The Heartbreak That Was Aperture

I remember when I received the news from Apple: they were discontinuing their professional photo application, Aperture. The phone call was a heads up before the official press release broke. I thought it was a joke.

I wasn’t an Apple employee, but I had been working closely with the Pro Apps division for years. From 2010–14, I had a terrific relationship with the photography folks there, and even produced a podcast for the Aperture community. That all ended in June 2014. Not only for me, but for thousands of photographers who depended on that software for their work.

I never got a straight answer as to why they ceased development of such a popular product. No one was available to ask about it. My contacts had mysteriously migrated to other departments. Even that phone call was from someone I didn’t know. The entire situation was surreal, like learning from a street corner stranger that your girlfriend had broken up with you.

“What’s that again? And who the hell are you?”

The software replacing Aperture was called Photos. It would serve as the pretty face for Apple’s iCloud Photo Library. Cute, yes. Brains, no — at least not in the beginning.

My online photo community was furious. They had spent years building extensive image libraries with Apple’s software, only to have it ripped from their hands and tossed in the ash can. I tried to keep an open mind as I consoled these frustrated artists. “Maybe I’m not seeing the big picture,” I thought. “Maybe in the long run, this is for the best.”

Or maybe not.

We’re approaching the 7-year anniversary of Aperture’s demise, and many photographers are just as pissed-off as they were in 2014. In the world of technology, that’s quite an achievement. One new shiny object usually replaces another, and we move on. Not this time.

Photos for macOS is not Aperture, nor will it ever be. And the truly irritating part is that it could have been just as wonderful. More on that in a moment.

To be fair, over time Photos for macOS did evolve into an interesting piece of software. It integrates seamlessly with iPhones, supports truly powerful editing extensions, and ensures that you will never lose another picture thanks to automatic iCloud backup.

Its adjustment tools are spartan, but capable. You can start editing a picture on your iPad and finish it on a Mac. Photos is fast, fluid, and friendly.

But for many photographers, Photos lacks the qualities required for a long term relationship. Apple has insisted on excluding star ratings, crippling its metadata capabilities, and dumbing down the organizational tools that enthusiast photographers need in order to manage thousands of images.

Apple might argue that its sophisticated object recognition technology replaces other traditional forms of organization. Sounds great until you can’t find a picture. Why not give us both? We know you can do it.

I have an iPhone, iPad, MacBook, iMac, and AirPods. I truly enjoy using Apple products. But they lost a little piece of me back in 2014.

It was a bad break up. And like so many heartbreaks, it didn’t have to go that way.

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