A few weeks ago we took a look at the basics of Apple's Aperture application for the Mac. The first part of this introduction went into detail about the interface, importing images, organising your workflow, and various preferences.
Today I'll be concluding this basic introduction by covering the range of editing and post-processing features available, sharing/exporting images, and creating a beautiful web gallery to share your photographs with friends, family and clients.
Composition & Retouching
We'll start by looking at the tools available for altering the composition of an image, or performing specific retouching. These are located to the right side of the screen, across a horizontal bar (though this may vary depending upon which "view" you're currently in):
From left to right, these tools are:
- Select - The default tool for selecting, moving and dragging images
- Rotate Left/Right - You can also use the clever rotation gestures if you use a new Apple laptop
- Lift/Stamp - Use this tool to copy a set of metadata and adjustments from a selected image, then "stamp" them onto another.
- Straighten - For adjusting the horizontal aspect of your image and correcting tilt
- Crop - I don't need to explain this!
- Spot & Patch Tool - For correcting specific areas of an image or removing certain elements. This has essentially been replaced by the next tool in the latest version of Aperture.
- Retouch - This can either "repair" an imperfection (the clever method that will match a surrounding area), or "clone" an area - simply copy the exact pixels from one location to another.
- Red Eye - This works as you'd expect. Just click over affected eye areas, and the red pixels around that location are desaturated.
Various adjustments are also available for working with the image as a whole. They can be found under the "Adjustments" tab of the left-hand panel. As we have covered these in all manner of post-processing tutorials on Phototuts+, I am not going to go into detail about the functionality of each slider.
Highlights & Shadows
A number of advanced options are available if you'd like to utilise Aperture to the full. These can be accessed by clicking the plus and cog icons toward the top of the Adjustments panel:
Clicking any of the extra adjustments (de-vignette, for instance) will add an extra panel to the Adjustments area of the screen. From here you can experiment with the effect, and decide whether it achieves what you're looking for. Be sure to spend some time looking through these extra effects, as they are very useful and not immediately obvious.
Exporting images from Aperture is a straight-forward process, and centres around the ability to save Versions, or Masters. The "Master" is the original image you imported into Aperture (and can be seen at any time by pressing "M" whilst viewing an image). The "Version" of that image is a file with all your edits and processing included.
To begin exporting a image (or selection of images), click "File > Export > Version (or Master)". This brings up a screen with several different options. These are the main ones to consider:
- Export Preset - Allows you to select the type of export to perform (see below)
- Subfolder Format - If you're exporting a group of images, Aperture can organize them automatically into folders for you based on these criteria
- Name Format - This handles the naming of the files exported, and you can easily edit the default options available to you
The "File Name Example" will show a preview of what the naming and folder conventions will be when you click "Export". When you're happy with all the different settings, hit the magic button!
If you regularly export images in a certain size or format (for a website, for instance), you can set this formula up as an Export Preset. Select "Edit" from the Export Preset menu, and experiment with adding your own preset options. You can adjust everything from image type and quality, right through to specifying the color profile to use. It's also possible to add your own watermark.
Creating a Photo Book
A feature added to iPhoto a few years ago was the ability to order a beautiful "Photo Book" directly from within the application. This has since been ported across to Aperture, and is certainly a feature worth mentioning. Although you'll never have the same control over style and positioning of your images compared to printing them yourself, creating a Photo Book is a quick and easy way to have your images produced in a high-quality, professional format.
The process is made very straight-forward, and you have a surprising level of control over where your images appear, and how they are formatted. Several themes are available to alter the overall style of the book. To get started, select the album or images you'd like to work with and click "New > Book".
You'll then be presented with a slightly altered interface. It shows the pages of the book on the left, a larger preview on the right, and your photographs underneath. Just drag and drop them to the desired locations, add text, select a theme, and you're good to go!
Clicking "Buy Book" takes you to a page where you can select shipping options, enter your details, and complete the order:
Exporting to the Web
Aperture offers three primary ways to export your images to the web:
- MobileMe Album
- Web Journal
- Web Page
The first option is by far the simplest, but requires that you have a MobileMe account. A web journal mixes text and images (to document a holiday for example), whereas a web page just includes your specified photos.
Let's take a quick look at how both of these processes work:
Creating a Web Page/Journal
After selecting an album or your chosen images, click "New > Web Journal" to be taken to your new online creation:
This dramatically altered interface may seem a little daunting at first, but it's simple once you get to grips with it. The buttons and options across the top of the page alter your web page's layout. You can change the theme, select which information appears beneath photos, add areas of text, change the number of columns, and play around with the width of the content area. Feel free to experiment until you're happy with the preview.
The left column shows the main pages of your journal, along with the "detail" pages created automatically for each image beneath. The buttons toward the bottom of this column allow you to add a new page, insert an additional heading, or create pages for particular image attributes.
When you're happy with the finished product, you can either export the website files directly (Aperture will generate the HTML, CSS, and image files for you), or automatically publish the pages to your MobileMe account if you have one.
Creating a MobileMe Album
As you may expect, going down the route of exporting a single album straight to MobileMe is even simpler. It appears as a normal album, into which you can drag-and-drop your images. Creating a new one follows a similar process to the above: Click "New > MobileMe Album". This brings up a pane of options for the new gallery:
After entering these, and adding images to your album, they will automatically be uploaded to the online gallery. You can track the progress of this through Aperture's "Activity" window ("Window > Show Activity"):
When completed, go to the album and look for a button entitled "MobileMe Gallery" to the right. Click this, then select "Visit Gallery" to open your new web page in your browser. It should look similar to the following:
Although you have slightly limited options for presentation and layout, this is a remarkably quick and easy way to have a beautiful gallery of images online within a few minutes.
If you're a regular user of Flickr, Facebook, or another photo sharing website, you may be interested to know that a wide range of plugins are available to make exporting to them directly much easier. A full list can be found over at the Aperture website, but here are a few that you may find useful:
- FlickrExport for Aperture
- Facebook Exporter for Aperture
- Aperture to Picasa Web Albums
- iStockphoto Aperture Plug-in
- Getty Images Aperture Export Plug-in
Further Aperture Resources
I hope you've enjoyed this fast paced introduction to Apple's photo management application. Aperture really does offer a solid alternative to packages such as Lightroom, and integrates exceptionally well with the Mac platform.
If you'd like more information, one of the following websites and tutorials may be a good place to start:
- Apple's Video Tutorials - A great place to start, to gain a feel for the interface and user experience of the software
- The Aperture 2 Manual - The official manual, covering everything Aperture can do. Warning: This is a very large PDF!
- Inside Aperture - An interesting network of blogs and articles from O'Reilly
- The Aperture Users Network - A great community resource of tips, news and tutorials
- Mac Create Plugin Directory - A large listing of different plugins for Aperture
Have fun, and feel free to share any other tips you have in the comments!
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