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Adobe offers Apple Aperture photos a new home: Lightroom

Apple pulled the plug on Aperture in June. Now Adobe offers a way to slurp photos into its competing Lightroom software.

Stephen Shankland principal writer
Stephen Shankland has been a reporter at CNET since 1998 and writes about processors, digital photography, AI, quantum computing, computer science, materials science, supercomputers, drones, browsers, 3D printing, USB, and new computing technology in general. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces. His first big scoop was about radioactive cat poop.
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  • I've been covering the technology industry for 24 years and was a science writer for five years before that. I've got deep expertise in microprocessors, digital photography, computer hardware and software, internet standards, web technology, and other dee
Stephen Shankland
2 min read

Lightroom lets people edit and catalog photos. Apple has discontinued development of its rival, Aperture.
Lightroom lets people edit and catalog photos. Apple has discontinued development of its rival, Aperture. Screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET

Adobe Systems released a tool on Thursday to help users of Apple's all-but-dead Aperture software move their photos to its Lightroom.

The tool, a plugin for Lightroom 5.6, ingests original Aperture photos along with metadata such as keywords and titles. It preserves photos' organizational structure, but doesn't attempt to reproduce any editing that was done in Aperture.

"Since adjustments to photos made in Aperture and iPhoto can not be read into Lightroom, this plugin will import both the original images and copies of the images that have adjustments applied," Adobe said of the tool. It also can be used to export photos from iPhoto.

Aperture and Lightroom both let photographers edit and catalog photos, especially photos shot in higher-end cameras' raw formats. Aperture beat Lightroom out of the gate, but Adobe won the race. Apple announced in June it would cease updating Aperture.

In a way, Aperture was a victim of Apple's success. With the home-run hits of iPhones and iPads, Apple has shifted away from its Mac graphics pro roots to a much broader consumer marketplace. Its high-end Mac Pro computers and Final Cut Pro video-editing software are far away from the core of the company's business. No longer must Apple release its own software to make its hardware compelling, useful or relevant.

Adobe, meanwhile, is as committed as ever to the creative pro market, and Lightroom has the advantage of frequent updates and support for Windows machines, too. Adobe sells Lightroom for about $140 for a perpetual license or $10 per month in a Creative Cloud subscription that also includes its Photoshop photo-editing software and Lightroom Mobile for iPads and iPhones.

Aperture and Lightroom are both nondestructive editor programs, which means they leave original images unchanged and record edits just as metadata -- crop here, darken there, increase saturation. When it's time to display, print or export the image, the software produces an image on the fly based on the original with all the changes applied. That's why it's possible for Lightroom to import the original photos from Aperture -- but because the programs use different processing techniques, it's also why the subsequent editing changes don't transfer from one program to another.

Another competitor, Phase One, was more ambitious with its new Capture One Pro 8. It attempts to reproduce some of the original Aperture editing adjustments with its newest version, released last month.