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 (opens in new tab) 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 (opens in new tab) 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 (opens in new tab). 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
  • I will certainly stick with Aperture for now. My workflow is heavily tied to it and it's not like Aperture will stop working tomorrow. :-) I'll have to wait for Photos to come out next year before I can make an informed decision about changing applications.
  • That's smart.
  • Aperture will continue to work so I see no reason to switch. I'll play with Photos when it comes out and go from there. I see no need to jump the gun when in fact Photos is not out until next year.
  • It would make sense to keep using Aperture and be optimistic that Apple will make Photos as good as or probably better. It my take a couple or versions but I reckon that it will get there. We will end up with an app with all of the power and all of the ease of use. Sounds good to me.
  • I'm coming from other end. I use iPhoto and was looking to upgrade to Aperture for something more advanced.. now I'm waiting.. if Photo's is free or costs less, I might as well as wait I guess. Did they say if it would be free? I don't remember them talking about cost...
  • Same here. I don't have a lot of time for photo editing so iPhoto works well for me. I hope that when I have more time for photography, Photos will have most of what I need. Sent from the iMore App
  • My sister moved to Lightroom about a year or so ago, and deleted Aperture, and gave me her discs. I installed it, but never really made the transition. Then, last fall, Apple updated it to be a MAS version. Then the shared library with iPhoto. I just started using it in May, but will not go any further. I will wait and see what Photos has to offer before I go all in on something. As a side benefit, (even though I will likely go with the 200 GB or higher plan for iCloud Disc), this announcement has pushed me to come up with a better plan than what I do now (just rely on iPhoto), so I uploaded every photo I have to Flickr using an app from the MAS and then started moving up all my videos from iPhoto (flickr has a 3 minute limit) to iMovie Theater. Working so far, and will wait do see what Photos/iCloud Drive have to offer.
  • I'm with you, I didn't hear anything about cost. Are we to assume it will be free? I'm an Aperture user since 2011, curious if Apple does charge for iPhotos will Aperture users get a price break, doubtful but one could hope.
  • If we can infer future behavior from Apple's past, Photos will be a free app for anyone who buys a Mac, just like iPhoto is now. I bet upgrades will be free, too. Photos is built ground up for iCloud, according to Craig Federighi. And iCloud is something Apple can charge for, especially for people who want big photo catalogs in the cloud.
  • I don't see myself jumping ship until the need comes. I am running Yosemite and of course when Final comes I will be moving so that will be the dead line time for me. I'm hoping Apple does it right and their is no reason to think they will not. If their able to store all my images in the cloud as well for a low if not free price while keep the basic features of aperture (I normally open in PS for any real editing) I'm sold. My aperture data base is about 220gb's and have not found a service I trust at a reasonable price to backup off site. I have always liked iCloud streams and have been using them for the past year with family, If things work in some more stream lined fashion like this i'll be happy. I'm actually excited to see what Apples does, But at the same time surprised that Apple slipped this out their so early. Their going to get many people leaving to lightroom and it will be tuff to get them to come back. At this point they should I think Apple PR should save some face and give their users of aperture more in sight of a reason for people to wait. ..sorry for the long comment, it got away from me.
  • I have one question: Does Aperture/Lightroom perform better than iPhoto on a Macbook from 2011?
    It seems like iPhoto wants to kill itself when I try to edit efficiently with the over 7000 photos I have currently in it. So if I were to upgrade to either Aperture/Lightroom, would my photo editing flow faster?
  • No, it would actually slow down even more. Aperture is very RAM hungry. I have a MacBook Pro late 2011, and I have had to upgrade my RAM twice to feed Aperture.
  • The trick there is to start breaking photos up into separate libraries altogether, but yeah, Aperture is absolutely piggish on RAM once you start really working it.
  • Do your know if Lightroom is the same way?
  • Only problem with that Mr. Cohen is you can only access 1 library at a time to sync with iOS Devices in iTunes. I am in total agreement with you that iTunes needs a good overall.
  • Get out while you can! You're wasting your time editing new jobs through Aperture. The investment in IPTC metadata may be compatible with Photos, Lightroom, etc, but all those adjustments (exposure, spotting, brushes, etc) you make to the images won't. Adobe are looking at a way for Aperture users to transfer their settings to Lightroom; Phase One, Corel and ACD Systems would be smart to do the same. Make it easy for users to change and they'll come. Aperture was great, revolutionary in fact, but Apple have a new direction.
  • The investment in IPTC metadata may be compatible with Photos, Lightroom, etc, but all those adjustments (exposure, spotting, brushes, etc) you make to the images won't.
    Oh? Do you know something else the rest of us don't that you'd like to share?
  • Hi Peter, I'm not trying to create FUD and base my opinion on past experience (yes FCP X), what competitors have done (Capture One Pro v3 to v4), and 18 years of camera raw digital asset management. Non-destructive adjustments to images are inherently tied to the product making them. Technically it's possible to save those adjustments and have them at least read by other program's and operating systems. The TIFF/EP ISO standard for the camera raw file format (will) allow for that. But short term it won't make an imaging company more money. For the iPhoto users the grass in Yosemite is greener. For a regular Aperture user spending several hours a week editing their images I say look elsewhere before investing in another 18 months work. Legacy images that have lots of edits could be opened in the new Photos app when needed (it looks like it will import your Aperture/iPhoto library). BTW I'd give the same advice whether we were talking about Aperture, Lightroom or Capture One. Plan how you manage your photos for long term security. If only so your kids can inherit their family photos.
  • 85% of the time on my MacBook Pro I'm working with photos. Aperture is the final resting place for the organization of my massive library. I have found myself doing a lot of editing with several different applications on my retina iPad for the past year. Having said that, pixel editing is still far superior on a MacBook Pro. I would have to say only 15% of my editing actually happens inside Aperture. But I heavily rely on Aperture as an organization Application. Which renders me with this dilemma. Within the next month or two, I plan to upgrade to a new Retina MacBook Pro. I don't want to be forced to transfer my library to a new machine only to have to reorganize at the beginning of the year, although it would only make sense that Apple would make the transition as painless as possible. My biggest concern is "MetaData" transition. Hopefully we will not have an apocalyptic wrath of disappointment from photo editors who have spent years writing MetaData into their collections and not have it work across platforms seamlessly.
  • I don't use either of them. So I can see my self use the Photo app. Posted via the Android iMore App!
  • I was surprised to see the reference to ACDSee Pro 7 as that is a Windows-only program. They do offer ACDSee Mac Pro 3 which has similar capabilities, but with a large photo library it's extremely prone to crashes. As I never warmed to the organization or flow in iPhoto, I ended up using ACDSee for Windows running under Parallels, which meets my needs very well and is extremely stable and reliable.
  • The Aperture announcement has made me re-evaluate. One of the learnings I have made over the last few years is to go with the mainstream software provider whose main business is the application you are interested in. Therefore, I am leaning towards Lightroom as its a key product to the Adobe software stable and therefore likely to be continued to be developed. I will still wait and hope that Adobe develops a solution to make transition easier for Aperture users though but may start using Lightroom to see whether I like it by using the trial period.