As a Lightroom user I was a bit biased against Aperture. My first experience with Aperture was trying to load the trial of Version 1.0 on my 12″ ibook and finding out that it was not compatible due to the processing power needed. This should have taught me something about the way Aperture works, or rather doesn’t. Lightroom came out about the same time and loaded beautifully on my old machine and I have used it for all my digital workflow ever since.
Fast forward a few years and Apple announces the huge improvements to Aperture 3 and photography celebs like Chase Jarvis tout the beauty of this software, and its ability to bring out their creativity. I was intrigued by the brushes tool that allowed specific control to burning and dodging as well as skin smoothing. I now had a Macbook Pro with 4gb ram and figured I was good to go with this new software. Downloading the 30 day trial I proceeded to import a set of photos from a recent shoot. The following are some initial reflections.
Editing with Aperture is relatively similar to Lightroom, except for a few different short cut keys and editing terminology. The biggest difference I felt with Aperture was that it was SLOW… way slower than Lightroom in load times and waiting for editing changes to be made, especially with the skin smoothing tool. I even managed to crash it a couple of times in the first day of use.
One of my favourite features of Lightroom was the ability to hover my mouse pointer over the sliding adjustments and use my arrow keys to make changes. Over time, this allowed me to be less fatigued from dragging little sliders back and forward in small movements. Aperture does not allow this and this also made making consistent changes more difficult. The loop tool was largely useless as well because waiting for the zoomed section to load properly was a huge pain. (Update: Someone pointed out that by clicking on the number value, you can do the same thing. Still slightly slower, but a very useful tip)
Despite my grievances I really wanted to like this software. At nearly half the price, Aperture had some ingenious tools that allowed me to achieve some interesting editing effects. The curves tool was more flexible (and Photoshop like) in adjusting contrast of different colour channels, creating multiple curve layers and the ability to brush adjustments in and out. The colour toning tools also made making retro looks easier. It was useful having the skin smoothing tool despite the unbelievably slow lag.
I am curious as to how advanced and powerful a mac is needed to enjoy editing the way these other photographers have so warmly endorsed. My Macbook Pro with 2.53 GHz and 4 GB ram struggled with this version of Aperture and I can’t see how editing a wedding job with over 500 photos could be an economical exercise, let alone trying to stay sane waiting for it to do anything. There is much more to explore with this editing software and there are some truly useful and fun features but the slow speed will always bring me back to Lightroom. I hope someone out there can prove me wrong.
The above image was edited with Aperture 3.
Updade 14/02/2010: Here is a link to another Aperture 3 review, this one reporting some screen graphics issue. Check it out at fiftyeight.net.