Starting last evening, and continuing into today, word about the official upcoming release of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 1.0 has criss-crossed the Internet. Even though this is a blog for and about Aperture, I think it’s important to acknowledge and discuss what Lightroom means for us as photographers and as users of Aperture. A few years ago, we were stuck with tools that weren’t really appropriate for the job of dealing with tens of thousands of images. Tools that didn’t really match the way we photographers think. Enormous tomes were written about Digital Asset Management (DAM) and Photoshop and we all muddled our way through. But, for the most part, the tools for digital photography sucked.
This has changed in the last few years. It’s almost as if those hardy early adopters who bought into the first few generations of Digital SLRs had their dreams answered. I know that they have been for me. It’s not just Apple and Adobe pushing the boundaries here, either. There is Nikon with Capture NX. There is PhaseOne with CaptureOne. And there are some other tools out there as well. In fact, there’s not a single thing that I moaned about in 2000—when I first hit the problems of RAW workflow—that hasn’t been addressed by the current set of tools. Any shortcomings in today’s tools are only apparent because they take care of so many of the problems that we used to have. And those big old DAM books? Well, thankfully we’ve now got tools good enough to make them in need a rewrite.
Over the next month or two, we’ll see lots of direct comparisons of Aperture 1.5 with the final release of Lightroom. These comparisons will hopefully help lots of photographers find good tools for their work. And, no doubt, there will be many people like myself who will use both tools where they are appropriate because there are places where Aperture will be better than Lightroom and vice versa.
But, lets look beyond just this event horizon. Let’s take a longer view. After all, we’re still only mid-way through the first decade of sorting out how to work with digital photography. Aperture, when it was released, was a game changer. It reimagined what the digital photography workflow could be. Lightroom is Adobe’s answer. And, of course, I’m sure that the next version of Aperture is under heavy development and that when it’s released, it will up the bar again. We’re just in the first round of some healthy competition in the digital photography workflow landscape.
I fully expect that Aperture and Lightroom will push and tug on each other, and in the process we’ll get better tools. Tools that go way beyond the foundation that we have now. Tools that will solve the problems that we’ll undoubtedly run into as we move forward into this new era. And when we look back in five years, we’ll see this time right now as the point at which things really started to get interesting.
Most of all, we’ll get what we need: Better tools for realizing our vision. After all, it’s the photographs that really matter. The tools are just a way to get there.