What to do about Aperture: Weighing the options

With Aperture on the way out, what should you do with your digital photography workflow?

Last week Apple announced plans to nix both iPhoto and Aperture{.nofollow} in favor of a new application called Photos, which we saw briefly on stage at WWDC in June. That announcement has created a lot of uncertainty for Aperture users, who wonder what they should do about their digital photography workflow. Let's look at the options.

Option 1: Do nothing

The fact is that Aperture isn't going away — it's just not going to be developed any further. Apple is committed to keeping Aperture working through OS X Yosemite, which won't be out until this fall.

Apple committed to an annual upgrade cycle for OS X, so it won't be until late 2015 before you may need to jump ship to something else. Assuming you upgrade when OS X 10.11 is released, and assuming that 10.11 will break or deprecate technology that Aperture needs.

So if you're currently using Aperture, nothing's going to stop you from continuing to use Aperture for the time being. You're probably not going to want to upgrade to Yosemite right away anyway. Let other people fall on the early adoption sword and suffer the inevitable problems that happen when a new operating system is released.

Waiting has another practical benefit, too. Which brings me to my next point.

Option 2: Wait for Photos and see how it compares

The fact that Photos is being pitched as a replacement for both iPhoto and Aperture is cause for concern for pro photographers and serious hobbyists, because they doubt that a consumer-grade app will fit the bill for what they need to do.

No one I've spoken to thinks that Photos is going to be a direct replacement for Aperture, at least not for heavy-duty Aperture users. "Jack of all trades, master of none" is the expression that comes to mind, and any app that's being positioned as a replacement for both a consumer-grade app like iPhoto and a professional-grade app like Aperture is bound to lose something in the transition.

Having said that, Apple recently told Ars Technica that Photos will sport some of what makes Aperture really useful, including "image search, editing, effects, and most notably, third-party extensibility."

Although some Aperture users will be lost in the transition here, it's clear that Apple is positioning Photos to fill the needs of many photographers who currently use Aperture.

Photos isn't due out until early 2015. Once it's available we'll be able to take a look at it and judge whether it's truly an Aperture replacement or if it's just a gussied up iPhoto, which is what some of us fear.

Regardless, some of Aperture's users will be left wanting. And for them, there's little choice but to follow my next recommendation.

Option 3: Use something else

There are certainly other options besides Aperture, like Adobe's own Lightroom application. Lightroom offers advanced cataloging and non-destructive editing functions just like Aperture, and it's well-integrated with Photoshop, which is likely already part of your workflow.

You can certainly buy a copy of Lightroom 5 ($149 retail, less than that on Amazon) and get started on learning how to transition away from Aperture right now, but you don't have to fork out that kind of cash just to give it a try. Adobe offers a time-limited demo.

Lightroom 5 is part of Adobe's Creative Cloud subscription service, either as part of the entire Creative Cloud suite — priced at $49.99 per month — or as part of their $9.99 per month "Photography" collection, which includes Photoshop and Lightroom (both for desktop and mobile).

Lightroom certainly isn't the only option, either. ACDSee Pro 7 is another software tool that combines digital asset management and non-destructive editing. Corel's AfterShot Pro (originally Bibble) is another option. There's Phase One's Capture One Pro 7. There are more, too.

What do you plan to do?

I have no overwhelming desire to toss out Aperture simply because Apple's moving in a different direction. I've used it for years and it does what I need it to do quite nicely. I've dabbled with Lightroom and continue to use it, but Aperture remains my photo management and non-destructive editing tool of choice. I'm waiting to see how close Photos will fit the bill when it finally gets released before I decide my next step with any certainty.

How about you? Did Apple's recent announcement force your hand? Or are you taking a wait and see approach? Let me know in the comments.

Peter Cohen