Photographers are a creature of habit. We find a system that works and stick with it until absolutely necessary. This way we can concentrate on the assignment and the equipment is just an extension to the photography. The downside is that often we don’t embrace the newest of technologies. Therefor the decision to switch to anything new doesn’t come easily.
Working for the wire services and newspapers, for me speed and quality are of the utmost importance. In this day and age of evening papers, national and international clients, there are always deadlines to meet. Speed means publications.
I used to shoot RAW for around 15% of my assignments, when the deadline was days away, not minutes away. Then, a couple of years ago, I came across Apple’s Aperture which was at version 1.5. Shooting RAW has its obvious advantages but its always been just a little too slow to process. My old work flow for RAW used to include five different software packages. Now with Aperture I've cut this down to three.
Initially I had a bit of a steep learning curve to conquer. Aperture did things differently to the way I worked. However, after a few days of using it, I was smitten. I sold my PC laptop, embraced my new MacBook Pro and added Aperture to my arsenal.
My workflow with Aperture begins when I plug a card in; images are downloaded to a folder which I create for every assignment. I choose to use the referenced file method and not the Aperture library. You can choose which ever method suits you best. After this, I can quickly do a batch caption to all the images and rush through the images tagging the ones I need for my edit. Once I have my final choices, I use the adjustment tools available to polish up the image. Initially I used to shoot most of my images in jpeg format for speed, and use Aperture to process these. When I realized just how fast Aperture deals with RAWs, I’ve switched over to shooting RAW 100% of the time. The real beauty of the software is how elegant it is in operation. It can make the most subtle of corrections, leaving the image looking natural. The other great feature is the way you can export your image into a wide range of formats and sizes; these can be pre-set by the user. I have a list of export preferences I use for my various clients. The only downside to the program is that you will need a recent Mac with at least 2 Gb of RAM to make it work efficiently.
I've been a big fan of Aperture since version 1.5 and have since completely switched my computer platform over to Apple Mac. A lot has changed since then with version 2 and now 2.1 being released. The program runs a lot faster and has made big advances in editing speed. Even on my tightest deadline I use Aperture without hesitation. Its elegance, speed, robustness, full control over RAW and jpeg editing, plug-in architecture and digital asset management are unique.
Aperture’s plug-in structure allows the program to use third party plug-ins. Apple provide their own sample plug-in for dodging and burning. This architecture has opened the doors for some excellent plug-ins and I find needing Photoshop less and less. With version 1.5, I used to use Photoshop around 10% of the time. Now that’s probably down to 3%.
I've been using Nik Software's Viveza plug-in for around a month and its now part of my workflow.
Its absolute genius; in Aperture you click edit with Viveza which creates a copy of your original (keeping the original RAW or jpeg untouched) and opens the image in its own window, after applying any adjustments you have made in Aperture. You then click on control points and select the area of the image you need to change.
The control point then gives you a set of sliders which choose circle size (which is feathered), brightness, contrast and saturation. By clicking on the colour you want to change, it only makes these changes to that particular hue and the surrounding area of the same value, within the circle diameter you choose. Very easy, fast and accurate. Its much faster and more elegant than exporting into Photoshop. Darkening a sky for example, no matter how complex the skyline, is done in a matter of seconds. After saving, it adds the new modified image back into your Aperture library.
The other plug-in which has become part of my workflow is Picture Code’s Noise Ninja. Being a long time user of the software I'm delighted that its available for Aperture.
Looking into the plug-ins scene, there are more than 70 available. Apple lists these on their web site http://www.apple.com/aperture/resources/plugins.html
You can get free trials of Aperture and all the plug-ins mentioned and I definitely recommend giving these a go.