Lightroom 4 and ACR vs. Aperture 3 for Photo Editing; 3 Reasons to Choose Lightroom and Why I Didn’t

A toe to toe match between ACR  Lightroom 4 and Aperture 3

Bottom Line Up Front

Lightroom 4 and ACR (Adobe Camera Raw) have exceeded Aperture on every level I care about and would drastically improve my editing workflow except in Retina support. If you have a high ppi display AKA Retina then go with Aperture, for now. (See the update for LR 4.3 at the end of the article. It changed my mind.)

Bias -Things to know about me if you are interested

I’m an Apple fan. I’ll always lean that way if it’s an even fight.

I’m a pragmatist. I will go with what works.

I own every Adobe product and Aperture 3. Switching costs me no money.

I primary use Aperture for post processing as well as internal and external library support. I use LR and ACR to play. I use PS for what Aperture can’t do.

I’m about to re-organize my ENTIRE photo library. I just attended NAPP’s Adobe Photoshop for Professionals class taught by RC. Sprall. I went primarily to help make PS a better heavy lifter. I also went to see if these Adobe evangelists could convert me in my non-PS edits.

Actual Differences between Aperture and Lightroom

3 Pros for Aperture

Apple infrastructure

Apple products work better with apple products. If Photostream, Final Cut Pro, iMovie, iPhoto, iDvD, etc… are important to you this should be a huge consideration. Think through what this could do or not do for the business or home that uses the photo/video that your program library maintained. Apple has just recently added an extremely smooth interface between Aperture and iPhoto. Seems silly but if you wife or co-worker prefers it’s more simple interface and easier access to the auto buttons it may matter.

None of these things are serious considerations for me.

Book Printing

This is absolutely second hand. I have no experience here only that of what I seem to consistently here.

This has no impact on me


Let me save this for later, it’s kind of the point of the article…

3 Pros for Lightroom / ACR

Additive Brushes

When you brush in an adjustment with Aperture and then go over the same area again it won’t do a thing. If you want an additive effect you have to add another brush. There are times when this would be useful and save you behind. I find it just plain annoying. ACR works like a PS brush, the effect paints on top over and over.

Visible Brushes

Anytime you want to see where a certain adjustment was painted you you can with ACR and LR. The interface is simple, visual and useful. It’s absolutely missing from Aperture. (update) It’s available through a drop down menu.

Synchronized Multiple Photo Editing

Both Aperture and Lightroom can copy and paste adjustments made from one picture to another. Both also allow you to pick and choose which adjustments get pasted. Both features are a HUGE deals. It saves a lot of time and yields a more consistent end product. Lightroom and ACR allow you to synchronize photos. That means as you make changes to one picture changes are automatically made to the other. Thats just really really cool.

Plug in Support

Adobe product are the 800 lb gorilla. If a product or website makes a plug in or preset then it’s much more likely to be for Adobe first and Apple second. It’s hit or miss with this. Aperture alone has BorderFX, LR alone has true Color Checker Passport support.

Pseudo Differences between Aperture and Lightroom

Adobe Infrastructure

You may think it’s easier to switch between Adobe products if you start and end in their world. For photography this just isn’t true. I can import a picture using Aperture and even use the Aperture folder structure to store the files. I can edit and tweak the file (it’s using an Apple proprietary color space that’s similar to Adobe RGB.) and then open the picture in PS. I can then make my changes and save the picture. I don’t have to tell the fill where to go, it knows it’ll go back where the rest of the library is. Then in Aperture I have access to this PS edited picture. It’s the layered .png. This file is completely editable by Aperture though.

Where this doesn’t hold water is video. You can’t access videos stored in Aperture’s application folder when you are adding to your Premiere Pro library.

Better RAW processing

If you open a picture and edit it, it’s not RAW anymore. You may feel like ACR because it has RAW in it’s title handles you precious RAW files magically better, but it doesn’t. Calling an edited picture RAW is like calling a grown up canine a puppy.

More Non-Destructive

Adobe and Aperture both make changes external to the RAW file, so you can always go back and get that picture, it’s called “revert to original.

Final Decision, the Pixels have it

If you weigh all thats above in mind mind LR comes out ahead. That is until I take out the big guns.

I’ll let you judge for yourself. Below is a screen shot of Lightroom, Photoshop, ACR, Bridge, and Aperture all with the same picture open fitted to the frame.

If you click on these pictures you’ll be able to see all the pixels I do on my retina display.




Heres what they look like when you zoom in to 1:1. Thats one monitor pixel for each picture pixel.

LR1to1 Aperture1to1 PS1to1


Here’s the lynch pin. All the benefit of LR take effect while I’m staring at pixels doing edits. I don’t think giving up half my viewing pixels is worth it. It’s not to me. I’ll stay with Aperture until ACR supports Retina (High dpi).

Here’s Lightroom and Aperture zoomed into 1:1. That’s a pixel on the monitor for each pixel on the picture.

So I’ll wait and pull out NAPP’s 7 steps in Camera RAW once Lightroom or at least ACR support Retina.


Lightroom 4.3 came out and I wrote a post about why now I’m switching to LR.


  1. […] see this post explaining why Retina support was a hold out for me for my photo […]


  2. Hi, would it be possible to redo the screens of Photoshop and Lightroom now they have been updated for the Retina MBP. Buying a retina next month and currently use Photoshop and Aperture so curious.


    1. You’re in luck… I already did. Please check out my newer post, with the title, why I’m switching to Lightroom I’m the title. Between that post and this there is a screen capture of every adobe and apple product before and after retina support.

      If I missed one please let me know.

      Btw, that new screen is going to rock your world.


  3. […] Lightroom 4 and ACR vs. Aperture 3 for Photo Editing; 3 Reasons to Choose Lightroom and Why I Didn&#… ( […]


  4. […] Lightroom 4 and ACR vs. Aperture 3 for Photo Editing; 3 Reasons to Choose Lightroom and Why I Didn&#… ( […]


  5. Aperture HAS visible brushes (even you can choose some colors).
    Only you have to select this option in the brushes menu.


    1. Good catch. Thanks, I used Aperture a lot and never noticed that drop on the brush itself. I fixed the post.


      1. Thanks for your quick correction!
        I forgot to say that good job and good post. Thanks to share


  6. Hello there! I know this is kinda off topic but I was wondering which
    blog platform are you using for this website?
    I’m getting fed up of WordPress because I’ve had issues with hackers and I’m looking at alternatives for another platform. I would be awesome if you could point me in the direction of a good platform.


    1. for now.


  7. […] for Aperture 4 based on these differences [check this out]. To see how these difference affect a photographer, read here, to see how they affect a videographer, read here, to see why I chose Lightroom read this. How […]


  8. Hey I know this is off topic but I was wondering if
    you knew of any widgets I could add to my blog that
    automatically tweet my newest twitter updates. I’ve been looking for a plug-in like this for quite some time and was hoping maybe you would have some experience with something like this. Please let me know if you run into anything. I truly enjoy reading your blog and I look forward to your new updates.


    1. Do you mean it adds your twitter updates to you blog?

      Thanks for the compliment, I really enjoy writing these. If you look forward to my updates make sure you’ve clicked the follow button at the top.


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