It seems I’m at a crossroads with my photo image editing on the Macintosh (again) and I hate these types of big decisions, they paralyze me. Maybe going slow is good in that there are many things to consider and I have a hard time crunching all the data easily in one fell swoop.
I bought and have been using Aperture for almost a year now and I’ve noticed something that I don’t like: because of it’s poor system performance on my computer I find myself avoiding using it unless I quit other applications first, which means I have to plan to use it. This has had a negative effect on my photography because processing, cataloging, and printing images is an essential part of the photography process and I want to be able to do those things while I also answer email or browse the web. Committing to an expensive, high end program like this means you stick with it for more than a day unlike a free or inexpensive piece of shareware that you might try and toss quickly. Couple that with the fact that I’d rather buy Apple software if possible and you have a recipe for paralysis.
Here is what broke my paralysis
While at the recent PhotoExpo in New York, I had occasion to watch a fellow flickr member use Adobe Lightroom on a MacBook Pro (newer than mine) and besides his facility with photo editing which was impressive, I was struck by how quickly he was moving around in the the application with absolutely no delays: no color-wheel from hell and incredibly snappy performance. He likely was showing off a bit but so what? I couldn’t show off with Aperture like that, it would be impossible. I went home from New York determined to give Lightroom another try (I had tried the beta and hated it for slowness) and downloaded the demo and have been using it ever since. It is far from perfect (as is Aperture) but on my computer, it’s fast and works right along side Safari and my daily mix of running applications. In other words, on my setup it’s less of a memory and resource hog than Aperture is.
I realize that many reading this think I’m just spewing silly psycho-babble here but in fact, many Mac users who use(d) Aperture went through this when Lightroom came out. I just stuck with Aperture longer and it was a slower process of realization for me.
My rationale for switching to Lightroom
1. I’m a Macintosh user (since 1984) who knows the Mac well and has made a commitment to the Macintosh. My computer is the center of my life and I use it for communication, organization, web site support, photo editing and more. In other words, there is no single thing I do with my computer that outweighs another. They are all interdependent on one another.
2. I prefer using a laptop computer (MacBook Pro) and prefer a single computer in my life, not one for photo editing and another for everything else.
3. I do realize that many serious photographers and graphic designers who use Photoshop or Aperture buy hardware to support that single application because it has steep memory and speed requirements, but I would prefer not to do that for my image editing software because I like having it integrated into all of the other things I do with my computer.
4. My 2.16 ghz MacBook Pro has a Core Duo processor and 2 gigabytes of memory. The current version of said machine has a Core2 Duo processor in it and will address 4 gigabytes of memory. I’ve already put a new 7200 rpm hard disk in this machine to help Aperture run better (it did, marginally) but I’d rather not buy a new machine and add expensive memory just to support a single application. Again, there is a limit to how far I will go to support an application that is really meant to run best on a Mac Pro with a lot of memory and a fast graphics card.
5. I have iPhoto ’08 and it’s a great improvement over earlier versions (thanks Manish) but its tools don’t touch Aperture’s or Lightroom’s and for the kind of photography I do I need many of those tools. However, if it worked for me I’d have no problem using it; I’m not above using consumer software for professional purposes.
6. Aperture and to a lesser extent Lightroom is/are built for professional photographers who take hundreds or thousands of big RAW images (for example, a wedding or event photographer) and need to look at all of them, sort and group and process them. Aperture is built for a user with a Mac Pro (tower) with a lot of memory and a large screen (or two). If I were that user, I’d be in hog heaven with it (although still might choose Lightroom at this point). I’m not. I routinely take a few dozen images and then sort, cull, and process them on my MacBook Pro on its screen. The iPhoto UI has been ideal for this for years and I’m finding Lightroom a bit closer to that than Aperture which feels like way too much app for the likes of me and my needs.
7. Aperture and Lightroom are not inexpensive applications. I got Aperture at a discount price because a friend at Apple helped me (thank you Manish) but I will be spending full retail for Lightroom if I get it ($279) and that gives me pause. I’m not complaining about the price of these applications, they’re worth their prices and for me, it’s an essential expense, less than the price of cheap lens, just that it’s not trivial. Aperture’s slowness really bothers me. Lightroom solves that. Even with $400 combined investment here we’re still at far less than people routinely spend on Photoshop.
8. Lightroom has not been upgraded to work with Apple’s new OS, Leopard yet but I’ve not upgraded to Leopard yet and am in no rush to do so. The most compelling piece of the upgrade, Time Machine for backing up is not something I’m desperate for as I use SuperDuper! daily to backup and have been for a while. So, the fact that Lightroom is late with Leopard support doesn’t bother me as I’ll be late to do this upgrade anyway.
So, there you have it. I’m sure it sounds like I’ve made my mind up already so why write this and in fact, I have and will order Lightroom soon. I post this because I know many other people are struggling with a similar issue and maybe a bit of my experience will tip them one way or another.
In the shower just now (after posting this, of course) I figured out a better way to frame it: Are you an Aperture user looking for the best hardware to run the product or are you a MacBook Pro user looking for the best image editing application that will run easily on your computer? I’m the latter and it took me a while to figure it out.
Here are a few of the many posts and articles I’ve been reading the past week to help me figure this stuff out.
A Tale of Two Tools
Adobe Photoshop Lightroom: the Ars Technica review
Analysis: There’s room for both Aperture, Lightroom to thrive
Aperture or Lightroom: which is for you, which is for me?
Which is Better: Aperture vs Lightroom? The Test Results
Aperture vs Lightroom – An O’Reilly “Inside Aperture” Field Test