My trek into the Lightroom universe happens with every new release of the software. I’m always curious to see how the other half 95% live. And of course I like to know what I’m missing out on - if anything.

So yesterday I did just that. Downloaded the trial, loaded some Nikon and Fuji files. To be perfectly honest I didn’t look at the new Book and Map features in Lightroom 4. I’m sure they’re perfectly fine but they wouldn’t be a reason for me to switch. What I’m truly interested in is image rendering and editing: is it better than Aperture? Can I do more? Will it make my images look better?

At the risk of rumbling a few feathers… Nope. In fact my impressions of Lightroom 3 still stand completely:

 

“Does LR3 sometimes do a better job? Yes. Same goes for Aperture. Does LR3’s built-in NR/sharpen and Lens Correction trump Aperture? Hell yes and I wish Apple would take notice. I’m using DFine, Sharpener Pro and PTLEns but would very much welcome not having to render TIFFs for those functions, to say nothing of the ability to go back and tweak.

But for my use Aperture is a better tool. And the good thing about all this is that in trying to replicate certain LR3 functions, I’ve found new ways of working with AP3 and have also revisited areas of my workflow.”

That was back in 2010. My take on NR/Sharpen hasn’t changed. LR is king on this hill compared to AP3. I also noticed a slight edge in micro-details but that may be due to the sharpening adjustment being on by default (there’s auto sharpening in Aperture’s raw brick as well but frankly, it’s barely noticeable) . Camera profiles would also be a nice and much welcome addition, especially for Nikon cameras - Aperture does some weird colour interpretation with NEF files. It would also allow the amazing VSCO Film to be even more precise with its emulations.

But the bottom line for the way I work: I can still do more, faster in Aperture 3. In most ways, I find it to be a much more versatile tool, contrary to popular opinion. And for some reason, everything feels sluggish in LR. I know, this is what everyone condemns Aperture for… but there you go. I can’t argue with what I see and experience, at least on my machine. If I were to switch to LR, I also suspect my use of Photoshop would go way up. I used to live in Photoshop. I don’t anymore.

The big question on every Aperture user’s mind though: what will Aperture 4 look like? Or for that matter, when will Aperture 4 look like anything? We’ve been hearing rumours here and there about Apple actively working on a next version but the direction it will take… That’s the big mystery.

FCP X is on everybody’s mind. As is the focus on iOS and the recent release of its skeuomorphic version of iPhoto. Apple seems hellbent on redefining workflow paradigms which can either lead to interesting advances or… piss a lot of people off to put it bluntly. I don’t mind learning new ways of doing things. What I do not want is Apple taking away essential, more complex features for the sake of catering to a newfound $79 audience. As a working photographer with so much invested in Aperture, that prospect has me very, very worried. 

I. Don’t. Want. Magic. Anything.

If Apple wants to add cutesy features for iPhoto upgraders, I can live with that. I’m all for allowing more folks to express themselves more easily. But we need them to remember the basic, important stuff as well. We don’t need to use Aperture to post to Twitter. We do need it to kick serious butt in IQ and make our images shine, not just look cool but shine. This means concentrating on features that matter to people selling their photography. Not just posting to Facebook.

I know most professional photographers have switched to Lightroom. But there are some pretty big names still on Aperture’s bandwagon. It’s an amazing application that, to me, is still leaps and bounds over LR in several areas. I could go into an extensive wish list but I won’t. I’ll keep it down to a single one: please Apple, please keep Aperture in the pro category.

Whatever that actually means nowadays.

Below are some pics from yesterday morning. I was in a japanese etchings kinda mood…

P.S I hope this post won’t come off as some sort of snobbish tirade against newcomers or change. I simply think anyone interested in learning any type of craft will benefit from having tools that will go further than one-click enhancements. And I hope Aperture builds on the great tool it already is.

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