Adobe Photoshop vs Aperture vs Lightroom

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by halfmonkey, May 25, 2011.

  1. halfmonkey macrumors regular

    May 17, 2011
    I was looking through the Aperture vs Lightroom thread and wondered if anybody has reviewed Photoshop in there? I have a really old version of Photoshop on my old PC and now that I've made the switch to an iMac, I'm looking to get new photo editing sfotware. iPhoto seems like a very very basic photo editing software that focuses more on organization rather than editing.

    Can someone explain what Aperture and Lightroom is? At least on Adobe's website, the indicate that Lightroom is geared more for the Photo Amateur to Professional but from what I've read, it seems that Lightroom does allow you to work with RAW images but it doesn't appear that it allows you to edit the pictures like Photoshop does. Am I correct or do I have this wrong? It seems that Lightroom and Aperture are a more advanced version of iPhoto but it still doesn't let you manipulate the pictures. In other words, as I understand it for example, Photoshop allows you to photoshop an animal into a landscape picture that was never there but can Aperture or Lightroom do the same thing?
  2. mzd macrumors 6502a

    Jul 25, 2005
    To a certain extent you are correct in your assessment of Photoshop vs. Aperture/Lightroom.
    Aperture and Lightroom function as a digital darkroom and photo library. Photoshop is for image manipulation and more drastic editing, as well as graphic design.
    Aperture and Lightroom offer great tools for getting the most out of your RAW (or JPEG) photos from your camera. You can adjust exposure, white balance, dodge, burn, adjust color curves, and even remove dust, splotches, and red-eye. You can selectively edit specific areas of the photo. In Lightroom, there is a clone stamp and I believe there is a similar brush in Aperture, so you can do some touch up. You can also tag and organize your photo library.
    But, for more drastic editing, like putting people in photos that weren't there to begin with and working with layers, you are better off in Photoshop. Photoshop also has similar darkroom tools, but Lightroom/Aperture has a more purpose-built interface for that type of work.
  3. Keleko macrumors 68000

    Mar 26, 2008
    Lightroom and Aperture are mostly focused on organizing and simple editing. Photoshop is not an organizer at all. It is for serious and significant editing. So it doesn't really compare with the other two.
  4. Ruahrc macrumors 65816

    Jun 9, 2009
    I would not say that LR and Aperture are limited to simple editing, but rather that photoshop's specialized tools are more geared towards graphic or digital art than photo editing. Things like cloning out people, comping other people or scene elements in, go beyond what is typically considered photographic editing, and more in the realm of the digital arts.

    Keleko is right, however, in that Photoshop cannot do any organizing at all. Adobe has a program called Bridge for that (which should come with any version of photoshop or creative suite) but it is substantially more limited than the organizing/cataloging capabilities of Lightroom or Aperture.

  5. halfmonkey thread starter macrumors regular

    May 17, 2011
    Thanks for all of the feedback. This is exactly what I was looking for. For my needs, I'll be getting Photoshop then as I'm not really all that concerned about trying to organize my photos by using a $200 product (Aperture). iPhoto works well in "managing" the pictures for me and I downloaded Canon's proprietary software to help me "manage" the files.

    On a side note, I say "manage" the pictures vs "manage" the files because iPhoto forces you to import pictures while using their filing format. I prefer to be able to separate my pictures by the camera I shot the pictures on and then by date and iPhoto does not allow you to do this. Anyway, I'll use iPhoto to view the picture after I import it into iPhoto but I'll use Photoshop to manipulate the picture.
  6. Ruahrc macrumors 65816

    Jun 9, 2009
    Unless you intend on doing a significant amount of "photoshop-style" work (specifically, things like compositing or a lot of stylistic stuff that Ap/LR cannot do), then I would still give AP/LR some serious thought. They are not $200 programs that just "organize" your photos. They are fully featured editing programs, that for many photographers have replaced 95% of the functionality of PS. If you still need that final 5%, then yes, PS is what you need, but make sure you need it before committing yourself to an antiquated workflow paradigm.

