Apple kicks Aperture (and iPhoto) to the curb; are we ready for Photos?

Apple kicks Aperture (and iPhoto) to the curb; are we ready for Photos?

Apple's plan to kill Aperture (and iPhoto) for Photos will cost it goodwill with Mac-using photography pros

During the WWDC 2014 keynote presentation Apple showed off a new app for OS X Yosemite currently in development called Photos. It won't be out until 2015, but it looks like it's going to replace both iPhoto and Aperture on the Mac. This promises to be a good thing for consumers, but where does this leave professional and prosumer photographers on the Mac?

On Friday Apple revealed to Jim Dalrymple at The Loop that Aperture, Apple's pro photo app, is being discontinued in favor of Photos. This is a blow to anyone who's depended on Aperture for its organizational abilities and its extensive non-destructive editing functions.

Apple's shown over and over again that it's willing to cause some short-term discomfort to users of existing products for long-term benefit. iMovie, Final Cut Pro, Pages, Keynote and Numbers — there are lots of examples where Apple has essentially scrapped the product and started over because a different path was chosen. And they're doing it again with Aperture and iPhoto.

iPhoto vs. Aperture

iPhoto comes with the Mac, and it provides a full array of photo editing, cataloging and sharing capabilities right out of the box. iPhotos is set up to offer you as much organization functionality as possible without your direct intervention. iPhoto organizes photos by event, for example. It incorporates facial recognition, so you can more easily find pictures of family and friends. And it reads GPS data (when embedded in your photos' metadata), so you can organize photos easily by location.

A variety of built-in editing tools help iPhoto make your images look better. You can crop images, straighten them, remove red-eye, perform one-click enhancements that make adjustments to lighting, color saturation and other attributes, apply effects, and get down into the nitty gritty by adjusting various aspects of the photo like exposure, contrast, saturation, color levels and more.

Aperture is to iPhoto what Logic is to GarageBand. Some of the same basic concepts, but greatly enhanced for the needs of professionals. Aperture emphasizes non-destructive photo editing that doesn't take up huge amounts of hard disk space, so you can undo what you've done or just subtract specific elements that you don't like (iPhoto has some non-destructive editing capabilities; Aperture has a lot more).

Aperture also emphasizes work with "raw" digital formats — the data that the camera actually recorded on its imaging chip, not compressed and changed with JPG. Raw images are supported on iPhoto, but Aperture's entire workflow is based on the assumption you're starting with raw files. Accordingly, Aperture has a more complete feature set of image adjustments and retouching abilities.

Another area Aperture really sets itself apart from iPhoto is in its vast organizational abilities. Pro photographers shoot a lot of images and need to make sense of what they've shot. Aperture helps them do that, and helps them make changes to the metadata associated with each picture to help photographers catalog faster too.

Unfortunately, both Aperture and iPhoto have been prone to a lot of problems over the years. Stability issues, database corruption problems, not to mention really atrocious performance problems have all be reported and complained about by frequent users.

Ultimately iPhoto and Aperture were both hot messes. They needed to be replaced. But will Photos be able to replace both of them?


Both iPhoto and Aperture will be replaced by Photos beginning in 2015. Photos for the Mac borrows its name and its icon from its iOS counterpart.

So far public information about Photos is pretty scant. Outside of a precious few minutes getting demoed by Apple senior vice president of Software Engineering Craig Federighi on the WWDC keynote stage, very little is known about the new Photos app on the Mac. What we do know is that it has an interface that looks thoroughly optimized for multi-touch gestures on a trackpad or Magic Mouse.

Federighi showed off some image retouching functionality in Photos and gave a brief demonstration of navigating within timelines to emphasize its "beautiful, buttery scrolling."

Federighi calls Photos "a new grounds-up photo solution for the Mac built with iCloud in mind." And Federighi also demonstrated some impressive retouching capabilities that promise to make it easier to make your photos look better.

