Aperture vs. Lightroom: What do the pros use? (2008 Update)

Last year John was kind enough to post an entry on his blog about how Aperture and Lightroom were faring in the pro community. The results as published by InfoTrends, an independent research firm, were conclusive in that Lightroom was the application of choice for pro photographers.(after Photoshop of course)   InfoTrends has repeated the survey and the results are even more telling.  Here are the results for both 2007 and 2008.

Question:  What camera raw conversion software does your company use? Please check all that apply.

Photoshop Camera Raw Plug-in
On the Mac Platform Only

Even when we remove the Windows responses from the survey, it’s clear that Lightroom is preferred by a large margin over Aperture.

Ultimately numbers are just numbers so please draw your own conclusion but from my perspective, the professional community has already decided that products from the Photoshop family remain their tools of choice.


  • This research is not available free of charge so we needed InfoTrend’s permission to share a small portion of the results. 
  • The survey was conducted in North America in June & July of 2008, prior to the release of Lightroom 2. 
  • One question that should immediately spring to mind is how did the Mac only usage stay static while Aperture’s overall usage increased?  There was an increase in the number of respondents who are using the Mac platform relative to 2007 so even though the percentage of those using Aperture on the Mac remained constant, the rise in Mac usage overall brought up the total number of Aperture users in the market.

15 Responses to Aperture vs. Lightroom: What do the pros use? (2008 Update)

  1. clvrmnky says:

    Part of this has to be that Aperture just doesn’t run on a large number of Macs out there.Apple set the bar pretty high in terms of video hardware, and even shipped a free program that tests your system to see if it was capable. Even 2-4 yr old systems were unable to run Aperture when it came out.Even pros don’t automatically upgrade their hardware to run a specific piece of software.

  2. Bob Pappas says:

    Tom,The 2008 numbers add up to 105.6%… Is there a typo?62.20%+35.90%+ 7.50%———105.60%Regardless, Lightroom is a fantastic product and Apple will not be able to catch up.[Good to hear from you Bob. If you look at the question, it instructs the photographer to “check all that apply” indicating that some photographers use more than one raw processor. In other words, the choices are not mutually exclusive. -TH]

  3. Jack says:

    I’m a professional photojournalist who uses Lightroom. In trying to explain why pros may prefer LR over Aperture, I don’t think you can over estimate the importance of LR’s handling of .xmp sidecar files and integration with Bridge/Photoshop.I tried both LR and Aperture when they both came out. Aside from Aperture v1 terrible performance on my MacBook (and barely usable on my iMac), what ultimately turned me off Aperture was that it wouldn’t read the tens of thousands of .xmp sidecar files I had attached to my .crw and .cr2 files. Using Aperture would have meant losing edits, captions etc. From that perspective alone it was a no brainer for me. And I’ve been using Lightroom ever since.jack

  4. Gary says:

    I’ve used Lightroom since it was just a young beta and I tried Aperture a couple of times and just didn’t like the way it worked and I’m an Apple user. It seemed to me it was always trying to be too clever in it’s user interface rather than being work like and getting right to the point. I like much of the Mac OS X experience but I’m not a fan of Aperture.G

  5. Spence Reid says:

    Are Lightroom files created on a Windows platform (XP pro) compatible with the Mac version of Lightroom – can the catalog be used by Mac? I want to switch from windows to Mac and have been using lihtroom for 1 year.[Yes, the Lightroom catalog files are cross-platform. -TH]

  6. garrie maguire says:

    my personal bug bear is not the lightroom vs aperture, its LR doesn’t do the thing I like most about DPP and DXO that is fix up the CA and distortion with my 24-105mm L series lens. Is abobe working on this (either in their own right, buy buying someone or by presuring lens makers)? It’s well and good to say i can do it in PS lens correction and make presets (i have one for 24mm) but it would be nice to have this in lightroom.Oh while i’m here, one killer feature that would make me line up with cash, is to make stacks work like folders, with 3 or more layers of stacking so that i can have “shoot” , then “set ups” then “framing” etc. I know bridge does similar things BUT not with images (with folder icons) i want a visual way of working.cheersg

  7. Max Pixel says:

    I was a die hard Aperture user until the final beta of LR was released. I ran over 60,000 images through Aperture v1.xIMO, Aperture does not compare to the speed of use and workflow of LR. I have ran nearly 100,000 images through LR.Yes I gave Aperture a second look at v2. However, LR v1.4 was still faster and then LR 2.X blew the doors off. Still 2-3X faster in my use on a quad 2.66 Mhz MacPro with 9 GB Ram and X1900XT video card.Bottom line, I love Macs but when I have thousands of images to cull, crop, and correct, I cannot use anything else but LR. Time and clients just cannot permit.I do more faster and more creatively in and out of Photoshop with LR.