    While you can achieve the same edits in PS as you can with AP/LR, the workflow setup of AP/LR make the process MUCH more efficient, when viewed from a photography perspective.
  7. chmilar macrumors member

    Sep 25, 2003
    Aperture is $80 if you buy it on the Mac App Store.

    It is identical to version Apple pre-installs or sells in a box for $200. The only difference is you don't get a shiny disc and some printed material.
  8. halfmonkey thread starter macrumors regular

    May 17, 2011
    From your response above and from MZD's response, it was my understanding that Lightroom and Aperture 3 only provide simple editing while Photoshop allows you to actually manipulate the photo such as adding someone to a landscape shot that was never in the landscape shot or by pulling out items/objects/people from a certain photo and layering them into another photo to create a collage of sorts. Can Aperture or Lightroom do this? If they can't, then it seems that Photoshop is what I'm looking for.
  9. johnnj macrumors 6502a

    Dec 11, 2008
    Not here
    Yeah, if that's what you want to do then Photoshop is what you need. However, LR can integrate PS into itself as an external editor. So you can do your management and "simple" or batch editing and then when you want to warp reality you tell it to edit in PS. It'll render the file as it is with the resolution and dimensions that you set. PS will launch and it will load that image as a TIFF (if you set it that way). Then when you're done you can bring it back in to LR as a separate image in the grid view. The original will stay as it was when you exported it.

    Another major difference between LR and PS is that LR's edits are non-destructive. The original file stays intact and the catalog holds the list of changes made. You can make 100 changes in LR and then with one click get the original back. You can make multiple virtual copies of an image with different edits on each, all based on one actual file. PS edits are destructive. The history provides some of that same functionality, but not all.

    When you are ready to output the file, either as a JPEG, web gallery, or a print is when it renders the changes.

    I'm not at all familiar with Aperture, but I assume it also uses non-destructive editing.
  10. legreve macrumors regular


    Nov 22, 2010

    Not entirely true... I use Photoshop, comp out, change colors and rebuild compositions for basic commercial photography every single day. I can't imagine a world without Photoshop.
    Even with portraits I wouldn't just adjust the image in Capture One Pro (the big brother of both Lightroom and Aperture), I would still bring it into Photoshop and refine it to the point of natural perfection.

    OP, Photoshop is in my oppinion unavoidable, unless you just take photos on family trips and vacations etc. If your intention is to do something creatively with photography, then the logical step would be to sit down and play around with Photoshop.
    Vacation and family photos can turn out nicely in both Lightroom and Aperture and organize them at the same time.
  11. tmagman macrumors 6502

    Nov 7, 2010
    Calgary AB
    Lightroom works great because it does more than just organize photos, but also gives you better access to the tools in photoshop itself that are geared towards photographers, rather than the graphic design tools. While some people may take that argument I just said and say that there is no point to having Lightroom then, it comes back to the organization of the photos, as well as the total workflow environment rather than what i call the 'whitespace' environment that photoshop has. I use both of them hand in hand and its honestly a knockout combination of software.
  12. OreoCookie macrumors 68030

    Apr 14, 2001
    Sendai, Japan
    Lightroom and Aperture go beyond simple editing. Unless you want to montage photos, you can do almost anything and edit photos to a state where they're at least 90 % done. Changing the white balance for a whole sequence of photos and such is done within seconds and there is no Photoshop equivalent for that since Photoshop edits single images only (it doesn't manage photos). So in that sense, they're a lot more powerful than Photoshop in certain respects.

    The necessity to involve Photoshop depends on your workflow and the way you shoot, but I almost never need to launch a dedicated image editing app. I have localized edits that work in layers, I can get rid of annoying elements in photos, etc., all without ever leaving Aperture (ditto if I were using Lightroom). One thing I use Pixelmator for is to get rid of falling lines every once in a while.
    Most of these things can be done within Aperture or Lightroom. Stamping certain changes to sequences of photos is much easier in Aperture and Lightroom. To me, a dedicated image editing app supplements Aperture (/Lightroom), not the other way around.
    It's got nothing to do with whether you're an amateur or not, much more with the type of photography you do and your specific style. I hate spending hours fiddling with images, adding layers and stuff. I was the same way when I was shooting film, I almost never used my darkroom. I prefer to train myself to get things right in the camera (with varying degrees of success ;)).
  13. snberk103 macrumors 603

    Oct 22, 2007
    An Island in the Salish Sea
    Lots of good comments about LR/Aperture vs Photoshop. However, I think your comment above needs to be addressed as well. This tells me you are still not using the "organizing" feature of iPhoto (or LR/Aperture) fully.

