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Replacing Aperture

the Great Leap Forward

in Product reviews , Thursday, March 12, 2015

The writing on the wall has gotten so large that even I can see it. It is crystal clear that Apple are never going to replace Aperture in any meaningful way. They are going to develop their “Photos” thing, which will let people look at thousands of photos on their watch (sorry, Watch). Well, fine. Whatever. I’m sure the shareholders are laughing all the way to the bank. Ten years ago, Apple made integrated hardware and software which provided a fantastic, frictionless way to manage and process digital photos. Now, they don’t. They make glitzy computers which look like dustbins or gold doorstops, which you can barely plug an external disk into. They make very, very dumbed down software, which ironically, is not even intuitive to use. And they run a chain of hugely successful luxury boutiques. They’re not heading down any road I want to go down.

So, time for a change. It hasn’t been an easy task to find a solution, but I think I’ve got there. I’ve discarded Adobe Lightroom, because it is so hideous it makes my eyes bleed. I’m skipping on Capture One because parts of it are just weird, it pitches too much at the high end, and the cataloging part is a bug -ridden, sluggish disaster area. But more important, I’m skipping both of these because I’ve learnt my lesson about relying on closed solutions.

The solution I’ve decided on is to use ID Imager PhotoSupreme as my cataloging tool, and Iridient Developer as my RAW Developer, with Adobe Photoshop CS6 for finishing, printing, and working on scanner-sourced files. PhotoSupreme is a cross-platform application built on top of an open-source SQL database. It acts both as an advanced cataloging tool, comparable to the venerable but obsolete MediaPro, and as a hub to other workflow applications. I’ve been running a trial for 30 days, and have just bought a license. There is some sign that PhaseOne has not given up on MediaPro, but I’ve given up waiting.

Photo Supreme window

A collection view in PhotoSupreme

PhotoSupreme takes some getting used to, especially if you’ve been using MediaPro for about 100 years, not to mention Aperture. Being old and stupid doesn’t help either. Neither does the rather patchy documentation (although an active and helpful user community where the developer participates is a big help). It has its own way of doing things, and newcomers need to take time to get in sync with it. Actually, I think I had a quick look at it a while back, and discarded it as lacking various features. Well, actually, there are very few features it lacks, but you need to work out where they are, and how they work. Once everything starts to click into place, it reveals itself as a very powerful application. I suppose the core difference between PhotoSupreme and MediaPro is that MediaPro encourages use of multiple catalogs, and PhotoSupreme doesn’t really, although it does support them. PhotoSupreme organisation metaphors are different to MediaPro’s but ultimately let you do the same things. But PhotoSupreme has one absolute killer feature, to me anyway: Version Sets.

Photo Supreme Version

Version Sets: the holy grail

PhotoSupreme’s Version Sets are like Aperture’s Stacks (and therefore Lightroom’s clumsy copy of the same). A Version Set collects various versions of the same image (or actually completely different images if you want). But it actually goes further than Aperture, and allows you to indicate the purpose of each version, through “placeholders”. So, you can have a master RAW (or a Silverfast HDR), a JPG for web, another JPG for Flickr, a PSD for printing. And you can add your own placeholders to the core set, pretty much ad-infinitum as far as I can see. The way in which Version Sets are displayed is a little confusing at first, but basically boils down to whether you have a physical (e.g folder) or logical (e.g collection) view open.

PhotoSupreme provides effective import tools for Aperture libraries and MediaPro catalogs, as well as other application formats. There is a single-user version which seems to work fine with several hundred thousand images (according to forum members - I’m nowhere near that prolific), but if that isn’t enough, there’s a heavy duty multi-user version.

All in all, this is a perfect front-end to Iridient Developer. ID has just hit version 3.0, and just keeps getting better. I won’t go into any detail about it here, I’ve written about Iridient a lot in the past. You can read a nice review of Version 3 here. ID can’t do any kind of local editing or pixel-based operations, so Photoshop remind on hand for that. And that’s fine, it’s what it’s good at.

The interesting thing about PhotoSupreme and Iridient Developer is that they’re both developed by one-man band operations, PS by Hert van Zwietering, and ID by Brian Griffith. And despite both inevitably having a few minor rough edges, they make the efforts of certain megaCorporations look pretty sad. And neither impose any kind of lock-in, either through software design, or through pay-or-lose-access rental schemes.