Photos promises to be a better mainstream photo editing and cataloging tool for iPhoto, but Apple's set the bar low there. And as it exists now, Aperture and iPhoto's iCloud support seems more grafted on than truly integrated.

One way or the other, it'll take a lot more than what we saw to fill in the blanks to Aperture users' satisfaction.

The end of Aperture

In the interest of full disclosure, I have — or at least had — a horse in this race. At one time, shortly after Aperture first came out, I became an Apple-certified Aperture trainer. I really loved Aperture. I got to know the app pretty well and I was impressed with its flexibility, with Apple's focus on making it a great workflow tool for people who spent all day long taking and editing photos.

Over the years I heard a lot of complaints from photographers about Apple's development and improvement to Aperture compared to Adobe, with its rival Lightroom software. Adobe was more nimble, more responsive to photographers, quicker to make changes to Lightroom and advance new photography workflow concepts.

It had become clear years ago that despite early promises to pro photographers, Apple just wasn't that invested in keeping Aperture competitive.

So I started grinding my teeth when I read Apple's reassurance to Dalrymple that development on other pro apps like their video and audio editing tools continues unchanged. My first thought is that it's true for as long as it's expedient for Apple to do so. At one time Apple made similar promises to professional photographers.

I am thoroughly disappointed, but I can't say that I'm surprised. As I said, the writing has been on the wall for a while. Aperture has languished compared to other pro-level tools from Apple.

What's more, many professional photographers have more thoroughly incorporated Adobe Lightroom into their workflow, as they were already using Photoshop to improve and retouch images. Like many creative professionals, many photographers are more invested in Adobe's software ecosystem to begin with, so it was a simpler transition.

The bottom line

Both Aperture and iPhoto still work today and Apple has promised an Aperture compatibility update for OS X Yosemite when it ships this fall. What happens next year and the year after is a different story. But right now, most people using these tools can stay the course until Photos is out in the world.

Professional photographers who haven't already looked at Lightroom probably ought to at this point; Adobe offers a free trial version (opens in new tab) so you can get started.

Even assuming Photos can fit the Aperture bill, Apple has an uphill climb to regain the trust of professionals who invested in Aperture as the center of their digital photography workflow.

Do you do a lot of digital photography with your Mac? Do you use Aperture, Lightroom or something else to manage it? What do you think of Apple's decision? Sound off in the comments.

