Aperture vs Lightroom Decision

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom - 35mm f/2
Adobe Photoshop Lightroom – 35mm f/2 (Photo credit: Sha Sha Chu)

Not long ago, in an earlier post, I debated whether to use Aperture or Lightroom for Business Model Scalability to manage my digital iphoneography photos. I really wanted to get away from that feeling of only being as good as my last photo….just because that’s the only one I could find! There are some other good ones in there even if I couldn’t find them.

Well, I decided, but not before some extra learning.  Originally, my criteria were:

  • Do I need the tool to edit? No
  • Do I need it to find photos? Yes

These criteria don’t help distinguish between Lightroom and Aperture at all.

In the earlier post, I also said I wanted to track where I published the photo, whether in a book or on the web. I also wanted to know how far along in the cooking process it was from just shot to published.  It turned out that these were mostly designations about…..workflow!

The mere mention of the word brings to mind the series of posts I just completed on the alimentary journey of managing a 3 device workflow.  See Related Posts below:)

When I looked at Lightroom vs Aperture, the LR modules are organized around, drum roll please….work flow!  You first import the photo into the “Library” module for inventory. Then you move it into the “Develop” module where it becomes Work in Process. You do your computer edits in this module.  The next modules “Book”, “Slideshow”, “Print” and “Web” are all output related and show where the photo will be published. Seems simple enough.

A tweeted Adobe coupon finally pushed me over the cliff edge and I bought…..Lightroom!

I have miles to go before I sleep in terms of getting the catalogue built.  Catalogue is KEY in LR land. The catalogue is an index in that it keeps the address of all your photos but not the photos themselves.  It is also like a recipe holder.  LR keeps the steps you took in the “Develop” module and the address of the original image, but not the edited image. Anytime you want the edited image again, it cooks the recipe and there you have it.  If you want a more permanent manifestation, just export the result and it’s fixed! The great thing about this is that it saves storage space.

Storage space is cheap so why bother?  It’s the storage space in my head I’m worried about.  This method reduces the number of places you have to look for something.

There are many fantastic tutorials on LR out there.  As I go through the startup process I will share with you what I find as well as my own experiences.  My goal for 2013 is to be able to adeptly manage an inventory of 10 years of digital photographs from a variety of cameras in a scalable way.

Where are you in your Aperture vs Lightroom decision?  What’s important to you? What other options are out there?

More soon!  Jennifer

All writing by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2013


  1. Jennifer, I had the same dilemma, just for a different reason. I enjoyed hearing your reasons and why you came to the conclusion. I came to the same conclusion as well. I’m learning LR from a fresh as well also. I have years of Aperture baggage though to cloud my LR lessons. I get so frustrated when the most simple Aperture task becomes convoluted or impossible. That being said I did chose LR because I think it’s better. It’s not from a workflow stand point however. I had my workflow down in Aperture. It wasn’t visual like Lr lays it out though.
    The workflow you are describing in LR can in Aperture as well. I think all the things you just described about LR exist in Aperture also, saving room, going back and cooking the original etc… are all there also. Aperture isn’t inherently visually laid out for workflow, you would have had to create it with albums. (like LR’s catalogs) That is an interesting difference I hadn’t noticed.


    • Hi Technology for Media, thanks for stopping by! I read your post on why you switched from Aperture to Lightroom and it’s listed in the Related Posts section. As you say, different reasons. It’s instructive to know that you’ve got a thorough understanding of Aperture AND made the switch. It’s a big step for me from folders distributed across multiple drives as well as storage pools on multiple devices to a central organizing tool. But, it must be done so the tech disappears as you say. Thanks again for stopping by and contributing to the discussion!


  2. You hit on maybe my favorite part of LR. Your “Folder” organization in LR is the folders on the HDD that LR is looking at. It’s not this way in Aperture even with “referenced” images.
    I recommend sorting by year then month.

    Any types of photography can be sorted in catalogs.

    Keep in mind LR can look at external drives. Hit the plus next to “Folders”, and pick “add new folder”. Find the external HDD and add at least one picture into LR. Now that ext HDD will be below your computers HD in “Folders”. When it’s disconnected you can still see the pictures and do library functions like sorting and rating. You just can’t do “Develop” functions.


