iPhoto vs. Aperture vs. Lightroom

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by cmoroney, Aug 31, 2012.

  1. cmoroney macrumors newbie

    Aug 31, 2012
    I'm currently using iPhoto for my rapidly expanding collection of pictures and am very satisfied with it, except for the fact that I've had to split my collection into many different libraries due to size constraints, and there's no way to make a smart album (say all my 5 star photos) that stretches across the various libraries.

    Is there a way in Aperture or Lightroom to make a smart album that will search all the separate albums?

    I know that the editing capabilities in Aperture and Lightroom are infinitely better than in iPhoto, but I use Photoshop Elements for that so I really don't care too much about that aspect when choosing a photo manager.

    What I'm really looking for is a piece of software that allows me to split up my photos into different libraries and yet be able to create a smart album that crosses the library boundaries. I don't want to create one massive library as it would be very unwieldy and difficult to navigate.

    Thanks for any advice,

  2. snberk103 macrumors 603

    Oct 22, 2007
    An Island in the Salish Sea
    My experience is with Lightroom, so I will not comment on what Aperture can do.

    In Lightroom "Libraries" are called "Catalogues", and "Albums" are called "Collections" so I'll use those terms.

    No... you can not have an a Collection or Smart Collection span Catalogues.

    However, Lightroom is adept at managing very large Catalogues...it was designed for professional shooters who may be taking 1000s of images in one day. One of the easiest ways to make a Catalogue more manageable is simply to create 2 or more top level folders, Work, Travel, Home for instance. Then you can nest Folders and Collections under those. An image that is both Family and Travel can appear under both Folders, and any edits you make to the image iwill be reflected where ever it appears.

    You can do the same thing with Keywords and Smart Collections. Simply tag images as you import them with a top-level sorting word and use Smart Collections to sort your images appropriately. Smart Collections in Lightroom can very very sophisticated.

    Hope this helps.
  3. kevinfulton.ca macrumors 6502

    Aug 29, 2011
    I'm an Aperture user, but I've heard that Lightroom is extremely similar in a lot of ways. It's more about personal preference when it comes to picking one. I know for sure that Aperture will do what you want since I create smart albums on a regular basis using star ratings and colors. I'm pretty sure I can also sort using faces, flags, and keywords, but I haven't dabbled........yet. Pretty sure either one will work for you, but one advantage of Aperture is in the transition from iPhoto. You can just unify your library and share your iPhoto library with Aperture. No exporting necessary. I find this really useful when I want to use Apertures organization and editing with iPhotos photo book creation. Hope this helps!

    P.S. You'll probably end up enjoying editing in Lightroom and Aperture a lot more then PS Elements. The UI and results are excellent!
  4. kevinfulton.ca macrumors 6502

    Aug 29, 2011
    I should correct myself. snberk103's description is the same workflow for Aperture. When I organize I work within a single Library and use folders, albums, and smart albums. I haven't started any separate Library's, but I would imagine that Aperture would have the same limitation in that area as Lightroom. Sorry for the confusion.
  5. robgendreau macrumors 68040

    Jul 13, 2008
    A library is sort of the basic unit of these applications and hence it works on one at a time. Albums, folders, projects are all subsets and can be open at once.

    The data and relationships assigned to the photos resides in the library, so once you're out of the library you lose it. You'd have to use another means to find stuff in multiple libraries. But even if you did, how would you work on three photos from three different libraries?

    If your library is too huge, one way to deal with it is to use referenced masters. Store the photos in different places that you set up, and use one library. Aperture and LR are much better at this than iPhoto. It's then like Aperture or LR becomes a Finder for photos. And with Aperture you can export a subset of those photos as a library say to your laptop; work on them, and then remerge them back into your main library later.
  6. Prodo123 macrumors 68020


    Nov 18, 2010
    With Aperture you're able to merge all of your libraries as folders and each album being a "project" located inside folders.
    You're able to make smart albums with Aperture.