It’s still going to be a hell of a job transitioning from Aperture, but now I’m beginning to feel it will be an upgrade, not a downgrade.

Posted in Product reviews on Thursday, March 12, 2015 at 07:45 PM • PermalinkComments (8)


Stephen March 13, 2015 - 6:05
What a snotty, childish, uninformed whinge!


tom rose March 14, 2015 - 3:35
"I’ve discarded Adobe Lightroom, because it is so hideous it makes my eyes bleed."
Please explain this statement. To my eyes Photo Supreme makes a similar general visual impression.


David Mantripp March 14, 2015 - 7:43
I just find Lightroom's interface to be very, very cluttered, quite unnecessarily so. It gets in the way of the task in hand, evaluating and working with photos, to an extent that it to me it makes the experience a chore rather than a pleasure. And rather than improve it, in usual Adobe fashion, from v1 onwards, they've just bodged it. It is a pity that Adobe can't dedicate as much to decent UI development as they do to marketing, but then again, it hasn't hurt their bottom line. Of course, millions of photographers are perfectly happy with Lightroom. Just a few aren't. It's purely subjective. It would probably make my life a lot easier if I could get on with Lightroom, but I've tried, seriously, and I can't.
You have a point regarding Photo Supreme. The UI is not ideal either, particularly compared with MediaPro, but frankly, for a 1 man effort, it's not that bad. And it is tuneable. The "light table" mode is also pretty good and very accessible. But still, in general, it is easier on my eyes than Lightroom.


tom rose March 15, 2015 - 11:59
Thanks for taking the trouble to reply.
I could not get on at
all with Aperture, and found its concepts alien to my way of thinking,
but I found Lightroom very intuitive and flexible. It gives me all the
adjustments I need, and all the ordering and cataloguing too, in one
tool. I love it ...
... apart from one thing. I like the images
I get from the Sigma SD1 and its Foveon Merrill sensor, but Adobe does
not (yet?) cope with X3F files from the 45 Mega-photosite/15 Megapixel
chip, so I have to put then through Sigma Photo Pro or Iridient first,
before pulling the TIFF files into Lightroom where they can be
catalogued and managed alongside my Canon images.


David Mantripp March 15, 2015 - 6:31
Seems to be a very binary thing between Aperture & Lightroom. For such similar applications they really are remarkably different. I actually started out with LR v1, then moved to Aperture v2. It took quite a while to get used to Aperture, but finally when it all clicked for me, it really was a revelation. There were some very, very clever people in the original Aperture design team, although of course thanks to Apple corporate culture, we'll never know who they were.
As for Photo Supreme, I threw some more "industrial-size" tasks at it today, and I'm afraid it didn't cope very well. All sorts of issues with memory, failed imports, etc. Looks like my enthusiasm was a little premature.


Andrew Macnaughton March 16, 2015 - 9:43
1. C1 8's cataloguing function is much improved from C1 7. However, stacking is limited to versions of the same image (not a problem for me, as I rarely used stacks in Aperture). It also has problems in the bulk management of keywords that weren't shared by Media Pro. It may not be for you, but it's nothing like as bad as it used to be.
2. On the Photo Supreme choking issue - couldn't you could export projects or groups of projects as separate libraries, thereby keeping your virtual organisation intact? A bit more hassle I accept ...
3. Why have you decided to move from Media Pro (which is apparently due at least an incremental update for Yosemite and C1 8)?


David Mantripp March 16, 2015 - 6:43
1. For me the major issue with Aperture's demise is DAM. And C1 doesn't give me much confidence in that area. Also, C1, for whatever reason, does not apply manufacturer lens corrections, and has no custom correction for some of lower grade micro four thirds lenses I use.
2. Could do. But I'm fairly sure PS would get confused. It already cannot handle paths to devices other than the one it is running on. I have experimented, but I'm getting increasingly fed up with various limitations. Also, I don't much care for the way PS imports keywords into seperate structures per source application. i put a lot of effort into keeping my Aperture and MediaPro keywords in sync, I've no wish to lose that. Actually keyword management seems a weak area in PS. PS actually seems to choke on memory management with thumbnail generation. No idea why that should be - surely it doesn't try to queue the whole lot in memory?
3. Because I'm not very convinced that the increment will be very significant. I hope I'm wrong. However, as things stand now, I may actually give up on PS in its current version, and continue with MediaPro.


Andrew Macnaughton March 16, 2015 - 10:57
MP 1.5 now available

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