming, cataloging, and keywording is currently accomplished using Photo Mechanic by Camera Bits, Inc. I can tell you that this will never change. Photo Mechanic is super fast, super responsive, and super easy to get those images organized to a point where I can work on them further. Once I am finished in Photo Mechanic the images are imported into Lightroom. This is where I apply global and some local adjustments prior to finishing the images in Photoshop. All of the Photoshop images are stacked with the original raws and assigned a rating, color code and flag per the way my wacked out brain works. At this point, they are ready to send out for usages, added to the web, or uploaded to my Photoshelter account.

I had a bunch of tasks in mind once I downloaded my trial version of Aperture 3, yesterday. I have a set workflow in place, so my main concern is how easy it would be to integrate Aperture into that workflow. Next, I wanted to review all of the new features and adjustment tools. Then, I wanted to see what I could produce with some of my current images and how fast I could do it.

I opened Aperture for the first time in a bunch of years last night after dinner. I watched all of the videos that pop up as you start the software for the first time and then was off to the races. I decided to only import two folders from my terabyte of images that reside on my computer. I figured if I couldn’t get a good idea as to how this software would work with creating only two projects on the platform, I could stop right there and continue on with my current workflow. I chose two folders of images that I captured in Yellowstone this past summer, both of which contained untouched raws, HDR merges, and final Photoshop selects. With this first stage, I discovered my first problem. Aperture does not read any of my Lightroom ratings, color coding or stacks. It does organize the files so I can see them in the order in which they reside in Lightroom, but all of that important info attached to the photos falls by the waste-side. There might be a way to do this and have it work, I just don’t know it yet. Also, I discovered that Aperture drops all of my IPTC contact info from my Photoshop finals. And yes, this info is present when viewing the images in Photoshop and Lightroom. Everything else appears to be correct – filenames, keywords, and IPTC data on the original raws.

Next up were the features. I have to say that I am pretty amazed here. The browser is super fast even while you are uploading, something that Lightroom lacks. I managed to find my first bug fairly quickly. I went right into the adjustments tab once the import was complete, selected an image, chose the retouch adjustment, and proceeded to clone dust out of an image. I have to say that I usually do this in Photoshop, because even Lightroom is way too slow with its version of this tool. Aperture proceeded to crash 5 times in a row. So it looks like I will either need to slow down on the way I clone and become more patient, or continue to work this process in Photoshop.

Pre-processed Raw Image

Pre-processed Raw Image, © Jay Goodrich

Now I wanted to master an image and see if I could get similar results here in Aperture to what is available to me in Lightroom. This is where Apple left me drooling. I have to say that they are crushing Lightroom in their ability to apply local adjustments to an image. You can see what I was able to get out of my raw in just a couple of minutes using only Aperture 3. The adjustments tab contains over 20 adjustments, and 30 presets, and this is the kicker – they can all be applied locally, with a custom brush that you create. In addition, you can create presets for both individual adjustments or a series of them. The adjustments do apply super fast, although there was some glitchyness as the hardware applied it to the raw. Sometimes it only displayed part of the image during it’s redraw process, this was fixed by just clicking on the image again. Not a big problem, but it definitely contributes to frustration. I also tried clicking one of my existing .psd files to see if I could go back into Photoshop and make additional adjustments to a final select. This was not a problem, however, Aperture needed to create an additional psd of the existing psd to do so. Meaning it was treating my final Photoshop file as a raw. All of the adjustment layers were present and workable. My main wish here is that it would read my psd as the psd and open it directly, and then re-save it as the original.

Processed Using Aperture 3 Only

Processed Using Aperture 3 Only, © Jay Goodrich

With the discovery of how amazing the adjustments tab is I decided to see if I could match an image in Aperture with one that has been processed through my current Photoshop workflow. And to my amazement it actually exceeded the current Photoshop image, by holding more detail in the highlights, and giving me a very close rendition (as seen below) without using anything but Aperture. This could make it a more powerful editing tool for me, bringing images into Photoshop only for merges and panoramic creation.

Processed Using Aperture Only

Processed Using Aperture Only, © Jay Goodrich

Original Image Processed with Photoshop

Original Image Processed with Photoshop, © Jay Goodrich

So what else do I like? The GEO tagging feature is a really cool option. I do not GEO tag my photos in the field, but with a quick click of the “places” tool in the upper right hand corner of Aperture, I was able to tag all of my Yellowstone photo locations in a couple of minutes by dropping pins on the map exactly where I know I stood. Then I was able to easily attach the specific photos to those locations. Way cool. The slideshow feature is really impressive too. It gives you the power to pretty much create a movie with your images, add music, add video that you have with your D-SLR, sync those images to the music, and then export the whole show directly to youTube, Quicktime, or even as full resolution HD. Having the ability to upload directly to Flickr and Facebook is a welcome plus for me also.

I know that I haven’t even touched the surface of this software and upon more review could find even more likes and dislikes with it. My main objective here was to see if it will do a better job for me personally. Anything that speeds up my editing processes, contributes to my bottom line and that is an ever growing necessity in this industry.

Am I going to make the switch back? Well that’s not an easy question to answer. Losing my ratings, stacks, and color coding would make my life a little harder. I will have to decide how important it is for me to keep those settings, and if the answer is yes, then making the commitment to update all of the folders and images accordingly. However, the adjustment tools are calling me like the Sirens of the Odyssey. I think before I jump off of the boat half cocked, I am going to do a little more research and see what Adobe steps up to the plate with in Lightroom 3. Never-the-less, if I was a current Aperture user, I would already have the upgrade. And as it stands right now, I really want to make the leap.


-great image adjustments – especially on the local adjustment level

-slide show and places

-uploading to Facebook, MobileMe, and Flickr – it would be even cooler if they added posting to Twitter and personal blog galleries similar to what Photoshelter offers.

-speed when browsing and adjusting


-doesn’t read Lightroom’s ratings, color coding, and stacks

-duplicates current .psd files as if they were raws

-crashes and glitchy redraws with certain tools in certain situations

-loses IPTC contact info with existing .psd files