I was surprised to see the results of a survey conducted by Info Trends and posted on the blog of Adobe’s own John Nack. The survey, (which I wasn’t able to find at the InfoTrends website) claims that out of 1026 professional photographers in North America, 66.5% are using the Photoshop Camera Raw plug-in, 23.6% are using Lightroom, and 5.5% are using Aperture.
Before I get into what I really think these numbers mean, I would like to point out a few things about the survey. Obviously, since I haven’t seen the “actual” survey results, I really can’t say much for sure, but I will do my best. First of all the sample size is pretty small at only 1026 photographers, and having the region limited to North America could certainly say something about the results. The other main point that I think Nack overlooked was the definition of term “professional.” Both Aperture and Lightroom are billed as pro level applications, but I am sure that a large portion of their respective users range anywhere from serious amateurs to hobbyists, to semi-pros and more. In fact it wouldn’t surprise me at all to find out that a large portion of Aperture users fall into that new category of “pro-sumer.” Man, I hate that word!
That being said, Nack did mention the fact that Lightroom and Photoshop are both Mac and Windows applications. My other big peeve is that the survey is attempting to determine how many people use these applications for “RAW” processing. I happen to know that Aperture does much more than RAW processing (yes, Lightroom also fits this bill) and in fact I know many people who use Aperture to edit and manage their point-and-shoot Jpeg libraries.
So, aside from this being a far from conclusive report, what else can we really take from it? Well for one thing, there is definitely a HUGE need for some evangelism here! My personal belief is that software like Lightroom and Aperture are really the way of the future. The concept of non-destructive image editing is so important to preserving our artwork and history that it really needs to be talked about more.
When I was in college we had a whole department devoted to the preservation of imagery. They dealt with things like ultraviolet light and acid-free storage containers. It was all in the name of preserving our historical documents that we photographers like to call photographs. Now in the digital age we have different issues. Trying to figure out how to deal with file formats and storage media was one thing, and we still haven’t quite got it right, but the actual treatment of the files and how they get stored, backed up and organized is also a huge hurdle we face with digital media.
So why is it that 66.5% of these North American Professional Photographers are using Photoshop as their main RAW processing device? Does that mean that they are using the Finder to edit and organize their shoot? Or perhaps they are using one of the other image management applications like PhotoMechanic or Extensis Portfolio, or iView-Media Pro (oops, I meant to say Microsoft Expression Media).
Personally I think it is all about a willingness to try new things. I am one of those people who is fascinated by the next latest and greatest “thing.” I update my software as soon as it comes out, and I experiment with just about every imaging application out there on the market today. Yes, I do have a copy of Lightroom installed on my machine, and yes I do read the Lightroom version of this same blog, but for me it has always been Aperture. I’ve written extensively about my opinion of the two apps, but I have never really talked about how much I believe programs like Aperture AND Lightroom are so important compared to the old Finder-Photoshop workflow.
So how can we band together and evangelize this stuff? Obviously there is a small rift between the Lightroom and Aperture users, but to me that’s essentially the same as Canon Vs. Nikon, or Ford Vs. Chevy, or boxers vs. briefs. It’s all personal preference when you get down to it.
What we really need is a community of “photographers.” Not just “professional” photographers, but EVERYONE who uses this stuff. We need to get together in some way and make the world understand how important it is to preserve their digital imagery. If we don’t, years from now, we will wind up in the same boat we did with film–millions of digital shoeboxes filled with who knows what.