Aperture vs Lightroom- Is There a Best Choice For Real Estate Photography?

February 21st, 2010

Apple’s recent release of Aperture 3.0 highlight’s the fact that photographers that are Mac users are faced with a choice of do they use Adobe Lightroom or Aperture for digital asset and workflow management.

I want to disclose right up front that I am a Mac user and I use Lightroom extensively and Aperture only occasionally. I use Aperture primarily because I cover it in my e-books and am interested in being able to give sound, unbiased advice in the area of workflow.

I don’t intend to do a feature by feature comparison (others have already done that) but rather raise some of the general issues and considerations that Mac photographers should use to help make the decision of which is best for them personally. Here are some of the issues to consider if you find yourself trying to decide between Lightroom and Aperture:

  1. Lightroom 3 is still in beta so in a way there are details to compare with Aperture 3 but there could well be significant new features in the final release of Lightroom 3 that we don’t know about. So exact feature comparisons are still impossible. However, it’s clear that the noise reduction and sharpening in Lightroom 3 is going to be world class!
  2. There are some dazzling new features in Aperture 3! It now manages video files and even allows you to create mixed video and still slide shows and I love the new adjustment brushes! Ya, Lightroom has adjustment brushes but the Aperture 3 brushes are more intuitive and work better.
  3. It’s been two years since Aperture 2 was released. One has to wonder why Apple takes so long between releases. Is their development staff big enough? They took a similarly long time between the first two versions of Aperture. They also take too long time to get RAW support for new cameras. Apple keeps promising to get better in this area but their track record is dismal. Just ask a D300 user that had tried to use Aperture 2 for RAW files.
  4. When Apple makes an update to Aperture they don’t have an open beta process with users like Adobe does, where users can give input, they just drop a release on the users. This closed approach seems to be part of the Apple culture. This closed approach makes sense for their consumer hardware products (like iPhones and iPods) but doesn’t make a lot of sense for Professional level software products. This closed approach to software development is more convenient for the developers but I think it does not make for great customer relations.
  5. Apple software products have a high level of integration with other Apple products. Aperture is nicely integrated with iPhoto, and I expect the same will be true for the iPad. This integration may eventually extend to iMovie and Final Cut Pro. You will never get that level of integration with Lightroom.
  6. There are four times more Mac photographers using Lightroom than Aperture. Taking a look at these popularity numbers is an valuable insight. Up through Aperture 2 Mac photographers clearly preferred  Lightroom.
  7. I find Aperture 3 runs noticeably slower than Lightroom Beta 3 on my MacBook Pro (2.4 Mhz Core 2 Duo with 2 gig ram). I did this comparison by loading exactly the same 40 images from my 5D MkII into a fresh catalog in Aperture 3 and Lightroom Beta 3. Update: John Quarles notes below in the comments that his experience is that Aperture 3 need at least 4 Gig of RAM and 8 is even better.

So, is there a clear winner at this point if you are a real estate photographer? I don’t think so. Before the release of Aperture 3, I would have said Aperture was out of the running, but Aperture 3 gets Apple back in the game. I’m personally put off by the sluggishness of Aperture 3 but its features are stunning. There is still no way for real estate photographers to straighten verticals and remove barrel distortion in either Aperture or Lightroom without using a plugin like PTLens and there never will be because both Aperture and Lightroom are committed to non-distructive adjustments.

For anyone in the process of making a choice between Aperture 3 and Lightroom 3 I recommend that you listen to TWIP (This Week In Photography) episode #129 also available through iTunes (search for TWIP). This particular podcast is a well balanced discussion of all the strengths and weaknesses of Lightroom and Aperture. Also, you need to tryout both Aperture 3 and Lightroom Beta 3 on your particular Mac. There are free trials for both. Which you choose depends a lot on your machine and your personal priorities.

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7 Responses to “Aperture vs Lightroom- Is There a Best Choice For Real Estate Photography?”

  • I tried Aperture 2 when it came out, but ultimately adopted Lightroom for my work due to its fuller feature set. I imagine Aperture 3 is an outstanding upgrade that will suit many photographers well, but at this point I’m hoping that the imminent Lightroom 3 upgrade will also deliver many new improvements that will help keep me in that camp.

    However, I’m not so quick to discount the possibility of non-destructive lens corrections in the future. Any image correction is just 1.) a user-selectable value and 2.) an application delivered “view” of that transformation. There is no reason why that view MUST actually transform the original data, as long as the application can always regenerate the altered view from the user settings. All distortion manipulations are correlated to mathematical values — values that can be stored independently, recalled and applied to an image, no different from any other non-destructive value. It probably takes more processing power to manage those kinds of live transformations in real time, but hey, Moore’s Law will take care of that. I fully EXPECT for software developers to ultimately offer even non-destructive distortion corrections. Perhaps not in their next updates, but certainly sooner, rather than later.

    I have seen examples of programming like this on the Web from one of the big graphics laboratories, though I can’t remember where now. I was impressed at the time and, of course, began lusting for it immediately. I have no doubt we’ll see it — and be paying for it — before too long.

  • I am a long time Lightroom user, but since I have all mac computers I downloaded the trial version and tested it out. It has a few neat options Lightroom does not have. It needs a lot of memory to run good. At least 4 meg, 8 meg is better. I liked the easy way you can make video clips from video and stills combined so I bought a copy. Its a real time saver on fusion type videos. To me it was worth the $199 just for this reason. I use a Canon 7d for video and with this program I don’t have to worry about converting the MOV to use in FCP or FCE, just drag and drop into Aperture with the photos and press the button! Here is a sample I did with it the other day:

    I got the latest version 3 but it still has a few bugs in it. I have had it crash several time on me, something that does not normally happen on a mac. I image they will get the bugs out shortly with a few updates. I am still going to do most of my work with Lightroom and just use Aperture for easy and fast video clips.

  • i have tried this software and still using it. its easy to use and user friendly. it controls your white balance instantly. a very good software for pro and aspiring photographers

  • I liked Aperture 2, I love Aperture 3. It has worked quite well on my iMac 2.8ghz machine with 2 gb’s of ram – though 4 would be better I am sure. I think Larry is doing a great job with the blog and I greatly appreciate all that he offers – thank you! – I am surprised to see the link on comparing LR and Aperture go to an article that is three years old. Would love to see a more up to date article…perhaps one will be availlable soon.

  • On both my mac pro and macbook pro, lightroom 2/3 is slower than even aperture 2 at the initial decoding process for raw files from a 5d2. I agree that you need 4GB of Ram for aperture.

    That being said, there are some defaults in Aperture you need to turn off if you want better performance – disable faces, disable “automatically generate previews”.

    I also prefer the aperture RAW decoder over ACR greatly, especially for canon files. ACR tends to lead to images that look over processed. The tonal gradations in aperture are much smoother.

  • @mathew- Thanks for those tips. I’ll try turning off faces and previews.

  • Great site loads of info

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