"Aperture 3.4 vs Lightroom 4.2" - Digital Photography Podcast 345

Recent releases of Aperture and Lightroom make it a great time to revisit the individual strengths of each application. We're talking cream of the crop here, but they do offer different features. Which one is right for you? Listen in on today's Special Edition podcast, "Aperture vs Lightroom," and discover the answer.

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Derrick, do you still want the panoramas for the photo assignment limited to 800 pixels on the longest side? Is that large enough to adequately view the panoramas?

Hmmmm, good question. Let's bump it a bit to 1024 maximum width. That should help.

I agree that technically there's no need for an Aperture version 4. We're at 3.4 now, so there's plenty of numbers left before 4.0.

What is needed are competitive features in whatever version number. Lightroom's image quality has surpassed Aperture's (as you point out - noise reduction, lens correction, highlight recovery, and the magic Lightroom clarity slider). Ultimately, it is image quality that photographers value.

Aperture runs the risk of losing quality conscious photographers and then photographers' mind share in general.

I love Aperture and much prefer its interface and file handling. But I don't want to have to compromise image quality. :(


Derek, in the podcast you talk about sending images edited in iPhoto for iOS to Aperture with nondestructive edits intact. I can't find anything about this feature – all I seem to be able to do is send pics from iPhoto to camera roll, which then appear in my photo stream in Aperture. Are you able to point me to any other info?


Photo Ninja is a new rawconverter that nobody knows about, but is really good. http://www.picturecode.com/index.php

Using RawTherapee for my own pictures because I like the thought of open source.

Hi Derrick,

I am with Bob as I agree that Aperture may lose its following. Personally I go back and forth between Aperture and Lightroom. Lately I have been using Lightroom more because of a number of reasons you even brought up in your podcast. The noise reduction with Lightroom along with the graduate filter and Lens corrections keeps me from using Aperture only.


Hi Derrick,

You say in the podcast that Lightroom doesn't support your Olympus lenses. First, I'll say I don't have an Olympus m43 body so I'm not 100% sure, but micro 4/3 lenses that comply with the standard embed the correction data into the RAW file so Lightroom is able to automatically correct micro 4/3 lens distortions. Maybe Sigma don't do this? Perhaps the Voigtlander and SLR Magics also? There's an old thread about this http://forums.adobe.com/message/3124173 and a recent blog post http://goo.gl/OdHh5


We probably should clarify some of the terms in this thread. When it comes to "Image Quality," my tests have shown no difference between Aperture and Lightroom for the final product. I don't think Image Quality is an issue of contention. Both handle RAW files and JPEGs extremely well.

In terms of tools to manipulate images, Lightroom 4.2 has more options in terms of graduated filters, lens corrections, and noise reduction. If you need those tools for your work, then Lightroom certainly fits the bill.

But for the bulk of the work that I do, essentially photo journalism, Aperture's tool set is more than adequate. Like in Photoshop or Lightroom, I typically only need a portion of what's there.

The point of the podcast is to help folks match up these tool sets with their specific needs.

Hey Derrick. Wondering why you thought that the aperture catalog export is better than the LR one? I don't have a dog in the race, but it sounded like you liked the aperture version and I was wondering what made it better over the LR one?

Personally I use LR and will export and import as catalogs fairly often. IE:

  • from my main computer I will select items, then do a file -> export as catalog, then give it a name (it creates a folder not a "bundle" file like I assume aperture does, but it's all self contained within the folder with catalog, previews (if available) and masters (if you checked the 'include negatives')
  • copy the folder to my laptop
  • open the catalog in my laptop
  • edit, star, tag, etc
  • copy the folder back to my main computer
  • In lightroom you can do a file->import from catalog and select the exported catalog
  • cursory glance to make sure it's importing any newly created images to the right folder, and nothing seems off
  • end result is all the changes are merged into the local catalog

I can imagine the aperture version being slightly more streamlined, but it's really a case of export, copy, work on it, copy, import. I don't use aperture so I'm interested in how exactly it works there however.


I have used Aperture since the beginning and rely on it to manage my images as well as for many standard processing actions. Most of my best images start out in Aperture, and then go to Photoshop and from there to a plugin, and back to Aperture. This process works well, and allows all of my processing needs to met without leaving Aperture. I only leave Aperture occasionally to compare the Aperture RAW conversion with Adobe Camera Raw and DPP.

