Lightroom vs Aperture – All their features compared

Ever wonder what all the differences are between Lightroom 4 and Aperture 3? This article lists all the major differences and explains why you care.

The differences between the two are so small, that in the end you should choose one over the other based on personal preference.

(With this announcement this comparison seems a mute point.)

Choose Lightroom

  • if you rely on communities to learn programs (You Tube, Google,  or other photographers)
  • if  you frequently shoot at high ISO and constantly need noise correction
  • if you frequently shoot at f/1.4 or f/1.2 and need lens corrections for vignetting
  • if you frequently shoot wider than 28mm and need lens corrections for distortions
  • if custom controls are important to you

Choose Aperture

  • if user interface is important to you
  • if you dread learning about image workflow
  • if you want the convenience of integration with other Apple products

Lightroom vs. Aperture photo

Don’t make the choice based on what they both offer:

  • Equally high quality final product in sharpness, color, contrast etc…
  • Photoshop export/import ease for single photo edits
  • They both protect the color space
  • They both preserve the RAW file
  • Can do picture wide adjustments (one button for that 70’s look)
  • Can share adjustments that apply to the whole image that are user-created
  • Feature rich customizable brushes to make local adjustments
  • Allow managing a library on an external hard drive
  • Have advanced slide show functionality
  • Have large user groups making presets (LR list)
  • Have cut and paste adjustments (apply adjustments from one picture to another)
  • Maps for geolocation information
  • Poor community organization of presets

Lightroom 4 and 5 does it

  • Lens corrections
  • Supports user-created use specific brushes
  • Bigger user base
    • more training
    • more presets, picture wide, slide show, etc…
    • more third-party support, (Nik and OnOne plugins)
  • Minor video editing capability (some photo edits can apply to video, easing workflow)
  • Brushes are additive and you can control flow
  • Multiple book templates
  • Print presets
  • Better noise correction
  • Better communication with professional community
  • Works better with PS for HDR or time-lapse

Aperture 3 does it

  • Better Apple integration
    • iOS import and export
    • Apple TV display
    • sharing with family via photostream
    • Complete integration with iLife and iWork apps
    • iPhoto and Aperture libraries now can be shared
  • Seamless workflow with pro video app, FCP 10 (LR does not work with Adobe’s Premiere Pro)
  • More complete retina support (as of right now) (LR 4  updated got retina)
  • 5 Times faster to import (compared to LR 4 and Photo Mechanic)
  • Project based management eases workflow (4)
  • Skin tone based White Balance adjustments
  • Faces detection; improving Facebook export, slide shows, auto skin WB corrections and book making
  • More intuitive and more aesthetically pleasing interface (opinion based statement)
  • Goes full screen for editing and does it in one button (LR 4 requires 5 clicks) (Corrected in LR 5)
  • Everything is a brush (in LR Noise Reduction, precision Sharpening, precision color correction, etc… aren’t brushes)
  • Option for both managed and referenced libraries (Lightroom only does referenced)
  • Book printer options – Easier to do and more third-party integration
  • Easier full backups with Vault option (credit to JaakkoL) LR backs up the catalog but does not back up the pictures natively.
  • Slide show has fewer options but it works much better. Aperture sees faces and intelligently fills frame. It integrates video into slide shows. LR forces zooms ruining portraits and can’t play video at. (Corrected in LR 5)
  • Shows Auto Focus point used. (LR now has a plug here that’s in beta to do this. I tested it and it works great.)

And the “That’s Ridiculous Award” goes to…

  1. Lightroom- for making me click, tab, f, f, l, l to get full screen (Improved in LR 5)
  2. Aperture- for not being able to fix my lens vignettes and distortion
  3. Lightroom- for not playing video in Slide show mode (Fixed in LR 5!)


If you’d like to read more about what I think is in store 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 to switch from Aperture to Lightroom here. And now (Oct 2014) Adobe has a switching plugin to help you.

Sources 1234



  1. Aperture also has print presets. Do you mean LR has presets more out-of-the-box?

    LR has no cloning/healing brush, only spot removal. Aperture has a cloning/healing brush equally powerful to Adobe Photoshop counterparts.

    Aperture no only brushes in, but also brushes out. This is equivalent to Adobe Photoshop’s masking, but enormously easier to grasp and use.


