PMA notes: Whither Aperture?

I’m in Las Vegas this week for the annual PMA conference and trade show. I’ve been here for a few days already, and there’s one topic that has come up in almost every discussion I’ve had with photographers: Aperture.

More specifically, the topic is: “Where’s Version 2.0 of Apple’s image management and editing app?” With the the show starting this morning, it seems pretty clear that we won’t see anything announced this week, and the disappointment I’m hearing is pervasive.

What’s most interesting to me is the shift in attitudes and usage. People aren’t actually excited about an Aperture update; it’s more of a “will it be significantly better” type of vibe. And photographers aren’t saying that the Adobe competitor, Photoshop Lightroom, is a better product. No, what I’m hearing is that neither Aperture nor Lightroom has taken hold with this crowd. At least three photographers I spoke with said that they bought both products, and that they aren’t really using either one.

A year ago, there was huge buzz in the pro photo community over the fact that we had not one, but two relatively new applications in this space. At PMA’07, you couldn’t walk into a group of photographers without being asked if you were an “Aperture or a Lightroom guy,” and you would have to defend your choice pretty vigorously. This year, more people seem to be comfortable with the Photoshop-Bridge-Adobe Camera Raw workflow—thanks to the rock-solid release of Photoshop CS3 last spring—and there are real questions about Apple’s place in this market.

I have no insight into what Apple is planning for Aperture, but I do know that PMA’08 would have been the best place to show its commitment to the professional photo market. Aperture 1.5 is a good product. However, in talking with photographers who’ve used it, they say it’s not a great product, and that’s what they need. I hope Apple’s listening.

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