Apple Aperture

Last week I attended a
seminar put on by Apple and Canon on Apple’s new Aperture product.  Targeted
at professional photographers, but clearly usable by advanced amateurs,
Aperture appears to have the following functional goals:

  • Handling of RAW files (non-compressed or
    processed pictures)
  • Loads of printing options
  • Project management
  • Non-destructive image processing

I have not used it yet, but
I now have had several detailed demos that give me a pretty good feel for what
it is.  At the seminar, I also had the
chance to sit among many professional photographers and got their feedback. 

First, this is not a
replacement for Photoshop.  In no way is
Aperture an editor.  There are no layers,
no selections, no fills, no funky filters, no transformations, none of
that.  If you want to do any “digital
lying,” as my wife likes to call it, you need to stick with Photoshop or
similar to do that editing.  Photoshop
can be easily called from within Aperture, although you lose some of the
incremental change handling (see below) as a result.

You can use Aperture,
however, to adjust hue, contrast, brightness, saturation, sharpening and
exposure.  Unlike Photoshop, you can only
apply these changes to the entire image. 
If you’ve gotten used to futzing with images in an editor, Aperture
won’t become a standalone tool for you. 

This is a big problem for
many because a Universal Photoshop app (runs on both PowerPC and Intel-based
Macs) won’t be available for a while. 
That means that if you’ve already upgraded, or intend to upgrade to the
latest generation of machines soon, you may find yourself stranded without an

Of course, you can make most
of the adjustments that are available in Aperture in Photoshop already.  So why add another tool to your already
complicated workflow?  To me, it comes
down to two reasons, although only you can judge whether the $500 investment
and the added tool in your process makes sense. 

  1. RAW files are big.  They can be huge.  Think about 12.5Mp at 16-bits/channel
    with three channels uncompressed. 
    Like I said, BIG.  In order
    to maintain your original in an editor, the first thing you do is make a
    copy of the file.  Now you have two
    big files on disk.  Then you add
    layers and adjustments and perhaps another copy or two along the way.  Soon, one edited picture is taking up
    some real disk space (even in government terms).  Aperture keeps all changes to photos as
    increments which take up a very small amount of space.  At any time, you can undo the changes
    and get back to the original.  The
    original is actually never changed, so changes are completely
  2. Printing. 
    Apple has done a superb job at configuring printing options
    including producing beautiful web pages. 
    There is a light table feature in which you can layout your photos
    any way you’d like on virtually any size paper you’d like before printing.  Very nice and very easy to use.

Aperture’s handling of RAW
files is nice and its ability to do some easy categorizing and project management
for large groups of files is good, but these features are not unique to
Aperture and there are far less expensive tools than Aperture that perform
these tasks well. 

Aperture also has some nice
facilities for comparing pictures to decide which one better meets the goals of
the shot.  They use a virtual loop that
is a nice tool to compare detail, but it’s a gimmick that makes up for the fact
that Aperture really can’t do a lot of variable zooming – strange.

In the end, it seems like
Aperture would be an excellent plug-in for Photoshop.  At the very least, editing features need to
be combined with the processing features of Aperture to make a complete,
next-generation tool. 

Aperture will soon have
competition.  With Adobe’s acquisition of
Macromedia, they got a new tool called Lightroom that is available as a beta now from Adobe Labs.  Unlike
Aperture, Lightroom will also be available on Windows when it is released.

Aperture is beautiful and
fast but, in my opinion, doesn’t do enough to add to an already complicated
workflow – today.  Storing incremental
changes and reducing storage requirements for shots, especially if you take
thousands, is a big problem that needs to be addressed, though.  Either editors like Photoshop will have to
adopt this functionality or tools like Aperture and Lightroom will start to add
editing functionality and will take over.

Back to top button