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This is probably an old chestnut, but I'm trying to decide between purchasing Adobe Lightroom or Aperture for Mac, and would appreciate any pointers that would help me decide.

I think I've outgrown iPhoto, and would like to spend a little more time post processing my RAW files to get the best out of them. I guess in the future, I'd like to try some HDR stuff too (if that has any relevance).

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also, since “lightroom” also has another meaning, would be a good idea to use “adobe-lightroom” for the other tag. –  Agos Sep 1 '10 at 14:25

7 Answers 7

up vote 21 down vote accepted

Personally I much prefer Lightroom, though I suspect you'll find this argument goes on as long as the Mac vs PC or Canon vs Nikon debates.

Lightroom is more expensive but has far more features, and (surprisingly) seems easier to use, but that may just be because I'm more used to it. The main advantage of Aperture is that it integrates with your other iLife apps, and has (I believe) built-in print ordering options, much like iPhoto does.

Aperture doesn't have as many image adjustment tools as Lightroom, like split-toning (where you colour the highlights and shadows different tints), and graduated filter, and the noise reduction in the latest version of Lightroom is mind-blowingly good. Neither of them supports HDR images as far as I know, but Lightroom integrates more tightly with Photoshop (as you'd expect) which is where you may be doing most of your HDR work.

You can download trial versions of both so it's worth giving them a try and seeing what you prefer working with.

(One other consideration - Aperture requires an Intel processor, not sure what you have but if it's G5 or earlier then you can't use Aperture)

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+1 for trying both to see which one works for you. It's like Canon vs Nikon - both are good enough to get excellent results; it's more a case of finding which works for you. –  Edd Jul 23 '10 at 12:44
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Nicely balanced. +1 –  AJ Finch Jul 23 '10 at 14:29
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Granted - I'm sure this could descend into a religious debate, and appreciate your reply. I'll take your advice and give both a try –  Peter McEvoy Jul 25 '10 at 9:00
    
I've tried both and I instantly preferred Lightroom. Its seems much more efficient at the basic level. –  Nick Bedford Aug 17 '10 at 0:20
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Regarding HDR and interaction, it is worth mentioning that Aperture has a lively ecosystem of plugins available, such as Hydra or Photomatix –  Agos Sep 1 '10 at 14:27

One factor to consider is the company and other products surrounding each application. Adobe has a strong background in image editing apps, notably with Photoshop. Apple is a relative newcomer to the field, with other pro-level creative apps, but nothing in the area of image editing.

If one was to speculate (and to be clear, this is speculation) about the future paths of both products, it would make sense to me that Adobe would not want to develop Lightroom to a point where it seriously competes with Photoshop. From a business perspective, they want photographers to buy Lightroom and Photoshop, so it makes sense that they'd look to keep the editing capabilities of Lightroom a good few steps behind Photoshop at all times.

Apple, on the other hand, has nothing to lose. Their goal is to make the editing features in Aperture as good as possible, with no concerns about protecting the revenue of other products. There are user-experience and workflow benefits to be had if they can improve the editing tools in Aperture to a point where a photographer no longer needs to use Photoshop.

Of course, that depends on Apple's ability to deliver. Aperture 3 is an excellent tool, but do they have the skills to be able to keep up with the experienced engineers at Adobe? Is Apple willing to keep up the investment in Aperture at that level?

One could speculate that Adobe will always artificially limit the capabilities of Lightroom, whereas Apple has the ability to steal a march with Aperture.

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I think that Lightroom and Photoshop are positioned for different user bases. While there will always and inevitably be an overlap, and therefore people who want or need both, most users will only need one. Lightroom is more for "photo developing" while Photoshop is for "photo manipulation". But I can see your point: I doubt the much talked about "intelligent fill" feature in Photoshop CS5 will make it into Lightroom in the near future. And that is one feature I can see a lot of Lightroom users wanting. –  beggs Aug 3 '10 at 8:50

It really depends on what kind of things you want to do with your photos and what is your workflow. Lightroom is good as tool for most of the things.

Aperture at least had edge over previous Lightroom versions on RAW image processing quality of images. At least based of what I heard from one advertising photographer (who works mainly with large number of studio flashes and medium format camera with digital back or smaller DSRLs), he had problems at getting as good image processing quality with LR as with Aperture. It was more than year ago so I'm not sure about the current situation.

Have seen both Lightroom and Aperture been used and both have their own fans and approaches. Both programs have many different ways how they can be used so it depends on the way you use them how software fits to your workflow. Modular approach of LR is sometimes distracting and slows you down but one has to understand that user interactions of both programs have been designed differently. At one point, Aperture was re-developed by team that had made Final Cut Pro so it might have some similarities in some details.

Personally, I feel that Lightroom fits better to my workflow even if it has some problems in the implementation (LR should learn things from UI of Aperture). One interesting thing to note is that the file size of Aperture 3 is around 600+ MB while LR3 is around 90 MB (not sure how much more there are application support files elsewhere for each of them).

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I think both programs have a lot to offer. They have overlapping and complimentary feature sets, and if you have the luxury of owning both a PC and a Mac (or just a Mac), both are valuable tools.

There are some other great answers here, so I won't go into a lot of detail. There are some fundamental differences between Lightroom and Aperture that I think are important. Particularly, Lightroom uses a segmented workflow that separates library management from development from printing. Aperture, on the other hand, provides a non-linear, unsegmented workflow, allowing you to perform any operation at any time. While I love Lightroom, and think it offers a powerful feature set, I prefer a non-linear workflow. If I had a Mac, I think Aperture would end up being my primary tool, with Lightroom being a secondary tool.

I would most likely use both tools, however, as they do offer some complimentary features. An Aperture feature is the ability to easily geocode your photograph locations, and visualize where your photos were taken on a map. Lightroom v3 offers some very rich noise reduction and film grain enhancements that are not found in Aperture. I think both tools are phenomenal, and if you have the option, both should probably ultimately end up in your post-processing toolset.

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In my opinion, the biggest advantage of using Lightroom is seamlessly moving between PC and Mac (which I often do).

Aperture has a lot of great features, but in the end I preferred Lightroom.

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This is very subjective, do as mentioned above and download the trials for both. They are both equally great. Personally though, I went with Aperture, as I don't like the modularized approach of Lightroom. Its also a lot cheaper. :-)

One thing not mentioned above is the community surrounding each application. Take a look at the plugins available for each platform, hang out in forums during your 30 day trial. And see what your friends are using.

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be careful with using terms like "above" and "below on StackExchange sites. Answers will move around based on how they are sorted and their current stats. –  drye Jul 23 '10 at 21:07
    
Community/Plugis: I hadn't thought of that - good call –  Peter McEvoy Jul 25 '10 at 9:05

Your best bet would be to give both apps a try - as far as I know you can download trials for both software, so you can see which one is better fitting for your work.

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