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.

 

Author: Matt Kloskowski

Matt is the full-time Director of Education for Kelby Media Group and a Tampa-based photographer. He's the Editor-in-Chief of Lightroom Magazine, the lead instructor on the Adobe Photoshop Lightroom LIVE Seminar Tour and author of several best-selling Photoshop books. Matt also hosts the world's top Lightroom blog, LightroomKillerTips.com, where he's built up a massive library of Lightroom videos, presets and tips. In addition to teaching Photoshop, Lightroom and photography seminars around the world, he's an instructor at Photoshop World and one of the full-time staff writers for Photoshop User Magazine.

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63 Comments

  1. I’ve been slowly migrating over for a while, thanks for the help

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  2. Helpful article. What is the Lightroom equivalent of Aperture’s mid-tone contrast?

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    • Hey Bonnie – Clarity is kind of a mix between mid-tone contrast and Definition. It does both.

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  3. Aren’t we being premature here? Most of the photo processing for Aperture is in the OS itself. Aperture is essentially a GUI to the OS’s graphics engine. So Photos may be a great move forward.

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    • I don’t think so Bill. It’s not just about photo processing. It’s about a photo library and organizing too.

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  4. I’ve been using Lightroom for 4 years but I still have some photos stuck in Aperture. The photos in Aperture were slide scans that were geo-coded. I have been looking for a way to write the GPS data into the master tif/jpg scan files. If you have any ideas I would be eternally grateful.

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  5. Thanks for the write up Matt.

    I would have to agree to disagree about the similarities between Aperture’s Albums / Smart Albums and Lightroom’s Collections / Smart Collections.

    While they’re somewhat the same, Lightroom has a distinct difference between where these live. Where as in Aperture you can store your main images in Projects (like the Folders in Lightroom). Then when you make your Albums and Smart Albums and Folders, it’s all in one place. I can have a main Project and then store all Smart Albums beneath that main set of images. So much more efficient. This makes it _much_ more convenient when organizing.

    Where as in Lightroom if you want to make sure you’re project organization is mirrored between the Folders and your Collections, you have to dupe your folder structure in Folders to Collections in Lightroom. I would love to see Lightroom ditch the Folders section and focus on just referencing the images into Collections. It seems redundant to have file system access within Lightroom when the majority of the program really wants you to use Collections.

    It just seems like you’re doing a duplicate import process in Lightroom. Here, import these photos into Lightroom, then import them again into a Collection.

    Just one of the small things that I don’t think Lightroom does all that well is all. It’s a constant frustration for an Aperture user.

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    • Well, I guess I should’ve re-read my comment. It’s not truly the Collections I have an issue with, but rather the fact that Lightroom’s Folders is more of a filesystem “view” and not what Aperture’s Projects feature served.

      I think Collections is actually more like an Aperture Project.

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      • Not really Kennon – Apertures Albums are the equivalents to Collections. A Project is more like the main image holder/place for your photos – just like your Folders in Lightroom. Albums/Collections are where you go for that next level of organization.
        And yes, Lightroom is a File System view of your photos. It’s eventually what Aperture went to after everyone screamed about the “managed” library system for a while. Yes, they did leave the “managed” option, but most Aperture users I know went for the Referenced system (like Lightroom) eventually.

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        • Well we will have to agree to disagree. I see the similarities, but I find Lightroom’s version of organization to be much more confusing than Aperture’s.

          Thanks for the writeup. :)

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          • Hi Kennon, I agree this is where Lightroom has frustrated me too. I think Matt has not quite grasped what you mean. An Aperture project, is in no way connected to the file system whether using managed files(storing images in library) or if referencing. The projects contents and organisation are completely abstracted from the filesystem.

            I would agree that a LR collection is more like and album because of its limitations. But I think what us aperture users would really like is to be able to import your images straight into a collection set which you are then able to filter using smart collections (which you can already) but annoyingly you have to create a collection and then create a smart collection which filters by the specific collection name, which is just a pain in the ass.

            THere are some other image editing things that I miss from aperture, like the ability to brush in curve adjustments, and multiple ones at that. Also the the being able to feather the edge of an adjustment area is something I miss to. But maybe I just havent figured that one out yet in LR. But its not bothering me to much as the intergration with Photoshop is pretty awesome so find myself using more.

            Just my 2 pence worth

            Dave

    • I see what you’re saying Kennon. Lightroom is quite capable, but I’ve grown accustomed to putting some Aperture “albums” inside the project for project-related picks, or not, when I’m grouping several albums together for exporting a swath of images.

      So organization within Lightroom appears to be more challenging, especially if you create a large number of “collections”.

