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The Lightroom vs Aperture Decision For Mac Photographers

Published: 31/10/2008
By: larry

Beginning real estate photographers that are Mac users face a fundamental decision. Do you use Lightroom or do you use Aperture? While talking to such a real estate photographer this week I realized that for Mac user starting out as a photographer this decision is not that easy.

First of all I need to disclose my Apple bias. My first computer was a Apple II Plus and I purchased a one of the first Macintosh's when they first came on the market. I was an Apple Developer for about 5 years from 1985 to 1990 but went over to the dark side in about 1994 when I became frustrated with the lack of Macintosh software development tools. I came back to Apple about a year ago when I was faced with the prospect of having to use Vista. I freely admit I'm an Apple fan-boy. I have and use both Lightroom and Aperture although all of my photographs since 1999 are catalogued in Lightroom, only my photos from 2008 are also cataloged in Aperture.

Why use Lightroom or Aperture at all? Why not just use Photoshop Elements or Photoshop? They both have photo organization features. For me, this is very easy.

  1. The slider paradigm for adjusting things like exposure, white balance, clarity etc. is incredibly fast compared to doing the same thing in Photoshop with layers. This single item is worth the price of the software.
  2. Organizational features for sorting and selecting are important but I could easily live with the similar features in Bridge.
  3. Creating slide shows to me is a great feature of both Aperture and Lightroom.

Why do I recommend Lightroom over Aperture for Mac real estate photographers?

  1. Chromatic aberration: Aperture doesn't have any built-in feature for removing chromatic aberration. Sure, you can use an external plugin like PTlens to do this but Lightroom has a great built-in feature for removing chromatic aberrations. This feature is important if you have a lens that has serious chromatic aberrations. I use a Sigma 8mm fish-eye lens for 360 images, that is notorious for it's bad chromatic aberrations and I love the way Lightroom deals with images from this lens.
  2. Slide shows: For real estate photographers I think the ability to create a professional looking online Flash slide show is incredibly useful and effective. No matter how you deliver still photos, sending your client a slide show to show results is an effective way to show your work. You can give the slide show link to the client to use as tour. Lightroom allows you to create a variety of Flash slide shows with a few clicks for almost nothing. Of course, you have to have some web space, but that's available for as little as $6/mo. Yes, Aperture will create slide shows to, but only easily to me.com (Apples online service) and the options are few and the results disappointing.

If you are not interested in either of these then Aperture is a good choice. It's also $100 USD cheaper than Lightroom. For me easily creating professional looking slide shows is a huge deal. I use this feature for almost every shoot I do. I couldn't live with out it. On the other hand, I like the feel of Aperture and how it's tightly integrated with other Apple products. I keep all my iPhone photos in Aperture because Aperture works so smoothly with the iPhone.

9 comments on “The Lightroom vs Aperture Decision For Mac Photographers”

  1. Nicely said. I've often wondered some of the differences between the two programs, but these were not two of the issues that I have heard talked about before. I guess since I already own SlideshowPro, I never thought of slide shows as a big deal, but I suppose it is for a lot of photographers.

    One of the big issues I have been looking into is the networking speed of both programs. I keep all of my photos on a Drobo unit right now (attached to a Time Capsule), and access with iPhoto. iPhoto is incredibly slow doing this and was wondering if there were speed enhancements through Aperture or Lightroom.

  2. I use Lightroom 2.1 on Vista and LOVE it at least as much as Larry loves his! I also have a Drobo unit that is connected to our network via a Droboshare device. It is NOT fast enough for primary usage for us. Instead we do nightly backups to the Drobo and use our local drives for primary data usage. The Drobo is a wonderful unit that solved a BIG data archiving issue for us going well into the future.

  3. Ted- I doubt that the speed of accessing your Drobo is a Aperture or Lightroom issue. What I've heard and experienced is that USB uses a lot of CPU resources to do it's think so most people do as Rick above suggested use USB drives for backup. Firewire 800 is a better alternative method of access for disks where your Lightroom or Aperture files live. Firewire is faster because it uses much less of your CPU.

    As you probably know, Drobo has a newer version that runs on Firewire.

  4. Because of this article, I took another look at Lightroom 2. Not only is the slide show great but the adjustment brush is amazing.

  5. Allen- You are right on, I was going to add a line about the adjustment brush and graduated filters (both of which Aperture doesn't have) but it was so late when I did this post last night I didn't make it.

  6. Does Aperture support third party plugins? Because this is what I really like/find promising about Lightroom. Developers can create their own plugins and modules that work in Lightroom. I really like the SlideshowPro for Lightroom application.

  7. Aaron- Yes, Aperture has actually has more plugins available than Lightroom because Aperture's plugin architecture is far less restrictive than Lightroom. For a partial list of Aperture plugins see:

    http://www.aperturepluggedin.com/plugins/

    I think it was Aperture's aggressive approach to plugins that got Adobe to relax there plugins architecture and allow plugins like PTlens and Photomatix that do pixel editing. Originally Lightroom only supported export pluginssssss.

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