Adobe Photoshop Lightroom vs Apple Aperture Shootout

6 04 2007

Even though its submission week and I have yet to finish my design, a man needs to take a break now and then. And what better to do than a side-by-side comparison of Apple’s incumbent RAW processing software, Aperture, and the new kid on the block, Adobe Photoshop Lightroom.

Interface-wise there isn’t too much to compare, although Lightroom’s is a fair bit more intuitive, whereas Aperture requires some reading of the manual/help files to actually find one’s way around. Aperture’s interface really shines when you have a 2nd monitor added, as image processing does not require you to switch between tabs, unlike Lightroom. That said, Lightroom’s use of tabs benefits those with less screen estate, such as those working on a laptop. But since a large number of professional photographers will have a 2nd monitor anyway, it essentially boils down to an issue of working style and personal preference.

The short is that Aperture shines in B&W photography. with strong contrast and deep blacks, getting an image that looks like it is shot on punchy film like Ilford Delta or X-pan and printed on grade 5 paper is easy. Comparatively, Lightroom consistantly gives me pictures with more greys, but with a bigger tonal range, not unlike a Kodak T-max printed on fibre-backed paper. I’m not saying that you can’t get the opposite result on either software, but it seems that different philosophies are adopted by Apple and Adobe. To get the kind of impact in Lightroom, one needs to do a bit more tweaking, while getting finer tones in Aperture requires one to just ease back on the contrast and tone curves. Also, Aperture gives images that are ‘grainer’ and more organic, but again its a matter of preference.

The other comparison is in the handling of colour. Lightroom’s distinction between Saturation and Vibrance is a godsend; in Aperture, there is only saturation to tweak, resulting in some unnatural colours that require more effort to fix. The most obvious problem is with green and magenta, and on screen they seem to glow radioactively. Printed onto paper that distinction is less obvious as the reduced gamut and reduced brillance of paper puts both software output on equal par.

Which brings me to the ability to do soft-proofing. I absolutely love Aperture’s ability to adjust the gamut for soft-proofing of the final colour-space. As of version 1, Lightroom still lacks the feature, which is strange as it can be found in other Adobe programs such as Photoshop and InDesign.

I will put up samples of photos that I tried out in both programs sometime next week, but the skinny is that on photos that have a bit of exposure issues both programs perform brilliantly, giving almost identical results. On photos with spot-on exposures, the results are a bit more varied. Its like choosing between different types of films, or shooting with different cameras, with each software having a distinct flavour in how they handle RAW info.

I will post a detailed review once I’m done with submission on Monday; for those running a Mac and can’t wait for my review, full-working 30-day trial versions of the softwares are available on Apple and Adobe’s website.



2 responses

17 04 2007

Nice blog!

8 03 2009
Adam Parker

Nice intro. Even after 2 years the debate rages on. I wrote some thoughts on aperture 2 vs lightroom 2 blog post here.

I look forward to reading your in-depth post and maybe even a later v.2 comparison.

Thanks again.

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