In this article we'll take a look at what benefits Aperture has to offer photographers working with digital camera RAW files. Shooting digital RAW images offers fantastic creative freedom. The main issue is finding a way of unleashing this, without becoming bogged down in a quagmire of files that take hours to adjust and narrow down to a few keepers. Then there is the issue of storage, as some RAW workflow solutions require space for the original RAW file plus any processed versions that may be produced, which can soon add up. Digital workflow itself can be fraught with problems. It's difficult to know whether the best images from a batch of files have been produced without an effective way to compare what is there in real time and at full resolution. These are all issues Aperture aims to address with the following key features.
Download and try Aperture for yourself, with a free trial serial number.
Working with data
Aperture's primary role is to make creating output from RAW files as quick, simple and high quality as possible. Just like working with JPEGs in fact, but with the additional quality benefits that RAW data brings, such as better dynamic range, low noise without sacrificing detail and greater control of colour and tone. Every change applied is saved as an instruction in Aperture's database, rather than a change to the original file. This means any processing can be effectively cancelled and the original file retained unscathed. The result is the ability to experiment freely, applying complex changes which can be reversed at any time. By saving changes as instructions, Aperture has the ability to create many different versions of the same file without hogging hard drive space. The saved instructions use only a fraction of the space that saving multiple TIFFs would entail.
More on Aperture's unique approach to RAW workflow.
Without organisation, important images can get lost amidst thousands of files. Aperture provides powerful keywording and image organisation tools to make certain that images are easy to sort and find again when they are most needed. Wherever files are stored, Aperture records the location and can store previews of images placed on remote drives so that the entire image library is readily accessible. Correct keywording of files on import makes it a breeze to locate images in the Aperture library that may have otherwise been forgotten or lost. Say, for example, if there are several images of a similar subject, taken at different times, it is easy find a specific file. Aperture can also be set to automatically back up precious files to a vault, located on a separate hard drive, or disk. This protection is vital, and should the worst ever happen this will provide peace of mind that all important work can be retrieved with the minimum of fuss. It's a good feature to have, as it's one of those things people never think about until it's too late.
More on Aperture's fully-featured photo management system.
Choosing the best shot
Digital photography has many advantages, one of which is the ability to take many shots and choose the best one from a group and discard the others. Fantastic as this is, several problems can occur as a result of inferior workflow. Say, for example there are a few virtually identical shots of the same subject and you want to pick the best one as a keeper. By flicking back and forth through these images, it can become easy to lose track of which is best. In the worst case scenario, there is the chance that the wrong image may end up being processed. Aperture provides powerful tools for making sure this never happens. Multiple images can be viewed on screen at once, side-by-side, or as a stack to be scrutinised in detail using the loupe tool's variable zoom feature, and because the whole RAW file is being examined, what you see is what you get.
More on Aperture's powerful compare-and-select tools
Safer, non-destructive saving
When editing an image in Photoshop, there's always the risk of saving an edited version of a file over the original. If the edited version was for the web as well, that action could spell disaster. Aperture's non-destructive image-processing system makes this impossible, as the original, master file remains untouched so this can be reverted back to at any point. By saving changes as sets of instructions to be applied to the image, rather than as definitive changes to the file, creating multiple versions of the same image is made simple and has minimal impact on hard drive space usage. Essential editing tools are available to adjust exposure, hue or saturation. Also, RAW processing commands can be strung together to make custom presets, tailored to specific cameras, making future edits quick and simple.
More on Aperture's non-destructive image works.
Proof is in the profile
By using custom profiles, which are available for most professional printers, Aperture allows the look of the print to be previewed accurately first, saving the time and expense of producing numerous proofs. Aperture's simple contact sheet resizes images automatically to spread across the number of sheets specified. Aperture even includes an integrated system for ordering silver-halide prints online from a lab or for creating online web galleries, making it incredibly easy to showcase work to prospective clients, or even friends and family. Custom-designed books can also be designed in Aperture. These can be either saved as a PDF for sending to a printer, printed at home or ordered through Aperture's integrated ordering service. Options for hard or soft bound books are available and images are printed at 300dpi for optimum quality.
More on Aperture's printing and publishing feature.
