10 Things Aperture Users Need to Know About Lightroom


There’s been speculation for a while now, but it’s confirmed. Apple is stopping future development of Aperture. The writing’s been on the wall for a while now. Aperture actually came out right around the time when Lightroom did (even a little before). But it’s been stagnant on version 3 for a while now, and Lightroom has continually pulled ahead. Anyway, all the debates over which is/was better don’t matter much now. If you’re an Aperture user, it’s time to find something else to manage/edit your photos. So if you’ve been waiting to make the jump to Lightroom, now’s your chance. Especially with the $9.99/month Creative Cloud Photography plan becoming permanent.

Now, if you’re thinking of switching I’ve got two ways to help. First, Scott and I are doing a free webcast this evening (Monday, June 30th) on making the switch from Aperture to Lightroom. It’s totally free, and all you need to do is sign up here.

If you’re an Aperture user then you’ll notice there’s many similarities between Lightroom and Aperture. So rather than start from scratch and teach you every feature in Lightroom, I wanted to just list the top 10 things I think are most important if you decide to switch. Things that you may be familiar with in Aperture, and what the counterparts are in Lightroom. Here goes!

1. Where To Store Your Photos
This is one of the biggest differences between Aperture and Lightroom. In Aperture, you get two choices for storing images: 1) Referenced 2) Managed. The Referenced option means that Aperture leaves your photos right where they are on your hard drives, and simply “references” them at that location. The Managed option means Aperture sucks in your images to it’s Library. It wasn’t a bad thing. In fact in some ways it was good. But a lot of photographers didn’t like not having direct access to their original files (even though they could always get to them if they needed).

Anyway, Lightroom doesn’t have the Managed option. It will ONLY reference your images where they are on your hard drive. When you Import you’ll see an Add option and that’s the one to choose to tell Lightroom…

“leave my photos where they are, don’t move them or do anything with them”.


It won’t lock them in some database that you can’t access, or anything like that. Lightroom simply makes it’s Library aware that your photos are there, and references them in the same place that you put them on your drive. So whenever you want access to your original image files, they’re exactly where you put them.

2. Lightroom Doesn’t Have Projects Like Aperture Does
In Aperture, the primary place you put your photos is called a Project. In Lightroom it’s called a Folder. You’ll find the folders with all of your photos in the Folders panel, on the left side in the Library module. Keep in mind though, a Folder in Lightroom is very different from a Folder in Aperture (covered in #5 below).

3. Aperture Albums = Lightroom Collections
If you use Aperture’s Albums feature, then you’ll be happy to know that Lightroom has something similar. They’re called Collections. But essentially they’re the same thing as an Album. As for where to find Collections, that’s the cool part – they’re everywhere. No matter what module you’re in, you’ll see the same Collections panel on the left side of the screen.
Btw… not that it means anything, but now that Aperture is gone I really hope Lightroom changes the word “collection” to “album”. Album is actually the word I use to new users when trying to explain collections ;-)

4. Aperture Smart Albums = Lightroom Smart Collections
Just like Aperture had Smart Albums that automatically manage themselves based on certain criteria you give it, Lightroom has Smart Collections. They’re in the Collections panel, and you just choose Create Smart Collection when you’re adding one.

5. An Aperture Folder Is Similar To A Collection Set
Aperture has something called Folders which let you organize your Projects and Albums. For example, maybe you shot a wedding. In Aperture, you could create a Folder called “Smith Family Wedding”, and then include Projects or Albums under that to help you organize the photos from the wedding.

Lightroom has something kinda similar. It’s called a Collection Set. Remember, a collection is like an album. Well, a Collection Set is a group (or Folder) of Collections. So, in Lightroom you’d create a Collection Set called “Smith Family Wedding”. Inside that Collection Set, you’d put Collections (AKA. Albums) like Formals, Church, Reception, etc…

6. Where’s the Loupe Tool?
Okay, I’m not gonna lie on this one. I’ve always liked Apertures Loupe tool. It looked cool and made it easy to zoom in on the details in specific areas of my photo. While Lightroom doesn’t have an exact replica of the Loupe tool, it does have the Navigator Panel in the top left of every module. And if you click on the Navigator preview, the image zooms in and you can drag the little box around to see the details/zoomed-in-view of your photo. I know, it’s not the same, but it’s about as close as you’ll get (don’t shoot the messenger).

7. Lightroom Has Presets/Effects Too!
If you’re coming from Aperture (and you loved your presets/effects) this is probably one of the biggest upsides you’ll get. While Aperture had a minor preset presence out there, you’ll find there are tons of Lightroom presets. The preset market in Lightroom is by far larger than Aperture’s. So if you’re a preset junkie, just head over to the Develop module and you’ll see the Presets panel on the left side. Sadly, you can’t import your Aperture presets, but I happen to know a guy (who knows a guy) who has free presets on his (this) site :)

8. Basic Adjustments 101
Aperture and Lightroom share a lot of adjustment/slider names. For example, Exposure in Aperture does what Exposure in Lightroom does. But there are some differences.

First, in Aperture the Exposure adjustment actually has a few settings in it. You’ve probably used the Enhance adjustment a lot, as well as the Highlights and Shadows adjustment. Each of those “adjustments” in Aperture have several sliders in them. In Lightroom, those “adjustments” are known as panels. If you go to the Develop module you’ll see the Basic panel, Tone Curve, Detail, etc… Once you go in to that panel, you’ll see more sliders inside of it.

The main thing you need to know about the Basic (and most used) adjustments is this: in Lightroom, the Basic panel is probably one of the most powerful. It contains a combination of the Exposure, Enhance, and Highlights Shadows sections in Aperture. Here’s a quick list to help out:

Aperture Name / Lightroom Name
Aperture Exposure = Lightroom Exposure
Aperture Recovery = Lightroom Highlights (kinda)
Aperture Black Point = Lightroom Blacks
Aperture Brightness = Lightroom Exposure (we used to have Brightness but thankfully it’s gone)
Aperture Contrast = Lightroom Contrast
Aperture Definition = Lightroom Clarity
Aperture Saturation/Vibrance = Lightroom Saturation/Vibrance
Aperture Highlights/Shadows = Lightroom Highlights/Shadows
Aperture Levels = Lightroom Blacks and Whites sliders

9. Aperture Versions = Virtual Copies
If you’re used to using Versions in Aperture, then you’ll be using the Virtual Copies feature in Lightroom. It let’s you create a “virtual” version/copy of your photo. In the Develop module, just go to the Photo > Create Virtual Copy menu and now you’ll have a separate “version” to make adjustments to, that’s totally independent of the original image file.

10. Aperture Tabs = Lightroom’s Modules
Getting around Aperture and Lightroom is a little different. Aperture favored what they call a modeless interface. You moved around more with tabs, but the interface remained pretty much the same throughout. In Lightroom, we use Modules. They’re up top and you click on a module to go from one task to another (Organizing, Editing, Books, etc…). And when you do switch modes (modules) in Lightroom, you’ll notice the settings, panels and sliders change in each one based on what each module specializes in.