Peter Cohen
  • Great assessment, although I disagree with the statement that Aperture is "greatly enhanced" relative to iPhoto. I know this is part of what sells Aperture and all the Aperture users are invested in the idea, but It's really somewhat of an exaggeration. iPhoto, or Photos could easily be tweaked to include the extra bits that Aperture has. It's not like they are night and day different, and in my experience most Aperture users aren't what could be called "professionals" at all. We are talking wedding photographers and older rich amateurs with a lot of time and money on their hands, not magazine photographers or photo-journalists, most of whom use Lightroom.
  • There are (were) plenty of magazine photographers and photo-journalists that used Aperture. As for what is used most? Who cares? Both apps meet the needs of professionals. Besides, wedding photographers are just as much professionals as photo-journalists. In fact, a wedding photographer provides much more than a magazine. Seriously, very few people treasure and store photographs in a magazine. Wedding photographs are kept and treasured for life, and often across generations. FYI, no, I am not a wedding photographer. ;-) Could Photos be "easily tweaked"? Hard to say. Will they offer stacks? Brushed in effects and corrections? Plugins? Bulk operations? Who knows?
  • As an amateur, I've used Adobe Bridge and Photoshop for organizing and, of course, editing. I don't know what the advantage of Lightroom would be if we already use Bridge for organization. Anyone? In any event, I really look forward to the new Apple Photos app to see where it might fit in my workflow--iPhoto has always been a bit of a pain.
  • I'm not a pro but a photography enthusiast and I thought there was a huge difference between iPhoto and Aperture. If you edit more than about 20 photos in a row in iPhoto it would crash. I can edit photos all day long in Aperture without it slowing down once as it handles changes to images and also keeps the originals in a much more efficient way than iPhoto. iPhoto struggled with 2000 photos, Aperture is handling over 5000 without any issues at all. As long as the new photos app has all the editing features of Aperture I'll be happy. If not, I'll be keeping Aperture and not paying the annual cost of 200gb storage. Sent from the iMore App
  • You pointed out three features of Aperture: RAW compatibility, non-destructive editing, and organization conducive to pro and prosumer photographers. Of those, Apple has said in the keynote that the iphone and icloud versions of Photos WILL support RAW, at full resolution. The current Photos app on the iphone, as well as iPhoto on the iPhone, both began utilizing non-destructive editing awhile ago, although passing the non-destructiveness between those apps and your mac are currently dodgy at best. Being able to reduce multiple-copy-syndrome with a unified source file in iCloud should allow the non-destructive elements to finally work seamlessly. There is every reason to believe that the new Photos app could be on par with Aperture in terms of RAW and edits. The very fact they are supporting RAW means they expecting for this new system to replace Aperture as well. To me what is questionable is whether Photos will handle keywords and other organization schemes as well as Iphoto and Aperture. I've read about 6 articles in the last hour about this, and all have really emphasized the thought that Lightroom migration is a given. Of course Adobe is going to pounce between now and 2015, but if (I know, the big if) the new Photos app has decent organizational abilities, there might be a lot of people that will switch now that will decide to switch again next year. Most of the post WWDC sentiment has been that while Apple may have taken awhile to finalize some of the features announced, most all agree that the wait will have been worth it, because the extra time was used to get it done right (security, Cross-app interoperability, etc). iPhoto and Aperture need to be redone from scratch, and the latest announcements at WWDC have actually given me hope that the wait for the new Photos app and icloud system was because they were doing it right. My point is, the reports I'm seeing feel like a lot of pent up frustration is being taken out. I get it: I spent every bit of my free time in January trying to find a better (for me) photo management system than my sluggish iPhoto, tried them all, and came up short on all. The new Photos system looks to fix most of my issues, so even though I've waited this long, I'd rather wait than migrate twice if it does pan out. If iPhoto or aperture are working fine for you now, they will still work fine for a few more months. Apple has not said they are abandoning Aperture users, just the current app.
  • My point is, the reports I'm seeing feel like a lot of pent up frustration is being taken out.
    As well there should be. Aperture has languished for years. Today Apple made its demise official.
  • But it hasn't made official that it was abandoning pro users. The update on the Ars Technica article indicates otherwise "When asked about what Aperture-like features users can expect from the new Photos app, an Apple representative mentioned plans for professional-grade features such as image search, editing, effects, and most notably, third-party extensibility"
  • I am a professional photographer and most of my photo editing is done in Lightroom, with a little help from Photoshop and from time to time, other third party add ins. I've tried using Aperture and iPhoto but for me, nothing beats the power of and versatility of Lightroom. I'm curious to see how Photos will fit in this arena.
