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Technisch

Niet beschikbaar in
March 2008

Jonathan Briggs

Aperture 2 is the latest incarnation of Apple's all-in-one professional photo-management software. It's specifically designed to provide simple but powerful tools to enable a streamlined workflow all the way from image import, through organisation and manipulation, to export and publishing of finished images ready to use.

Version 2 brings together a raft of new tools and tweaks to make it even more effective and efficient, all the while ensuring that developments have the pro user firmly in focus. On top of that, Aperture 2 supports all the latest RAW camera formats from Canon so no matter what cameras you have in your arsenal you’ll be able to work with the images in one place.

At the heart of the significant developments to be found in Aperture 2 lies the revamped and refined central interface. It's now far simpler to use, with a straightforward hit of the V key cycling through the viewing options: take a thumbnail aspect of an entire project, see a selected image plus browser, or take away all the clutter and concentrate on the single image at hand. V holds the key, and it's as straightforward as that.

©Keith Rankin

New to the default interface is the Viewer Only mode. The Inspector too has been simplified, now containing three tabs to offer Projects, Metadata and Adjustments in one area.

Continuing this theme sees the three control panels combined neatly into one single tabbed Inspector. Again, single keystrokes are at the heart of it, with I turning the Inspector on or off, and W moving through the three tabs for Projects, Metadata, and Adjustments. If the Inspector is presently off, W will also bring it into play too. In practice this is simply good common sense, and thankfully such down-to-earth development has stretched as far as the full screen mode too.

©Keith Rankin

The Full Screen environment now offers all the flexibility and functionality of Aperture, so making it a whole lot more useable.

You use the F key to get into full screen mode, and then the H key to bring up the Inspector again. The great thing about this development is that you can spend long periods of time here in full screen mode since its functionality is as strong as the default interface. Use W to cycle through the tabs, and move your cursor to the top of the screen to activate the toolbar. Slide down the switch on the far right-hand side to make it a permanent feature if that suits. In other words it's very easy for you to set up the workspace just how you want it - a nice feeling of real user control and command.

By the time that you've gone round checking out these tweaks and touches, no doubt you'll have noticed just how slick and swift the application has become. It would seem that plenty of hours have gone into streamlining the processing that’s going on behind-the-scenes as there's now a whole lot less waiting around. With typical 12megapixel RAWs it runs quickly between images. However the watchword in recent years has definitely been ‘speed’. Many of the latest cameras have quite mind-blowing burst capabilities, which quite simply means there are a lot of frames to get through on a first edit. Aperture 2 has taken the sensible approach of working out what a photographer actually does at this point and building an environment into the application that gives just the right functionality. It's called Preview mode, and puts the RAW file to one side for a moment and brings up the JPEG that always lies inside – activate preview mode by pressing P.

©Sara France

The Preview mode is signified by a yellow border around an image in the Filmstrip at the bottom of the screen. It offers super-fast basic image assessment, but don’t forget to turn it off when you’re done!

Preview mode naturally locks out the Adjustments tab of the Inspector and is signposted by a yellow box around the selected image in the viewer or browser, plus a little yellow box designating your mode in the toolbar. The upshot is a total absence of loading time and near video-style frame rate! Turning to real-world use once more though, this development enables basic image choices and grading in a lag-free environment, and that has to be genuinely useful.

Even more impressive is that bringing up the Loupe whilst in Preview mode lets you examine the RAW file, not the JPEG – a very neat touch, that once more smacks of good common sense. So Preview mode is a serious advance… with only one downside: be sure you remember to turn it off! If you can't work out why everything seems to be in lock down, the chances are Preview mode is still active!

Apple is always happy to bring in effective controls to an application no matter their place of origin. The continuing development of iPhoto in recent years has seen one or two neat touches that have found their way into the Aperture 2 toolbox. In the Projects tab, toggle open the arrow next to Library and first in the list is the All Projects item. Depending on how you manage your image assets in terms of the big picture, the Projects list can get long and complicated. So, Aperture 2 provides us with a visual representation of everything living in the application, project by project. This echoes Apple's approach to the overall Mac OS – the attitude being that creative professionals react far better to visuals than lines of text! And it's probably true.

