Lightroom’s flaws & limitations

I’m attempting to switch to Lightroom, from Aperture, given lack of better alternatives. I’ve attempted this switch a couple of times before, without success.

I’m finding that it’s still kind of annoying.  Here’s the start of my laundry list against it:

  • It’s very slow.  I am already so very tired of seeing that blasted “Loading…” floater.
    • I’m running it off of a pair of SATA-connected SSDs – one for the library, one for the originals.  It has enough usable bandwidth to read in dozens of photos a second.  But it still takes three to five seconds to show just one.
  • It’s also a bit slow to actually show adjustments as you make them, a lot of the time.  Aperture, despite not being updated for many years to take advantage of all sorts of new technologies, is still much more responsive and fluid, and consequently faster to use.
    • I did notice that Capture One is also a bit sluggish sometimes, in this respect.  Sad panda – everyone’s screwing this up, it seems.
  • When you scroll around in the grid view, it’s a bit janky – see prior point on Lightroom just generally being sluggish – but even worse, it doesn’t show the photo’s metadata reliably.  A lot of it is invisible for a while, ‘loading in’ some time later.  It’s really annoying to have to frequently wait for Lightroom to get around to actually showing me the grid view properly.  And it’s also very distracting to see the metadata popping in at random intervals for random photos.
  • Its search & filtering tools are kinda piss-weak.  e.g. you can do a text search of metadata for only one thing at a time.  And you can’t even specify what metadata you want to search, with very few exceptions.
  • As I’d shown previously, its RAW renderer is not very good.  Image quality out of the box is very poor – mainly that even bright, ISO 100 shots have unacceptably high noise visible and require strong noise reduction.  This is unnecessary in every other RAW renderer I’ve ever used (Aperture wasn’t great either, granted, but at least it erred on the side of not noisy-as-heck by default; it’s much easier to add sharpening as necessary than to have to noise reduce every time).
    • And its noise reduction tool isn’t great either – much like Aperture’s, it’s ham-fisted and often requires painstaking brush-work to selectively apply it to each photo.
  • Its sharpening tool is not very good either.  It introduces grittiness and nasty edge haloes really quickly, relative to how much actual sharpness & detail it’s revealing.  Now I understand why so many Lightroom users seem to use 3rd-party sharpening (and noise reduction) plug-ins.
    • On the upside, vs Aperture, it does let you set a detail-sensitive ‘mask’, which helps reduce brushwork somewhat.  Unfortunately it lacks the corresponding slider for its noise reduction tool, which reintroduces the need to do painstaking brushwork.
  • Its system for managing brush masks is surprisingly awkward.  Aperture was much more straightforward (though not without its own foibles, like not letting you share masks between adjustment tools).  e.g. to see an overlay of where the mask actually is, you have to however the mouse over a tiny little dot – and there may be several on the photo, if you’ve added several different masks, with no way to distinguish them other than their arbitrary locations.  And worse, you have to wait a couple of seconds, every time, for the mask overlay to actually appear.  And then as soon as you move off the dot – e.g. to actually modify the mask – it disappears!  Ridiculous!
    • Capture One has the best implementation of this that I’ve seen, so far.  There’s a couple of things about Capture One’s that I find a little awkward, compared to Aperture’s, but overall it’s still the best.
  • It’s possible to have filters applied but the filter bar hidden.  Very confusing – it took me quite some time to figure out why a bunch of photos simply weren’t showing up.  It’d make much more sense, IMHO, to have the ‘hide the filter bar’ option only apply when there aren’t any filters actually applied.  Though I do recognise the counter-opinion.
  • Deleting photos is unnecessarily difficult.  If you’re viewing a collection, there’s no way to do it directly.  The least sucky way I’ve found is to mark target photos as ‘Rejected’, and then go to the “All Photographs” view and hit command-delete.  Lots of unnecessary steps and distracting from the workflow.
  • Its built-in Flickr export forces all photos to sRGB.  Sad, blunt fail.
    • There is a popular third-party plug-in, Photo Upload, which I’m using for now, but I keep finding it rubs me a bit the wrong way.  Hopefully just a matter of getting used to it – FlickrExport for Aperture, which I’d relied on previously, wasn’t perfect either.  And on the upside, the author seems very responsive and courteous, which is refreshing and encouraging.
  • Import from SD cards is a little sluggish.  Not terrible – I’m talking ~60 MB/s on a card & reader combo capable of ≥80 MB/s – but it’s still a bit disappointing.  Aperture is faster.
  • Its metadata editing interface is certainly better than Capture One’s horrible & buggy one, but still a far cry from Aperture’s.  I miss being able to customise the metadata view, but beyond that, even basic things are a bit awkward, like the ‘Title’ and ‘Caption’ fields being tiny and thrown arbitrarily down towards the end of the list.
    • Though it does have one handy thing – clicking on the field name shows a pop-up menu listing recently used values, which is actually a thoughtful touch.  Auto-completion is also available, but it’s nice to avoid the keyboard <-> mouse shift.
  • I still don’t like its modality.  I find I have to shift between ‘Library’ and ‘Develop’ modes a lot, which’d be tedious enough even without the fact that a whole bunch of keyboard shortcuts are different between the two.  Super annoying.  I keep hitting keys expecting some predictable result, and instead just get NSBeeps, or totally undesired effects, or worse – just a flash of a menubar item with no indication of what the #%@! just happened, or how to undo it.  Gah!

And I could go on.  And probably will in future – I need somewhere to vent and mind-bogglingly Adobe offer no way to actually file bug reports & feature requests with them directly.

I really get the impression that Adobe haven’t paid due attention to their [former] competition, Aperture.  There’s just so many things that Aperture has done better for nearly a decade now.  If they were holding off ‘copying’ it out of some sense of honour, that’s respectable, but the time for it has long passed, given Aperture’s demise.

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