Wednesday, May 23, 2007
A Look Through Aperture
Developed quietly and unveiled dramatically, the new image workflow software from Apple is a professional application that handles RAW files in a novel way to put some speed in your digital work
Apple has clearly listened to pro photographers when it comes to metadata support. It automatically extracts EXIF and IPTC metadata on import to the Library and lets you add other metadata at the same time, such as keywords, copyright information and captions—much easier than adding this information after the fact.
Keyword Sets are a great feature for quickly adding a number of standard keywords to your images. Aperture ships with several sets, and custom sets can be created to match your needs. When selecting a set, all keywords within that set are shown in a hierarchical format that allows you to select a single keyword or a group of related keywords, which can be applied to individual or multiple images. Once all keywords have been added, it's a simple process to “clone” them to other images.
Search has been optimized for photographers needing to find a set of photos in a Library of thousands. Fully editable, you can search on any image criteria, such as date, format, keyword and more. Multiple criteria make it possible to filter the results even further, and searches can be saved for future use.
Working With Images
Aperture's stacks are a godsend for busy photographers. Stacks are exactly what they sound like—groups of related images stacked together for easy management. You can create your own by dragging images from projects, folders or anywhere in your Library, or use the cool automatic creation, which is based on time between capture, making bracketed exposures or sequence shots easy to identify and work with. After stacking images, you can rate your images from one to five stars or give the image a “reject” rating. Stacks can be collapsed to conserve workspace, with the highest-rated image automatically being placed on top. A useful Compare feature lets you identify one image as the master against which to compare others. As you move the cursor over each image, it's automatically placed next to the master for easy selection of the best image.
It's not hard to fill up a hard drive with multiple versions of a photo, each with different crops or color adjustments, such as black-and-white conversions. Aperture takes a different approach to this by saving only the instructions needed to make these changes to the master image. Versions take very little disk space and have the advantage of making changes to that version simple. You can reopen a version and modify the settings, saving it over the old version or as a new one.
Other image-processing features include exposure adjustment and levels adjustment with midtone and quadtone control, as well as Auto settings, highlight and shadow adjustment, red-eye correction, hue and saturation correction, straighten, sharpening with Unsharp Mask or Luminance channel sharpening, and channel mixer control for converting to black-and-white.
The tool that excites us, though, is the Spot tool. Finally, we can correct dust and blemishes on multiple images by simply correcting one image and cloning that adjustment non-destructively to other images.
Aperture plays well with JPEG, TIFF and Photoshop files (with limitations—early word indicates that version 1.0 doesn't support layered PSD files), but photographers shooting RAW will find Aperture most appealing. Rather than using the SDKs available from camera manufacturers, Aperture uses its own code to process RAW files. The primary reason for this is speed (and if you've used Nikon Capture or Canon Digital Photo Professional, you'll understand why speed improvements are needed). All supported RAW formats—currently, Canon, Nikon, Olympus and Konica Minolta, are included as Core Images, which means that updates will be regular and come as part of OS updates.
The RAW processing features cover everything that we've come to expect and need, including all of the tools mentioned earlier, as well as color temperature, tint and noise reduction. In fact, Aperture makes no distinction between file types, so all adjustments are available to you regardless of the file format. As versions of your RAW images are created, they can be automatically added to a stack for easier review and selection.
Aperture includes a number of output options for your photos, all with full color-management support through ColorSync for accurate results. Softproofing is included to fine-tune the images for the intended output, and settings can be saved for different needs, such as proof sheets on a particular paper-printer combination. Along with fully customizable contact sheets, you can print gallery or proof prints of any size.
Aperture includes book publishing with a layout engine that allows for manual or automatic page layout. Prints can be sent to a service for hard- or soft-cover publishing, or you can output to your printer or PDF file. Along with printing, Aperture includes Web publishing with a number of templates, which can be customized or used as is, and supports publishing to your own Website, .Mac (Apple's online Web service) or to disc for distribution to clients. Image-quality settings and watermarking are available options when outputting to Websites.