Picking what tools to use in the digital darkroom is hard. For a while, it was difficult because all the tools were apparently built by people who weren’t talking to photographers. For a long time, we all suffered through using a combination of Photoshop and the Finder (or Explorer on Windows). Adobe Lightroom and Apple’s Aperture changed that and we now have a pair of tools that have been built with a wealth of input from photographers and which promise to continue to evolve with our input. But, having two good tools in the form of Aperture and Lightroom means that there’s another choice to be made.
For the last year or so, I’ve been working hard to avoid making this choice. I kept my master library in Aperture and using it for most tasks. For those tasks where the beta versions of Lightroom were noticeably better, notably printing, I would take that image into Lightroom and print it. However, the master was still back in Aperture. That’s where all of my organization happened. I continued this pattern throughout the betas for Lightroom as I wasn’t ready to commit my world to it. My workflow with Aperture was working well and for the kind of work I do, I can’t have my workflow let me down.
To put things into perspective since this is my first post on the Inside Lightroom blog, I should introduce myself a bit and note that the bulk of my photography—at least in number of shots taken—centers around event photography. For the last two and some years, I’ve been the photographer for all of the O’Reilly conferences and have shot events for Apple and other clients. When I shoot an event, I stress all the tools I use to the max. For example, at the recent Web 2.0 Expo, my shooting partner and I shot over 6000 frames, pushing well over 50GB of data, in 4 days. Then, we had to edit that down to less than 1000 to deliver to my clients. I’m not easy on my software, and I’m always looking for a better way to get things done.
After the release of Lightroom 1.0, I decided to give it a serious try in the kinds of environments I shoot in. I put Aperture aside and used Lightroom for everything I did at the 2007 Emerging Telephony Conference. The result surprised and pleased me. Lightroom worked like a champ and where it really paid off was in its performance. On equivalent hardware, I was able to power through my shots in a way I hadn’t been able to before. At one point at the end of the conference, one of the speakers was behind me watching me work through my photos and said, “Damn, it’s like watching something from Blade Runner!”. No doubt, he was referring to me louping in and out of pictures and cropping as I worked through my take in Lightroom, but the fact that it was smooth to him as an observer meant that Lightroom was providing me a seamless experience to flow through my work.
Moreover, after working through so many images I was particularly impressed with the Develop module in Lightroom. I found that I could get my images to the point where I was happy with them faster than I have with any other tool. Between the Tone Curve, Targeted Adjustment Tool, Fill Light, and the live histogram, I found myself spending less time working over my images after I’d chose which ones to work on.
After that experience, I found myself contemplating a very hard choice: Should I make the jump from Aperture to Lightroom? At least for my primary tool? For a month or so after, I wrestled with this decision. And then, I found that it had made itself. I was spending all my time using Lightroom. Even though there are features in Aperture, such as stacks, that are executed much better, Lightroom had become my primary workflow tool. So, a few weeks ago, I talked with Derrick and we decided that I should start blogging on the Inside Lightroom blog.
Hi, my name’s Duncan. I’ve been blogging over on the Inside Aperture blog for a while. Now that Lightroom has become my primary workflow tool, I’m looking forward to sharing my experiences with it with you here.
Postscript: Regrettably, its become apparent in some of the feedback around the net on this blog post that some have taken in a bit too far out of context. I’m not trying to dis Aperture here. I’m not even saying that Lightroom is a better product than Aperture. In many ways—in my opinion—Aperture remains a better product than Lightroom. That’s natural, given the relative points in the respective release cycles of the products. I’m a strong believer in using the best tool for the job that works for you and your respective situation. For some, this will be Aperture. For others, it will be Lightroom. For yet others, the old combo of Bridge and Photoshop might be just the ticket. The trick to all of this is to determine what works best for YOU and go with it. And remember, when you read my words about my experiences—or anybody elses words about their experiences—always evaluated them in light of what you are trying to accomplish with your own photography. –jdd, May 4th