Working with Apple Aperture

*First I’ll just mention that those considering Aperture, you can find it in the Mac App store (Aperture 3) for $79.99 vs. the boxed version for $199.00. Apparently the only difference as far as I know is that the App version doesn’t have the 7 Gb sample library which is basically a library full of tutorials to help you get acquainted with Aperture. But it in no way limits the editing, or exporting capabilities. *

Part II

Working with Aperture

Hump backed cricket

Adobe RAW, Aperture, Lightroom are wonderful tools and remarkably similar. Pretty much all my post-processing is done in Aperture. Here I’m able to do repair/healing and clone tools, and overall changes in exposure, etc… Even pretty ugly pictures can be turned around. The best part is that they retain almost all the information that they started with, unlike editing with other programs that lose information with each processing request.

A typical example of photo enhancing is as follows:

Original photo

Original photo of what I affectionately call a hump backed cricket. Taken in Bellavista cloudforest reserve, Ecuador.

There are a number of glaring problems chiefly is the distracting flare on the abdomen and head. The colours are also on the dark side and could be brightened. When choosing modification I choose to open up all the available palettes to give me the greatest flexibility of options though for some this may be too laborious or unnecessary.

Step 1

Retouching of the image using healing and clone brushes to remove glare.

The worst of the glare has been removed, the catchlights are left in the eye to provide a bit of texture and depth. All the modifications were made using the healing brush where the specular highlights were point sized, or using the clone brush where the highlights were too large. I turned up the opacity and other bar all the way up so that patterns could be clearly reproduced. If it is a particularly delicate area you can tone these down as you see fit. Try to use a brush size that is slightly smaller or of the same size as the repair that needs to be made, in this way you preserve as much detail in the original image as possible. If you take a larger sized brush than the adjustment to be made, you inevitably destroy some of the pixels that were ´good´to begin with.

Magnify the image to create the best looking results. To rapidly flip between the different viewing modes you need simply input ´v´ and pressing it multiple times will cycle through the different modes. The larger the viewing mode, half-screen vs. full-screen the longer the time it will take to make the adjustment, so if many corrections need to be made, sometimes it is simpler to do the adjustments on half-screen and check the results on full screen. Full screen vs. half-screen can likewise be accessed by simply cyclling via the ´f´ key. For very detailed work I find photoshop to be much superior in this regard. The best work is usually laborious and requires blending and cloning pixels at very high magnifications.  In photoshop I can zoom into the image 700x or greater to achieve this. Though it takes a long time the results are far superior. For general purpose editing though Aperture offers sufficient magnification and there is a loop or magnifying glass which you can scroll over the image to roughly 200x magnification to check detailed work.

Always take colour swatches from adjacent areas for the most realistic effects unless a distinct symmetry can be found in the subject. Healing brush may have a tendency to wash out the patterns slightly, where this is the case use the clone tool and at the juncture between brush strokes use the healing brush which is a pixel blender and will help remove patterns which the human eye is very adept at distinguishing. To make the brush strokes even less obvious you can make custom brushes that fit the patterns of the subject in question.

Step 2

Next apply enhancements like increases in saturation and vibrancy if needed. Here the contrast has been reduced (-.03) to give a smoother, creamier feel to the background rather than the harsh edges otherwise seen at higher contrasts. The saturation has also been minimally increased (+.03) since reducing the contrast usually gives a washed out look to the colours. I try never to increase saturation beyond 1.10 as the results begin to look artificial. Definition has also been increased to compensate for the loss of edge sharpness from a decrease in contrast.I am usually quite generous with my application of the definition bar and will sometimes put it all the way up to maximum since the effects are at times difficult to distinguish.

Enhancements in aperture include contrast, definition (sharpness), saturation and vibrancy.

Step 3

Changes in exposure and white balance have been made.

A slight shift towards a higher colour temperature gives this image a slightly warmer feel and the colours are brightened a bit by the increase in exposure (+.06). Where I can I use the exposure as my first stop to increase the brightness of the picture since it works gradually on the image like a curves adjustment, shifting each end of the curve according to the appropriate correction. One can also decrease the black point or use the shadows/highlights bar to achieve desired brightness levels. Using the brightness bar itself I find to produce harsher results and I more often end up with blown highlights using this method than any of the others and so use it only as a last resort.

Step 4

With modification in the light and shadows the image is finally ready. A single pass of noiseninja was made to reduce the noise and smooth the image. Slight modifications could probably still be made but I am satisfied with the results.

Light and shadows are modified to provide greater detail in each respective area (both slider bars are moved forward, more so for the “light” bar which I will often move to the maximum to reduce the highlights and regain detail, unless it darkens the image too much, and then I refrain. The Advanced palette was opened to enable access to the different contrast controls of high, medium and low tones for greater control. I decreased the midtones further for the softer look shown here, and increased the high and low tones to brighten the image further.

Compared to the original image I am pretty satisfied with the recovery process.

Step 5

An additional step that I have thought to add is local adjustment changes. These are changes to saturation, definition, contrast, blur, dodging (lightening) and burning (darkening) the image. To access these changes you can left click on the photo, go into edit photo and choose the first option (dodge/burn photo). The tag is misleading as the palette includes several additional editing options. This will open a new window with your photo. Here you can choose from all of the previously mentioned editing options and the program will provide you with a brush to make local adjustment changes. Experiment with the different options and you can always choose to either cancel or save the changes at the end. You can also choose the eraser tool using different opacities to remove some or all of the changes that you have made. Nb. When you select the eraser tool it functions only with the editing option that you have chosen and there is no eraser tool that removes all changes, for that you simply cancel all changes, or you must laboriously go through all the different tools and erase each one individually.

To facilitate navigation through the various adjustments, brushes, etc… learning the shortcut keys can be extremely useful. An extensive list can be seen HERE.

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