Lightroom and Aperture might be just what a serious photo enthusiast needs.
Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously available online since 1983

T e c h n o f i l e
Adobe and Apple create a new class of photographer's helpers

June 29, 2008

By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2008, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2008, The Post-Standard

   For years, photo software has been missing something, especially for serious amateur photographers.
   Day-trippers and occasional picture-takers have it made. They've got Picasa for Windows and iPhoto for Macs -- programs that provide just enough competence to take charge of casual photo collections.
   But amateurs who live and breathe photography need more. They need software that can help them deal with a few hundred photos all at once, while still offering the tools they need to classify, crop, straighten, arrange and color-manage photos -- and, of course, to delete duds from their latest photo shoot.
   What's needed for serious amateurs isn't an organizer that also does a little editing. They have Photoshop for editing and don't care about something that can't do it as well. What these folks need is a work-flow manager -- especially, a work-flow manager that can hand off the heavy loads to Photoshop with a quick click.
   And that's just what both Adobe and Apple offer in their flagship work-flow programs, Adobe Lightroom and Apple Aperture. Lightroom, which lists for $299, is available in both Windows and Mac versions. Aperture, which lists for $199, is available only for Macs. (You can get more info at the two Web sites, www.apple.com and www.adobe.com.)
   For me, Adobe Lightroom took the least amount of getting used to, possibly because it seemed familiar from the start. (I'm a big fan of Adobe Camera Raw and Adobe Photoshop, from the same designers.) But Apple Aperture is just as powerful and helpful as Lightroom, as long as you take the time to learn it.
   Each program is relatively new, introduced in the last few years. Aperture seems (and looks, with its Darth Vaderish interface) more modern, and Lightroom seems to have more of a let's-get-the-job-done look to it. In truth, each does just as well as the other.
   Here are some of their common features:
      Assigning labels and keywords to pictures so you can sort them and keep track of them better.
      Making quick choices about which photos to keep and which to get rid of. Photos in the reject pile can be recovered in both programs.
      Keeping your original photos safe from all changes while you work on "virtual" versions. This works exceptionally well in both programs.
      Cropping, fixing exposure problems, repairing blemishes and restoring color balance in an easy-to-undo manner.
      Quickly shunting a photo into Photoshop or any other photo editor for heavy-duty editing.
      Creating top-quality slide shows. Lightroom can't export (convert, in other words) its slide shows into a movie format (they're PDF slide shows), but Aperture's photos can be quickly dragged into iPhoto and turned into video slideshow DVDs.
      Making photo galleries for the Web.
   They have many other functions, too. With just two programs -- Lightroom or Aperture and a good photo editor -- you can do most of the tasks expected of a professional or serious amateur photographer.
   Lightroom has an advantage in one way -- there are a lot of Lightroom plugins (small helper programs) that provide special settings, and many of them are free. The first plugin for Aperture is now available, but Lightroom probably will remain ahead in this area.