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


Common Features

  • Options for rating & labeling images.
  • Ability to add keyword metadata.
  • Sorting & filtering capabilities.
  • Sync metadata & adjustments.
  • Manage image file location & information.
  • Create duplicates.

Organizing Summary
While the import process is similar, the task of organizing images is where Aperture & Lightroom workflows begin to diverge.

Aperture organizes imported images into Projects. Projects are equivalent to Events in iPhoto. Projects can be subdivided into Albums, and multiple Projects can be grouped together in Folders. You might use Albums to organize the best images within a Project (for editing later). You could create Folders to group Projects based on year. Aperture also has Smart Albums which auto-fill with images based on criteria you set. You can also use Stacks to collapse images into a single thumbnail to reduce visual clutter inside the Viewer window. Aperture has an auto-stack feature which collapses images together based on a time interval. If you frequently use the burst mode when shooting, you might find this feature useful. Manual stacking worked better for me.

Metadata such as keywords is added by selecting the Metadata tab from the Inspector. Metadata changes can be synchronized by using the Lift/Stamp tool.

Aperture rates images 1-5 stars or rejected, allows for color labels, and offers an image flag. Press “1-5” to rate 1-5 stars, “9” to rate rejected, “0” to remove ratings. Color labels are assigned using the CMD key + “1-7” keys. The “/” (forward slash) key is used to toggle the image flag on or off.

Multiple images can be selected for viewing, and there is a Compare View option to compare two images side by side. Compare view is selected through the View menu, and options are changed via the Edit menu.

Deleting images places them into the Aperture Trash folder until emptied at which point the images are placed into the Finder Trash folder.


Lightroom organizes imported images into Folders. Adjustments to these folders, e.g., rename, move, delete etc., will change the original folder are your computer’s hard drive. While initial organization is done within the Folder, select images can be grouped together in a Collection. Collections can be associated with just one Folder “Best Photos Kim’s Wedding” or contain images from multiple Folders “Best Wedding Photos 2010”. Lightroom also has Smart Collections which auto-fill with images based on criteria you set. It also supports Stacks.

Metadata such as keywords can be added through the right-side adjustments panel. Users can also choose to add quick image adjustments or synchronize metadata from this panel.

Lightroom rates images 1-5 stars, allows for color labels and offers Pick & Reject flags. Press “1-5” to rate 1-5 stars, “0” to remove rating. Color labels are assigned using “6-9” keys. Press “P” to set Pick flag, “X” to set Reject flag, “U” to remove flags.

Multiple images can be selected for viewing. The Library module features a Grid, Compare, Survey & Loupe views. View can be selected through the Toolbar, or View menu. Controls for each view can be accessed via the Toolbar.

When Deleting images users are prompted to either delete the actual image file, or simply remove the image from Lightroom’s catalog.

Comments – When it comes to organizing images overall Lightroom is faster. It’s not just that I find the shortcut keys for ratings makes more sense, or that I like having Pick & Reject flags. Moving between single image, multi-image or comparison views is a snap. Tasks such as syncing metadata are straightforward in Lightroom’s Library module. While you can do similar things in Aperture, I found the implementation a bit clunky. Yes, I acknowledge that familiarity with Aperture’s UI would increase workflow speed, however, Lightroom’s view modes really work for sorting through images quickly.

Where Aperture beats Lightroom is Faces & Places. I like how GPS info is laid out, and this is something Lightroom needs to do better. I didn’t think I’d use Faces that much, but couldn’t help naming folks throughout the images I imported.
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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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