I take a lot of photos. Taking photos is a huge part of my identity and how I relate to the world, the system by which the world makes sense to me. Photographs bound my world the way society bounds our actions or the way architecture bounds our spaces. I carry a GX1 with me, and I use it every day. This year alone I’ve taken almost 3000 photos, and expect to take another 3 before I’m done.
I take a lot of photos.
For the longest time, I was a big fan of Apple’s Aperture. I came to it from iPhoto, and loved it more for the powerful library management tools. Instead of breaking things by directories, I could handle things arbitrarily! Projects, tagging, smart groupings. Such power I’d never before experienced, and Aperture was filled with the narrative of my life.
As my collection grew by leaps and bounds, and the lack of power in Aperture’s online tools became more and more apparent. Flickr and Facebook were the only options for remote library management, and while I did share works I was often stymied by bugs and weirdnesses in the plugins. The frustration of these issues and the lack of time to resolve them didn’t encourage me to build my own workflow for uploading, but left me with work that I couldn’t easily share.
For all the nuanced internal power I loved, I was nothing but stymied when it came to sharing, and this continued until 2013, when I bought Lightroom.
Lightroom and Aperture are fairly similar, as they both let you manipulate images, both provide similar hooks into external programs for more advanced editing, and both offer powerful library management features.
As an Apple product Aperture tightly integrates with the ecosystem, seamlessly connecting to tools like iBooks Author and Keynote, as well as syncing trivially to iOS, offering an amazing workflow but only within a tightly controlled sphere.
Lightroom does not integrate with Apple’s tools, nor does it easily integrate with the Apple pipeline, a fact which was significantly irritating when I was first exploring iBooks Author. Exporting to a directory is exactly the workflow I want to avoid, not rely on.
Lightroom’s library management is weaker, not permitting nested projects or allowing more than one identically named project, making complex organisation a lot harder to achieve.
I’ve found the tooling slower in Lightroom as well, though that might be an artifact of my non-SSD computer.
Lightroom brings vastly superior online collection management, allowing me to see and control what’s in 500px, Smugmug, and other services through actual, good, debugged, tested plugins. Instead of forcing me to develop workflows, Lightroom helps me get things I care about into the world.
Steve Jobs once said “Real artists ship.” It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to put work out into the world, and being able to release something I’m proud of is forefront in my mind when I’m working with photography.
Aperture doesn’t help me ship. It doesn’t help me share work with my friends and collect feedback, doesn’t make it easy and seamless for me to see what I have online. I don’t get a system that does what it can to get me to ship, but a system with small, irritating gotchas that made it harder to release on my terms. I don’t get a system with a public API for adding new online collections, where Lightroom gives all of us those tools.
Code to Ship
As I mentioned, it’s been a while since I was able to ship something. Writing code is very different from making photographs, in that “done” is never reached. There’s always a bug to fix or a feature to add, always something to change.
Even if I release it to the world, it’s not done, just a state of in progress. Photos can sometimes be considered the same, but edits after I’ve released it are much rarer.
Sometimes it’s nice to not have to worry about how I’m going to have to change a work tomorrow, merely let it stand as it is today.