Wednesday, December 9, 2009

C01 Cross Processing

Ok, so I've been bad. I haven't posted an update in over a month. The silly thing is that I had already processed this image weeks ago. Regardless, here are the steps for this one:
  1. Select the Red Channel
  2. Apply these values:
    • B: 0.00
    • 1/4: 0.19
    • G: 0.28
    • 3/4: 0.47
    • W: 0.92
  3. Select the Green Channel
  4. Apply these values:
    • B: 0.00
    • 1/4: 0.16
    • G: 0.31
    • 3/4: 0.66
    • W: 1.00
  5. Select the Blue Channel
  6. Apply these values:
    • B: 0.00
    • 1/4: 0.30
    • G: 0.59
    • 3/4: 0.80
    • W: 1.00
  7. Exposure: -0.54
  8. Highlights: 42.5

Friday, October 30, 2009

Cross Processing: Part 1 of... um, maybe a lot?

I'm a big fan of Aperture's plug-in architecture. The one I use most often is probably Color Efex Pro 3.0 by Nik Software. But the downside of using plug-ins, is that once the image goes through the plug-in, you lose the non-destructive nature of editing photos in Aperture. So over the next few weeks, I'm going to attempt to recreate as many of the cross processing methods in Color Efex by just using the Levels palette within Aperture. I'm going to just go down the list starting with B01.

The adjustments that have to be applied aren't terribly complicated, but there are a lot. So once the settings are approximately what you desired, it's probably a good idea to save the levels adjustment as a preset.
Here's the picture that I'll be attempting to recreate:
First thing to do is to enable quarter-tone controls in the Levels palette. It's the icon right below the gears. It looks like a rectangle with two lines down it. Once it's on, you don't have to turn it on again.
  1. Select the Red Channel
  2. Apply these values:
    • B: 0.21
    • 1/4: 0.42
    • G: 0.61
    • 3/4: 0.71
    • W: 0.92
  3. Select the Green Channel
  4. Apply these values:
    • B: 0.00
    • 1/4: 0.25
    • G: 0.42
    • 3/4: 0.63
    • W: 1.00
  5. Select the Blue Channel
  6. Apply these values:
    • B: 0.00
    • 1/4: 0.15
    • G: 0.33
    • 3/4: 0.77
    • W: 0.94
With those settings, I get the picture below.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Aperture Cheat Sheet

I don't know what's worse: the fact that I actually know the majority of keyboard shortcuts in Aperture or the fact that I'm excited that somebody actually made a keyboard shortcut cheat sheet. The post is almost 2 years old -- that's how long it's been since Aperture 2's had a major update, I guess. But the content is still all correct from my cursory glance at the two sheets. Included in the ZIP is a printable version and a pretty version.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Localizing Color

This particular effect is sometimes over done, but I'll still pull it out at least once per event. It's a good way to bring your viewers attention to some particular color or object. In my example, I took a picture of a bride and groom kissing while holding out their bouquet. The scene is already not very rich in color beside the flowers so this was a good sample to demonstrate the Dodge & Burn tool in Aperture.

Dodge & Burn is a plug-in that shipped with Aperture 2.1. When Aperture 2.1 launched, the big new feature was support for plug-ins. It's an incredibly useful plug-in (especially for those without Photoshop) since it includes a whole collection of tools for editing your photos. The Dodge & Burn plug-in includes:
  • Dodge (Lighten)
  • Burn (Darken)
  • Saturate
  • Desaturate
  • Sharpen
  • Blur
  • Contrast
  • Fade
To begin, right click on the photo and select "Edit with" > "Dodge & Burn." Aperture will make a copy of the file (sorry, no more non-destructive changes!) and load that in the window. In the upper left drop down you'll see all the tools. There's only three settings with each tool.
  • Size is the size of the brush. You can also change the size by using the scroll wheel or dragging two fingers on the track pad.
  • Softness refers to the edge of the brush. The lower the number the harder the edge. I generally go for something pretty close to 1.00. If I want a harder edge, I just go back through the area with a smaller brush.
  • Strength is how much of the effect you want. For my picture I knew I wanted a completely desaturated look, so I pushed strength all the way up.
For my picture, I chose to desaturate. Then I simply brush where I want my picture to be desaturated. It really helps to have a tablet when doing a complicated photo like this. The plug-in supports pressure sensitive controls which makes getting this done a lot faster. Once the painting of desaturation is done, simply hit Save in the lower right hand corner. DONE! (Ok, not really done. Once I finished painting, then I upped the contrast, saturation, vibrance, and sharpening; then I added a heavy dose of vignette.)