    • Thanks for this roadmap! I’ve been debating about whether to leave my iPhoneography images in a flat folderless image lake tagging them on import with what would be the folder name or to create a whole folder structure. The folder structure I’ve created on the iPad does not transfer to the computer, alas. In contrast, all my images from my PC days are in folders already. Can LR running on a MAC “see” into a drive that’s formatted for PC? If not, I’ve been wondering how to get all those images over to a MAC formatted drive, perhaps through Dropbox or Box. Thanks again for your advice!


      • Yes and no. What format is the HDD in?
        This article discusses two formats you can use to share files between http://www.pcworld.com/article/250431/how_to_share_an_external_drive_between_a_mac_and_a_pc.html
        Each unfortunately has it’s down sides.
        As for as the order of organizing and import… I don’t know. Either way I’d use the year month structure. You can do this in finder or in LR. The final outcome will be the exact same, your images will physically be moved into a year month structure.
        I’d recommend against drop box unless you have ALOT of patience and a large data cap on it. I use it for my iPhone to LR work flow (now with no photostream moving from Aperture). It only works because I’m extremely patient and so far it hasn’t been any client work with a deadline, only home projects. What is Box?


      • I think it is formatted NTFS. From the link you shared it looks like Lion might be able to read from the drive (not write to) which would enable me to copy the files elsewhere. I’d like to try that when I’m feeling fresh for a round of boxing with technology. It sounds like Dropbox is really slow. I’ve only used it for small files from Genius Scan but those seemed to load slowly. Box is a Dropbox competitor. They gave away 10GB accounts recently so that helps. The year month structure that you outlined sounds really good. Using year month I can still accomplish what I would have done in topical folders like “Portland, OR” by using tags. I will be so excited to get this organized so I can free that energy for more photos:) Thanks for helping me untangle this!


      • Sounds like a good service.
        I’d say to just sort pictures by date in finder. Drag by year into folder. Then sort that year by month. It should be easy enough. Then import into LR. They could be ext or internal. Let me know if I can help with something else.


      • Oh, thanks for pointing out that I’d have to do this myself. I was thinking that somehow LR would “automagically” do it:) Sounds like a good project for the upcoming 3 day weekend. Baby steps, baby steps. Thanks again! Talk to you soon, Jennifer


  3. OK, no I feel silly. I’ve been doing something with LR for awhile and didn’t think how useful it would be for you in trying to move libraries. LR can actually do this folder organization task for you. It will if you let it move or copy the files. So if those multiple storage locations isn’t your desired end state, but a one or two HD location, then this will work for you.

    Try these steps even if you aren’t ready to do it and just don’t click import second time. This way you can play with options to plan out this task before actually starting.

    Copy or Move options—-
    Connect Ext HD (From) and Ext HD (To)
    From Library click Import
    Work Import UI clockwise starting on the left.
    Choose Source, Ext HD (from)
    Select Copy or Move (they do as the name suggests
    Select the Ext HD (To)
    File Handling, File Renaming, and Apply During Import, as desired. Play with options. I leave this alone though for now.
    Into Subfolder- unchecked
    Organize-By Date
    Date Format-2013/01/16 (this will allow name sorting later outside LR to be easier)
    Don’t touch anything else but scroll down and see whats happening.
    It should be going to the Ext HD (To). Just select the folder. Then you will see the beauty of this technique. The folder structure will be created for you sorted however you want.
    You could choose to Organize by original folders also if you liked the organization of your storage solutions now. I don’t think that will work unless they have the exact same naming conventions between all of them.

    Add option—-
    If you want to leave them where they are but have LR catalog them. You’ll have high resolution images able to look through. Once you connect the HD you’ll be able to do anything you want with the files.
    Benefit of this is that you don’t need to move r copy the files. Bad thing is your Folder structure will be divided. It’s OK though because your “Collections” can have pictures from multiple “Folders”.

    I’ve got to record a video for all this stuff!


    • What a fantastic idea! I bet your video would get a lot of traffic. Julianne Kost has one video out there that is helpful but is fairly high level. It doesn’t address your options for how to organize what is being imported. Just a series of steps to perform the import. I can’t wait to try your steps out! Thanks! More soon! Jennifer


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