    I however love the Adobe RAW engine. It produces much better images than the Aperture engine and rivals DPP in quality. Apple really needs to update the Aperture RAW engine; it's really lagging behind, especially in the noise reduction, dynamic range and lowlight areas.
  7. mofunk macrumors 68020


    Aug 26, 2009
    You can make smart folders in Lightroom. I haven't tried it yet, but I've prepared my images incase I want to. For example, when I upload a set I will tag the set, like you do when you upload to flickr. i.e. name of event, type (music, kids, sports, etc). From there you can create a collection. Right now I just have a collection that I marked with 5-stars. This pulls from my entire catalog any photos I give 5-stars to.

    Like kevinfulton.ca said both Aperture/iPhoto and Lightroom are the same. Before I purchased either, I downloaded the trial versions to see if I like how it worked with my workflow. I've been using iPhoto since it came out and the main thing that I look for is how the App backs up my photos and organization. Both Lightroom and Aperture handle nicely when editing. I prefer LR over Aperture. In the future I will put Aperture back on my Mac because I like the book feature better and full screen features.

    Check out this guys tutorials on LR

  8. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    I think as of recent months iPhoto and Aperture use the SAME library. There is no reason to us multiple libraries in Aperture. Aperture allows you to have a move subsets of the library between different locations. Say you take the notebook to a job and shoot there and then later you can merge these into the larger copy of the same library. Aperture works well with large libraries that don't fit on small notebook disks but do fit on the large disk array (RAID) in the office or home. Aperture handle backs well to even if each backup disk can only hold part of the RAID based library. Aperture uses the term "vault" for backup disks and ail sync a vault when it is pluggedd in.

    To move subsets of the liberty Aperture organizes your photos into "projects". For most people a project is one "photo shoot". Say one wedding or one vacation or whatever. "Projects" are the smallest unit that you move around between computers and on and off of vaults. Projects contain the raw files and any edits and meta data, they are self-contained

    A smart album can contain images from any project. If the project is no physically on the computer then only thumbnail images are available. But when a project is loaded then the full res images are again editable.

    So I'd say Aperture is very good at multi-terrabyte collections where you need to have only parts of the collection on a notebook while the entire collection lives on a desktop or server.

    One thinf where Aperture is different from Adobe lightroom is that Lightroom pretty much ha its own workflow. Aperture does not have any preferred order of operations

    In Aperture you can use the built-in edit functions or specify a third party app to be used. I use Photoshop as that app. Then from inside Aperture when I double click an image that image comes up inside photoshop, when a do a file->save in PS inthen goes back in the the Aperture library as a PSD copy of the image. Aperture "knows" the image it linked to the RAW file.
  9. photoshopbymark macrumors newbie

    Sep 4, 2008
    I'm not sure if anyone came straight out and said this but yes both these programs can do what you want.
    Neither can look across multiple libraries but...
    Since both can use referenced files you could have all those files from multiple libraries now be in the same library. the thumbnails are not that big.

    So in theory you could have a Aperture 2011 Library, an Aperture 2012 library.
    If those files are external to the library file structure you could make a Aperture Master Library. If you copied each and then combined them. Do your smart search on this new combined library. This should not take up too much hard drive space.

    I realize this isn't what this questions is about but I thought I'd lay out the differences between the programs.

    I've been blogging about the differences, pros and cons between Aperture and Lightrrom a whole bunch here.

    I'll try to summarize what I've been talking about in my blogs though.