    Keywords. And leave the filing system to iPhoto. If you fully embrace keywords, and set up saved searches on combinations of them, the filing system become totally transparent. Apple wants the filing system to be invisible to the user, and hides it by default.

    Each time you import you just need to add the keywords to duplicate what you are doing with your filing system. You can other keywords too, but you can do that later based on the content of the images. When you want to find images from a certain camera (in your case) you just search on the keyword. If you want to find images from that camera, of a certain person, in a certain city.... it's a keyword search. No more digging through files, trying to remember the month you in that city, and then what days you hung out with the person.

    I'm a LR person myself, and use the nesting feature for keywords. So, I may have keyword for "Vancouver", inside "City", inside "BC" [province]. By simply tagging an image with "Vancouver" it also picks up City and BC. So, if I want to find all the images with my wife, in BC I just type those two keywords in the search box, and will get all the images that include her in Vancouver, and Spuzzum, and Hope, etc etc. Or, I can just search on Wife and Vancouver.

    The keywording in iPhoto is not quite as powerful as LR/Aperture - but with the use of albums and folders you can do a lot with it.

    A couple other thoughts about Aperture/LR vs Photoshop.

    Photoshop is designed to work with one image at a time (though you can batch process multiple images), LR/Aperture are designed to work with multiple images (though of course you can work with just one at a time).

    You never "save" an image in LR (and I assume Aperture). The changes you make are recorded, and are applied to the image when you "export". The original image is never touched. If you take images that are routinely used in different media (eg make a print and upload to a website) they in LR you save two different 'export' presets (one for print, one for web). You the apply the preset to a batch of images. If you need to make very different edits for the two media, then you "save" a "virtual copy" of the image with the original.

    The advantage to this is that you a) don't use up HDD space to store each version of the image, b) you can keep "virtual copies" with the original (use a keyword to mark it if you need to), c) once you've located the original, you've located all the variants, and d) you never ever overwrite the original image with a low rez version by accident at 3:00am.

  14. cupcakes2000 macrumors 6502

    Apr 13, 2010
    Here's my workflow fyi.

    I always import everything first into Iphoto. I treat it a bit like a storage cabinet. (Why not use it! It's free!)

    I've set up Aperture as the external editor and I open up the images I want to take further with that. This way, I don't have to throw anything away or fill aperture up with stuff not worthy.

    Whilst in aperture I then can sort out 98% of my image adjustments. White balance, contrast, straighten etc. The more advanced adjustments are at least as good as Photoshop. Black and white, sharpening, levels, curves, dodge and burn, crop, spot and patch. I can do all of this very easily in batches.
    All within a very easy to use and logical interface. It's all totally non destructive and with stacks organisation is easy.

    I have Photoshop set up as an external editor within Aperture, and if I need layers or serious cloning/removal then I use that. Aperture opens photoshop, and when you've finished cmd-s saves it straight back to Aperture, as a PSD or whatever. Then if you wish you can edit it further in either program or export/print from Aperture.

    I have Iphoto as storage for everything from work stuff to pub snaps.

    Aperture is then free to just contain my work stuff edited and organised into projects.

    I am always interested in other peoples workflows so there's mine!
  15. VirtualRain macrumors 603


    Aug 1, 2008
    Vancouver, BC
    This is how I've always looked at it...

    AP/LR = Photo adjustments for photographers

    PS = Image editing for creative professionals
  16. chrono1081 macrumors 604


    Jan 26, 2008
    Isla Nublar
    Aperture and Lightroom are raw workflow programs, they are far more than simple organizers as some have suggested. If you are really into photography these programs are usually preferred over Photoshop for most tasks associated with a raw workflow.