    1. I talked a lot about presets. Is your question about print preset specifically?

      LR does have a cloning and heal tool. It’s not a brush. LR’s clone/heal tool is stuck in a mode that requires you to select the source pixels. Sometimes thats overkill.

      I agree. Everything about Aperture is nearly equivalent to PS (as is LR). Both can perform 95%-99.9% of the editing that’s needed without needing to go to PS. I agree that Aperture is “Enormously easier to grasp and use.” Funny thing is, it’s even true if you have only used ACR and PS your whole life. Aperture is still easier to pick up and still easier to use day to day. I base this one my ability to learn how to do something new in each program. In Aperture the option is exactly where it makes sense. In LR it tends to be a google search away.
      I started with PS CS3, went to Aperture 2, Aperture 3, and 4 months ago switched to LR 4. How about you?


  2. Yes, I was talking specifically about print presets. You list “print presets” in the “Lightroom 4 Does” section, the implication being that Aperture doesn’t. They both come with built-in presets for printing, though Lightroom comes with more presets than Aperture. And both let you create new ones.

    LR’s cloning/healing tool is called “spot removal” for a reason. It is a single circle at a time. The brush for cloning/healing in Aperture is far superior as you have agreed.

    Let’s keep our fingers crossed that Apple reinforces their support for the professional community and really brings the needed missing features like lens correction profiles, additive brushes, etc.

    I don’t see you discuss Aperture’s adding more of the same adjustment brick. That has enormous power. It also effectively gives you additive brushes, just not in the manner you would like them.


    1. Good catch. Aperture does have printer presets. I’m playing with it and trying to export a preset. (not just a template) It doesn’t look like you can. I appreciate the catch, I’ll fix the article.
      Aperture does effectively have additive brushes, it’s just cumbersome. It requires a drop down to add it each time.
      What do you mean more of the same adjustment brick?


  3. […] I keep a running list of all the differences between Aperture 3 and Lightroom 4 here. […]


  4. So I have a question. I was wondering how well either of these would work on a macbook from 2008? Right now I am running Lion and I really need software to edit, organize, etc… my photos. I shoot raw and was also looking at getting Silver Efex pro 2 for B&W conversions. I can probably afford the software but a new computer is out of reach right now. Any thoughts? Am I screwed or can this work?


    1. I don’t know. You’re in luck though because unlike Apple Adobe does allow a free trial of Lightroom 4.
      I will post this question on the LR community on google+. It has 18000 members so I think one may have that set up.


    2. Yeah I have a suggestion if you don’t need to be mobile, want power but need to save money: Mac Mini with fusion drive. I’m on Mac Google+ forum and seeing the stats screen shoots. Those things are beasts!

      Your current computer should be able to handle the OS. It’s the RAW files, preview rendering etc… that might be hard depending on your video card and RAM.

      Based on minimum tech specs you should be ok.
      Adobe site says LR4 works on Lion.
      It also says you need at least 2GB of RAM.

      As far as Silver Efex:
      LR works with all plug ins like butter.
      Here’s a post that talks about Silver Efex to Apeture workflow. Decide for yourself if it’s too involved.


  5. […] It’s one of the things you should consider before deciding. You’ll need another way to move photos around so that your iPhone doesn’t fill up and so that you can retouch pictures with more control. […]


  6. No, it is NOT true that LR requires 5 clicks to show full screen.
    Command+shift+F … full-screen and hide all four toolbars
    Shift+tab … hide/show all four toolbars (but do not maximize to full-screen)
    F5/F6/F7/F8 (if you have a full keyboard) to individually hide/show toolbars.
    Additionally, the “L” key to set two different levels of “lights out”.