  8. What I like to have for Lightroom are more Plugins. [Can you be more specific? Currently, Lightroom supports an extremely extensible external editor implementation that allows you to use any third party image processor as a “plug-in” to Lightroom. http://blogs.adobe.com/lightroomjournal/2008/08/plugin_or_external_editor.html -TH]

  9. Jeff says:

    Re: plugins, it’s time consuming, and therefore frustrating, to have to shuttle back and forth to Photoshop to run expensive plugins that aren’t LR compatible. You asked for specifics: Color Efex Pro and Noise Ninja (sometimes needed even after LR’s noise tools) are bread and butter tools for me. It wouldn’t matter if there wasn’t such a time lag in waiting for the two progams to interface, going in/out for each image, but if you’re working on many images, it adds up, even on my Mac Pro with 6gb of RAM. And as far as I can tell, no additional amount will make any difference until CS5 comes out. It seems a shame that with Adobe designing both probrams, LR2 can’t host the same plug-ins as Photoshop. Or, at least make the interface between the two more seamless/faster. That would be a huge help. Thanks!

  10. Quantum3 says:

    Well… I think both programs are a must. To achieve creative results, better Lightroom, to achieve perfect, very professional results, Aperture. Somehow, Lightroom hasn’t a good response to color correction and luminance while Aperture does it perfectly. Once the photo is being edited, you can see the big difference between Aperture and Lightroom, however, Aperture doesn’t allow an in deep editing like Lightroom does. Aperture quickly destroys the image when pushing the boundaries out of the box while Lightroom is perfect for achieving unlimited creative editings instead getting the ecxact and proper correction. Lightroom doesn’t need plugins, that’s for sure. In Lightroom, the possibilities are endless.[Thanks for your feedback. I disagree on many of your points but the comment section of this blog is not the place for that discussion. -TH]

  11. Quantum3 says:

    Hi, I didn’t know there is a person who reads the messages. My apologizes for my without introduction message.Hi, I’m Martín, from Argentina and I use LR since the beta, before that, I used the Camera RAW.A suggestion for next version of LR:Would be amazing some Radius feature for Recover and Fill Light since moving both sliders (sometimes 1 is enough) to close the 100% produces some ugly halos that would be nice to fade out by using some Radius slider, just like Portraiture has. I’m missing that feature quite a lot time before the first Aperture version, so is not something I thought when I used Aperture. Also, some Nikon U Point is a must because the brush is not enough accurate for certain things like masking an sky with some trees. Going all inside the in-between the leaves and branches with the brush is just useless.If LR would have these 2 things, would be absolutely 100% the best thing, even better than Photoshop. In fact, I almost don’t use Photoshop butfor making selections, something that Lightroom lacks and it could be added to it with ease.Thanks a lot for the blog!Mart 🙂[Mart, I read all of the feature request submitted here: http://www.adobe.com/cfusion/mmform/index.cfm?name=wishform -TH]

  12. Isaac Cady says:

    I’ve always been on the fence. There are things I like about both, but there’s a lot less for me to dislike about Lightroom.Aperture (Things I like)1. The loupe tool.Amazing! Not only does it look snazzy, but it’s convenient to zoom into details without having to swing my point up to the navigator and to still be able to see how the global edits targeted for the details affect the whole image without having to zoom out again. Plus, it’s much quicker than Lightroom’s2. The Filmstrip.While it’s not as compact as Lightroom’s, it’s much snappier on my late 2007 MBP (on my brand new iMac 2.93 with 4GB Ram it’s negligible). Also, you don’t have to just view as a film strip. You can view as a grid and stretch it up, or view it as a list of files. I use the film strip mostly, but it’s nice if I’m browsing for things with specific names.3. The Light TableNot something I use too often, but when conceptualizing book and print layouts it saves me a lot of frustration by knowing exactly how I want things laid out before I go to InDesign (a dreadfully inefficient and clumsy program).4. Finer edits in Highlights, greys, and shadowsWhile it is kind of confusing and awkward, you get a lot more control over the highlights, mid tones, and shadows in Aperture. Allowing for more precise corrections5. Efficient Use of RAM.It seems to use the RAM more efficiently, causing fewer page-outs (adobe has never been good at dealing with RAM in my opinion).Aperture (Things I don’t like)1. You need a very large monitor, preferably 2 of them (one for the controls, one for the image) if you want to best see your image.2. Editing in full screen requires that the user uses short cuts to quickly bring up and hide editing controls, and the shortcuts don’t quite make as much sense as Lightroom’s3. Editing controls are on the left.While this is mostly personal opinion. Having the controls on the right just “feels” more natural for me, as I am right handed and it feels like I have to cross my hand over, even though I really don’t.Lightroom (what I like)1. Separate “Library” and “Develop” workspaces (and the others I don’t use)This is simple and seems insignificant, but it just adds to a good feeling. I like to have my projects and quick edits side bars open in Library mode because I don’t care about having the image smaller. But when I move to develop, the sidebars hide, allowing for my image to be larger. If I need to make adjustments, I just move my mouse to the right side (or what ever side I tell Lightroom to put it on). If I want to create an adjustment preset (something I never learned how to do in Aperture because it was clumsy) I just move my mouse over to the left. It feels like I’m holding up negatives to the light, picking out the ones I want, then taking them into the darkroom. It’s very organized.2. Customization.I can hide and show elements and set the conditions to how they become unhidden, I can also change their positions on screen. And not only that, I can change the graphic at the foot of the sidebars, the Fonts used in the top bar, and other various visual elements, allowing me to kind of make it my own. I set a greyscale to the feet of the sidebars so I always know whether or not my monitor is calibrated for the appropriate contrast.3. Keyword and Metadata brushes.I can create a keyword set or metadata set and just click on the images I want to apply it to. EASY!4. More control where I want it.While Aperture might be able to do finer edits. Lightroom has levels adjustments which are almost identical to those in Photoshop. This allows for me to easily fine-tune my images. I find the color adjustments to be much easier to understand and the fact that there’s three ways to fine tune color is very nice. And everything is sliders, not awkward color wheels. All-in-all, Editing is faster in Lightroom.5. Small.It’s less than 100MB. Aperture is over 300MB. While this is negligible with todays giant hard drives, it shows that Lightroom is a more efficiently coded program, which I appreciate. Lightroom also requires less RAM than Aperture (but needs more to run as snappy as Aperture).6. Black Background.It compliments the images better, even though Apertures is just as neutral, if not more Neutral.Lightroom (things I don’t like)1. Doesn’t run as smoothly as Aperture in the 1-2GB RAM range.This most apparent when browsing through a large library.2. Difficult to use any other programs besides Adobe programs in the workflow.Not impossible though3. $100 more expensive than Aperture.At least it’s not as ridiculously over-priced as the Creative Suite applications. Adobe obviously has a monopoly. Serif and Corel just aren’t well-known enough, nor are they established enough. They only teach Adobe in art school (what a shame).4. The exporting window needs work.It’s just clumsy and inefficientEverything taken into consideration: I’ve settled on Lightroom as my application of choice. This is mainly because it has a much simpler interface that allows me more easy access to controls and adjustments and overall it just feels more natural and comfortable. It’s nowhere near as intimidating as Aperture. I feel like I’d need to take a 3 week course to fully understand how to use Aperture. With Lightroom, I just had to play around with it for a couple of days.Long-winded, I know, but I’ve thought a lot about it, and thought I’d share.

  13. Zellman says:

    Bob- they add up to more than 100% because the users were allowed to select more than one option. (Check all that apply). So there were likely users that selected both PS and LR or both PS and Aperture. If all users selected all three then we would have 300% total.

  14. James Stevens says:

    I have used Aperture 2 on an Imac for over a year and can recommend it with some exceptions. I have found that plug-ins are necessary for editing individual shots, especially when I want major changes. There are many very good plug-ins, most of which work well with Aperture. Tiffen DFW, V2, Photomatix HDR and Portrait Professional to name a few. Yes, it’s time-consuming to go out of Aperture and back in, but it really depends on how many shots require this fine tuning. As for CA, my Nikon D700 usually does a good job on its on, and Photomatix has a CA correction tool. The thing I use repeatedly on Aperture is lift and stamp. I shoot a lot of indoor, high iso, moving performers without flash, and usually need to adjust WB, exposure, sharpening and contrast. When I have 50 shots in sequence with the same editing, lift and stamp works great. I tried a trial upload of PS CS4 and found I just don’t have the time or patience to learn it. Lightroom offered nothing Aperture didn’t already do. Just my opinion. Good luck.

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