On October 19, 2005, Apple announced it’s new professional photo editing software application called Aperture. On November 30, 2005, the software started shipping. Since then, there have been 23 updates to the program, three of them fairly major. I’ve been there every step of the journey.
I have a long history with Aperture. Along with Derrick Story, I taught the first ever public class in Aperture at Macworld on January 10, 2006. I worked on the first Aperture blog and podcast, several of the original how-to Aperture books as technical editor and I became one of the first T3 (Train the Trainer) Apple Aperture certified pro instructors. In other words, I have some real experience with Aperture. I think that level experience serves as a strong background for this post.
While Aperture will never have the sales success of Lightroom – due to the simple fact it only runs on Macs – it is used by many professional photographers and so much so that my sources say Apple is working on the next rev of the product.
There’s no doubt that Aperture has had a big impact on me and on the industry. Lightroom (and other products from both Adobe and other vendors) would almost certainly not have developed as quickly if the competition from Aperture were’t there to motivate Adobe engineers to spiff up the Adobe’s programs.
And as for those of us in the pro photo community who use Aperture, it’s impact has been even bigger. While the program’s launch was less than stellar, from the gate, it offered me and folks like me, an amazingly beautiful, familiar and well-designed interface that made it EASY to manage vast photo libraries. This is something I had tried to do with every other program on the market and failed. But when Aperture came along – well – to quote a typical “chick flick” Aperture “got me.” Apple’s team developed a program that matched the way I think and the way it need to for my personal workflow.
Aperture’s initial value to me was as a library organizer. With hundreds of thousands of images to manage, organization had always been my weak point. Aperture literally solved that for me overnight. When it came to importing, keyboarding, organizing and filing images – nothing seemed better.
I also really liked the managed library system and the automatic backup protection provided by Aperture Vaults. The funny thing is that the managed library turned out to be one of the things that most photographers did NOT like, so Apple later added the ability to manage your own photo library. For me, managed is the only way to go. Using Aperture Vaults as backups and a considered, thought out approach to building my libraries, I can tell you I have never lost a photo inside Aperture. Knock on wood.
Other than as an organization tool, Aperture’s also offered a minimalist approach to correcting images that put it in an unusual place. People wanted it to replace Photoshop. Initially, the program just didn’t have what it took to even come close. But over the last five years it has matured, and while it’s never been intended as a “Photoshop replacement,” it is at the point where for me, 94% of the time my images never leave Aperture.
One of Aperture’s biggest problems has been Apple’s, well let’s call it UNUSUAL approach to marketing. Apple’s maniacal approach to secrecy has, in my opinion, hurt the program’s uptake. Also people don’t always trust Apple because they have a track record for just dumping products the second they are no longer valuable (Can you say X-Serve?) – unless Steve himself likes them and believes in them.
Over the last five years, every six months I’ve heard the experts and pundits predict Aperture’s demise. I’ve spoken with many photographers and it’s clear that this constant death watch has hurt Aperture because people are worried they will invest their time and energy in a program that may some day no longer be supported.
I remember sitting with my pal Leo Laporte at MacWorld the year after Aperture launched. He, like many people assumed Aperture would be dumped by Apple because it just didn’t have the curb appeal of some of the other photo editing products, including Lightroom.
But then, as we were about to make a bet that Aperture would not only be supported by Apple, it would be supported well – the first slide of Steve Jobs’ keynote came up and what did it feature? Yep – Aperture.
I think that Aperture has survived five years, it’s time for people to get over that concern. Nothing lasts forever. Someday, Adobe will drop Photoshop. Things change. When they do, photographers change with them.
There have been successes and bumps in the road for Aperture. When 3.0 launched in February of this year I almost gave up on it. It was the buggiest of all the Aperture revisions and I simply didn’t trust my library in Aperture for the first time since the program’s launch. Fortunately, Apple quickly addressed the issues and now all is well.
With the addition of plug-ins and brushes and a much-improved printing service that so far Lightroom can’t touch, Aperture has indeed matured. And while the features have been added, the program made more stable and speed added to the mix, we’ve seen the price DECREASE from $499 at launch to $199.
I am not writing this post because I want to talk people into switching to Aperture. Apple doesn’t sponsor me and I have no vested interest in the program other than I use it in my day-to-day workflow. But I do wish people would give Aperture a try before deciding it isn’t for them. Likewise, I think people should download Adobe Lightroom for the same reason. They are both free for 30 days. Try them both and see which one, if either works for you.
But the next time someone tells you Aperture is dead, remember these are some of the same geniuses who predicted the iPod would never take off, that the iPhone would fail and that the iPad would be a dud. Nuff said.
If you’re interested in a history of some of my posts about Aperture read the following: