Co.Design

Apple Is Killing Off Aperture, Its Pro Photo Editor

After years of wavering commitment to creative professionals, Apple is turning its back on pro photographers.

For years, Apple has made sure there's an OS X app to match your level of photographic proficiency. If you were an amateur, you had iPhoto; if you were a pro and needed more advanced features, you had Aperture. But with Apple's upcoming update to OS X, it is officially killing off both apps. Instead, it will introduce Photos, a new app first revealed during Apple's WWDC keynote, will not only stand in as a replacement for iPhoto, but also Aperture.

In a statement to Techcrunch, an Apple spokesperson said:

With the introduction of the new Photos app and iCloud Photo Library, enabling you to safely store all of your photos in iCloud and access them from anywhere, there will be no new development of Aperture," an Apple spokesperson told TechCrunch. "When Photos for OS X ships next year, users will be able to migrate their existing Aperture libraries to Photos for OS X.

That's fair enough. iPhoto has long been a mess of a program. Slow, bloated, and hard to keep organized, iPhoto — like iTunes — has long needed rebuilding from the ground up. Unlike iTunes, however, iPhoto isn't the billion-dollar backbone of Apple's digital app and media empire, which means that Apple can actually afford to try something completely new, unlike the bizarre re-design half measures Apple employed when "recreating" iTunes as part of the 11.0 update.

The same is true for Aperture too, of course. Like iPhoto, it's become increasingly bloated and slow. But even so, it's loss is sadder. For the past few years, Apple has been distancing itself from the professionals who kept the company alive during the company's worst years. Before the switch to Intel chips, in fact, the most vocal supporters of Apple's desktops and laptops were professional photographers and video editors, who stuck by the company in the days when Apple's computers were losing the war to Windows machines based upon the strength of Cupertino's commitment to supporting their requirements and workflows.

But Apple's commitment to creative professionals has dwindled, and those creative professionals have started to stray. Three years ago, Apple updated their Final Cut Pro video software, dropping many of the features professionals depended upon. The move created such a backlash that even Conan O'Brien parodied the software on his show. Apple's commitment to its pro-caliber desktop, the Mac Pro, has also wavered in the recent past. Although Apple released a beautifully redesigned Mac Pro in December of last year, they had not previously given the machine a significant update since 2010...a lifetime in computer years.

What makes the death of Aperture different from the above two examples is that Apple has unambiguously said that they would no longer build separate software for professional photographers. Instead, they've developed tools for Aperture users to migrate their content to the forthcoming photos app (while Engadget reports Apple will also work on documentation for anyone who might want to switch over to Lightroom). But for those worried about Apple's other pro-grade apps, the company claims that the death of Aperture doesn't signal a move away from other apps like Final Cut Pro and the audio editor Logic.

The reality is that we're in an era where everyone has a smartphone in his or her pockets, and everyone is a photographer now in a way that they weren't when Aperture and iPhoto hit the scene about a decade ago. From that perspective, it makes sense that instead of splitting its resources across two different photo editing apps aimed at vastly different audiences, it consolidate that team to making one killer app for everyone. Still, considering how loyal professional photographers have been to Apple over the years, it does seem a shame that the company that they supported for so long has decided, at least in part, that it can do without them.

[h/t The Verge]

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3 Comments

  • "From that perspective, it makes sense that instead of splitting its resources across two different photo editing apps aimed at vastly different audiences, it consolidate that team to making one killer app for everyone."

    Please. A "killer app for everyone" will never, ever have all the tools and capabilities real professionals need. FCP X is a joke in the TV industry which is a real shame considering what a power player it once was. They're now doing the same to Aperture. At least this time they're being honest. Anyone who relied on it can switch to Photoshop. With FCP, a lot of folks who'd invested heavily in the Apple ecosystem were badly screwed over and left in a serious lurch.

    The problem is Apple computers remain vastly superior to any machine running Windows 8. Apple already canned the 17" MacBook Pro. I'm not sure how much faith I have in their long term commitment to the Mac Pro.

  • The Final Cut Pro X change was more like a mishandling than a move away from professional use. Apple botched the transition, the latest version of FCP X is well beyond the capabilities of the version 7 it replaced, Apple should have planned and offered a smoother transition but came over as high-handed, dropping users in it.

    Aperture is a different beast. Arguably the best DAM for photography, it started to lag in terms of processing features. It's very disappointing that they've dropped it, but even with the advance notice, the future path for professionals is not exactly clear. Users of Aperture have huge libraries, my Library and referenced files come to well over 1.5Tb. Transitioning that to an alternative is no simple matter.

    Lightroom isn't necessarily the best answer. A great overview of options here - http://www.nomadlens.com/raw-converters-comparison

  • Very true. Most photographers have spent years refining their methods of organizing and processing photos. Different users rely on all sorts of different forms of labeling, metadata, naming schemes, etc. With huge libraries, like you mentioned, I find it hard to believe that there is any form of "easy" transition in switching to anything else.

    I also agree with the sentiment that FCPX was a botched transition on Apple's part. I think they underestimated how many users they would turn off by releasing a product that was missing a few key features. Still, Apple seems to be continuing its transition into a company that appeals to as wide an audience as possible. There is less incentive for them to cater to creative pros these days and it shows.

    Personally, I have always preferred the Bridge/Photoshop combo, but I'm no wedding photographer.