Evaluating Lightroom 3 vs. Aperture 3

Today I spent pretty much the whole day trying to figure out whether I should use Adobe Lightroom 3 or Apple’s Aperture 3.

Here’s what I want to ultimately accomplish:

  • store my photos on an external drive
  • be able to edit/retouch non-destructively select photos without being tethered to my external drive
  • localized adjustments
I downloaded the trials of both applications and discovered that both can achieve the above. Both allow maintaining multiple libraries (or catalogs in Lightroom terms), have adjustment brushes, stacking, keyword and metadata tagging, and so forth. So in no particular order, here are my observations. (I should note that none of these were really deal-makers or breakers because as I said before, both can accomplish my main goals)
What Aperture Has that Lightroom Doesn’t
  • adjustment brushes for every type of adjustment, including curves (lightroom adjustment brushes “only” let you adjust exposure, brightness, contrast, saturation, clarity, sharpness, and color overlay; not that these options are limiting in any way)
  • Faces detection and tagging
  • Native GPS and location tagging (lightroom can achieve this with a 3rd party plug-in)
  • More advanced slideshow options (e.g. multiple audio tracks which can be interspersed with arbitrary durations)
What Lightroom Has that Aperture Doesn’t
  • Some superior editing features like noise reduction (very impressive) and lens distortion correction
  • Physical folder management with the ability to synchronize to the contents of the physical folder (plays nice with manual copy/move operations you do in the file system)
  • side-by-side comparisons with synchronized panning and zooming
  • cross platform compatibility (but legally, you need 2 separate licenses to install on both mac and windows)
These are by no means a comprehensive list of things which one has that the other doesn’t, but those are just the ones I noticed.
Licensing/Pricing notes
  • Aperture is $79.99 from the Mac App Store vs. $99.00 for Lightroom (Education price; there is also a Student/Teacher edition which is $89.99)
  • Aperture can be installed on numerous mac computers linked to your iTunes account (possibly more than 2)
  • Lightroom can be installed on up to 2 computers with a single license (but again, must be the same platform)
  • both are for personal/non-commercial use at the prices and licensing options listed
So what did I end up choosing? Aperture 3.
But this decision was far from easy and definitive. The main deciding factor was that I have Mac Appstore credit from purchasing my macbook air. If it were not for that, I would’ve chosen Lightroom 3 and paid the extra 20 dollars. Money/cost aside, I actually like Lightroom a little better for the following reasons:
  • One click for applying a previous photo’s adjustments to the current photo
  • when performing undo, an overlay shows you what operation was undone – this is a very nice touch
  • writing metadata changes directly to the master files (this is possible in Aperture supposedly, but seems like there’s a bug and you get an error if you try to write metadata changes to master jpg files)
  • the keyword tagging interface
  • a significantly smaller memory footprint (no rigorous tests performed, but when I had both Aperture 3 and Lightroom 3 open, Aperture 3 consistently took up much more memory). This is a pretty major bummer for me in choosing Aperture 3 instead of Lightroom. In practice, both ran smoothly on the macbook air, so hopefully it says that way after time.
  • smaller catalog size vs. Aperture’s library size (this is mostly because Aperture generates more preview files, which can be turned off).
  • a friend pointed out a rather good point: adobe is more trustworthy and more mature in this area than Apple
In summary, I think they’re both good in terms of functionality and capability. From an interface perspective, both are pretty easy to navigate, but as noted above I like certain things in Lightroom more than Aperture. Memory-wise, it seems Lightroom is definitely more streamlined. Cost-wise, Aperture 3 is cheaper if you purchase through the Mac Appstore.

Setting Up the Macbook Air for Development

Reference for self:

  • installing PostgreSQL (thanks to this forum thread for resolving the issue I was getting)
  • install XCode (comes with SVN and Git integration)
  • installing django
    • first I tried to do this with svn, but the command failed…so I decided to install SVN from macports. It finally just finished
    • in the time it took macports to install svn (and a bunch of dependencies which I thought were already installed…like sqlite3), I cloned the django git respository instead
    • configure the django.pth file in site-packages
  • installing MAMP for apache, php, and mysql
  • install postgresql and mysql python drivers
  • clone my code from git
  • run the code! (*cross fingers)
  • resume development after almost 1 month of no activity….