There have been a few photo related blog posts and twitter conversations that I wanted to comment on.
First, buying digital SLR’s. Tim Bray commented on Dave Sifry’s Beginners Digital SLR buying guide, and ranted on the insanity of buying a camera based on the number of megapixels, which is a very common metric. Buying a digital SLR is a sizable task — I wrote about it last year. I didn’t recommend specific cameras, but I did try to point out a bunch of things that I wish someone had told me, in addition to the initial purchase of the camera. One thing that I would note is that there’s a lot more to taking photos than just the camera. Technology people tend to get obsessed with the specifications and features of the gear, but the most important piece of photographic equipment is between your ears. People think that having a good camera will automatically result in good pictures, but that just doesn’t make any sense. It’s like saying the buying really good paintbrushes will make one a painter, or that buying really good pots and pans will make one a chef. There’s nothing wrong with wanting a nicer/newer camera, just be aware that you aren’t going to turn into Ansel Adams when it arrives.
Second, post processing software. This one is a result of a late night Twitter storm between Stephen O’Grady, Tim Bray, and to a lesser extent, me. Steven wanted to know about choosing between iPhoto, Adobe Lightroom, and Apple’s Aperture. People on a Macintosh probably have iPhoto lying around, and it is decently competent for people are not photography enthusiasts. The cost of trying it is pretty minimal, since it is bundled with Mac OS X, although if you have an older Mac and haven’t upgraded iLife recently, it’s probably worth it to do that after giving it a try. iPhoto leverages OS X’s system wide RAW conversion, so it can even handle RAW files from DSLR’s and high end point and shoots.
That leaves Lightroom and Aperture. I was an early fan and adopter of Aperture, and I was pretty happy with it until recently. Since October, I’ve stopped running Lightroom and Aperture side by side and am only using Lightroom. I’ve now had a chance to really work with the Photoshop integration, which works decently well – I wish there was a way to go back and re-edit a Photoshopped version instead of Lightroom creating another copy, but you can work around this by opening the Photoshopped version with Photoshop directly — Lightroom correctly updates once you save the file. The Lightroom API’s have started to show, although not as quickly as I thought they would. Right now you can mostly get export plugins, which means there is now a way to publish to Flickr directly with Lightroom, although none of the plugins (or Flickr’s on Uploadr 3.0) is anywhere near a match for Frasier Speirs’ FlickrExport, which doesn’t have a Lightroom version.
More importantly, I’ve really lost a lot of faith in Apple in terms of the future of Aperture. I thought for sure that there would be an Aperture 2.0 when Leopard was released. We might still see it at MacWorld or PMA in late January, but it doesn’t build my confidence that Aperture is an important product. When I got Lightroom, on the other hand, it was at version 1.1 and is now up to version 1.3.1. Adobe was very public about Lightroom/Leopard issues, and has been relatively quick to address them. Apple, on the other hand, is following its usual tight lipped policy. Both of these programs are first versions, and each needs additional development. Apple is leaving me with a reasonable amount of doubt as to whether they are really committed to Aperture.