    1. Wow, cool I didn’t know about those multiple key combinations.
      I think this is a good discussion though. You say LR can go fullscreen in one click. I’d still have to disagree. Let’s define fullscreen. I’d say it means full screen.
      From anywhere in Aperture at any time you can click “f”. The picture takes up the full screen. It goes from the top to the bottom and each side. There is no lost real-estate as some people say. Then, again no matter where you are, if you want to edit the picture you can click “h”. The adjustments HUD pops up and you have every adjustment you want in a window you can move and resize thats sitting on top of you screen that is still wall to wall picture. It’s the best of both worlds. Full control and full screen usage.
      Let’s just call the cards as they fall. They have a leg up on LR here. Apple choose ease of use, and aesthetics over control and customization. That’s actually a good way to describe the difference between the two products. It hold true in everyday except maybe the print module, in which Apple is more open then Adobe.
      In LR you can get the to, let’s call is “Kinda Fullscreen” mode with one click (Command+Shift+F. But this still has distractions and wasted space if all you want to do is look at pictures. Then you can get rid of the distractions with two more clicks, L and then L again, just like you said. The problem is you still have lost real-estate on every edge. So it’s kind-of-full-screen. Another problem, what if I looking at the picture in this kind-of-full-screen distraction free mode and I want to sharpen an eye real quick. I have to hit tab to get my side control back. But since I’ve hit L twice it’s invisible. So now I hit L, make the adjustment and Tab L, L again to get back in. This just is not as smooth frankly as Aperture. The extra control it grants isn’t useful when you just want to look at you pictures or look at them and maybe make small edits here or there.


  7. Aleagle · · Reply

    Great stuff for the newbie-undecided!


  8. […] get Adobe’s Lightroom? Decisions decisions. Google of course provided guidance, as did this chap: Following his advice (and being a bit skint), I’m sticking with Aperture, as I’m familiar with […]


  9. Thanks for the comments. I really tried to make the best place to make this decision. It need a bit of updating for LR 5. Slideshow issue is fixed, clone tool is more usable, etc…


  10. I was hoping you could answer a question for me… possibly you already have in one of your many Aperture V ACR V LightRoom posts but I’m lazy.
    I currently use Aperture and ACR/Bridge, flipping between them on a whim.
    One of the big drawbacks for Aperture is you can’t apply graded effects (simulating a graded filter in the real world)… ACR does do this.


    1. No problem. My obsession is here to make your life just a little bit easier. I just re-looked through Aperture 3’s brushes and things. No there appears to be no way to get a gradient brush like effect apart from brushing it on that way. It’s not the same as LR 5’s new gradient brush though.
      To be honest I very rarely do this in practicality. Even when the top needs something that the bottom needs, like say a bright sky like the old graduated neutral density filter, it’s not often that line separating the two is free of analogies. So more then likely I’m going to want to mask those out but wouldn’t be able to on LR. It seems easier to me to just do a very large brush starting from the edge and letting it spill over and then mask that portion out. And that is available in LR and Aperture.


  11. Wow, Aperture 3.5 came out today and there isn’t a single thing to update on this blog, kind of sad really.


  12. Do you know if there is way to export the LR presets to Aperture adjusment settings. I know I could do it manualy, but some settings are used differently at both apps. It will take a quite long time to create the adjusment in Aperture by manually editing it with LR preset setup. In LR there are settings like: HSL, Split toning etc, and graduated filter for post edition. But in Aperture there are not, or totally under differetn adjustment section. Even the values of setting bars have different range. Anybody with idea how to solve this. The reason is, that I need to switch from LR windows to Aperture mac (I know there is LR mac version), but cause of compatibility with colleagues I need to stick with Aperture. Thanks a lot.


    1. I seriously doubt there is anyway to export LR presets for Aperture or vice versa. They are completely different programs made by different businesses. I think you already know the only way forward, manually make what you liked in Lr back in Aperture. You’re going to often run into something you can’t recreate in Aperture. There will also be a few new things you’ll be able to do.


  13. […] compared to Lightroom – Bing Lightroom vs Aperture ? All their features compared | Technology for Media Lightroom 4 does […]


  14. Excellent article. Concisely stated.


  15. JaakkoL · · Reply

    One thing I’d like to see added on “Aperture 3 does it” list is the ease of backups with Vaults. This, with managed libraries and a logical workflow (to me at least), is my main factor for using Aperture instead of LR.


    1. Sounds great. Thanks! I added it and gave you credit. It has been awhile since I used Aperture now but I think I remember how that feature worked. I explained it a bit in the blog. Let me know if I got it right.


  16. […] is no longer going to make improvements to Aperture. Aperture is a powerful program that is easily on par with Lightroom in nearly every way. They decided to “replace” it and iPhoto with a new program called […]


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