      But, the flexibility is in Lightroom.

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      • Hey Todd – It seems like Collection Sets would help you. You can group collections (AKA: Albums in Aperture) together in to one folder. It’s called a Collection Set, but it really is just a folder. That way, you can group multiple albums/collections together, and export/print/adjust/etc… them all together if you’d like. Good luck!

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  6. My understanding is that Aperture doesn’t do a single lick of preprocessing to RAW images… and that LR does. How can I tell LR to leave my images alone except for changes I command?

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    • LR doesnt, unless you want it to. any modifications to images are off by default.

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    • LR doesn’t touch your RAW files. Not sure where you got that idea. If you convert to DNG, then it *can* store the adjustments (as commands it and Camera Raw can understand) in the DNG. But it has still not touched the RAW data, and other programs would ignore that metadata. Perhaps that’s what you heard?

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  7. Brilliant thank you I just need to think about how I want to transfer over now!

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  8. Agree, maybe photos is as good as Aperture and even better. Aperture won’t be updated any longer but it’ll be compatible with Yosemite, so we have a couple of years before actually needing to move if and only if Photos doesn’t do the trick. Aperture + Nik + Photoshop (only if needed) here. Yes, LR has better adjustments but a combo Aperture + Photoshop makes LR unnecessary for now.

    Also, Matt, could you point to a good article with a discussion of how to use different libraries and/or export a library to work while on the road in a laptop, and reimporting it then to your main library? That for me is a must if I ever consider going with LR. Thanks

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  9. Two questions, are the white balance tools in Lightroom user friendly I like the slider for temp and tint but also use skin tone balance too.

    I also have a couple of presets I set up are they easy to do in Lightroom? Eg I might have a sharp and vibrant preset and I can lift and stamp across multiple images I will miss this!

    Thanks again x

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    • Apertures speed is still very impressive – I think no other program makes previews as fast visible as aperture does, and you can already work on the previews while the originals are still uploading…

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      • I kept returning from Aperture to LR because of LR mirroring the hard drives folder structure and the more powerful editing tools. Like the gradation or the “new” circular tool ore the very convenient brush. For me they make up for the time lost with LRs slow importing procedure or for not having the brilliant loop tool.

        Aperture was often a step ahead – I hope this will be the case with Photos in the future. It’s important to have a strong competitor.

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  10. Matt: You gotta work on your it’s and its. It’s like a LR keystroke combo, once you learn its ins and outs, it’s likely you won’t err again. Keep up the really great work you do for all of us.
    -TR

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    • Tony – I’ll work on my it’s and its if you work on your etiquette ;-)
      Seriously though, sadly I know the ins and outs of it’s and its and I still mess them up. You can only imagine that I’m ecstatic with the advent of texting and shorthand words, so I can actually blame it on that instead :-)

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      • Oh Matt and Trey. Silly. My question is how do I get my photos out of the Aperture Library when I had Aperture Managing it. I’d like to find them and just export them somehow to a blank external HDD for example. Can you help Matt? I missed your online tutorial by a few hours I guess. Darn it (it’s, its).

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  11. Thank you for the webcast last night!

    I understand that metadata will make it, adjustments won’t, and would consequently like to move both my RAW files and my final images (lets say JPEG).

    In looking at your four options (A,B,C,D), why did you recommend only importing JPEGs to Lightroom during the webcast for Option C, instead of RAW files as well?

    Aperture defaults to maintaining RAW/JPEG pairs shot from the camera in a stack. Is there any to create this pairing in Lightroom? (That question was a long-shot.)

    If not, what strategy could be used to maintain both final (JPEG) and original (RAW) images together in a cohesive way in Lightroom? (ie Folders, collections, other method) Having RAW and Aperture-created JPEGs in the same directory would be helpful, but I’d like to be able to easily view the final images and pop over to the original image to then begin/continue edits in Lightroom.

    It may interest you that some conversion tutorials recommend making tags before exporting from Aperture and exporting by file type. (JPEG/TIFF/RAW/MOV) This strategy might be useful to export and relocate images, while maintaining Aperture’s folder/project by enabling an export option.

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  12. Great. But I would advise Aperture users to not do a thing until they see what Apple has in store to replace it.
    Even then, I would also research the other options out there including the soon to be free and redone Nikon product as well as others (sorry, it’s late, can’t remember them all).
    Aperture should still work for some time too!

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  13. I will never “subscribe” to software.

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  14. Those are great tips Matt – all the stuff I’d worked out by trial and error before I found your article!

