In Thursday's blog post, I talked about how the lack of a photo organization system might be causing you to take fewer photos so you don't have to deal with them... and that this is the worst thing that you could do. You'll never get those moments back!

Instead, I talked about creating a robust system that works, and how the first step towards doing so is knowing what software to use.

I shared with you my recommendation, which is that if you take a lot of photos of your kids that you actually want to be able to do something with, the best software to use is Aperture or Lightroom.

Today, in the second of a three part blog series, I'm going to talk about what Aperture and Lightroom actually are, whether they are the right choice for you, and how to choose between them.

Aperture and Lightroom are both software programs with similar image organization and editing capabilities, and used by both consumers and professionals.

Both programs help you create what is essentially a database of photos that you can organize, sort and search through in multiple ways to make it really easy to find the photos you need, when you need them.

Here are some of the most useful features and benefits:

  • You can organize from within the software by viewing thumbnails and setting up search parameters rather than trying to organize them on your computer's desktop... if you are still organizing your photos in folders on your desktop, believe me, this is so much easier and quicker, and it will save you a TON of time.

  • You can also sort and filter using different parameters such as date (most common), file name, the camera you used or even your camera settings. This makes it really easy to organize or quickly search for and find the photos you are looking for. For example, if you are looking at your photos and feel you are missing some of the photos from that day, you can search by date and pull up ALL photos taken that day to find the missing ones, even if you mis-filed them.

  • You can also use stars, flags, labels, keywords etc. to further categorize photos so you can easily find them later. For example, you can star your best photos, or label them for a particular use, and then create a smart album to automatically pull them up in once place. This spares you the busy work of collecting the photos manually, and saves you time and aggravation as well. It's great for albums or special projects such as a yearly photo calendar where you want to pull together photos from different days and months. For example, I just did this for the Fitzpatrick 2013 Calendar - I went through all my photos from this year and tagged potential calendar candidates with a color label. My smart album pulled up all the photos from this year with that color label into one place, from which I could create my calendar.

  • You can easily create the file and folder structure you want, and sort your photos in many different ways without creating multiple copies of the photo (think of iTunes and playlists - a song can be in many playlists but you only have one copy of it). This makes it easy for you to organize your photos in a few different ways so you can find them when you need them, without confusing yourself or taking up space with duplicates. For example, in addition to sorting photos by date, you could also create a folder for all "ice hockey" or "dance recital" or "sent to grandma" photos so you can find them that way too.

  • You can use advanced editing features through simple, intuitive controls - most consumers don't actually need to use photoshop, but you can have a lot of the power for a fraction of the cost. This means it's easier than ever for you to make your photos look more professional through some fast but powerful editing moves. For example, you can use adjustment brushes to apply edits to just one part of a photo, such as a person's face. You can also use the clone tool to remove distracting objects from the background.

  • You can quickly apply the edits from one photo to a whole batch of them, saving you time and giving you consistency across a series of photos.

  • Your edits are non-destructive, which means that you never have to worry about messing up your original photo - you can always go back to the original.

  • It is easy to keep your photos on an external hard drive and work on them from there so they don't clog up your main hard drive and slow your computer down. This is great especially if you have an older computer and/or take a lot of photos. Have you ever found yourself trying to clean up space on your hard drive in a panic because you're starting to get warnings from your computer? I'm not saying that won't happen again, but if it does, it won't be because of your photos!

These are just some of the main features that, as a busy parent, I know you'll find time saving and useful. I'm not saying that these features are unique to Aperture or Lightroom, nor have I tried and tested every single software program out there. But from my research and experience, these are two of the best. I've never actually made a specific software recommendation before in my workshops, but as I've probed deeper into this with my one-on-one clients over the past few months, I have decided that I am ready to!

And by the way, if you do have Photoshop or Photoshop Elements, I still recommend that you consider Aperture or Lightroom, as the editing tools are more user-friendly and easier to use, editing is non-destructive (which it isn't in Photoshop or Elements) and the organization features are more powerful. You can still use Photoshop or Elements to edit photos from within Aperture or Lightroom if you need to (that's what I and many other professional photographers do).

So, you might be wondering, which is it, Aperture or Lightroom?

Aperture is made by Apple and is available for the Mac only. Lightroom is made by Adobe (the same people who make Photoshop) and available for both Mac and PC.

If you have a PC, your choice is made for you - Lightroom.

However, if you have Mac, you have a choice.

Aperture has a few advantages:

  1. It is an easier transition from iPhoto because the interface and the way it handles photos is similar (but much much better).
  2. It syncs nicely with your iPhone through Photo Stream so your iPhone photos are automatically imported wirelessly into Aperture - I love this feature!
  3. It has a very flexible and customizable book design module. I've used Aperture for over 3 years now and I chose it specifically because of the book design module. If you've created albums or other products from within iPhoto, you have access to almost all the same products from Aperture, but it's also really easy to create custom templates for pages that you can then upload to almost any book vendor.

Lightroom has a couple of major advantages:

  1. Because of its availability on the PC, it has far more users, so there are many more resources to support the use of Lightroom, from books, to workshops, tutorials, blog posts etc.
  2. There has been some debate about the future of Aperture and what Apple's plans are for this software. This is open to speculation and interpretation, but there is not the same debate about Lightroom's future.

However, one thing to note is that the book design module in Lightroom is much more limited right now, so that's something to consider if you're interested in making books and albums from within your software (which I highly recommend - it's so much easier than having to upload your photos and design your books online as you have to with most vendors).

There are other nuances that professionals (and obsessed consumers!) can spend hours in debating when comparing Aperture to Lightroom but honestly, as a parent photographing your kids, I don't think those things are going to make much of a difference for you.

The only other factor I suggest you consider is... which do you like better? While both programs have similar capabilities, the interface through which you work with your photos is different, so ultimately I would say that if you're having trouble deciding, download the free 30 day trial version of both and poke around in each to see if there's one that you like better.

Of course, if you're happy with the software you are using and how it allows you to both organize and edit your photos, then there is absolutely no reason to switch.

Made your decision and are ready to get started?

I've designed a quick and easy workshop that will take you through everything that you, a busy parent, needs to know, about either Aperture or Lightroom.

Read more about the workshop here.

And check out the third blog post in this series of three where I will talk about the three most important elements of your organization system.