I recently traveled to Nassau, in the Bahamas, to shoot a wedding. One thousand and forty-five digital files later I wasn’t looking forward to the daunting task of editing all those images. Then I sat through a demo of Apple’s new imaging software, Aperture, and I knew my software savior had arrived.
I had the opportunity to test out the software on Apple’s new Power Mac G5 Quad, with quad processors, dual 1/2 terabyte hard drives, 4GB RAM, a DVD burner, and a 30” Apple HD Cinema Display. In addition to the computer’s Mighty Mouse—an optical mouse with a scrollball and multiple buttons—I also had access to a Wacom Intuos 3 graphics tablet. With its 6x11-inch surface area, the tablet was designed for use with widescreen cinema displays and really comes in handy when you’re dealing with the expanded work area of a larger, wider monitor.
One of the first things I noticed upon starting up the software is that it uses different descriptors for various tools and palettes than Adobe’s Photoshop. But the program is so intuitive that I had no problem finding my way around. To efficiently browse through and edit hundreds or thousands of images, you can resize the windows of your workspace, shrinking or enlarging thumbnails in the browser area, independent of the size of the main image you’re working on in the viewer portion of the workspace. Aperture makes it easy to sort images, and with a thousand taken during one wedding, I let it sort by image creation date, from the beginning of the day to the end of the evening. You can also drag and drop easily to rearrange the image order as necessary.
I really liked the ease with which I was able to make adjustments to the images. Since they were taken in changing lighting conditions, from ambient and fill-flash, to bright, mid-day sun, to shade, and the night shots with direct flash—I needed to make adjustments to exposures manually, as opposed to batch processing. Exposure, contrast, saturation, and brightness are adjusted using sliders, with an on-the-fly preview. Other adjustments included levels and white balance. The speed of the Apple G5’s quad processors and the 4GB of RAM meant I didn’t get slowed down waiting for the computer to catch up with my adjustments.
Aperture is made for use with RAW image files, so changes are never made to the master image file, but to Versions. I really liked working with Versions. Whether I created the versions from the master image file, or versions of Versions, it didn’t matter, because I could always go back and revise them. In the screenshot of six versions of one image (bottom right), I was able to look at the same image in full color, low saturation, B&W, cool blue tone, and two warmer tones, all at the same time.
Sifting through a dozen different portraits of the groom or 50 different images of the bride getting her hair styled was just as easy with the Stack feature; which lets you stack a group of similar images together. You can also tweak the variables for added control. Think of stacks of chromes on a lightbox.
Speaking of lightboxes, Aperture’s Lightbox feature allows you to place a number of images together, playing around with the sizes and layout, to see what works best in an album layout. Resizing and moving images is as easy as clicking and dragging. The Lightbox gave me the opportunity to try out a range of possible album layouts. I was able to work out an image order for the album, as well as decide on multiple-image layouts, moving images until they “fell right into place” with drag and drop simplicity. You can even print image layouts of images on the Lightbox to show clients—an invaluable tool. The contact sheet feature also makes it a breeze to print out digital contact sheets displaying the images in any order.
Aperture allows images to be viewed zoomed-out or in actual size. Another cool feature is the Loupe (above right). Just like an old fashioned loupe—hovering over chromes or negs on a lightbox—you simply drag the loupe over any of the images in the workspace, including thumbnails, for a detailed check of sharpness.
Finally, Aperture’s export feature lets you export a copy of the master digital file, as well as copies of the versions you’ve created, in various file formats, such as JPEG, TIFF, PSD, for use in other programs or for sending to a lab or album company. It’s a beautiful thing.