Where Is Multiuser Aperture Or Lightroom?

I think it’s time we asked Apple and Adobe this question. When will we see multiuser Aperture or Lightroom on the market? Photographers don’t always work in isolation and there are many time when workflow can be distributed.  It’s time we had tools to support multiuser workflow.

Why Do We Need Multiuser Aperture or Lightroom?

Let’s start with the obvious. Many photographers work with others. Wedding photographers may work in pairs. Commercial photographers are busy shooting and let someone in the studio process their images. News and sports photographers shoot and upload quickly because time is precious, and someone else may work on the images to tag metadata or select images.

Think of the steps in the process for your photos.

  • Import
  • Review
  • Adding Metadata
  • Image Adjustments
  • Export
  • Printing

Who says that only one person has to do all of this work? For that matter, who says that only one photographer is importing images into a Library or Catalog?

Even as a single-shooter, I can see a benefit for having a central database that collects, process and stores images from my desktop and laptop.

It’s Time For A Client-Server Approach To Digital Asset Management

Aperture and Lightroom have many things in common. One is a local database approach. There is no identity management in this system. If you’re on the computer and have access to the program, then you can do everything you want as a single user.

What if the Library or Catalog was controlled by a Server process that only communicated with a Client process?  They could still be on the same machine, so it wouldn’t really change the interface for the users who like to work as they do today.

On the other hand, it would really open the door for multiuser access or even multi-computer access. Multiple users could import to the same Project or Collection simultaneously, since their client would send the data to the server. Other clients could review images and work as they arrive. Different users could have varying permissions, if needed. For example, maybe you only need some people to import their photos and nothing else. Maybe the person reviewing the images shouldn’t have access to make adjustments.

The possibilities really grow when you add multiuser support via client/server architecture to Aperture or Lightroom.

Make MultiUser Digital Asset Management A Choice

I have no doubt that some people don’t want to use this approach. That’s fine. There are plenty of other software programs that offer a choice of single-user mode or multiuser access to data. Aperture and Lightroom could continue to work in its present mode for those who have no need or desire to change.

That’s not a trivial issue, as I think Lightroom will have more of a drastic change than Aperture to make this work. That’s because Aperture currently offers a database in Managed libraries, so all of the information and the photos are in the same file. Outside programs cannot interfere with the images, they have to go through Aperture to manage access.

Lightroom (and Aperture’s Referenced Libraries) store data on the Finder where any clod of a program can access the data. That presents a problem for multiuser access. The server process needs to track who has access to a resource so it can lock other clients out until the resource is available again.  That won’t work if the server doesn’t know that another user is editing a photo with GIMP or some other program outside of the Adobe sphere of influence.

If this is going to work, Adobe will have to investigate creating its own database or perhaps using something like MySQL or another database product. For that reason, some current Lightroom customers will want to stay with their current system because they’ll freak out if they can’t “see” their photos in the Finder. It’s irrational, but I’ve heard the argument before and sometimes you just don’t want to die on that hill.

Multiuser Aperture or Lightroom is a Necessity

I’m not the first person to ask for a multiuser version of Aperture or Lightroom. Most wedding photographers I know would love it. I shoot alone and I’d love it, as it could solve problems for me. Imagine combining this server database with something like Synology’s personal cloud service. You could be on the road with your laptop and connect to your photo catalog at home over the Internet to access the information just as if you were at home on your desktop, though perhaps a little slower over the Internet.

This is more than a convenience factor. For some, it could be a business lifesaver.

So please, Apple and Adobe, take this idea to heart. Give us a client/server approach to Aperture or Lightroom. Give us permissions to manage users. Let us create local accounts or integrate with services like Active Directory for identity information. It’s the 21st century. Step into it. We want multiuser Aperture or Lightroom. Preferably both.



    • says

      No, I’m afraid not. Although an AD share would provide easy access from multiple users, it would not change the way Aperture or Lightroom currently works. The developers need to release a version that handles file locks. Otherwise, multiple users could access the same resource, make different changes, and the best case result would be that the last person to save would be the person whose changes were kept. All other work would be lost.

      Far worse, it could lead to file corruption and everyone loses. AD file sharing could be useful if the developers included multiuser access in the program. Right now, it would just be potential for a problem.

  1. Jerry says

    Very sad to see Aperture on its way out. We will continue to used it as long as it is capable of reading our raw files and runs in osx.

    Aperture is pretty much multiuser. On reason we love it. Since Aperture can be installed on 5 machines you can run it on all 5 machines at once. We are a team of two but this should work for up to 5. Either put the library on a NAS or share a drive on the computer that has the library on it. Anyone can then open the library by going to the shared library and double clicking. I don’t recommend two people working on the same library at the same time but it can be done.

    As much as I hate LR we will move our editing there and continue to use aperture for file storage and use. We don’t keep raw files. Once we edit we convert everything to JPEG for long term storage and aperture will continue to read jpegs. It’s how long will it run in osx that’s the question.

    • says

      I definitely keep all of my RAW files. Sometimes I will go back to re-edit an image and I want as much data as possible. However, different strokes. I wish Apple had stepped up instead of stepping out. However, at least now we have a definitive answer and there’s no point in hanging around. I’ll migrate to Lightroom now and just get it done.

      Best of luck to you, Jerry.

  2. says

    We do see some movement in this direction with the new ipad Smart Preview sync. If Adobe pushed this a bit further and simply set up workstation/laptop mac/pc clients … there we go. Simple filtering, adjustments sync back to the main workstation. Right?

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