Five Lightroom Features That Are Better Than Aperture

The new Mac Pro arrived and my speculation about a new version of Aperture hasn’t come true (yet). The start of a new year seems like a good time to assess the current state of Aperture vs Lightroom.

Let’s take a look at five Lightroom features that are better than Aperture.

1: Development Basic Panel

Five Lightroom Features That Are Better Than AperturePrior to Lightroom 4, I would have said Aperture was the better application for finishing your photos. There are still features in Aperture’s Adjustments panel that I prefer over Lightroom. However, there’s no denying that Adobe currently leads the way with its Basic development panel.

It isn’t that Lightroom has more features. When you consider Aperture’s ability to use skin tone to set white balance, Lightroom actually lags slightly behind on the feature count.

That doesn’t matter because the results of these settings simply work better in Lightroom. Also, Adobe created some smart features to make it easy to find the right mix.

For example, hold down the Option key while moving the Whites or Blacks slider. You’re immediately greeted with a solid White or Black screen (depending upon which slider) that shows you when you achieve the optimal result for setting your White point or Black Point.

Although Aperture has a setting for Blacks (but not Whites), it has no corresponding feature that provides such a benefit. The simple truth is that it’s easier to get the desired benefit of these two sliders in Lightroom.

Both programs have Highlights and Shadows sliders, but Lightroom’s set has more range. Once again, the engine behind these sliders allows you to achieve great results with ease.

Both programs allow you to selectively brush in an adjustment, but Lightroom once again takes this feature beyond Aperture by including some adjustments in the brush that Aperture does not, such as Exposure.

Aperture users who also have Photoshop can rely upon Adobe Camera RAW to access the same features, but that’s clearly an additional expense, another step in the workflow process, and a feature still provided by Adobe.

2: Sharpening and Noise Reduction

Five Lightroom Features That Are Better Than ApertureAperture has a couple of different types of sharpening. It also has noise reduction, but its results are imperceptible. Most Aperture users need to rely upon 3rd party software – either plugins or Photoshop – to achieve useful results for noise reduction. Sharpening is a bit better, but Lightroom still outshines Aperture in this area.

Part of the reason is the inclusion of the Detail and Masking sliders in Lightroom’s sharpening tools. They provide a level of refinement that’s quite simply missing from Aperture.

As for Noise Reduction, Apple’s adjustment bock for this feature is practically an embarrassment. It hasn’t been improved in years and yields no practical results. Lightroom’s Noise Reduction feature is quite the opposite, putting a serious dent in the need to use any 3rd party software at all to eliminate noise. It just works.

3: Lens Correction

Five Lightroom Features That Are Better Than ApertureLightroom’s ability to correct lens vignetting and distortion is really great, if you happen to use a lens that it recognizes. The “Make” list contains:

  • Apple
  • Canon
  • DJI
  • GoPro
  • Nikon
  • Sigma
  • Sony
  • Tamron

That list will serve a lot of people, but it doesn’t include every lens from those manufacturers. If you want to correct images you shot with your Carl Zeiss or Tokina lens, try not to be too disappointed. Aperture has no corresponding feature.

Lens Correction is particularly helpful for wide angle lenses – those with a focal length under 28mm. It also helps with vignetting issues. Aperture also has a feature to help with vignetting from lenses, but Lightroom is still the overall winner in this category.

4: Community and Training

Lightroom has a larger community base than Aperture. Keep in mind that Aperture only works for Mac users, but Lightroom works on Windows and Mac systems. If you need to bounce from on platform to the other, then Lightroom is your only choice.

You can find online training for Lightroom on Adobe’s site and from organizations like Kelby Training, Lynda and Creative Live. Countless local workshops feature Lightroom training. Kelby Media has traveling seminars demonstrating how to get the most out of Lightroom and it dedicates one track at Photoshop World to Lightroom.

I’ve found online training for Aperture from all of the names I mentioned above, excluding Adobe. As someone who lead a few Aperture workshops locally, I know you can find some training in local areas. It just doesn’t rise to the level of learning opportunities that are available for Lightroom.

Given that Lightroom has a larger user base, that also means you have more options to discuss how it works with fellow customers online. Be wary, though. As with most online discussion groups, there’s a lot of posturing and misinformation mixed in with useful content. If you read some fellow’s words who tells you to organize your folders by date – run away!

