Aperture Tricks – All About Apple Aperture

December 22, 2005

Aperture – Expectations – Hype – Musings

Filed under: Reviews — Scott @ 8:07 am

Okay the dust has had time to settle. I’ve read ten reviews of Aperture. Most have been from people I’ve never heard of. A few have been extremely negative. Of these, the one that has generated the most buzz has been the ARS TECHNICA review found at http://arstechnica.com/reviews/apps/aperture.ars. The author of the review admits he’s not a professional photographer. Hum? You see I find that interesting since I AM a professional photographer. I’m not sure why I should care what this guy thinks, but apparently, he’s gotten good traction for trashing Apple (It’s always easy to get attention when you beat someone up.)

But are his criticisms valid? Maybe, but in my opinion he’s overreacted. Here’s why.

Most of the reviews of Aperture were written based on no more than a day’s experience with the program. In fact, some were written by people who didn’t even have the program yet according to Apple. And all of these folks were trying to get a scoop. So they rushed to judgment.

Now compare these early reviews with more substantive efforts by places like Digital Outback Photo (http://www.outbackphoto.com/artofraw/raw_22/essay.html) and Creative Pro’s Ben Long. (http://www.creativepro.com/story/review/23756.html?cprose=daily).

While not exactly glowing endorsements, Juergen and Ben offered a more cautious approach to reviewing Aperture and managed to express some positives about the program.

And I predict that as time goes on, and Apple releases bug fixes, this chorus of nay-saying from some in the blogsphere will quiet.

My own review will probably be the most complete out there because I am putting the program through its paces for an extended period of time. I am also enlisting the help of three other professional photographers to make sure I don’t miss anything.

In the meantime, I do have enough time with Aperture now to have an initial opinion. Aperture isn’t perfect, nor is it for every photographer. But I do think Aperture has amazing promise. It is in fact GOING to be a ground breaking program. It changes the paradigm. It tries very hard to give photographers help in places they’ve never had it before. And the shipping version fell just short of some of these goals.

Now for the good news: Apple just updated the program. I think the update made the program better. There are still important issues, but Aperture has tremendous value right now in certain cases and less value in others. So far, I think the people who don’t like it are struggling with trying to make Aperture work like Photoshop. It’s not intended to be a Photoshop replacement. It is a different animal.

Now this is the most important point I want to make. Stop concentrating on what Aperture WON’T do, and start concentrating on what it WILL do. You’ll get a bunch more out of the program if you take that approach. It is not, nor has it ever been, designed to be a Photoshop replacement.

Why are people so obsessively comparing Aperture to Photoshop? The blame has to be shared by three groups. The media hasn’t helped because in the interest of getting a story done quickly, they used the easy comparison, i.e., Photoshop. The photo community is partly to blame for not being willing or able to open their minds to a new paradigm, and Apple is partly to blame as well. I think Apple made three big mistakes with Aperture. One: They over-hyped it – but then again, all companies seem to do this lately. Two: They overpriced it. $299 would have probably been a more reasonable price point and would have helped to manage expectations. Three: Apple rushed to market in order to get it out before Xmas and/or MacWorld. But the past is the past. It’s time for everyone to take a deep breath and look at the future.

I know, people are saying things like, “Scott, I paid $450 for this thing and I want it to work today!” Well it can work today depending on what you expect of it. For instance, I have made test prints from Aperture that are 100% as good as prints coming from Photoshop. The color management tools work! I did a portfolio shoot for a model over the weekend and processed the entire job in Aperture. I used the compare and select tools, played with the key-wording tools, sorting tools, and light tables. They are the best compare and select tools I have seen. The loupe is a very cool tool that, with some modifications will become a favorite of many photographers. The smart albums are extremely cool and the client presentation tools, i.e., the slideshow and use of a second monitor are second to none.

I do see the application maturing over time. The RAW conversions will need to get better, although depending on your camera, subject and lighting, the RAW conversions can be quite usable as they sit. There are some issues with some of the adjustment tools. But Apple already fixed the white balance tool and made performance better in v. 1.01. As someone who used Photoshop before it was even called Photoshop, I remember lots of struggles trying to get it to do what I wanted. It wasn’t really a viable app for photographers in my opinion until version 5.5! I remember people saying Photoshop would never take hold or survive to version 2.0. How did those predictions work out? We’re presently on version 9.0 of Photoshop and there are STILL things that need improvement in that program, but it’s doing just fine thank-you.

If you’re on the fence with Aperture, that’s okay. Some people I know never buy ANY new product, because they want others to help work out the bugs. That’s a viable strategy. But don’t completely write off Aperture because of some early bad press. Apple is a big company with big resources. I suspect they’ll get in gear and make this program what we all hope it can become, and they’ll do it sooner rather than later.

Look for my feature-by-feature review in January 06.

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