November 01, 2010 — There are only a few companies in the technology industry that can truly claim they have an entire product ecosystem. Apple is among one of the even fewer groups that can claim to have a comprehensive and complete ecology of hardware, software and mobile devices that integrate to create a seamless experience for the users. Aperture is one part of this ecology and is geared for professional and serious photographers to seamlessly process and present their images.
In 2006, Aperture changed the way that we handled and organized our digital images. The label “digital asset management” existed then as a subcontext to general file organization framework. When it was released there was really no other program around that could manage all aspects of digital photography—the organization, storage, processing and presentation of the images. The program has seen its fair share of improvements through each release—Version 3 is no different. This release can be seen as the most significant Aperture upgrade to date. Apple has worked hard with this version by releasing a new RAW decoder, along with many other user experience improvements. I’ll highlight some of the new features that I found useful and share some insight with attention to the performance and real-world practicality.
Image Presentation & Slideshow
Since the first release, Aperture’s strong suit has always been in the area of image presentation and final output. It has the ability to reproduce images on a variety of mediums from photo books to slideshow presentation. This release is no different. In Version 3 Apple has improved their album options where all hardcover albums now come with a photo-wrapped cover and also, they’ve added a larger 13 x 10-inch book to the line-up. Additionally, they have also made available a book plug-in, so that album makers can create an integrated book-publishing environment. Some of those album makers already on board are GraphiStudio, Queensberry, Coutour Books and Leather Craftsman.
Slideshow has also seen remarkable improvements as well. This version can now handle videos captured from DSLRs; it can import, manage and play back most video formats from within the program. This capability is now leveraged in Slideshow, where photographers may create a mixed-media presentation that infuses both still images and motion videos with ease. In addition, multiple track audios, each with independent sound leveling may be overplayed on the slideshow, creating an even richer presentation. As an example, I can have a score play through a wedding slideshow and overlay sound bites of the vows at important key scenes.
Faces & Places
Faces and Places are another group of new features unique to Apple software and Aperture. These two features are based on the consumer technology built into iPhoto ’09 (released in January 2009). Though the basic functions are the same as in iPhoto, Aperture being the professional sibling, carries its own set of enhancements. For instance, iPhoto Faces identification is global throughout the image library; in Aperture the identification can be specific to a project.
I found the localization of Faces to be quite useful. Let’s think of weddings, for instance. At almost every wedding there is a mother of the bride. Because Aperture can now identify faces within a project, I can now use a generic identifier “Bride’s Mom” for all my weddings. In doing this I know that I can later search for images tagged with “Bride’s Mom” by specific wedding. One thing to keep in mind is that Faces is based on a computer algorithm, which does need some manual identification or training when first initialized. Figure 1 shows a screen shot of the Aperture Library organized with Faces.
In addition to organizing images by the faces in them, Aperture can also sort images by the location where they were captured with Places. If an image already has GPS data in the file, the program will automatically add a pin to the map. However, it gets really helpful when images have no GPS data. With Aperture I can search a location by typing in the point of interest and it will automatically add the GPS coordinate in the images for me.
For instance the images in Figure 2 were tagged with the keyword “The Louvre” and the coordinate information is automatically added to my file. Finally I found that Places comes in really handy with Reverse Geo-Tagging. With the images in Figure 2, for example, I can search for any image tagged “The Louvre” using phrases such as “Paris” or “France” and that image will show up through Reverse Geo-Tagging. Be aware that to fully utilize Places to its full potential, you need to be connected to the Internet.
Selective Adjustment with Brushes
Finally, a much-improved feature that comes in very handy when working with images, is the selective adjustments done with brushes. Unlike the previous version of Aperture, all of the selective adjustments are now done to the actual RAW files and no longer need an intermediary TIFF file. There are many pre-defined brushes that ship with the program; referred to as Quick Brush, these can perform tasks such as dodge and burn, increase contrast, sharpen, soften skin and many others.
What I discovered to be really useful is that other adjustments made globally to an image can be converted into brush adjustments. With the image in Figure 3 for example, I would use the color adjustment brick to enhance the sky but, when I do so globally, it affects the foreground of the image, as well as the sky. To solve this dilemma I’ve converted this adjustment brick into a brush and brushed the effect into the sky area. Using the same principle, I made a duplicate of the enhancement brick and made a brush out of it as well to further give definition to the sky without affecting the entire image. The final image with the brush effect and Adjustment HUD (Heads-Up Display) can be seen in Figure 4.
Version 3 of Aperture is a remarkable improvement over previous versions. The new features shipped with Aperture 3 are quite robust and powerful. I have only touched on a few of the new elements that can enhance your workflow and organization. The Apple Web site offers video tutorials, professional photographer testimonials, text articles, descriptions of the 200 plus new features on Version 3 and a 30-day free trial of the program. This is a test drive worth the taking!
Art Suwansang is an award winning international wedding photographer, educator and lecturer based in Southern California. He lectures for multiple photographic organizations, consults for multiple photographers and companies internationally and offers digital photography tutorials through his new website Rule of 3Rds (www.Ro3Rds.com). Additionally, he is also an adjunct faculty at Brooks Institute in Santa Barbara and Santa Monica. For more information, visit Art’s Web site at www.Wedding64.com.