5: Photoshop Integration

Five Lightroom Features That Are Better Than ApertureThis one is almost a “gimme” for Lightroom, since it and Photoshop are both Adobe products. Yet it’s not something to overlook. Many photographers need to use their images in Photoshop and anything that makes the process easier is worthy of consideration.

Aperture allows you to specify Photoshop as an external editor, but you could just as easily specify Pixelmator or some other application in its place. Aperture and Photoshop don’t truly integrate. Instead, they just pass files back and forth.

When you hit Cmd-E to edit your photos in Photoshop, you have a choice as shown in the dialog box here. That kind of flexibility is useful. With Aperture, you’re always editing a copy. When it returns, it’s always as a separate, external file.

If that’s what you prefer, it works great. If not, you just have to get used to it.

Lightroom is aware of Smart Objects in Photoshop, so you can open your image as a Smart Object directly into Photoshop.

Oddly enough, I don’t see integration between the Lightroom catalog and InDesign. That’s why I have to limit this section to Photoshop Integration instead of Creative Cloud integration. I think Adobe has room to improve, but it still wins compared to Aperture for Photoshop integration.

Buying Decisions

Does this mean you should buy Lightroom instead of Aperture? I hate to say “that depends”, but what really matters are your own priorities. If you see a feature here that you simply must have (or you’re using Windows), then Lightroom is the tool for you.

In the next post, we’ll look at some Aperture features that are better than Lightroom.

Is there a feature that I missed that you think is better in Lightroom than in Aperture? Let me know in the comments.



  1. jimb says

    IMO, Aperture needs much improved batch handling for metadata and adjustments, i.e., an equivalent for LR’s “auto-sync”. Aperture’s “lift-and-stamp” and “batch change” just don’t do the job efficiently when you are processing a shoot of a couple thousand images.

  2. says

    I agree with all of your items. Lightroom is ahead in image processing tools while Aperture leads in organizational tools. And we should not sell tools such as lens correction and noise reduction short. They allow us to use less expensive gear and let software close the gap to the more expensive. We don’t all need a Nikon D3s for super clean high ISO images if Aperture could do an advanced job of noise reduction. And we can avoid Leica glass if lens correction can “fix” the distortions and uneven sharpness/light.

    I’m beginning to use an OM-D E-M5 and some good Olympus glass as a possible replacement for my Nikon FX gear and f/2.8 lenses. If Aperture could help with the transition so as not not give up any final image quality, I could save money and weight.

    • says


      I suspect it’s coming. Both Adobe and Apple have done a pretty good job of keeping RAW formats updated. Still, I’d like to see some lens correction applied in Aperture. I think the possibility is there using a different technology than keeping a lens database, because we’ve seen that with DxO and Photoshop. The question is whether Apple will include a feature like this in the next major update.

      It definitely ought to be near the top of the list, along with some image processing enhancements.

  3. says

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this. I think your comparison is quite accurate. I’ve been using Aperture for about 8 years or so, and I always assumed it was really the best at what it does. Over the last year, I began to look at Lightroom since most of my colleagues (ok, all of my colleagues), who were Mac users, had abandoned Aperture in favor of Lightroom. I tinkered with Lightroom 4, then starting using Lightroom 5. Now, of course, Lightroom comes with my Creative Cloud subscription anyway.

    While I still like Aperture for its excellent organizational and cataloging tools, I share the view that there are some things Lightroom simply does better, or there are things Lightroom does that Aperture doesn’t do at all. Since I shoot primarily with a Nikon D800, adjusting lens distortion and correcting perspective with third party applications result in large PSD or TIFF files. Lightroom does both of these nondestructively as you pointed out. Lightroom doesn’t simply do it better than Aperture. It does it, while Aperture does not.

    This is one of the main reasons I’ve been using both applications (LR and AP) together. But I fear it marks the beginning of a complete transition to Lightroom.

  4. DerRudy says

    A comment about this phrase:
    “For example, hold down the Option key while moving the Whites or Blacks slider. You’re immediately greeted with a solid White or Black screen (depending upon which slider) that shows you when you achieve the optimal result for setting your White point or Black Point.
    Although Aperture has a setting for Blacks (but not Whites), it has no corresponding feature that provides such a benefit. The simple truth is that it’s easier to get the desired benefit of these two sliders in Lightroom.”

    In my opinion Aperture has got Black Point (Blacks) and Recovery (Whites) as similar sliders. Also you can see your hot and cold areas (i.e. clipped parts) by holding down the Cmd key while moving the slider. Moreover you will see what colors are clipped.


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