    The similarities between the two that do not exist in iPhoto are;

    They both protect the color space
    They both preserve the RAW file
    allow area specific editing
    interface with PS seamlessly
    allow external HDD support
    have advanced slideshow functionality
    have large user groups making presets
    have cut and paste adjustments
    apply camera specific corrections

    Differences between Aperture and Lightroom are minor.
    Aperture has better Apple app workflow
    Aperturet has photostream support
    Aperture works inside iWeb, iPhoto, iMovie etc...
    Aperture has more complete retina support (as of right now)
    Lightroom has minor video editing capability (some photo edits can apply to video, easing workflow)
    Lightroom works better with PS if you are doing HDR or timelapse
    Lightroom's cummintity support is better. You'll get more free presets etc...
    Lightroom has customizable brushes
    Lightrooms brushes are additive and you can control flow
    Lightroom can apply lens specific corrections
  10. OreoCookie macrumors 68030

    Apr 14, 2001
    Sendai, Japan
    What you want, Catherine, will not work with either Aperture or Lightroom. Separate Libraries/Catalogs are separate. The way you phrase the question makes it seem that you don't know how the workflow changes with Aperture or Lightroom. I'll use the language from Aperture since that's what I'm using, although it applies to Lightroom as well.

    The best reason for having multiple libraries in Aperture is when your collection of photos is too large for a mobile Mac (e. g. a MacBook Pro). Usually your full/main library is then on an external hard drive or a desktop Mac, say, an iMac, while your on-the-go library is on the MacBook Pro. Aperture allows you to merge libraries, and merging works best if you don't edit photos on two machines simultaneously. Then you have to tell Aperture which version to keep. It's best to avoid this completely.

    I don't know why you want to have multiple libraries, perhaps because you find it easier to find things. This is no longer necessary: unlike iPhoto, Aperture allows you to use folders to sort your content. I sort it by continent, year and month. That makes finding things very easy for me, but you should use whatever system works for you. Lightroom allows you to do the same, but there, the structure in your catalog is a mirror image of your file system (minus things like collections and so on, of course, which only exist in the Lightroom catalog). Both apps allow you to »offload« files to an external hard drive or network share, i. e. they will appear in your library, but you will only be able to access and edit them if you have access to the volume.

    Also, about editing: there are edits which are infinitely easier to do in Aperture/Lightroom. One example is to apply white balance to a bunch of photos. That takes literally seconds, it's a copy and paste procedure. In a single-image editor like Photoshop, that's a lot more cumbersome.

    So I would suggest you try and adapt your workflow instead of trying to shoehorn an existing workflow onto these apps.
  11. samcraig macrumors P6

    Jun 22, 2009
    Since this got lost in another thread, I'll ask it here...

    Thinking of making the switch. But before I do - I'm wondering if my biggest frustration with Aperture is my own doing.

    I really only use Aperture for cataloging. I do most/all my adjustments either in Photoshop Raw Import and/or Photoshop

    BUT... Aperture lags so much and always says "processing." So my question is - have I set up my Aperture "wrong" for speed. I imported my iPhoto (and subsequently - all my raw images from my camera) into an Aperture library. Is it better/faster to set it up where the photos are in regular photos on your hard drive and just referenced by Aperture?

    I own (now) both LR4.3 and Aperture 3. So switching isn't a cost issue. I don't have a problem with Aperture other than its laggyness.

    Thanks for any heads up...
  12. Keleko macrumors 68000

    Mar 26, 2008
    What you described is what I've done all along with Aperture. It also made it easy to switch to Lightroom since I could just point it to the folder structure that I also used for Aperture to import originals that I wanted to redo in Lightroom.

    I haven't experienced the "always processing" problem with Aperture, though. It should only do that when rendering previews of images that need updating because of some change you made.
  13. OreoCookie macrumors 68030

    Apr 14, 2001
    Sendai, Japan
    Perhaps Aperture is just reprocessing the files you're working on in Photoshop? Every time you save, Aperture re-processes the file. Just a guess, though.
  14. samcraig macrumors P6

    Jun 22, 2009
    Thanks - that's not it because when I work in photoshop - I export the image and work on the exported raw. I know not the "best" workflow - but like I said - I just use Aperture to organize my photos...
  15. OreoCookie macrumors 68030

