Aperture albums vs Lightroom collections

Aperture users: 3 ways Lightroom could drive you mad!

Aperture users are bound to take a sneaky peek over the garden fence from time to time at its chief rival, Lightroom. Lightroom has some great editing tools and every release brings more. If only Aperture had automatic lens corrections, a Graduated Filter tool, Radial Filter, the perspective-correcting Upright tool and all the rest!

By comparison, Aperture can feel like it’s stuck in some kind of development backwater.

But fancy editing tools are only half the story. These two programs have another, equally important job. Actually, I’m going to say it’s more important. They also have to catalog your ever-growing collection of images quickly and efficiently and yet still give you the flexibility you need to browse, search and organise your images in a way which suits you.

It’s not exciting, it’s not sexy, but this cataloguing and organising process is central to everything you do. Nobody pays it any attention, but it’s the thing that matters most, and here’s what I think:

Aperture got this right first time, and Lightroom has never caught up nor even shown any real sign of understanding the issues.

I think this is a crucial facet of the Aperture vs Lightroom debate.

Madness trigger #01: Projects versus folders

Aperture uses ‘projects’ as its primary container for images in your library. These may initially correspond to the folders on your hard disk, but they don’t have to. You can organise your projects into an entirely new structure without affecting your external folder structure.

In other works, you can organise your pictures how you like in Aperture, but if other programs need to access them on your computer, they’re still in the same place they always were.

Lightroom works directly with folders on your computer. These are its ‘primary containers’. It’s a simpler approach that has advantages – it’s easy to grasp what’s happening and you can move files and folders physically on your computer from within Lightroom.

But while the Lightroom approach might seem obvious, it brings an intrinsic limitation that affects the ways in which you can organise and browse your images…

4 thoughts on “Aperture users: 3 ways Lightroom could drive you mad!

  1. In your opinion, how do some of the other applications stack up against Aperture or LR 5 with file management? Specifically, I have been looking at Capture One’s management scheme.

    1. I haven’t spent enough time with Capture One’s yet, but I’ll let you know! At first glance it looks a lot like Lightroom’s, with folders and albums kept separate.

  2. Hi Rod:

    In the above article, and in some prior articles, you have indicated one of Aperture’s weaknesses is the editing arena. Certainly, the specific features you list at the beginning of this article are not currently present in Aperture 3. That said, I personally feel both programs have editing strengths and weaknesses. You have listed several Lightroom tools that are not present in Aperture, but there are many Aperture editing strengths and by not addressing these strengths, you may give the reader a sense that the limitations are great. Here are a few examples of Aperture editing strengths I personally find compelling:

    The ability to brush in/out most adjustments, including the ability to select the effective range, e.g. highlights, mid-tones, etc.
    The Color adjustment is very useful, relatively easy to use and powerful.
    Aperture has an outstanding curves adjustment that is arguably the best out there, or at least the equal of any other software.
    The ability to create multiple adjustment bricks.

    In some cases a perceived advantage of Lightroom may be a lack of experience or training. I have heard it oft repeated that Lightroom has better sharpening capabilities vs. Aperture. Perhaps it does, but I do not feel limited by Aperture in this area. The edge sharpen adjustment is fairly sophisticated, can be brushed in and out, etc., but perhaps most importantly I can use multiple edge sharpen bricks, to finely control sharpening throughout an image.

    I think the best approach, when deciding between these and other asset management/post-processing programs is to try them out. Each program will have its strengths and weaknesses. Each will have its own particular paradigm that may or may not resonate with the user. The users photographic interests may also push the decision in a particular direction, e.g. you have to have a specific integrated adjustment that you use regularly.

    I feel Aperture’s two most significant weaknesses are perception and education. Perception, because Apple is secretive and releases fewer major, paid upgrades vs. Adobe, giving the impression that the product is languishing. I have a somewhat different view and will happily see 3.6, 3.7… arrive as no cost upgrades. Education, because there are limited resources for the Aperture user, compared to Lightroom. There are a few books and a number of excellent blogs (yours included). Classes are extremely limited. For example, n my city, I believe I have taught the only Aperture class in the last several years, yet there are several organizations that teach regular Lightroom classes.

  3. I liken the entire Lightroom Catalog to a single Aperture Project. From there you can use Collections and Collection Sets to reflect Aperture Folders and Albums. When you view it this way and stop looking at the Physical Folders that Lightroom exposes through the GUI, then you begin to separate their “virtual organization” from the physical disk organization.

    Imagine Lightroom didn’t expose the physical disk storage in the GUI, and you only had Collection and Collection Set for organization. That would be comparable to an Aperture Library that only had a single Project, and you used Folders and Albums for all your organization.

    I’m an Aperture convert who knows both Lightroom and Aperture well. I’m not criticizing either. I’m just describing how I conceptualize the differences in their organization capabilities.

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