Friday, April 3, 2015

Aperture, Capture One, and Lightroom Walk Into a Bar

Jochen H. Schmidt:

As a registered developer I’ve installed Photos for OS X and have started to build an opinion on it. I actually like it — it is incredibly fast and some of its tools (like the retouch brush) are the best working implementations I have seen so far. But it is also very clear that this cannot replace Aperture today. Regardless of that, the infrastructure around Photos is how photos will be managed on Apple devices from now on. So it is likely that it’ll be a part of our future workflow even if another program replaces Aperture. Unfortunately it is not yet known which third-party vendors will offer some kind of integration with this new system or what that will look like.


I will edit a photo in Aperture, Lightroom and Capture One. The example is chosen to teach an important lesson; it is often wrong to quickly assume that something is impossible within an application. The paths are different — and sometimes more tedious — but in almost all cases you can get very comparable results from any of those programs. If not, try harder! To get to this point, you need to learn a programs strengths and quirks. Don’t write-off something to early!

Jochen H. Schmidt:

The result is looking much better than the one in Aperture. This example clearly shows why so many users trying Lightroom are shocked about the results they can get.


With both Lightroom and Capture One I easily can get better results than I got using similar techniques in Aperture. But is this really the whole story? Actually no; this kind of pushing deep shadows out of a photo with high dynamic range doesn’t really work with Aperture’s shadow slider. The solution is to drop the black point to zero and use the levels or curves tool to raise the shadows.


One fact is undenyable though: It is much easier in Capture One or Lightroom. The reason for that is very simple; the tools in those programs are written with such situations in mind. These are not just simple linear shadow level adjustments; there is a set of non-linear curves behind them which are carefully crafted to give natural results, even in the extremes. This is not a limit of the engine; it is a feature of the user interface which hides such complexity behind a simple linear looking slider.


When comparing Lightroom to Aperture I mostly miss the ease of use. While Lightroom’s tools work exceptionally well, the user interface and the catalog organization is something you may really have force yourself to like.


Capture One doesn’t only look similar to Aperture, it has a lot in common. The UI is more like Aperture and more configurable than Lightroom. The quality of its output it often said to be better than Lightroom.

Bob Rockefeller:

This is similar to my experience. Both Lightroom and Capture One have somewhat better develop tools. Aperture is far and away better at photo management.


I use Lightroom at work, but it never felt as comfortable as Aperture, even 5 years later. I have been experimenting with Capture One and like it as the best Aperture replacement so far. The most annoying missing features for me are global before and after (WTF? This is such a basic feature. You can do before/after only on each adjustment brick).

The current situation is a mess. Aperture is in maintenance mode, and its photo development tools lag behind the competition. None of the alternatives seem to be able to easily migrate files out of Aperture while preserving the organization (projects, albums, stacks, keywords). Only can preserve Aperture’s non-destructive edits and use Photo Stream, and it’s the most limited in terms of managing photos, the area where Aperture still has a big lead. Right now, the least bad option seems to be to keep using Aperture. There are still professionals using it who at some point will need better migration tools, aren’t there?

Update (2015-04-08): Jeff Carlson:

Unfortunately, there’s no way to assign geo information to photos that don’t already have it. For example, if I shoot several photos of a location with my iPhone, I can’t copy that data to photos shot at the same place with my DSLR.


If you’re a longtime Aperture user, Photos is definitely a step back. Or rather, it’s the clear signal that says it’s time to look for other professional photo pastures. I can’t recommend Photos as a full-time replacement, although I can envision situations where it would work alongside Aperture, such as creating small libraries for sharing with clients who don’t own Aperture (both iPhoto and Aperture can open a library after it’s been converted, but edits don’t sync).

Serenity Caldwell:

No, it’s not Aperture. It’s got a long way to go before it’s ever going to be Aperture — and honestly, Apple may be ready to cede the true pro-editing market to Adobe and the like. But for the vast majority of users — beginner to prosumer alike — Photos for OS X is more than enough for your photo management needs.


There aren’t any brushes, to my great disappointment. The loupe is gone, replaced with Multitouch pinch-to-zooms, as are some of the more advanced management features. And you can’t edit your images in an external editor, or properly work with a reference library unless you disable iCloud Photo Library.

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