    For example, say you have 2000 shots of a shoot to edit, all are shot in raw. You import them into Aperture or Lightroom where you have full access to the raw editing options. You can batch a ton of shots at once, add meta data all at once, and very very quickly edit your photos, adjusting contrast, removing noise, enhancing color, sharpening, ect. For these type of edits people 9 times out of 10 will pick a raw workflow program over photoshop any day.

    Now, thats not to say they replace photoshop, really they go hand in hand and compliment each other. For a majority of photogs most of the work will be done in LR or Aperture, and Photoshop will be used for things like skin smoothing, or heavy editing such as scene manipulation. (LR and Aperture can do object removal, cloning, etc but not to the extent Photoshop does).

    If you are starting out and want to get serious about photography I'd honestly say use something like Aperture or Lightroom vs Photoshop. It forces you to get the best image you can out of the camera since you don't have Photoshop as a crutch to lean on.

    Of course the best combination is to have a raw workflow program and photoshop, although the better you get the less you will probably use Photoshop (unless your particular style calls for it).
  17. Ruahrc macrumors 65816

    Jun 9, 2009
    Looks like you understand correctly. If you have need for layers and compositing, then photoshop (or some alternative like GIMP) is what you'll need. But don't rule out the possibility of using both LR/AP and photoshop though. You get the highly capable organizing/cataloging abilities of LR/AP, and a well-integrated route into PS for specialized jobs (you can assign PS as an external editor in LR/AP like iPhoto) But for much of your typical photography, then LR/AP is more than capable and a lot more efficient than PS. I, like many users (both pro and non-pro), find that 95% of the time, LR is sufficient for what I need to do. Just about the only thing I use PS for anymore is to do layer masking for combining exposures to do HDR shots.
  18. halfmonkey thread starter macrumors regular

    May 17, 2011
    You are correct in saying this but this is what I mean in that, iPhoto allows you to "manage" the pictures within the application and not the actualy files.

    So I like my files to follow to format as such: camera model/date picture was taken/actual picture files. This allows me to have a couple of main folders for the different camera models and then I can drill down as necessary by sorting through the dates. This is mainly for back up purposes and because this is how I like my folders organized.

    I did a lot of testing and searching and reading to figure out how iPhoto stores the pictures and how they organize the files. Basically (on my computer anyway from default settings), it follws this path: pictures/iPhoto (right click to click show package content)/master/year of photo import/month of photo import/date of photo import/20110526-063011 (to represent the date and time of import)/actual photo files.

    I've tried every which way I could think to reorganize my files in a way that I want and iPhoto doesn't allow you edit the path of where it stores the files or even parameters of the filing system. If anybody has figured it out, I'd like to hear but I don't think it's possible. I know you can rename the file of the date and time of import but basically, if I were to follow iPhotos method, I wouldn't be able to find my photos if, for example, I imported everything into iPhoto in one day from an ext hdd.

    Allow me to explain. If I have 1000 photos and I imported it into iPhoto today but the pictures were taken over various days, such as today, yesterday, the day prior, the month prior, etc, iPhoto by default will put all 1000 photos into one folder as such: pictures/iPhoto (show package contents)/master/2011/05/26/20110526-125611/(all 1000 photos in order of photo names such as IMG_01, IMG_02, etc).

    I'm sure there are many people that don't care about the filing system and yes I relaize that once the photos are in iPhoto, you can manage them there by creating albums, smart albums, tags, etc. Some people only care about connecting their camera and being able to see the pictures and then being able to share them with their grandma 2000 miles away. That works for some people, but I'd like a little more and currently iPhoto doesn't allow me to "manage" the files the way that I like them. iPhoto is good at "managing" the pictures within the application but not good at "managing" the files.
  19. Jason Beck macrumors 68000

    Jason Beck

    Oct 19, 2009
    Cedar City, Utah
    I processed well over 60,000 photos last year in Lightroom. I simply love it. Never tried Aperture though.
  20. snberk103 macrumors 603

    Oct 22, 2007
    An Island in the Salish Sea
    Lightroom does much the same, but without the time. Also, LR shows you file directory, and allows you do name, rename, move folders around - within LR itself. It's bit more restricted than Finder, but you can do mostly everything you need. But, I don't do anything the file directory.
    My advice is to forget the file directory structure. Spend the same amount of time keywording a creating collections as you do naming and renaming files and folders, and you would create a system that is much more flexible and future-proof.

