Aperture 3 allows you to download audio-video files and moving pictures can be trimmed for basic editing and exporting.
Up until Apple released Aperture in November 2005, photographers were using three types of programs to work on their images in post. These included the browser-like Photostation, which was later overtaken by Photo Mechanic for initial editing and batch captioning, a raw converter like Capture One Pro, and finally post-processing in the shape of Photoshop.
Aperture changed all of that by bringing editing, captioning and processing under one roof, with just the need to go to Photoshop for more complex retouching of some images. Two-and-a-half years later, Aperture 2.1 introduced its adjustments plug-in architecture, which when used with plug-ins such as Viveza made Photoshop almost unneccessary.
The beauty of Aperture has always been that all the adjustments you do, and all the versions you create of the same image within the program, never take up any extra space as they are merely instructions that are applied once the image is exported for use.
Granted, this doesn’t apply if you need to export into Photoshop, or a plug-in such as Viveza. In these circumstances a second version of the image is created and the change applied is permanent and cannot be undone once applied.
For many, the most significant change to the latest version, 3, is the addition of non-destructive brushes that allow the photographer to dodge-and-burn, polarise and smooth to their heart’s content, straight “onto” the raw image. The beauty of this is that any of the multitude of brushes is non-destructive and just stores the instruction for the change, as opposed to modifying the original image file.
What’s more, almost all of the adjustments can be applied by using these non-destructive brushes. This means that having to create new versions of the image by exporting to Photoshop or a plug-in is no longer necessary, as most things can be done in Aperture’s non-destructive environment. If this wasn’t enough, these brushes also have edge detection, which stops the action being performed from bleeding over.
For me and my work as an editorial photographer, the next most helpful change is the way that importing images has been altered. The program now downloads all the JPEG previews from your raw files, and these pop up almost instantly as you plug in your card. This allows you to begin editing images, captioning and even adding adjustments while the raw images are still downloading.
Another very neat addition to the importing feature is letting the program split images into different Projects automatically, based on time or date differences. To add to this, you have a preset – either user-generated or one of the program’s own – added to the files as they import. These are extremely useful and range from correction-type presets to creative ones like cross-processing. Naturally, they can be applied freely.
My preferred way of editing, after I’ve done my rough first edit, is to place the cursor on the part of the image that has to be critically sharp. I then hit the Z key to zoom into 100%. The helpful addition to Aperture 3 is that if now I hit a cursor key to edit through my images, all the zoomed-in actions will be applied to the same point. This saves an enormous amount of time, and added to the blisteringly fast import, means that an edit is done in no time.
This feature has been further improved by allowing zooming in more than 100%, which is very helpful when retouching very fine detail. This was one of the reasons why I had a need for Photoshop – no matter how fine the dust particle might be, I can now handle it in Aperture, saving time and disk space. And for users with smaller screens, like the 13-inch Mac Book Pros, working in full screen now allows access to all the controls you would get in the normal view.
The new Faces feature has to be seen to be believed. With an enormously high accuracy rate, it trolls through the hard drive picking up almost every single face – not only obvious ones such as in a portrait, but faces in the background in crowds and so on.
Once the user begins to tag these faces, the program gets more accurate at spotting them and tagging them. On exporting an image, these names are written to the keywords in the metadata. Naturally, inside Aperture they can be used to locate people. This is an intensive process when you’re working with large image libraries, and the first time you do it, so I’d advise setting aside some time and allowing your machine to run overnight.
Places is also extremely useful for attaching GPS tags to your images. These can come from your camera (if it has this function), from an iPhone 3Gs if you were to take a shot at the same location, or it can be manually done using map views inside the application.
Although a Levels man myself, I know some of my colleagues prefer to work in Curves, which is also now supported, as is built-in integration with picture sharing and social networking sites such as Facebook and Flickr.
But there’s one new feature will likely sell version 3 more than all the others combined. Recently, I’ve jumped into the deep end, experimenting with audio and video alongside my photography. The good news is that Aperture 3 can now handle all of this and has become the hub of all my multimedia work.
You can now download all your audio-video files, and moving pictures (including HD) can be trimmed for basic editing and exported into an editing program like iMovie or Final Cut Pro, or exported out for use in various forms. The same is true for audio files. You can also export the project, consolidating the master files and use these as your backup.
For my short film, Homage, I chose all the best clips by star ratings in Aperture 3 and used the caption field to make necessary notes. When in Final Cut Pro, these notes made it very easy to edit. It’s also now extremely easy to put together audio slideshows, blending photos, multi-layered audio and text together and allowing effects like those pioneered by Ken Burns. The slideshow can then be exported as a QuickTime movie and uploaded to the web.
It’s not all smooth sailing. Before the release of the recent 3.0.1 update, there were reports of problems, including issues upgrading picture libraries from version 2, and another affecting users who do heavy retouching complaining of “memory leak”. Two of my three computers operated a smooth upgrade, but the third – a library of more than 380,000 referenced images and 44,000 managed files – did have a problem.
After I repaired the permissions and rebuilt the library in version 2, and with the release of v3.0.1, the upgrade went smoothly, taking around four days to complete. (Some user intervention before upgrading is a must. For extensive tips on this visit my blog. The update has also fixed the memory hole.
But having used version 3 for my day-to-day work for several months now, I can’t express how enthusiastic I am about it. For today’s multimedia photographer it’s an absolute must.
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