Saturday, 28 September 2013

Review: Mastering Apple Aperture 3.X

I've not read a whole book electronically before, so I downloaded to eBook and the PDF version. 

I found the PDF a better format because this is a technical book and not a novel so the layout and links to the screen shots were consistent. With the eBook the structure fell apart as the font size was changed and the initial layout had very few paragraphs per page.

The author makes a very important statement at the start of he book outlining the target audience should be comfortable with using a Mac, shooting in RAW and have already used Aperture. I fit in to this category and hoped that I would discover some of Apertures less obvious features and unlock them to enhance my experience.

I found the book very approachable, although the pace is quite quick this is because the writing style is succinct and does not waste time padding out the text with irrelevant or really basic information. It gets right into the product and explains what features it has and gives insight into what gives the products it's performance.

The structure of the book is well thought out and the first few chapters cover key theories about Aperture itself and the digital image processing.

I have done a lot of importing into Aperture and the first chapter revealed some features that I had not seen before. The default import process is very good but the author demonstrates what more can be done just by simply adding some of the extra functions into the import panel.

There is a good explanation of how the import process works, how to handle shooting RAW+JPEG, shooting with the camera tethered and filtering the import to only import RAW, JPEG or Video files. The guidance extends into the pros and cons of importing into Apertures Library or linking the files from your local storage. As in many of the other chapters in the book there are tips and recommendations on how to organise your photo imports and real world examples to aid the reader in applying the knowledge to their own processes.

After the images are imported the next obvious thing to do is to teak and edit them. The book reinforces the fact that Aperture is primarily a management application, however it does have some very good features making adjustments to images and more importantly that these are split between ones that work on the RAW data and others that work in the RGB colour space. There is a discussion on how these differences affect the changes to the images but most significantly that Aperture makes changes using 32-bit math, no matter what the source image is and as such these changes are much smoother than other applications. Equally significant is the reminder that some of the tools are only adequate and other programs do some of the adjustments better.

Building on the topic of adjustment tools there is a whole chapter devoted to the subject of using the curves function to archive various adjustments and how in some cases, with knowledge of how they work, they can do some types of adjustments better than the more obvious adjustments. The explanations of what curves can do and how to use them is not only discussed in detail, but practical examples are given to put this into context, aid the understanding of the principles and how to archive great results.

Once you have been guided as to what you can do the product the author brings all of the knowledge bought to you from the beginning of the book into further real world examples.

In spite of pointing our some of Apertures shortcomings, the author points out that there is a great number of plug-ins that can augment the process of enhancing the images in the library. He then guides the reader through some of the most useful add-ons, gives details of where they can be purchased from, as well as illustrating their use and scenarios where you may want to pop outside of the main program. In an unbiased way, which is visible thought the book, the author also points out the possible pitfalls of this side of the product.

Obviously it is all well and good taking a lot of images and organising them well, but unless you do something with them it dies not matter how good a program is. With this in mind two of the chapters explain, in good detail, how to export images for the web, social networking and photo sharing - this can be done from within Aperture. The author also goes into detail about how to watermark your images and the pros and cons of direct publishing or export and upload. The second chapter goes through, in detail, on how to print your images the way you want, the quality settings and how to set profiles for more accurate printing.

Finally the book examines, in much greater depth how to make Metadata work for you. He goes through the extra options you have in managing your library of photographs as well as how this can enhance the visibility of your images on the web. There is also mention of other areas where you might need to add special or custom data to your images, say for stock libraries or publishing houses.

All-in-all this is a great no frills guide to Aperture, but it is also a great tutorial in the essential understanding of digital imaging and management that I feel would help even if you we're not using Aperture. It is also apparent the author really understands the subject and is very capable at expressing his knowledge in a clear and understandable way.

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