  • Software will always be a second class citizen to a hardware company.
  • I think that's a bit of an outdated view of Apple. They're a product company - the hardware, OS and software together are the product.
  • But Aperture wasn't' needed for any hardware nor was it helping sell any hardware, not to mention it was a product for the dying PC market. As Peter mentioned, I'd cast a cynical view on the other pro software products as they fall under the same umbrella.
  • I have a funny feeling Apple doesn't share the view that the PC market is dying. After all, their computers were among the tiny handful that posted constant, positive growth despite the pressure from tablets and the so-called "post-PC" era. There seems to be no indication that computers are going anywhere. The software that runs on them? That's a different story. But it's safe to say that the report of the PC's imminent decline grew out of Jobs' desire to sell iPads, thus his report of the PC's death was an exaggeration.
  • The big concern I have with all this talk about the cloud is how much iCloud storage are the going to force me to buy? My dSLR produces 24mb RAW files, when you start counting those in the thousands, or even hundreds (I shot 400 at my last event shoot) that starts getting pricey. If the provide Aperture level controls on raw files and offline storage then I might be happy. It's a wait and see approach right now. Sent from the iMore App
  • The big concern I have with all this talk about the cloud is how much iCloud storage are the going to force me to buy? My dSLR produces 24mb RAW files, when you start counting those in the thousands, or even hundreds (I shot 400 at my last event shoot) that starts getting pricey. If the provide Aperture level controls on raw files and offline storage then I might be happy. It's a wait and see approach right now. Sent from the iMore App
  • The big concern I have with all this talk about the cloud is how much iCloud storage are the going to force me to buy?
    Indeed. They talk about a workflow optimized for iCloud, which implies that all we really care about is sharing and editing photos we've taken on our iOS devices. If DSLRs and big raw files are an afterthought, that'll be a problem for some of us.
  • If this means that the free built in photo editing app gets more features, I'm all for it. Sent from the iMore App
  • Besides being a problem for my company (we have over 120 seats using Aperture, and dozens of our workflows and standard operating procedures surround it AND pretty much none of them can be applied to Lightroom 1:1), I have another gripe here... Apple's own applications have always been showcase apps for the platform, its UI/UX philosophy etc. Lightroom does not look or feel like a Mac application, and certainly not one from 2014. The GUI is terrible, the modular workflow is something from the 1990s. Killing Aperture does not only eliminate a choice, it eliminates the only first-class citizen app pro photographers (or people depending on large volumes of photos in their profession) had on the Mac. And without it there is one reason less to get a Mac (for some), Adobe software is a foreign object in every OS, might as well run it on Windows. The analogy to FCP and iWork does not really make me feel better, at least looking at the iWork part (FCPX is just fine). Yes, they took a huge step back and re-thought it. But not to make the apps more powerful or usable, but just to make them more cloud- and iOS-compatible, losing absolute basics (like freely formatted headers and footers, a must for almost every business) and not bringing them back in ages. The big ? with Apple (for a long time now) is how a company with these funds can be so abysmal about its own software, stuff like the crashing Podcast app, the dumbed down iWork etc. are just the tip of the iceberg. Outside of Final Cut, Logic, Mail and Safari pretty much every Apple application hasn't gone anywhere for a decade.
  • Everyone seems to have missed the fact that the old iWork continues to work alongside the new while the new is brought up to speed with all the old features. No one lost anything except by their own choice. Looking forward I think the new iWork will be (and already is in many ways) a bit gain over the old.
  • Nope, did not miss that. It just does not really help. Neither can we get old iWork on any of our new Macs (and we certainly do not want employees to use different versions), nor can we as a business work with software that will no longer receive any (security) updates. There is also no commitment from Apple whatsoever, that they will bring back "all the old features", they only talked about bringing some features back and have not even specified which ones. And once I have to buy MS Office for every Mac and Lightroom for every Mac (meaning I will 99% of the time work with software that is 100% alien on the platform and shares none of its look and feel), we might as well go back to Windows. If the experience ends after the log in screen... pffft.
  • Fair call. Especially if you're spending most of your time in an app.
  • I am an Aperture user and I have to believe that Apple has something up its sleeve. I wish there was a little more detail about where they're going before they discontinue a product. I'll be moving to Lightroom.