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  15. I’m currently trying to switch from Aperture to LR. One thing I’m missing in LR is the possibility to show the metadata of a photo during import. Aperture tells me all about it before I copy it to the library/project/whatever. In LR I haven’t found that info yet… did I miss something?

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  16. Nice article and helpful. I’ve used Lr4/5 as plugins to Aperture for awhile now and will probably continue to recommend to my Mac using friends who want something more powerful than iPhoto and can’t wait to see what Photos is all about, to choose Lr5. If Lr5 had layers, I’d have migrated long ago, but for me, it’s back to Capture One Pro, where I was for the years prior to Aperture/Lightroom. But Lr5+Photoshop is till a great 1-2 punch for event photographers, serious amateurs and enthusiasts, and while technically, Aperture was a front end to Apple Raw Converter, so Lr is a front end to ACR and Final Cut Pro is a front end to Quicktime. It’s not the front end that makes them uniquely powerful; it’s the back end and extendable, managed output that makes the users appreciate them so much. Anyone who has used Adobe products for a long time knows they continue to improve them year after year. The $10/mo for serious photographers is ridiculously cheap (what, 2 latte’s per month – and you don’t even have to wait in line or a drive thru!) and promises to lessen the potential of a major nemesis for busy photographers: software workflow disruption – when a major new version arrives and we have to plan the migration because maybe printers, plugins, etc. suddenly no longer work together. (worked well for us recently with the Photoshop CC 2014 update – the old version continued to work perfectly while we tested the new version and waited for a few bug fixes before making it our primary version) And for those who will NEVER subscribe to software, I’m sure you never subscribe to newspapers, magazines, or cell service (which gets more expensive for less service or substance, year after year after year).

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  17. Just curious – if I did make the switch from Aperture to Lightroom – is it difficult to move everything (albums; photos, etc.)?

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  18. Listen up Adobe – $9.99 per month! I will never pay monthly fees like this for Lightroom. I currently have version 4.4 of Lightroom and I plan to stay with that version indefinitely.

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  19. If one wishes to purchase Lightroom outright, instead of paying monthly $9.99, is it possible?

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  20. Also re-did to be notified!

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  21. Great article – please write more.

    I’m currently an Aperture 3.0 user and have loved it since 2010. I was so sad to hear no more support for Aperture so I am trying out LR5.

    I never had enough money to fork out for Photoshop 6. I mean, $700 + $200 for upgrades every 18 or so month was absolutely ridiculous. So I used GIMP and Aperture together.

    After the trial I can afford Photoshop. That’s like a 90 month payment plan if you wanted the full PS package. Which didn’t include the $150 for LR4.

    I guess if you don’t actually need it there’s no reason to complain about the $9.99/month.

    That’s like 5 trips to Starbucks for some people.

    That being said – Aperture is still the package for me. I am getting used to LR5 but it FEELS less ‘friendly’ for some reason. And slower. So I’ll probably use Aperture till I really have to switch. In the meantime, at least now I have Photoshop instead of GIMP.

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  22. Is there photo enhancements in Aperture 3.0 that you absolutely can’t do in LR5?

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  23. I hate the idea of subscribing to software and refuse to do it. Its like renting forever.

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  24. Hi Matt,

    Curious. Above you stated: Aperture Definition = Lightroom Clarity.

    I’ve found I like the Clarity adjustment in LR5 because you can actually bring it down a tad. But in Aperture, it’s already set at 0 with no other way to go except to increase Definition.

    Why is that?

    There are some goods and bads I’m finding as I transition to Aperture. The good is the Clarity adjustment but am wondering if it’s possible to do get a negative (-) Definition. The bad – I’m just not used to it.

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    • Hey Glenn – I’m not sure of the why. I’ve never had any contact with the Aperture engineers to ever ask questions. But I agree, I like Clarity better :)

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  25. Thanks Matt,
    Id love to see Adobe fix their white-balance tool, in Aperture you can use your cursor/mouse over a gray area to get the perfect White Balance and are able to move it around and the white balance changes as you move the cursor, but in Lightroom you only have ‘one chance’ to click on the perfect spot to set your WB , or you have to reselect the Cursor to set another WB, this is the only thing I dislike about lightroom, with the box that appears with the WB cursor

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    • The navigator in the upper left corner will show you a live view of the WB changing when the WB tool is active. It’s not as nice as having the whole image, but it does help. Also, the WB tool shortcut key is “W”. You can at least avoid having to pan the mouse over to the tool icon.

      Post a Reply
  26. Does Lightroom 5 have the equivalent to Aperture’s “New from Original” command.

    Let’s say you started to work on an image without creating a virtual copy. You want later to start from the beginning on a new idea, but save the work you have already done. How do you return to the original file?

