Why I’m Still Not Switching to Lightroom 4

Escape Stairs inside the Hoover Dam

The Escape Route - © Copyright 2012 by William Beem

Escape from Hoover Dam!

These steps inside of Hoover Dam are the ultimate stair master!  They’re at such a steep angle that they have more in common with a ladder than a staircase. Just imagine being deep inside this mammoth concrete structure and something goes wrong – like a power failure or explosion. The elevators aren’t working or safe to use, so you need another way out. This is it, folks. You’d be trudging up these stairs, perhaps in the dark if the lighting fails.  Kind of creepy, isn’t it? Just think how creepy it would be to get stuck without those stairs and they suddenly look a bit friendlier.

Why I’m Still Not Switching to Lightroom 4

Improve your Aperture Workflow

Photographers all over the Internet were broadcasting the release of Adobe’s Lightroom 4. I admit, I retweeted the news when I saw Adobe‘s announcement at midnight.  Why do we do this marketing effort for corporations that pay us nothing for our efforts? I’m not even a Lightroom user and don’t plan on becoming one, so my own participation was…well, it was just sad.

As I’ve mentioned before, I use Apple’s Aperture 3. Both products are fine and do pretty much the same job.  It’s a major hassle to switch from one product to another, so it seems to me that you would need a very good reason to make the change. That’s why I paid close attention to a few folks who asked if they could import their Aperture library into Lightroom 4.

The short answer is that you can’t do it very easily, and you’ll lose the work that you already created in Aperture. The same would be true if you wanted to switch from Lightroom to Aperture. The thing I want to know is this – why would you want to switch?

If you’re going to spend money, disrupt your photography workflow, lose edits on photos you carefully created in the past, wouldn’t you want to have a real need before going through that experience? I would.

It’s not as if I’m trying to put down Lightroom.  I think it’s a fine product, but I’m already embedded with Aperture. So each time there is a new revision in the product lines, I do an evaluation to see if there is a compelling reason to change.  Does it solve a problem? Does it have a new feature that didn’t exist before and I can’t replicate with my current tools? What makes it worth the pain and expense of switching from one platform to another.

Unfortunately, I think some folks get caught up in the hype of a new product launch. People are going “ooh” and “ahh” over new features in Lightroom 4, and it’s tempting to want to get in on some of that affection. The problem is that is an emotional response, not a rational decision. Emotional responses are powerful, but they don’t last.  Digital Asset Managers are meant to last, so choose wisely.

At their core – their very reason for existence – Aperture and Lightroom are digital asset managers. They keep your media organized. Yes, they do other important things, but the view into your photo library and how you control it is – I think – the reason why you don’t just use Bridge and Camera RAW to process your photographs. With that in mind, I can’t help but notice that Lightroom 4 offers no improvements to file management.  I’m already of the opinion that Aperture’s file management is superior to Lightroom, so I know right off the bat that Lightroom 4 isn’t going to offer any huge improvements that I can’t implement into my workflow.

There are some nice enhancements to Lightroom’s Development module (why is any product limited to a modular approach in 2012?). Adobe added some of the features I already had in Aperture, and also a couple that I don’t have. Wait, those same features are in Camera RAW. So, I do have them if I absolutely need them. In any case, the new features fell into the category of convenience for me, rather than necessary for me.

As I noted in the Lightroom 4 Beta, most of the new features looked like Adobe was adding parity to many of the features I have in Aperture.  Book printing? Got it.  Maps?  Got it. Video support?  Got it. I don’t see anything compelling to make a switch.

If you have a previous version of Lightroom, it makes perfect sense to upgrade. You get more features in a package that easily upgrades your existing catalog. That makes perfect sense. If you’re using Aperture 3 or some other DAM, then weigh your options carefully. Unless you see a problem solved in Lightroom 4 that you can’t perform in your existing tools, I honestly don’t think it’s worth the expense & effort of making a switch.