Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Death Of Aperture, Where to Go From Here?

Last weeks announcement by Apple that they would the ending Aperture support came as a shock, at least sort of. I've been using Aperture as the primary means of managing and editing photos for the last 6 years, so to say that the application plays an important roll in my DAM (Digital Asset Management) workflow would be an understatement. At the same time I've been expecting that Aperture would either be killed off or replaced for a while now. I was hoping for a direct replacement, Aperture 4 or X, but that obviously is not what will transpire. With 6 years worth of photos and videos, in 7 different managed Aperture Libraries, the transition is not going to be easy, no matter what I do going forwards. Apple has said that the libraries can be migrated to the new Photo's app that is coming next year, but the full functionality of that application will remain a mystery until it is released.

As things stand today I see four possible solutions:

  • 1. Keep using Aperture until it no longer works
  • 2. Switch to the new Photo's app when it arrives and live with what it can and cannot do
  • 3. Switch to Open Source Photo management software like Darktable 
  • 4. Switch to Adobe Lightroom

From a photo management standpoint options 1 is the easiest, because I would not have to change my workflow at all. At least for the short term, because as long as Apple keeps supporting RAW files at the OS level Aperture should continue to function with new cameras. The problem is that staying with Aperture 3 has some troubling long term implications, like what to do when the day comes that Aperture no longer works? Apple has said that one final update will be released to provide Yosemite (Mac OS 10.10) support, which is required for the migration to the new Photos application, that still leaves the long term usability of the app hanging in the air. Clearly moving to something else sooner, rather than later is ideal. 

Option 2, moving to the new Photos application is likely what I will end up doing, because early press photos show that a great deal of Aperture's functionality present. So unless the Photos app is crippled editing wise, or is more like iPhoto than Aperture in terms of file management (internally within the app itself), it should serve well for basic editing. For me the greatest strength of Aperture has been file management provided by managed libraries, and loosing that is the biggest blow that comes as a result of the death of the program. If Photos uses an internal project and folder system similar to that of Aperture, rather than the less flexible "events" system from iPhoto, that would be nice. One thing is for sure, I'll be giving the Photos app a chance.

Option 3 will come into play if I do not like the new Photos application. I have been playing around with some open source applications, like Darktable, on the side for a while, since I had a growing feeling that Aperture might not be around long term. Most of Darktable's functionality is similar, although it is closer in operation and user interface to that of Lightroom. Darktable also lacks any kind of meaningful DAM, which as mentioned was the aspect of Aperture I appreciated the most. Making this move would force me to come up with some kind of self managed file system, which would be very time consuming.

Then we come to option 4, which I know many users will suggest, but to me that is the least desirable Adobe Lightroom. Why is Lightroom the least desirable option? To be blunt, I dislike Adobe's product distribution/usage model. The idea of renting software is not something that is high on my list of things that I consider a wise use of my finances. It's the same reason that I buy cars, rather than leasing them. Even though you can buy stand alone Lightroom today, how long will Adobe commit to doing that before forcing users into the rental model? My guess, is that Adobe will force users into the rental model with Lightroom 6, or 7. At which point I would want to abandon that platform and have to start all over again. So, yes Lightroom is the least desirable choice.

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