Apple Aperture 2.0 First Impressions

March 5, 2008 - By 

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.

nocurves.jpgWhen 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.

Posted In:  Digital Cameras Reviews
  • I’ve used Aperture since early in version 1. I forced my way through with version 1.5, and I almost pretended to be happy with it. It was so painfully slow. The tools were strong enough (though I want CURVES too!), but the results always seemed a bit off from what I expected. I agree that the levels tool is enough for 80 percent of my work. NOW, with version 2, I agree with your assessments. It is fast, really fast. I keep my 20,000+ photos in Aperture’s library, so I can’t speak for referenced photographs, but since version 2, I am flying. I still hang occasionally whenever I switch quickly in full screen mode and use the edit HUD, but that’s rare.

    I agree that the vignette looks beautiful, I used it here:
    and here:
    and it doesn’t feel overdone.

    With version 2.0, especially with regard to RAW, I am much happier with the results from all of the tools. The RAW processing is improved too. Overall, I am extremely happy with Aperture 2.0, but I wish I hadn’t had to fight through 1 to get to it.

  • Just posted my own thoughts on my photoblog about Lightroom v Aperture 2 – I’d been an avid user of Aperture before recently drifting to the “darkside” – despite a late attempt by version 2, I’ve now move my whole library across to Lightroom as I personally find it much better all round.

  • Lightroom all the way imho. You have the power of curves, everything that aperture offers, and then some. Granted, aperture may be quicker to load large databases, but lightroom is more robust, and things such as straightening and vignetting are no-brainers in lightroom.

    You should give the competition a try, itll probably win your heart.

  • I used Lightroom (pc) for a full weeding story. It really disappointed me regarding visualization and colors profile output.
    Now I’m to buy the new Macbook Pro and try Aperture (at the momente I have and light iBook G4).

    What I’m looking for is a stable, easy and trusted system. I just want my jpg and prints outputs to be as similar as it possible to what I see on screen.

    Who is best for that?

  • I tried Lightroom last night based on everyones recommendations. It’s not quite as clean a workflow as Aperture, but I LOVE having curves. Ill have my thoughts on Lightroom soon. Looks like we have a battle going.

  • There’s also Bibble ( Workflow isn’t intuitive immediately but when you get into it it’s surprisingly effective. Powerful image correction options and has the advantage of some of coming in Windows/OSX/Linux flavours with a pro licence covering all three.

  • i haven’t tried Aperture [doubt it would run very well on my machine]- but recently started using Lightroom for my own work after having to learn it when assisting. I’ve really grown to prefer Lightroom over the Bridge/ACR/Photoshop combo. i can get the look i’m after so much more quickly with Lightroom instead of having to use adjustment layers etc in PS. i too am a heavy curves user…

  • You are aware, aren’t you, that Aperture 2 has a five point levels adjustment (quarter tones)? There’s a checkbox for in in the levels setting. Why on earth would you need more precision than that?

    A levels setting has the advantage over a curves setting in that you can quickly make adjustments while the software takes care of the smooth blending of the curve segment.

    If you don’t want a smoothly blended curve, for instance to do posterizations or other psychedelic effects, you need Photoshop. A quarter tone levels does any _realistic_ adjustment you need, with less fiddling around.

  • Have you noticed that Adobe Lightroom and Extensis Portfolio both have a “Folder Synchronization” and apreture doesn’t?

    Here is what is still missing from Aperture 2.0 that Extensis Portfolio has had for years:
    Improved AutoSync Performance
    At the core of Portfolio Server is AutoSync, the engine that keeps assets and data synchronized.
    FolderSync Presets
    FolderSync lets you decide how you want it to work: Set a sync schedule or choose to autosync instead, and opt to “ignore” certain items when synchronizing, if desired.

    AutoSync Cataloging Presets
    Enables auto-cataloging and keyword/metadata assignment simply by dropping the asset into a redefined folder.

    AutoSync Path Translation: For faster cataloging and imaging tasks as well as decreased network bandwidth requirements.

    Portfolio Server automatically synchronizes catalogs with any server file that’s been added, updated or removed. This offloads and automates all scanning and image processing from the desktop to the server.

    If you also feel that this feature would be valuable for your own business, please make your voice heard at:

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