Lightroom 4 vs. Aperture 3

by Mike on June 25, 2010

Adobe’s Photoshop Lightroom and Apple’s Aperture are the two best pieces of digital photography software ever created.

Why? Because they make life easier.

Lightroom and Aperture have more than enough editing tools for 95%+ of the picture-taking population, but what they’re really good at is helping people keep their digital photos organized.

If you’re like me, you’ve wasted time plowing through mountains upon mountains of folders and subfolders, only to never be able to find what you’re looking for!

This is why Lightroom and Aperture rock. They make it super-easy to keep all your photos organized exactly the way you need, without much effort.

In fact, since I started using Aperture in January 2010, I haven’t lost a single photo or file. And the same goes for my friends that use Lightroom.

Sometimes I do put things in the wrong place within Aperture’ library, but that’s never a problem because I can always find what I need in a micro-second with a quick keyword search.

Most software sucks your time, but Lightroom and Aperture get you away from the computer quickly, because you can do all your editing, organizing, outputting, and backup in one easy-to-use program.

And less time on the computer means more time shooting, more time with your family, and more time for fun.

So which should you choose? Lightroom 4 or Aperture 3?

This decision should actually be pretty easy because you can’t go wrong with either. They are both absolutely spectacular products.

Whether you go with Lightroom or Aperture, you’ll be happy with whichever you buy. But how do you decide? Here’s how I think about it:

First things first. If you are running a Windows PC, buy Lightroom. Since Aperture is a Mac-only program, your decision is made for you. You can stop reading right now.

And if you are currently running a Mac, but may switch to Windows from Mac, then Lightroom is your choice by default once again. Since Lightroom works on both Macs and Windows, you’ll always have the freedom to switch platforms.

Now, if you’re a dedicated Mac user like me, the comparison becomes a bit more complicated.

Here’s what Aperture 3 has going for it over Lightroom 3:

  • It’s just $79 if you buy it through Apple’s App Store
  • Aperture is about $50-60 cheaper than Lightroom at Amazon.com – enough money for you to buy a cheap backup hard drive (highly recommended)
  • Eventually, it will run on the iPad, and possibly the iPhone – Adobe products like Lightroom and Photoshop may never offer these options
  • Much nicer and simpler user interface (in my opinion)

Here are Lightroom 3’s advantages over Aperture 3

  • Will always have better integration with Photoshop
  • Bigger and more active user community (presets, tutorials, etc.)
  • Better noise reduction tool (great for very active low-light shooters)
  • Lens-distortion correction tool (awesome if you use wide-angle lenses a lot)
  • Student/Teacher edition is just $79 at Amazon.com

If I didn’t have either, here’s how I’d make my choice. I’d get Aperture 3 if I wanted to keep things simple while saving money, and I’d get Lightroom 4 if I want to get more advanced in terms of retouching and editing. If I had dreams of going pro, I’d go with Lightroom 4 because it is more of an industry standard and its tighter integration with Photoshop.

But again, you can’t go wrong with either. So just pick one and start making your life easier today.

To save money:

Order Aperture 3 at Amazon.com at $40 off Apple’s Price (full retail packaging)

Order Aperture 3 from Apple’s App Store for just $79!

Order Lightroom 4 at Amazon.com at $70 off Adobe’s Price

Students/Teachers – Order Lightroom 4 at Amazon.com for just $79!!!!!

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

riffo June 25, 2010 at 4:20 pm

The biggest difference between the two for me is the interface. I used lightroom for 2 years, and I never really got used to it. I tried, I really did. When Aperture 3 came out, I downloaded the trial version. I watched some tutorials (not Apple’s), and I am flying baby! My wings are clipped no more!
I still use photoshop, mostly for extractions. And I believe I can still get the noise reduction and lens distortion tool once I upgrade to cs5.
I think it is unfortunate that the Aperture community is so small. There are tons of free tutorials, and educational content for Lightroom. Much less for Aperture.

James July 3, 2010 at 11:33 am

I ordered an Aperture 3 upgrade from Amazon for $88, including shipping. I was worried about all the negative on-line comments about corrupted libraries, taking forever to upload, etc. I was pleasantly surprised. My upgrade was going fine after about 5 hours, with 18,000 masters and 48,000 versions. The trick for me was to turn off faces and places, features I probably will never use. It runs faster than Aperture 2 and the brushes feature is a plus. I tried a free trial version of Lightroom several months ago, but just never liked it.

James Campbell September 11, 2010 at 8:52 am

I had both trials and went with Aperture 3 because of the interface. Everything just made sense. That is why I got a macbook pro in the first place and paid the premium price for it. Because it is how I would have designed it 🙂 Great review.

Stacy September 15, 2010 at 8:34 pm

Thank you, this was very helpful. I have decided to go with Aperture since I am a mainly deciding on which program to use for its organizing capabilities. Most reviews say that Aperture is more user friendly.
Thanks again!

AskB January 9, 2011 at 9:00 am

I currently own both, but use Lightroom as my main application. Reason is that I like it’s cataloging handling better. I import and tag photos with Photo Mechanic so Lightroom/Aperture is just for RAW and organizing. I find it a little troublesome if I import a card that include dates (my projects) from several dates and those dates already exists with other shoots. In Lightroom I can synchronize the folders and it will import the new photos, but with Aperture I will have to point it at every single folder and tell it where (which project) I want the pictures to go into.

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