Operation and integration
Aperture is available exclusively for use on Macintosh computers, which means it integrates flawlessly with the Mac OSX operating system and other industry standard programs such as Photoshop or InDesign. Files can be moved between programs by simply dragging and dropping them. Automated workflows can be created for completing common tasks using Automator and images stored in other photo browsers, such as iPhoto, can be imported into an Aperture library without moving the actual files anywhere. Comprehensive support for, and integration with, Photoshop allows it to be identified as an external editor so that images can be exported, edited and the returned to the Aperture library, making complex workflows simple to instigate. Aperture also allows photographers to send pictures to an online image library, such as iStockPhoto, in a couple of clicks, making it easy to build up a stock photography library very quickly. One of the key features of Aperture is in fact the third party plug-in scene. There are numerous sites hosting plug-ins for creating things like flash web sites, Final Cut projects and direct export to Flickr. The system has been designed to be easy to write and implement new plug-ins, further supporting and enhancing the functionality of the program.
More on Aperture's integration with Mac OSX and other programs.
The Macintosh digital darkroom
At the heart of Macintosh's operating system, OSX, lie potent tools and utilities that make working with images a breeze. For a start, OSX's Core Image engine utilises the full processing power of the graphics card, freeing up CPU power for processing RAW images in Aperture. This means less waiting around and more getting on with the job of processing images. Apple's ColorSync technology is another essential feature, which ensures the colours on-screen are accurate. ICC profile support for individual devices, such as cameras, printers and scanners ensures faithful colour from import, right through to print. Other powerful utilities, designed to make life easier include Spotlight, which uses image metadata to guarantee that images will never be lost amongst similar files on the hard drive again and Automator which creates custom actions to complete repetitive tasks, even across multiple programs.
Macintosh computers are available to suit photographers across the board, from those on a budget to those who require cutting edge technology for demanding projects. For example, the Mac mini
offers Intel Core Duo processing power at an affordable price, (currently from £399) which can be customised to include up to 2Gb of DDR memory and 160Gb of hard disk storage. The Mac Pro lies at the other end of the scale, containing two of Intel's latest 64-bit Xeon dual core processors running at speeds of up to 3GHz per core to deliver advanced performance and workstation graphics. Build-to-order options available for processors, graphics cards, memory, storage and other features provide a choice of up to 4.9 million configurations, so you can be sure to get your ideal system.
More on why Macs make the perfect digital darkroom.
Don't just take our word for it...
Aperture is used by professional photographers worldwide who require the speed, ease of use and security it provides. Apple have posted videos on their website here
where four, world-renowned, photographers, such as Purlitzer Prize winning photographer Vincent Laforet, who shoots for the New York Times, and Sports Illustrated staff photographer, Bill Frakes explain how this software helps their workflow by allowing them to concentrate on being creative.
By downloading the free trial, you can see how Aperture provides a comprehensive set of tools designed to help you make the most of your images.
As they say, the proof of the pudding is in the tasting, so if you haven't done so already, register for the free trial. It's easy and will allow full use for 30 days. To do so, please visit the Aperture free trial page.
For further information
Aperture product pages
Free 30-day Trial
Aperture Online Seminars
Free Aperture Plug-ins, for making cool Flash Web sites etc.
Now that the advantages and features of Aperture have been explained, and you've tried the free trial for yourself, it's time to see how much of this information has sunk in.
We are giving away three, full copies of Aperture 1.5. To be in with a chance of becoming one of the lucky few, simply answer the following multiple choice questions about Aperture's key features, and email them, along with your name, to: email@example.com.
Which Mac do you need to run Aperture?
Which of the following is a powerful tool, which makes checking the sharpness of an image at full size, a simple one-click task?
- Minimum an iMac or MacBook Pro
- Aperture will run on any Mac on offer today, including Mac Mini, iMac, MacBook Pro and Mac Pro
- Minimum Mac Pro
Any changes made in Aperture can be undone at any time because the editing system is...
Winners will be chosen at random from the correct entries after 31 May 2007. Good luck!
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- The prize winners will receive the prize as featured. There is no cash alternative to the prize as stated.
- Unfortunately, due to restrictions from the sponsor, only UK entries are eligible to win a prize.
- The deadline for entering the competition is midnight (GMT) on the 31 May 2007.
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- We reserve the right to modify these rules without notice. (Last modified; 22 March 2007)