Aperture 3 vs Lightroom 3 (beta 2) – Feature Comparison Review

This is feature comparison review of Aperture 3 vs Lightroom 3 (public beta 2). While it is not my intention to be overly favorable of Lightroom, my opinions reflect those of an Adobe Community Professional & Lightroom enthusiast. There are definitely things I like in Aperture. That being said, what follows are my thoughts & observations about both products. Keep in mind, Lightroom 3 has not been officially released, and the findings here will be updated when LR3 ships.


While suited to the same task, Aperture & Lightroom utilize different approaches to managing & adjusting images. This is apparent when viewing the layout of each program’s interface.

Aperture’s interface is divided into two primary areas–The Inspector & Viewer. The Inspector features three primary tabs for working with images–Library, Metadata & Adjustments. Images display in the Viewer in either a Grid, Filmstrip or Single Image view. The Viewer window remains constant when moving between Inspector tabs. The Inspector can be toggled on & off, and Aperture can be put into a full screen mode.

Lightroom’s interface is divided into modules coinciding with a digital workflow–Library, Develop, Slideshow, Print & Web. Within each module reside a left-side navigation panel, right-side adjustments panel, center image view area, and bottom film strip control. Images display in the center image area regardless of module, all panels can be toggled on & off individually, and Lightroom can be put into a full screen mode.

Comment – In terms of UI (user interface) I prefer Lightroom’s module approach. Having the UI align with the tasks at hand, leaves a lot of guesswork out for new users. I also prefer LR’s implementation of keyboard shortcuts. “C” for compare view makes more sense to me than OPT+O. Many of Lightroom’s keys have a root in the actual command.

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  • Chris Ward April 26, 2010   Reply →

    Hey A.J., nice comparison. I wrote my own not to long ago too http://www.cyberward.net/blog/2010/04/aperture-3-vs-lightroom-3-beta-2/ Looks like we came to similar conclusions.

  • Glyn Dewis April 27, 2010   Reply →

    Hey A.J.,

    Thanks for the post.
    A short while back I came close, and I mean real close to moving over to Aperture for my Photography Workflow but finally resisted and have decided to stick with Lightroom. Why, well quite simply Lightroom to me seemed to run slow in comparison and I was beginning to dislike the way that LR organised images.

    It wasn’t until I had a re-think about my workflow, prompted by spending time with the OneLight Guy Zack Arias that I had a ‘turn around’. Clearly if I’m honest, the problem wasn’t Lightroom, it was the person using it as now LR runs like a rocket since I’ve ‘cleaned up’ my images and now import images differently. I’m now using Photo Mechanic is conjunction with LR and it seems like a match made in heaven!

    The new LR 3.0 Beta I’m totally hooked on; just can’t wait to get hold of the final release version because looking at history, Adobe being Adobe there’s bound to be a few surprises.

    All the best to you,

  • Brent April 30, 2010   Reply →

    Its the $199 vs. $299 that has me stumped? Why the price difference? Is LR $100 better or is AP $100 worse? Hmm…

    • A.J. Wood April 30, 2010   Reply →

      Truth be told the prices flipped-flopped. LR was originally $199, Aperture $299. Apple dropped their price, Adobe raised theirs.

      If we then factor in supply & demand…

  • P.H.Wayne May 30, 2010   Reply →

    I witnessed a one hour Aperture 3.0 demo this weekend presented by Apple. I like using Lightroom, but Aperture seems to have an edge. There were two major items that i saw as an advantage to Lightroom 2.x (I don’t have 3.x yet):
    1) Slide show – as you said, this is where they diverge. Aperture has true multimedia capability allowing still and video images, plus audio, effects, and transition choices.
    2) Brush feature with edge detection: This was far more advanced than Lightroom “adjustment brush”. full controls for bush characteristics, more options for adjustment AND very smart edge detection. (Does Lightroom 3.x have any improvements?)

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