Aperture / The End

Update: TechCrunch quote updated. It's Adobe that is going to aggressively woo Aperture users with a migration path (Thanks Butch).

Photos on OS X Yosemite

Both TechCrunch and The Loop reported Friday that Apple has formally announced the end of Aperture development. The choice quotes:

When Photos for OS X ships next year, users will be able to migrate their existing Aperture libraries to Photos for OS.
— The Loop
Apple says that it will provide compatibility updates to Aperture that allow it to run on OS X Yosemite, but will not continue to develop it. Adobe says that it will ‘double down’ on Lightroom support and offer Apple users a way to migrate
— TechCrunch

The news that Apple is discontinuing Aperture is not really a surprise. The announcement of Photos at WWDC a few weeks ago suggested that already. Same story for iPhoto – it simply makes no sense to have three photo applications in the same company. Sadly (yet understandably from a business perspective), Apple is going after the consumer market with Photos. Read on.

The fact that Apple is working with Adobe to help users move to Lightroom is bitter sweet. On the upside, migration tools will be a good thing. I am certainly interested to learn what the tools offer. I'm expecting something heavy on metadata and organization, light to non-existent on adjustments. On the downside, it all but states Photos will not be a pro application and will not be a suitable platform for most Aperture users. If Photos were to offer pro features, there'd be no need for migration tools.

Update: In light of the mis-report by TechCrunch I needed to rewrite this paragraph. And make several other tweaks to my plans.

It's Adobe that's going to work on migration tools. Makes total sense – strike while the iron is hot. Speaking from a pure business perspective, this is exactly what I'd do. If I am Adobe, I want to get migration tools out to photographers in 30 days. Well before Apple has Photos available. They'll pick up customer base that way for sure. I still believe any migration tools Adobe offers will be metadata and organization based. And not just IPTC and EXIF. Adobe needs to pay attention to keyword hierarchies, custom metadata, color labels, flags, stars, etc.

When Photos for OS X ships next year, users will be able to migrate their existing Aperture libraries to Photos for OS X.
— TechCrunch

Apple has since clarified that when Photos releases, Aperture libraries can be migrated to Photos. That makes sense. And that gives me hope for the metadata and organizational tools. Hope – not a silver bullet. The screenshot we have of Photos doesn't provide enough clues about what level of capabilities Photos will have.

What about the non-destructive edits I've done in Aperture? I have no delusions that such edits will be lost going from Aperture to a non-Apple product. And if I go that route, I'm migrating the RAW digital negative and a "cooked" version with final edits. It's workable. Not the best. Costs me storage. So it goes.

A migration to Photos could be better. For more than a year, iPhoto and Aperture have shared the same library structure. Aperture can "see" iPhoto-created edits in a non-destructive way (at least some of them). From WWDC, we know that Photos will have a non-destructive adjustment workflow. That's baked into the OS. Also, the screenshot of Photos is more Aperture-like. I know, I know – a mountain of maybes and Icarus wings. Time will tell.

So what I doing immediately?

  • With my photo library... nothing. Yet. Aperture will continue to run on Yosemite. I'm not facing an OS upgrade vs. application choice in the fall. If migration tools are coming, I will wait for those. I'd rather spend my time making photos and not sorting out migration strategies until more details on what Apple and Adobe are doing come to light.
  • With Lightroom... reading. With a big focus on metadata. I've never used Lightroom, yet I know from the press and blogs that it's Develop module is very good. I am not in the least worried about getting good processing results with Lightroom.

    I am more concerned with the metadata and workflow aspects. How will my workflow translate from Aperture to Lightroom? Things like keyword groups, custom metadata fields, start ratings, color labels, smart albums, etc. I'm not going to jump into a tool until I have a workflow strategy in place.

  • With Photos... waiting. I want to see what Apple produces in 2015. I don't expect the first version will do everything I want. Again, my focus is on metadata and organization. That's a big part of my workflow. I am also interested to see what 3rd parties are onboard with Photos. An "Edit In" option to launch a plug-in is something I can work with.

Come 2015, a migration will happen. Others have done this before for various reasons. I'll learn from them. I'll absorb what Apple and Adobe produce over the next 6 months. I'll wait for Photos to release. And then I'll make my decision. Migrating a library isn't a decision to make lightly.

My emotional state? Annoyance. I don't fault Apple for moving to their growing market. They are a business, it makes sense. All smart companies discontinue products that don't help the bottom line. Heck... Google puts tons of products out to pasture.

I do wish Apple had come clean with this sooner, as part of WWDC, when Photos was announced. That would have been the logical place to do it. And they could first-hand address concerns and highlight the migration path. If not in a keynote, at least in one of the sessions (I have to believe there were some Aperture plug-in developers in attendance).

In the end, these are tools we use to craft great images. Change is inevitable, especially with software (anyone remember WordStar and Lotus 1-2-3?). Migrating a photo library will be involved. And I don't expect this is the last time I'll do it in my life.