One specific feature which you introduced me to has been instrumental in helping me build my small photography business. I want to thank you for the podcast you previously did that described the process of using Aperture to make fine art cards. That process has allowed me to produce professional quality cards that I now sell to 6 stores in 3 states.

Dudley Warner

Thanks for the well-thought out comparison on these great software tools. You helped in my decision process about Aperture vs Lightroom in 2007. I went with Aperture and it has been very good for my needs. Yet one other advantage I have seen for LR, especially lately, is the size of the LR community. I get the impression that LR has an extensive following and hence there is more access to tutorials and "experts" on the LR side. It seems that many of the workshops I hear about use and emphasize the use of LR. Maybe I am not well enough informed on this issue but at times, I have found myself wishing that Aperture had a broader reach throughout the photo community. Your resources have been very important for Aperture users. Would that we could clone you or at least clone your desires to teach and troubleshoot Aperture.

I agree with Gary re: lens corrections in LR. Originally I was disappointed that Olympus lenses were not profiled, but Eric Chan from Adobe has confirmed that m4/3 lenses all have built-in correction profiles that are automatically applied:


Of course I suppose this means that you can't un-apply the profile, if for some reason you wanted to!


Derrick, when you said that Aperture doesn't play nicely with DNG files, what do you mean exactly?

I kind of stradle the Aperture/Lightroom divide. Over many months I have been exporting Originals from Aperture and converting to DNG in Lightroom, with a view to migrating to Lightroom wholesale. During that time, new photos have gone straight into Lightroom and been converted to DNG as they come off the camera.

The problem is that, for all the reasons you mentioned in the podcast, Aperture is a better fit for a family with a keen photographer Dad, who also has a wife and kids who want some kind of setup they can use too. (iPhoto integration.)

So the question is, those DNGs which now live in Lightroom, and have never been in Aperture - is there any problem or issue with importing them to Aperture?

Many thanks for your help.

I know I'm late to this thread, but I just wanted to give my two cents on the Aperture vs. Lightroom comparison.

I use both products because in my opinion Lightroom is superior at processing photos while Aperture is better at everything else.

I import my files into Lightroom, select the good ones and process them 100% there. After I'm done with the whole batch, I'll export the finished files as JPEGS and import them into Aperture for viewing, sharing, making slideshows, making books, etc. Videos go straight to Aperture.

This uses up more space, but lets me work with the best of both worlds.

Lightroom is my darkroom while Aperture is my gallery.

Thanks a lot for this podcast as it does help me to make up my mind between the two. One question when you said Aperture works best with the i product family, I have iPhone and iPad and one feature I have always wanted is the ability to rank photos in these devices. I guess you can do that with a MacBook but wonder if we can do the same in the other mobile i products I mentioned? I am looking for this ability simply because I take thousands of photos in an event and I want to be able to pick and choose the good ones while I am on the road and be able to sync these choices back to my main iMac at home for further editing. Would make the whole process must more efficient, rather than have to sit in front of the iMac just to pick and choose. Any ideas on this? Many thanks again.

Perhaps the people asking for Aperture 4 are big Spinal Tap fans... they want their amplifier's volume to go to 11. :) Ludicrous.

Perhaps the people asking for Aperture 4 are big Spinal Tap fans... they want their amplifier's volume to go to 11. :) Ludicrous.

As I have read, Panasonic and Olympus built lens correction into their RAW files (JPG - the camera solve thi problem during in camera conversion). There is nothing to do for Adobe.
enjoyed your audio presentation! Simply Great!
Thank you!

I use both extensively, often side by side.

I've been blogging about the differences, pros and cons between Aperture and Lightrrom a whole bunch here.

I'll try to summarize what I've been talking about in my blogs though.

The similarities between the two that do not exist in iPhoto are;

They both protect the color space
They both preserve the RAW file
allow area specific editing
interface with PS seamlessly
allow external HDD support
have advanced slideshow functionality
have large user groups making presets
have cut and paste adjustments
apply camera specific corrections

Differences between Aperture and Lightroom are minor.
Aperture has better Apple app workflow
Aperturet has photostream support
Aperture works inside iWeb, iPhoto, iMovie etc...
Aperture has more complete retina support (as of right now)
Lightroom has minor video editing capability (some photo edits can apply to video, easing workflow)
Lightroom works better with PS if you are doing HDR or timelapse
Lightroom's cummintity support is better. You'll get more free presets etc...
Lightroom has customizable brushes
Lightrooms brushes are additive and you can control flow
Lightroom can apply lens specific corrections