Back in January I told you my New Year’s resolution would be More and Better. On some levels I think I’m on my way to accomplishing or at least approaching the goal I set for myself. Although the road ahead is often longer than we initially anticipate.
I’ve made some very important decisions about what I want to be doing with my photography, the gear I want to use and the overarching philosophy behind it all. I’m writing tons of stuff down, trying to define how I see things to force myself into applying those principles in my work. I’ve come to realize that sometimes, to get ahead, you need to look reality in the eye and not be afraid to cut cords. And so with a fair amount of sadness I’ve made a profound decision that will probably surprise most of you: I’m moving to Lightroom.
Yes. For real this time.
In fact, I’m already settled. Everything you’ve seen here for the past three weeks (starting with the Feather post) was edited in Lightroom 4.1. And while I initially thought of keeping Aperture as my DAM using the workflow I’d described a few months ago, I quickly came to the conclusion that this would be more hassle than it was worth. So all new shoots are now being ingested directly into Lightroom. Is it as elegant as Aperture? No. But I’m adjusting and actually finding things I enjoy. Publish Services for one. The linear Modules approach goes against my natural way of thinking but cleaning the default UI and learning some shortcuts has made it somewhat less painful. I only wish we could customize the keyboard commands to make the transition easier.
So why the move? The first and most important reason: I can honestly get a lot more out of my images. Noise reduction and sharpening are essential tools that have never been more than an afterthought in Aperture and I’m sick of waiting around for a solution. I’m also sick of creating TIFFs when I need something better. Same goes for lens correction. I’ve always said I found these tools very impressive in Lightroom and after using them more thoroughly, I’m even more impressed.
The second reason: raw support for the X-Pro1. There’s a lot of talk about the quality of Adobe’s raw decoding for the X-Trans sensor and in some cases the artifacting is indeed a little strange. I think landscape photography, especially featuring a lot of foliage, is most affected by this problem. But in most cases it’s really not that bad. Don’t get me wrong: I want it to get a lot better. But being able to use the full amount of headroom provided by this sensor is fantastic in itself. I’d say it’s probably this ability to fully access what the X-Pro1 can deliver that’s been the clincher.
Third reason: I don’t know what the f$@% is going on with Aperture. I know I said before that I didn’t mind, that Apple was Apple and secrecy wasn’t synonymous with a lack of engagement on their part. But there has to be limit. The latest Aperture updates have mostly focused on tighter integration with Photo Stream and iPhoto. The H&S tool has been dumbed down and the old one deprecated. These aren’t signs pointing to a renewed emphasis on the pro sector. And I simply cannot rely on hope any longer. This is the foundation of everything I do: it needs to give me the best results possible and it needs to be something I can count on. Period. Meat and potatoes.
This wasn’t an easy decision to make. But as much as it pains me to let go, I’m actually excited to see the results I’m getting with Lightroom’s tools. I guess I must’ve been unconsciously internalizing their use all these years because this time, it just clicked. I spent an entire week replicating the processing of key pictures to see if I could achieve a similar look in Lightroom — I can. I was even able to re-create a few presets based on my VSCO Film Aperture mods by analyzing their curves and colour adjustments.
One thing that was a tremendous help was finally figuring out that LR4 now had an RGB curve option, with access to individual channels. Had to go online for that one. Leave it to Adobe to hide something this important behind a tiny little button. I actually clicked on it a couple of times without even realizing the RGB option had appeared: I thought it was just collapsing the sliders! I kept thinking “wow, this is useless”. UI is so damn important.
I still wish Lightroom incorporated Aperture’s approach of “brush anything”. I find myself at times reaching for a brush menu when using Tonal Curve, Split Toning or Effects. Yet I’ve learned to adapt and have a newfound appreciation for, amongst other things, the amazing graduated filter. I can work using the same layered approach, albeit differently.
I started using Aperture at version 1.5 and I’ve had an ongoing love affair with this application ever since. This parting of ways is incredibly bittersweet.
But all things must pass.
P.S The picture below wouldn’t exist without Lightroom. I shot this in raw+jpeg yesterday because I knew I could edit the raw version natively if needed and wanted to do some comparisons. I was also using my monochrome preset so this gave me a colour backup. I’d just shot something else entirely moments before when I turned and saw this man walking towards me. I knew instantly it was an image worth capturing but I couldn’t fiddle around with the camera controls without missing the moment. So I lifted, focused, hit the shutter and hoped for the best. It all happened in seconds. The picture that appeared in the viewfinder was totally blown out and the jpeg would’ve headed straight to the trash. But when I got home, I lowered the exposure slider on the raw file and it suddenly came alive, revealing the picture I’d had in mind. Every single detail was there, waiting to be released.
I’m not looking back.