Aperture – farewell old friend, but not just yet…

by pho_admin

Count me as one who wasn’t happy to hear the news; but I do get it. I get that software gets old. I get that better ideas come along and I get that companies like Apple are constantly looking forward, often far further forward than the average user. Sometimes though, this means heartache for users. 

Things also change in the realm of development. Apple caught most by surprise at WWDC when they announced a new programming language called Swift. Could this be part of the reason Aperture was delayed so long and finally shelved? Aperture’s over 10 years old and I doubt you’d find a programmer anywhere who thinks 10 year old code couldn’t be written better today. Swift has been in development since 2010 and since then several of Apple’s marquee apps – most notably iWork – have been totally rewritten. Coincidence? Who knows?

Swift code could theoretically be built into Aperture’s existing code base but historically Apple have been willing to start from a clean slate – and so we come to the new (Yosemite only) Photos app.

Now we already know Photos will be both a Mac and iOS app. We have to remember that the iPhone didn’t exist when iPhoto and Aperture were designed and it’s reasonable to think there needed to be major changes to the way libraries are designed and managed. Photos’ library will need to accommodate extremely large local libraries of photos and videos as well as cloud based syncing of selected files, albums, projects or whatever they will now be called. The likelihood is that this required a significant rethink and some structural catharsis.

Now much has been made of Apple Marketing’s cryptic statement regarding iCloud storage and Photos – as though somehow that means the end of local storage. Relax, this is one thing we can be fairly certain about – it won’t be cloud only. 

Why so sure you ask? A typical shoot for me would be a few hundred photos shot in RAW. That might equate to 3 or 4 GB which I can import pretty smartly using the card reader built into my MBP. How can you import that to the cloud? What happens when you have no service? Even a selfie obsessed teenager could smash 4 or 5 gigs worth at a One Direction concert.

I quite expect Photos to import locally and then trickle feed it to the cloud – similar to how services like BackBlaze (or even PhotoStream) works. Expect to be able to choose what gets ‘clouded’ as well. I doubt most people would be happy burning their entire month’s Net allowance uploading little Jimmy’s birthday snaps. iCloud is fine for Pages and Numbers docs, but photos and videos will need local storage for a long time to come.

Now no-one knows what Photos will bring but as a long term Aperture user there are definitely ‘pro’ features I’m desperately hoping will make the cut. Specifically, multiple adjustment layers, selective colour adjustments, brush in and out, great library management and most of all, lift and stamp of adjustments. It’s perfectly reasonable to expect Photos will miss a few features early on, that’s been a familiar pattern with Apple over the years, but let’s hope through the potential feature void we can look to where we’re headed and not we’re we’ve been.

On the marketing and announcement, I think it could have been handled better but I think I can see their strategy. They want users to know they can keep using Aperture for the foreseeable future and there is a new option coming. It was important to do this with Adobe pushing hard to get people shackled to, um, subscribed to, Adobe Creative Cloud. Yes, Adobe claim that Lightroom and Photoshop will also remain as perpetual licenses, but Lance Armstrong said he didn’t take drugs too.

For now, I’ll continue to use Aperture and the only immediate change will be to make sure everything newly added is a referenced file. Apple have already announced support of Aperture for Yosemite. If the first versions of Photos is poor they might even extend that support further. Even if they don’t, there is at least 18 months before anyone needs to decide anything and there would be virtually no issue extending that out to 3 years if you decide to stick with Yosemite for a while. By then both Yosemite and Photos will have matured and will, hopefully, be a viable alternative to Aperture. 

Lest not we weep, there is still hope and we’ll all survive.