    Apr 14, 2001
    Sendai, Japan
    That's certainly not the best workflow in most circumstances. Aperture and Lightroom are meant to cover much of the basic editing needs, and in many cases they allow you to do things much quicker. E. g. you can copy and paste settings (e. g. white balance or exposure). This is useful if you take a series of photos (say, versions of a portrait under fixed lighting). This way you only need to fine-tune the settings on one photo, you simply copy the rest. If you export the RAW file, all adjustments are lost (if you export the RAW file, you get the RAW file straight out of the camera). Both, Aperture and Lightroom, allow for round-tripping which is probably what you should use: you can select to edit the photo in your external photo editor (in your case Photoshop) and a .tif or a .psd file is created (it is rendered from the settings in Aperture). That way you start from the edits made in Aperture. When you save, the file gets updated in Aperture. Aperture and Lightroom also allow for versions of a file. You can have 100 different renderings of one RAW file if you want, but each version will only take a few kilobytes of space since these apps only need to keep track of the »slider settings« for you.
  16. samcraig macrumors P6

    Jun 22, 2009
    All valid points. Which then beckons the original question. Do I stay with Aperture or move on to LR 4.3. Hmmmmm ;)

  17. OreoCookie macrumors 68030

    Apr 14, 2001
    Sendai, Japan
    Lightroom has better Photoshop integration provided you use the latest version of Photoshop. If you do, they will use the same RAW converter internally and the edits you do during the RAW conversion in Photoshop and Lightroom are mutually compatible (»they use the same sliders in the RAW converter«). Other than customer lock-in, that's also the reason why you need to use »compatible versions« of both pieces of software: if the RAW converter is not identical, Lightroom will also render the RAW file and send it to Photoshop just like Aperture does.

    Personally, I made the decision based on the user interface. I know that Lightroom has quite a few advantages compared to Aperture, but I hate, hate, hate their modular user interface. Aperture is more free-flowing and I like that Aperture is willing to manage my files for me (although you can also manage files manually). I'd just try Lightroom and see whether you can work with it or not.
  18. PaulRied macrumors newbie

    Jan 4, 2013
    Still using both

    Aperture for apple integration, but I find lightroom produces the best quality prints!
  19. snberk103 macrumors 603

    Oct 22, 2007
    An Island in the Salish Sea
    I second this. My observation is that when people choose Lr or Ap based on the workflow, both applications have their fans. But .... I've noticed that when it comes to image quality either people don't state a preference - i.e. both produce good photos, or, they prefer the Lr images. I very rarely see a preference for Ap based on image quality. ymmv.... of course.
  20. pcharles macrumors regular

    Feb 5, 2003
    Michigan's Upper Peninsula
    I have gone back and forth with Aperture and Lightroom for many years primarily for handling RAW files from my SLR. However, I still find myself using iPhoto for everything else because I find that Aperture and Lightroom offer too much control for general snapshots, and no one else in the house wanted to use Aperture.

    I do not know if you have taken the plunge yet, but some months ago Apple made a tweak that allowed iPhoto and Aperture to SHARE the same library. So, now I have the best of both world. I can import photos in to either Application and edit them on either application. For this reason alone, I would recommend Aperture.

    I am running in to similar issues with library size. Currently my library is 250-300GB and even with a Core i5 at home and Core i7 at work, the applications churn a while! There are applications out there that enable you to manage multiple libraries, but my current plan is simpler and that is to start a new library every 6 months to one year and switch between them by using the OPTION key when starting up Aperture or iPhoto.

    IF you are looking for faster alternatives, you need to look at something like Lyn ($20), which can browse your Aperture and iPhoto libraries quickly. If you have deeper pockets you could try something like Photo Mechanic ($150). It is a strange beast built for ultimate workflow speed. I have not used it for many years because I found I was happy enough with iPhoto and was not sure I wanted to spend the money to upgrade from the version I had. I seem to recall this could easily handle multiple drives. It seems to have gained a few more editing and output features than it had before.
  21. photoshopbymark macrumors newbie

    Sep 4, 2008

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