All Projects view is therefore a bit like Coverflow in Leopard. Move the pointer across the box and all the images inside fly by. If the content happens to be sport or portraiture it can be a bit like watching video! Once more, it's the JPEG embedded inside every RAW file that's driving this bit of trickery, and represents strong developmental thinking from the team behind Aperture 2. If a tool is popular and effective in the consumer app, they’ll be willing to evaluate it in the professional field. Tap the spacebar when you're on the image you'd like to use to represent the project, and that jumps to the top of the pile so to speak.

All Projects view brings visual representation to top-level projects and is a neat addition to the process of knowing where you’re going.

Image Adjustments is all about the ability to split out a file into its constituent parts – that can be light and shade or it can be colour. What's important to remember is that Aperture 2 is a non-destructive, image-editing environment, which means that you can never really make a mistake. The changes made to an image by means of the wealth of controls available in the Adjustments tab of the Inspector are simply commands by which the file is interpreted. You never overwrite a file, and there are no history states to worry about. You won’t find a Save or Save As button in Aperture 2 – that's because every move you make in the application is continually tracked by the central database that lies at the heart of Aperture 2. So the application works on the basis of making your imported original the Master file.

When commands are made by means of Adjustments what you see on the screen is the Version – the Master plus your extra elements of interpretation. Because they are just commands (i.e. bits of code telling Aperture 2 to read a file in this way or that) our changes take up hardly any disk space at all. When adjustments are made, the file doesn't get bigger and bigger, and nor does it get duplicated – we're simply adding small extra bits of information to inform the application of how we want to see the file before us. This is all about interpretation, and is at its most powerful with RAW files. This is because a RAW file offers you the full dynamic range of your camera's sensor, and basically asks you what you want to achieve with such a wealth of data. That's why people used to say RAWs were a bit grey and flat – the very point is that it's the basic data, and a lot of it at that. It's up to you to work it, to interpret it, just as you wish.

Which brings us neatly back to the tools at our command in Aperture 2. In the Exposure section of the Adjustments tab we find Exposure, Recovery, and Black Point. The first does what you'd expect, moving all the data on the histogram either left or right. It's important to be continually referencing the Histogram as you work any of the Adjustments tools because it's full of extremely important information. If the graph is butting up the right-hand side of the axis then you're blowing out some of the highlights. If it's sliding up the left-hand side, then the shadows are filling in.

©Sara France

Blown out highlights and under-exposed shadow areas are indicated by red and blue shading, helping you make the right corrections in the Adjustments pane.

A great image is usually just that because it contains extensive shadow and highlight information, because the full extent of what's seen by the camera's sensor is actually used in the image. Therefore, as you move the Exposure slider, be very aware of the impact of your actions. The Recovery slider you'll notice only shifts around the right-hand end of the image data – that is it concentrates on the highlights, and acts to 'bring back' elements of the highlights that the original capture seemingly failed to render. This tool has immense capabilities, but is not an excuse for poor skills on the camera! If your original on-camera exposure seeks to capture as much image data as possible, this will provide you with maximum latitude for effective post-processing in Aperture 2.

The Black Point control can be used to re-work the shadows in an image - it's quite common for the perfect RAW capture to have a histogram ending a little before the black point, or left-hand side of the graph. Move the slider to the right until the end of the graph just touches left-hand side. Then the deepest shadows will be completely black, and the rest of the shadows will have detail, texture and interest. That's the key factor. If you're unsure about how to control the Exposure, Recovery and Black Point tools, press Option+Shift+H to have the hot (blown-out highlights) and cold (filled-in shadows) displayed to you as red and blue areas. Now move the sliders until all the red and blue areas disappear.

By means of the Exposure and Recovery tools we've already been able to act on different parts of an image. This thread is taken significantly further when you move to the Colour element of the Adjustments tab. The big development here is the eyedropper. In practice this means you can actively select any range of an image, and have non-destructive control over Hue, Saturation and Luminance.

©Sara France

By using the eyedropper that’s new to the Colour element of the Adjustments pane, the sky in this image can be entirely isolated and corrected without interfering with the rest of the picture.

