DPP Home Software Image Processing Photoshop Takes A Backseat

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Photoshop Takes A Backseat

As Apple Aperture and Adobe Photoshop Lightroom have advanced and evolved, these packages offer capabilities that give professionals the ability to streamline workflow with local editing power

This Article Features Photo Zoom

FIGURE 4: Aperture plug-ins are accessed through the Edit With command
It appeared as if both Apple and Adobe would take a similar approach and try to limit the functionality to traditional darkroom tools or corrections that should have happened before the photo was taken. The first such tools were dust/spot correction and red-eye removal. Later, other features were added, like selective color correction, where certain changes would only take effect within a specified color range.

Soon, photographers were able to perform more basic image adjustments in Aperture or Lightroom than they ever could have done in the darkroom, all but one that is: dodging and burning.

Rev. 2.0…

Dodging and burning, or the ability to selectively lighten or darken certain areas of an image for dramatic effect or to better balance difficult exposures, was one of the most valuable features missing from these applications to really complete the photographic toolkit. This feature was added to Aperture version 2.1 and later Lightroom 2.0, and it was well worth the wait.

The new Dodge & Burn tools went way beyond what was previously possible in a darkroom. Not only could you locally lighten and darken specific regions of an image, but you also could affect saturation, contrast and sharpness using the same tools.

While achieving similar results, Apple and Adobe’s implementation of this type of local correction differ significantly and may provide an indication of how the companies intend to address other local editing functionality in the future.

FIGURE 5: Rendering the TIFF file for editing in Aperture
The Apple Way
With Aperture 2.1, Apple introduced a new open plug-in architecture, allowing third-party developers to create new plug-ins or adapt their Photoshop plug-ins to work inside Aperture. The first plug-in, provided by Apple almost as a proof of concept, was its Dodge & Burn tool. With it, users could perform several types of local image enhancements on an image. Apple’s plug-in architecture supports both import/export modules, as well as image-enhancement plug-ins. To date, more than 70 plug-ins have been developed for Aperture.

The advantage of this approach is that it opens the door for other developers to easily enhance the Aperture feature set with their own technology, providing photographers with more tools from which to choose.

Unfortunately, the way it’s implemented doesn’t follow the same image-processing pipeline of other nondestructive tools within Aperture. When an image is loaded into a processing plug-in, a TIFF file is created from the original RAW image with current processing settings applied to it, just as if it were sent outside Aperture to Photoshop for further work.

While inside the plug-in, the user can modify the image and undo some of the changes made, but once they exit the plug-in, the changes are “baked” into the new TIFF file that’s stacked together with the original RAW file. It also takes longer to create the TIFF copy, load the plug-in and save it than just tweaking other global settings.

FIGURE 6: Aperture’s Dodge & Burn plug-in darkening the background
The real disadvantage of this workflow is that you lose the ability to go back and change earlier steps if needed. Say you had applied global corrections to an image and were happy with it; now you go in to dodge and burn selective areas and save the new version of the file. If you then decide that you’d prefer a different white balance setting or crop of the file, you can only go back to the RAW file settings prior to the dodge and burn step, and need to re-create the dodge and burn again.

Another drawback is that you can’t batch process the same plug-in settings to multiple images. You can only run the plug-in on individual images. Some may not consider this to be an issue since these changes are often image specific, but there are instances where this could be helpful either when working with similar images or when applying a global filter like Noise Ninja or black-and-white conversion like Nik Software Silver Efex through a plug-in.


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