iPhoto vs Aperture comparison review

At the moment iPhoto comes free with every new Mac, and there is even a verison you can use on the iPhone and iPad, but for some people with particulary large photo libraries, or very large images - and in particular RAW images - iPhoto might not be enough. Would it be worth updating from iPhoto to Apple's Aperture in that case? We evaluate the options in this comparison review.

Updated: with news that Apple will discontinue iPhoto and Aperture after Photos for Mac arrives in 2015 is now a good time to start using iPhoto or Aperture? Is it worth investing in Aperture now while you still can? Or is it wise to look for an alternative photo editing and storage app? We look at the features offered by iPhoto and Aperture in this article, so you will know what you will be missing next year when Apple no longer sells these apps.

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iPhoto Versus Aperture: Getting Started

It’s easy to get started with iPhoto, as all your photos are automatically sorted into ‘events’ that group together photos taken on the same date. You can also use its Places feature to display the locations of photos on a map, or the Faces option to identify photos of particular people.

Stepping up to Aperture is just as easy as the latest version of Aperture can share your existing iPhoto library. The first time you launch Aperture it gives you the option of importing your iPhoto library, complete with all your events, places and faces information, so you’ll immediately know where to find all your favourite shots.

The only minor complication here is that iPhoto events are referred to as ‘projects’ in Aperture – which is a hangover from the days when Aperture cost hundreds of pounds and was primarily aimed at professional photographers who used it to organise their work projects. Apart from that, the two programs organise your photo library in essentially the same way, ensuring that the transition between iPhoto and Aperture is as straightforward as possible. You can even continue to use the two programs side by side, as editing changes that you make in one program are automatically carried over into the other.

iPhoto Versus Aperture: Sorting And Searching

These similarities ensure that Aperture will feel very familiar to anyone that has used iPhoto. The difference is that Aperture tends to go further and provides more detailed control than iPhoto, both with its editing tools and its options for sorting and searching through your photo collection.

As well as events and projects, Aperture can also create ‘stacks’ of photos that were taken in quick succession – such as a series of action shots at a sporting event – so that you can find the shot that captures just the right moment.

Both programs have a basic Search tool that lets you search for keywords such as ‘football’ or ‘wedding’, but Aperture also has a more powerful set of search filters that can employ multiple criteria to locate exactly the photo you need. You can search for photos taken on a specific date and location, or photos in a particular file format or size. You can even tell Aperture to only search for photos that you have already edited in some way. And if your photo library is really huge then Aperture allows you to split it into a number of separate library files – perhaps one for a recent holiday and another for a wedding – and then switch between libraries instantly. Read: Best image editing apps for Mac

iPhoto Versus Aperture: Adjustment Tools

Once you’ve got your photos organised you’ll probably want to do some additional editing work on them. Both iPhoto and Aperture provide a series of ‘adjustment’ tools that allow you to fine-tune the appearance of your photos, but iPhoto tends to focus on just a handful of key options, such as adjusting the exposure or contrast of a photo.

This is where Aperture really leaves iPhoto far behind, as it provides an extensive pull-down menu containing 22 different adjustment tools, ranging from basics such as exposure and white balance to more exotic options such as ‘colour monochrome’ and ‘spot and patch’. Another key difference here is that iPhoto is mainly used to make ‘global’ adjustments that are applied to the entire photo, whereas Aperture allows you to use brushes to selectively apply effects to specific parts of an image.

Aperture’s brushes give you much finer control when using its adjustment tools, but the sheer variety of adjustment options means that Aperture can seem a bit daunting for people who are used to the simpler tools of iPhoto. If you just want to make some quick tweaks to enhance the appearance of a few photos then iPhoto will do the job quickly and easily. But if you want more precise controls and the ability to work on really fine details within an image then it’s worth making the effort to master Aperture.

iPhoto Versus Aperture: Photo Effects

The Adjustment tools in iPhoto and Aperture are primarily intended to correct flaws and to improve the overall appearance of your photos. However, both programs also include additional Effects tools that allow you completely change the look or the style of a photo.

The Effects tools in iPhoto are pretty limited, really just consisting of simple colour adjustments and old standbys such as sepia and black-and-white effects. Aperture doesn’t exactly go to town with its Effects either, but it does provide a few more options than iPhoto. There are several variations on the basic black-and-white effect, a number of different exposure and white balance effects, and some colour effects, such as ‘toy camera’ and ‘intensify’. Aperture also includes a useful preview option that shows how each effect will look on your currently selected photo. However, neither program really goes beyond the basics here, so if you want to get really creative and experiment with a wider range of special effects and filters then Photoshop Elements from Adobe might be a better choice.

iPhoto Versus Aperture: Plug And Play

One final difference between iPhoto and Aperture is that there are a number of ‘plug-ins’ – small, modular programs that you can use to add new features to Aperture. These plug-ins tend to be divided into different categories, such as export plug-ins that will help you to export photos or upload them to sites such as Flickr. There are also plug-ins that provide additional editing tools, filters and other effects. You can find more information about Aperture plug-ins on Apple’s website, but just remember that buying lots of plug-ins quickly becomes rather expensive. In that case you might be better off paying for a more fully-featured editing program such as Photoshop Elements or even the full professional version of Photoshop.

What are the alternatives to iPhoto and Aperture?

With news that Apple will discontinue iPhoto and Aperture, you may be interested to read our Alternatives to Aperture feature and our Alternatives to iPhoto feature for more ideas of software you could switch to. Also read: iPhoto versus Photoshop Elements comparison review.

Read: iPhoto and Preview tips for free photo editing on a Mac

OUR VERDICT

If you’re just a casual photographer looking for a quick and easy way to organise your photos and improve the look of your shots then iPhoto will do the trick quickly and easily. Aperture is more expensive, at £54.99, but professional photographers and more experienced amateurs with really large collections of photos will appreciate its more extensive search tools. Aperture’s editing and adjustment tools are a bit more complex, and probably won’t appeal to casual users, but do provide the ability to make finer and more precise changes than are possible with iPhoto.

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