Apple’s Aperture promises to be the end all photo management tool for rating, adjusting, cropping, processing and exporting your photos. However, because of a few missing features and its high price tag, I never got around to trying it.
Version 1 Started off at $499 and it forced the user into Apple’s “my way or the highway” way of archiving, similar to iTunes or iPhoto. Forgoing my hand managed, dated, key-worded, five-year photography archive for Aperture’s brand new way of putting it all in one file was not in the cards. Aperture 1.5 fixed a few things. The price was now only $299 and it allowed photographers’ existing archives to play nicely with Apertures. But now with the ability to manage thousands of old photos came the downfall of 1.5… It was SLOW. Load up the archive with a few thousand photos (not a lot in today’s digital world), and expect Aperture 1.5 to come to a screeching halt. On top of all of this, the application has been missing the feature I use most when processing my photos… CURVES! More than any other tool, I reach for curves when color correcting or adding contrast to my photos. Any photo management tool without that feature was completely useless to me.
Meanwhile, my old way of archiving my photos was becoming tedious with large projects. My existing workflow includes hand placing images in folders that have the date and the project in the folder name. I use Adobe Bridge to rate and keyword my photos and to help manage multiple versions. I open every photo I need to adjust in Photoshop and adjust accordingly. I then save the PSD files in bridge along with the JPG versions for Flickr and my blog. This structure is fine when working on one or two photos at a time, but this workflow becomes VERY tedious when working on large projects like a large photo shoot, or event based projects where I need to adjust dozens or even hundreds of photos. Opening every shot in Photoshop, is not only overkill for most of the small adjustments I needed to do, but saving out a PSD for all of those photos was turning a photo shoot into a huge hard drive clogger. Needless to say, a real photo management tool was becoming more of a necessity and less of a desire.
When Aperture 2.0 came out. I was pleasantly surprised to see that apple had dropped the price to $199. Early reviews of the software claimed that the speed issues were also solved, and the the new version was super fast. So far, so good. When I go take a closer look at the specs however, I am astonished to see that Apple Aperture still had no Curves. Thanks right, after all the criticism, Apple still decides to leave out the most flexible color correction tool available. I understand that Aperture is not supposed to be a full replacement for Photoshop. I don’t expect Aperture to have some esoteric Photoshop feature like Gradient Map, or be able to execute complicated layer based photo editing, but I am talking about Curves here.
With a large photo shoot looming, I dreaded opening all those photos in photoshop and manually saving them through bridge again. I decided to dedicate my Saturday to downloading the Aperture 30 day free trial and give it a go despite the lack of Curves. I hoped that most shots would only need a minimum of fine tuning and color correction and that I wouldn’t miss the flexibility of curves.
After quickly loading in all of the photos from the day, and checking the Apple site for a few quick tutorials, I went to work. I rated my favorites and started to do basic color correction. As I reluctantly started to use levels to fine tune my colors and contrast, I found a switch to set the levels sliders to use quarter tones as well as half tones. This helped immensely and gave me enough freedom to adjust my contrast with some real control. Now I could do some very specific “looks with Aperture without having to load up Photoshop.
After spending about an hour with Aperture, I started to see how much power a program like this could give me. I could easily load my photos and store them in a way that makes my old stuff easier to find and that makes my new photos easier to rate and sort. It allows me to make 80% the corrections I usually need very quickly, without the time and extra hard drive space that my Bridge/Photoshop workflow had. The vignette feature was simple and gorgeous. Cropping and straightening is so much simpler than even Photoshop. It even has a cloning/healing brush to clean up dirty lens dots and blemishes. Overall, I am pleased with Aperture and am excited to spend more time with the program. I will probably be using the fully functional demo for the time being, but when the time comes, I can see myself plunking down the $199 for the full version. Stay tuned for an in depth review when I become more comfortable with the program.
Have any of you had experience with Aperture? What has your experience been? Anyone use Adobe Lightroom more? I would love to hear from you.