    Post a Reply
    • Yes. LR has “snapshots.” LR maintains the full history of modifications “made” to an image (recorded in the LR library/database and the preview, of course, the RAW image is not touched). At any point you can record a snapshot that captures the state of processing and the entire history. Then you can go back to an earlier state (including the beginning), or simply click the reset button to undo everything, then start making adjustments/changes again from this starting point. Whenever you want you can click the snapshot name to jump back to that point with the history reloaded. The only caveats: if you reload a snapshot without saving the current state in a new snapshot, you lose the current state and history (though maybe you can use undo?). Similarly, if you jump back in the history, once you start making new adjustments, the steps you backed up over are lost (again, maybe you can use undo to recover). Anyway, with snapshots, you can generate as many processing variations as you want, each with the sequence of steps preserved/recorded. You can also use virtual copies to serve a similar purpose. But snapshots show up in the “snapshots” panel when viewing an image, as opposed to proliferating in the filmstrip & grid regardless of whether you are working with them or not (though you can put them into a stack that appears as a single image in grid & filmstrip).

      Post a Reply
  27. is there a way to automatic create collection when importing photos
    a script or a plugin

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  28. I’m trying to open LR now that I have to use it (ugh). When I open it it’s asking for catalog or new catalog. I don’t have a catalog (deleted when frustrated a few yrs ago) and don’t know what to do. I’m stuck at this page and can’t go anywhere. Can I delete the program and reinstall? If so, kindly tell….how. TIA

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    • Just create a new catalog. That’s what makes Lightroom “tick” :-)

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      • Thanks Matt – I actually tried that yesterday before seeing your post, and, yes, it worked!!!! Thanks again-Greatly appreciate your help. ; }

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        • Lightroom-setting up-mac air pro, 2 external 2T hdrives wondering which ext hd to use for 1. time machine back up, 2. which to use to place *images on before importing to LR” 3. and which to use for catalog (lr cat)
          4. when traveling if i don’t have either external with me, just where shall i store images temporarily -I plan on using one folder to store images as suggested in scott’s book. 4. where to put images I may want to add to the # 2 at a later date (from thumbdrives, etc.) thanks in advance! Signed, very confused but want to press “enter”
          ty ty ty! Pam

          Post a Reply
      • Lightroom-setting up-mac air pro, 2 external 2T hdrives wondering which ext hd to use for 1. time machine back up, 2. which to use to place *images on before importing to LR” 3. and which to use for catalog (lr cat)
        4. when traveling if i don’t have either external with me, just where shall i store images temporarily -I plan on using one folder to store images as suggested in scott’s book. 4. where to put images I may want to add to the # 2 at a later date (from thumbdrives, etc.) thanks in advance! Signed, very confused but want to press “enter”
        ty ty ty! Pam

        Post a Reply
  29. Matt, Thanks for this great article. I missed ‘From Aperture to Lightroom’ live. Do you have a comparable video on Kelby?

    Post a Reply
  30. Great article, thanks.. I’m a wedding photographer and in aperture I would like to keep my 300 images as original level edited files, then appl a vintage prest on 300 and also apply a b&w preset, on the same 300 with tin lightroom without exporting them so in effect I would like to have 3 separate folders of the same images but with different effects. This is what I give couples. Currently I cna do the different conversions, but they appear next to each other. Because it is a large amount of images, I think it would be ver boring for the couple’s to view the 3 versions side by side, many thanks

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  31. Hi all — I used Aperture ever since the day it came out and was very disappointed to hear that Apple was killing development. Actually, with every so-called `upgrade’ that they released, the software was getting lousier and lousier. I was getting annoyed and finally Apple killed it. I just recently started learning, editing on Lightroom. I will share my experience: I have to say as an editing tool, LR seems 25 times better than Aperture. The ability to tweak photos, clean them up, it looks amazingly powerful. It’s so powerful, that there’s a tendency to overdo and make the picture look too cooked/artificial. Used properly, it’s amazing and as an aperture user for a long time, I have to say LR is better than Aperture as an editing tool. My only gripe so far is the editing panel HUD in Aperture would stand out on its own and changes could be applied even when the picture is in full screen mode. I haven’t learnt of that function in LR. If anyone knows how to separate the HUD panel on the right side, please let me know. Now, as an organising tool, LR sucks like crazy. It looks so Windows-like folders with no skimming etc. Aperture was so polished in its organizing methods that LR seems like a blast from the cold war era. The interface is a bit overwhelming as well, so if they can remove some of the clutter, that will be great. Anyone wishing to give me feedback, please contact me at anandkmoorthy@gmail.com.

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