The impressive return of Apple's organisation and editing program
Aperture 3 is Apple’s step-up program from iPhoto, covering more of the features aimed towards professional photographers and advancing amateurs rather than purely simple editing and organizational tools. A number of new features have been added into the latest incarnation of Aperture, covering multimedia and image recognition.
Where previous incarnations of the software may have carried the stigma of being aimed solely at professional users rather than the beginner, Aperture 3 has clearly been designed with newcomers in mind. A number of features, including the Faces and Places recognition, have been lifted almost directly from iPhoto in order to give users familiar with the tools therein an immediate start point.
As a result Faces and Places are easy to get to grips with, adopting a familiar appearance to iPhoto while still offering some impressively powerful options. For example, a GPS-enabled camera needn’t be given any more attention than a standard model when importing files, as Aperture simply plots the locations on the map automatically.
A single click on the map view then displays each group of shots taken at a particular location represented by a red pin, which can then be selected to display those images. A similar sentiment can be leveled at the Faces feature, which logs and recognizes in a similar manner to camera-based face detection. This provides yet another method of grouping, which is especially useful for wedding or portrait photographers.
Aperture can do an amount of recognition automatically, but takes a little while to start jumping into the process. Even after making definite recognitions the program offers a few suggestions for those it isn’t sure about, giving the user a certain amount of control back. RAW files, even those from recent DSLRs such as the Canon EOS 550D, were rapidly dealt with and didn’t cause any compatibility issues nor did video files, although no editing tools are available.
The entire interface gives the sense of simplicity and availability, as the majority of the processes are hidden away unless activated. Unlike the Photoshop interface, which makes each tool available from the get-go, Aperture keeps any potentially destructive options behind menus accessed via clicking on icons.
The brush tool, for example, opens up the majority of the editing tools and allows certain areas to be highlighted for the likes of Dodge and Burn to take effect. Within this an Edge Detection mode can be activated, which is impressively intelligent when tracking around a subject. Even when the tool fell short and included unwanted elements the eraser was equally as simple to utilize to correct mistakes.
Comparing directly against the Magic Wand tool in Photoshop, Edge Detection took slightly longer to use but was far more accurate, and the ability to soften the edges of the selection with the eraser tool afterwards made the end result seem all the more natural. As Aperture purposely steers clear of the likes of masks the effectiveness of the brush tools is all the more important, and the likes of the Edge Detection feature are impressively powerful without overloading the new users with too many options. For those with a larger display the full screen mode is more conducive to high-detail editing as well as showing results for a large group.
The enhanced output options, which provide an end product to the multimedia capabilities of the program, include an all-encompassing slideshow which can accept HD video as well as stills and upload the results to iTunes for viewing on another Mac or iPhone. After testing Aperture on a variety of systems it became clear that the program doesn’t unduly tax the lower spec models, such as a Mac Mini. Only occasionally did the program show signs of faltering when cloning or rapidly switching between Raw files.