    As to your specific problem of importing from an ext HDD. Don't. Let iPhoto catalogue the images in place, on the external. Then use iPhoto tools to physically move the library to where you want it to go, or to merge with an existing library with a "move" option. iPhoto allows you to have more than one library, btw. There are a number of tools that iPhoto has to make merging and moving libraries possible, and to keep the database intact. I don't much use iPhoto anymore - but there are some good writeups on the web. The important thing is to let iPhoto do the work so that the database doesn't get corrupted.

    Once you have all of your images sorted - some work initially, granted - you no longer "drill down". You just search. And the system keeps itself updated as you add images. And it stays consistent. And it allows you to find images in ways you can't do with a system based on where the image physically resides.
    I'm not that person, I'm a professional, and I need to find my images. And every "professional" I know have abandoned managing their files by folder and name, and now use a DAM like iPhoto/LR/Aperture/Capture One. It is a lot of work to maintain one of the old-style folder directory systems, and it's hard to find images that way once you have a good number of images in it. But, YMMV.... of course.....
    It's very good at managing the files. They are sorted into a logical sequence that ties into the database.

  21. OreoCookie macrumors 68030

    Apr 14, 2001
    Sendai, Japan
    Actually iPhoto does allow you to manage files manually: open the Prefs > Advanced and uncheck the box next to `copy objects to iPhoto library' (the first item, it's only a rough translation as I use German as main language). Then you need to copy files from your digital camera to a specific directory and then drag that directory onto iPhoto.

    But in any case, I find it a lot easier to let Aperture take care of the file management.
  22. halfmonkey thread starter macrumors regular

    May 17, 2011
    ...but not in the manner that I want to manaage my files. I'm forced to use iPhoto's format. :(
  23. OreoCookie macrumors 68030

    Apr 14, 2001
    Sendai, Japan
    Unchecking the option will make iPhoto use your file layout: iPhoto's database will only reference to the file located in the folder you've stored it in. So if you use the camera mode/etc. etc. file layout that you've grown accustomed to, then this is what iPhoto will use. I don't know what else you is getting in your way. You don't need to `use iPhoto's format' (whatever you mean by that).

    In any case, you got one thing right: from a user perspective, iPhoto manages photos, not files. If you insist on micromanaging your photos, then any Digital Asset Management software such as Aperture, iPhoto and Lightroom will get in your way: they are databases that contain additional information and add an abstraction layer from the file layout. The degree with which the focus is shifted from files to photos depends on the app and your workflow. This has tons of advantages (destruction free editing, versions/virtual copies, etc.), but especially switchers don't trust software which manage files automatically.
  24. Ruahrc macrumors 65816

    Jun 9, 2009
    Just to provide some other perspectives, I also know of professional photographers who manually organize their file directory/structure in conjunction with their DAM. Sometimes you just want to be able to look at what you have without firing up your DAM, and having a logical file/folder structure allows you to do that. Especially in cases like LR where the folder/collection heirarchy within the LR databse is essentially mirrored in folders on your hard drive...

    OP: FYI both LR and Aperture allow you to manage your files in custom folder structures, the LR/AP database just keeps track of what files are in what folder. However, speaking specifically for LR (as that's what I use), any time you move files in the Finder, the LR database gets lost and you have to fix all the broken file pointers. So if you ever want to reorganize your pictures or folders, you should do it from within LR because then the database is kept up-to-date.

  25. compuwar macrumors 601


    Oct 5, 2006
    Northern/Central VA
    Adobe offers a cross-grade from PC to Mac that's quite reasonable.


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