I saw that comment a number of times in the comments on my “What I’d Love To See in Lightroom 4” post from Friday (link).

Since most photographers that read this blog, and well…most pro photographers in general (as we’ll discuss in a moment), use Lightroom, I was kind of surprised to read those responses, especially since I rarely see any mention of Aperture here on this blog at all.

Then I found out why my blog was suddenly getting visits from Aperture fans. The Aperture Users Network web site wrote a post (link) with the headline:

“Scott Kelby Pleas with Adobe to Make Lightroom More Like Aperture.”

With a link back to my post.

After reading that headline, I now fully understand the meaning of “Spin.”

A more accurate headline might have been “Scott Kelby Wants Some of Aperture’s Slideshow features and their Book feature added to Lightroom.”

I’ve been using Aperture since Aperture 1.0
As I’ve noted previously on this blog, I do sometimes use Aperture. So, why don’t I just switch?

It’s because I only like Aperture better for one feature—making photo books. I don’t use it for anything else (I do my slideshows in iPhoto).

If instead I had written the article “What I’d love to See in Aperture 4” my wish list would have been a lot longer, and it would have started with performance issues, which I feel has always been Aperture’s Achilles heel. For example, here’s a comment posted to that same article referenced above on the Aperture Users Network from an existing Aperture user:

“…frankly, I get frustrated more often by the lack of performance of Aperture and it’s temper, than I get delighted with it’s features and nice workflow.”

Plus, if I had written an Aperture 4 wish list article, it would have gone on to include features already in Lightroom that Aperture doesn’t do well, or doesn’t do at all, like: automated and manual lens correction and perspective correction, or snapshots and history for your edits, or supporting multiple adjustments with one brush stroke like Lightroom’s Adjustment Brush, or built-in Camera profiles to emulate Nikon/Canon in-camera looks, or a fast responsive crop tool, or crop tool overlays for composition, or setting your default adjustment settings by camera model, camera serial number or image ISO, or expertly-tuned sharpening on output, or saving your print layouts as JPEGs so you can send them to a photo lab, and I could go on and on and on.

Not to mention that there’s a massive worldwide community built around using Lightroom and supporting Lightroom users, and you can find tons of presets, plug-ins, advice, training books, live seminars, hands-on workshops, and even its own conference available to Lightroom users, that simply doesn’t exist on that scale for Aperture users (and did I mention that Aperture isn’t even available on the Windows platform at all?).

Of course, if I had written that article many people would have said: “Why don’t you just switch to Lightroom 3?”

It’s Not Just Me
Let’s set aside my feelings on Lightroom for a moment, and look at a bigger picture. Who is using Lightroom and who is using Aperture?

An independent study by InfoTrends looked at which programs pros are using to process their raw images. Here’s what they found:

In 2009 (the most current year for which statistics are available) here’s what the pros use:

Lightroom: 37%

Aperture: 6.3% (down from 7.5% the previous year, so their pro user base is actually shrinking).

Now, although Lightroom is available for both PCs and Macs, Aperture is only available on Macs, and you’d think that would help its case quite a bit, but it actually gets worse when you just compare what Mac users are using. Here are InfoTrend’s results when you just look at pro photographers using Macs:

Lightroom: 44.4%

Aperture: 12.5% (down from 14.6% the previous year, so their pro user base is actually shrinking on the Mac, too).

So why are pros choosing Lightroom nearly 4 to 1 over Aperture? Why aren’t they all just switching to Aperture 3 like the Aperture User Network fans are suggesting?

There’s a reason.

Here’s a comment from one of my readers, and frequent commenter, Omar D. Rivero, who wrote:

“I agree Scott. Aperture’s slideshow and photo book capabilities run circles around Lightroom’s. But as Lightroom is critical in my workflow, Aperture becomes a very expensive slideshow creator.”

When it comes to editing your raw images, Adobe’s Camera Raw (which is built into Lightroom—that’s what the Develop Module is—Camera Raw) is the industry standard for processing raw images. Period. It’s the heart of Lightroom, and the way it works with Photoshop (a seamless roundtrip) and how you can keep the Raw Editing capabilities by opening your Lightroom Raw images in Photoshop as a Smart Object makes it a critical part of most pros workflows. In fact, about 4 to 1.

I’m No Aperture Hater
Here’s the thing—-I think Aperture 3 is actually a good program. I think its book feature is absolutely fantastic (I use it myself), and Omar’s right—their slideshow module does run rings around Lightroom’s, which is why I brought up both in my original post.

While some of those features on my wish list are in Aperture, some of my wish list features are in Photo Mechanic—and not available in Aperture. (So why didn’t somebody write the headline “Scott Kelby Pleas with Adobe to Make Lightroom More Like Photo Mechanic”)? In fact, there are some features in the iPad App “Photogene” that I’d like to see in Adobe Photoshop CS5. Should should I switch to Photogene because it has a few features I’d love to have in Photoshop?

Switching Isn’t an Option
Right now Aperture 3 has a few features I would love to see in Lightroom, yet it wouldn’t make sense to switch because at this point in time it has a few features Lightroom doesn’t.

But just for a moment, let’s pretend I did switch. Well…I’d have to change my entire workflow, import all my photos from scratch, learn a new program—a new user interface, their raw image editor, their keyboard shortcuts, their file management, and so on. It would take a while, and I wouldn’t be as proficient as I am in Lightroom because I’ve been using it for years, but I imagine I could get pretty decent after a while.

Then Adobe releases Lightroom 4, and what if it winds up having a great photo books feature and a better slideshow than Aperture’s, and some other features that Aperture doesn’t have? Do I then switch back to Lightroom, pay for the upgrade, and change my entire workflow again because it has 10% more features than Aperture 3?

But then what if six months later, here comes Aperture 4 and it has 10% more features than Lightroom 4. Do I pay for that upgrade and switch back? Do you see where I’m going with this? Your time is too valuable, and the learning curve too steep to play the “chasing features” game each time one comes up with a feature or two the other program doesn’t have. Yet.

I didn’t say Lightroom Was Way Off. I Said it was “This Close!”
I love Lightroom. Love it! Do I want some additional features added? Absolutely—that’s what my post was all about, but my “Plea to Adobe” part was all about this—Lightroom is so good, that it’s “This Close” to being perfect! I want Adobe to just take that extra step. Swing for the fence. Add those little things (and a few big things) that would take it over the top. You’re “This Close!”

Don’t be an Aperture Hater
There’s no reason to hate Aperture. Competition like this breeds innovation, and both groups of users will wind up with a better program because of it.

Either way, since you know it’s my personal preference to use Lightroom, you can stop trying to convince me to switch, just like I’m not trying to convince Aperture users to switch to Lightroom (that’s Adobe’s job).

So, I hope that lets you know where I stand and why. After this post, I hope the Aperture Users Network (link) crew doesn’t feel the same way about me that the guys over at SportsShooter.com did after my “Shooting on the Sidelines with Scott & Mike Contest” from last year (which incidentally, there is no way in heck I’m doing that contest again this year. I can only absorb so many slings and arrows in a 12 month period). ;-)

P.S. You guys posted some great wish list ideas of your own on Friday (there are over 200 comments), and I’ll be sharing some of my favorites in a post later this week.

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About The Author

Scott is the President of KelbyOne, an online educational community for Photographers, Photoshop and Lightroom users. He's editor and publisher of Photoshop User Magazine, Conference Technical Chair for the Photoshop World Conference, and the author of a string of bestselling Photoshop, Lightroom, and photography books.