  • I am going to wait and see before I go jumping ship to light room. Lightroom is too expensive IMO. The photos app might be really good. What they need is more high quality apps on the ipad and iPhone. Not less quality on the mac. I too wish apple had fully detailed the photos app before announcing this, or just waited till it released to say aperture was done. Then at least I could make an evaluation.
  • I've only been on the Mac side for three years. Never cared for iPhoto, I can't stand the thoughts of multiple copies of my photos stashed deep inside random folders. So I've used Photoshop Elements to edit and my own folder organization for keeping track of my pics. I've been quite happy with that workflow. Sent from the iMore App
  • I lost interest in photography a while ago, but used to be a very keen amateur and invested in Aperture. I only take the occasional snap now but I hope there's an easy migration for my old Aperture library before it becomes incompatible with future OS X updates.
  • Been using iPhoto since Leopard only to organize my photo albums. I do a few tweaks here and there once in a while. Tried using Aperture but found it was too complicated. I guess I'm one of Apple's target market for the new Photos app.
  • Thats exactly my case... tried out more "functional" apps but got overwhelmed by such amount of features and all the stuff I would have had to learn how to use just to organize and show my albums to relatives and friends. So, although I got a bit scared from the keynote when they sated that iPhoto was to be killed, I'm still faithful Photos would serve me well. I take photos, but I'm far from being a 'photographer' :) The only problem is that I bought iPhoto both for the Mac and iPhone... so I expect not to have to pay again for the same functionality... if that was the case, I'd have to open up my mind a bit and look for other options (maybe Lightroom or similar)
  • So, if I have 40GB of photos on my external hard drive and want them up on Photos, will I be able to just upload all of them so they can be viewed on my IOS devices in IOS 8? I understand I'll probably have to get the 300GB/$4 month options, which is fine. I'm just curious if it will work this way or not? Any ideas?
  • C Sent from the iMore App
  • I am more frustrated about the support the end users receive from Adobe versus Apple. I tried Photoshop Elements and Adobe support. The Adobe software constantly crashed on our iMac as well as our Windows PC; and, to use the term "Support" cannot be anything but an oxymoron. Frankly, we found that the user community boards were more responsive than Adobe was on their software. After moving to Aperture, we have found no limitations on the number of photos, and our iMac has never crashed. We have approximately 12,200 photos in various projects and Aperture does quite well. Whereas, in the past, Adobe would crash with 300 photos or fewer. I use to think only Bill Gates could sell bug-ridden software and convince the general public that Microsoft offered the greatest systems and applications for businesses in the world. I was wrong...Adobe has dethroned Microsoft! Apple, please do not force us to move to Adobe! I, for one, am willing to pay the same price that Adobe charges to have the support come from Apple.
  • Have to wonder how those stuck with an older OS, like OS X 10.7.5 Lion for instance, will fair. Sure everyone will be current with their iPhone as they usually change with contract renewals. Will the photo stream feature in the new photos app work with the photo stream on lets say iPhoto'11? Just curious.
  • E-gads! I'm doing research for the switch from PC to Mac, hence my landing here. The specs I had read about Aperture fit my needs perfectly! My current PC is dead and I need a new one BEFORE 2015. As an owner of an iPhone and an iPad I can say I have NO desire to do photo editing on either device; I like a BIG screen for real photo editing. Some have suggested Apple may be "dumbing down" (my words) Aperture and iPhoto's to an all in one child-proof system. WHY? I'm not a Pro, but do make a few books, edit for sharing... Multiple times a year. Adobe and Lightbox is MUCH more than I would ever need or use, besides they are cost prohibitive for a casual user such as myself. The BIG question now is, get an iMac now with Aperture or struggle through another month or so an get an iMac with the new Photo?
  • I still have a problem just going between iPhoto and Aperture! I spend most my time in Aperture due to organization flexibility and book creation is more powerful. I am not a pro, but consider myself a power user. I am looking for a seamless way to use Aperture with OneDrive.. 10TB for free.. If I place my library in a OneDrive folder it will sync to all my devices and up til recently I can tell it not to sync to my Windows machine which will help in not having that file on my Corp. desktop. Problems I see coming up are how will Apple handle books, slides, or any other item created in iPhoto and Aperture. If one will be able to open both - Great! problem solved and I will just continue using Aperture until the Photos app is mature enough to drop Aperture. Storage for iCloud is WAY to expensive and hopefully will be adjusted. I do not have a problem paying just not so much that people would question my sanity. I have toyed with moving to Lightroom and cannot see the overall benefit as I have an all Apple environment at home. I found that the color adjustments and the colors where better in Lightroom, But I am sure I could make some adjustments to replicate results.