Very detailed editing can be achieved by means of this set of controls. Just click on any of the six colour chips, then click the eyedropper and sample a colour on your image. The selected chip now takes on the sampled colour and you can work on that range in isolation. Note that if you're after finer control on each slider, just expand the width of the inspector to make each slider longer, and you're movements more detailed. The real world impact of this advanced colour palette is that selective colour work is no longer the preserve of pixel-based image editing software – in Aperture 2, any image can effectively be split up and worked on colour by colour.

Another realm of image editing that has until now been the domain of pixel-based software is retouching. Aperture 2 introduces the Retouch tool, which is effectively a correction brush that can work automatically, working out the right texture and colour to utilise so effecting a suitable correction - a hair out of place, or blemishes on the skin. Or it can be set up to work in Clone mode where you make the choice of sample point. Brush softness and size can obviously be adjusted too. As with the other major developments with Aperture 2, it's taken a step further. The Retouch mode gives you a detect edges function that, with a little practice, works out where your correction should end. It's all very effective and, naturally, non-destructive. Gone are the days, therefore, of running out of History states and realising you can't go back without reverting to saved and starting again.

©Sara France

No one likes a twig sticking out the side of their face (left)! No longer a problem in non-destructive Aperture 2. The Retouch tool takes care of it.

If there was any particular part of imaging that was crying out for the non-destructive treatment it was sharpening for print output. To be totally clear: 'capture' sharpness is the effective sharpness that's applied to a RAW file when it's rendered by a RAW processor, usually dependent upon pixel dimensions and the camera specific make-up of a file, and naturally under the command of user preference. 'Output' sharpness is the finishing process that prepares an image for output to a print device. It's different because our human perception of an image on screen is different to that on a printed page.

This area was firmly the preserve of Unsharp Mask in Adobe Photoshop, but Aperture 2 brings it into the Print dialogue box. With your file otherwise ready for output, hit Command+P to bring up the Print window. You'll now find sharpness amount and radius along with the usual colour management options. Initially you might think this is a touch misplaced, since a small print preview is no place to decide the final print sharpness of an image. But hold fire. Remember the Loupe? It now has the capability to be used at 50%, and it can be brought into play in this Print window. Press the ‘Tilde’ key (the one to the left of Z, that is) to bring up the Loupe and then use the drop-down arrow next to the magnification value (by default it's 100) to select 50%.

©Keith Rankin

The print window even boasts sharpness for output and it can be checked with the Loupe.

The reason for this selection is that 50% is a far better view at which to judge output sharpness than 100% – it's to do with our relative appreciation of dots printed on a page. With some trial and error getting used to the sharpness controls, you'll soon be ready to print. But more than that, think ahead a little bit. How about preparing a group of images ready for print and having them sitting neatly in a five star-rated smart album. All you need do is select them all with Command+A, then use Command P to print and they're all lined up ready for your sharpness setting, and then batch print.

©Sara France

Tethered workflow now gets incorporated into Aperture 2 – a smart move, with the vital ‘Auto Select’ option just that – an option.

Finally, comes the turn of Tethered Workflow – well worthy of mention in this exploration of speed and simplicity in Aperture 2. It's left to last in this piece because it's just that – fast and easy. Connect your camera and turn it on. Select a project you'd like the images to go into, or alternatively create a new project. Under the File menu, select Tether and Start Session from the sub-menu. Now instruct Aperture 2 on how you want it handle the resulting images and construct folders, then press the start session button. This engages the Tether head-up display that counts the shots made and allows you to trigger the camera from your Mac too. It also displays capture information such as aperture and shutter speed and ISO for the last shot taken. And… er, that’s it set-up wise.

A very major advance here is the ‘Auto Select’ check box in the Tether HUD. With it ticked Aperture 2 will immediately display the last shot taken, whilst if not ticked Aperture 2 will quietly await your command to move to another image. It’s an essential inclusion that makes a great deal of difference to the real world of working tethered. In case you forget, a camera icon appears next to the chosen project to show a session is in progress.

Overall Aperture 2 is a real step forwards. It's streamlined, slick and real-world user focused and feels very much like it's come of age.

TECHNICAL

Aperture 2 keyboard essentials

Cycle through the viewing options V
Cycle through the Inspector's three tabs W
Enter full screen mode F
Brings up the main head-up display H
Enter Preview mode P
Show hot and cold areas Option+Shift+H
Print Command P
Activate Loupe ˜
Select All Command A