A big caveat about using plug-ins -- this one or any other one. Using plug-ins is DESTRUCTIVE! Aperture makes a copy of the image as a TIFF or PDF (check your settings) and that's what's used to edit. When you are in a plug-in or export, you're manipulating that file. Once you hit Save, that's it. There's no going back to some middle state like you can when you are just playing with your adjustments palette. Once you've got that TIFF/PDF duplicate, that's it. If you put that file into another plug-in, the "Master" or "Original" state of that image is whatever you last saved. So for my picture, it would be the post-processed version, not the true full color master image as you'd expect. One other thing. Once you have the TIFF/PDF duplicate, whenever you send that file to edit in an external editor or another plug-in, it no longer creates another duplicate. So if you want to create multiple states, then you have to manually duplicate the duplicate before you drop it into an external editor or plug-in.

Click through the thumbnail above to see a larger version of the final image. Congrats M&R on your wedding!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


One of my favorite features in Aperture is the ability to tether (via USB) a camera to the Mac and get instant results from my shots. Start by going to the menu (there's no default keyboard shortcut): File > Tether > Start Session. The dialog that shows up should be pretty familiar to you by this point. It looks pretty similar to the Import dialog. Click the Start Session button, and you're ready to roll.

Click the shutter or hit the Capture button in the tether HUD. Bam! It's in Aperture. Take another shot. Bam! It's in the project. The immediate feedback is extremely gratifying. Set Aperture to full screen mode (F) and you'll see a full screen render of the image as it's shot. This can be useful and more accurate for dialing in settings on the camera (better than looking at the LCD screen on the back of the camera) or giving a model some immediate feedback. Just be sure to use a LONG (15' or more) USB cable or you might yank your Mac to the ground.

The biggest problem with tethered mode lies somewhere between Canon and Apple. Starting with the 30D and all their DSLRs since then, Canon changed how they support PTP. None of the new models can be tethered to Aperture. I'm currently shooting with a 40D -- I am a sad panda. (You Nikon people don't have anything to worry about for now.)

For a list of supported cameras, see the list at

Monday, June 22, 2009

Saving Adjustments

Ok, I don't like to give recipes for photo editing, but there is one thing that I apply to most of my pictures. I like my photos with a little extra contrast, saturation, and vibrance. While I could use the Lift and Stamp tools to copy adjustments from one picture to another, I can save my adjustments as a preset.

Every controls group has a menu drop down where you can save the adjustments. Once you have the adjustments set, open the menu and select "Save as Preset." A dialog box opens for you to name this preset. Now you can reapply these adjustments to your hearts content by accessing the menu drop down on your other photos. The three control groups that I have presets for are: Enhance (I have a basic and a high contrast that I use for monochrome), Sharpening, and Edge Sharpening.

My big peeve with this drop down is how all the options are ordered. You'll notice that the first item in the menu drop down is to add/remove the controls group to the default set. This option shows/hides this control group by default on the Adjustments Inspector. This option is the one I use the least and it's at the very top. There's been a bunch of times when I've clicked it by accident. The name of this menu item is also rather confusing. The other thing I would like to see Aperture add is a preset for adjustments that span across multiple control groups. I want to add vignette, sharpening, and enhancements from one command -- one that I would like to tie to a keyboard shortcut.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


Stacks is an important tool in organizing your files in Aperture. It allows you to group your photos together. When you burst a series of shots or bracket a series of shots, you may not want to see each individual image. To clean up the browser, select all the images and ⌘K. This puts the selected images into a single stack of photos. Initially it doesn't appear any different except now there's a border around all those images. ⇧K will open/close the stack. Stacks eliminates the clutter in the browser.

When the stack is closed, the first picture is all that's visible. That picture is called the pick. If the desired picture is not the pick, select the one that is desired and hit ⌘\. Within the stack, there's additional sorting that can be applied. Promote/Demote (⌘[ or ⌘]) a picture moves it further up/down the stack. The sort within the stack is independent of the sort in the browser. The stack is sorted only against how the pictures are promoted/demoted.

When the stack has been added to an album, a further option is available for picks. The "album pick" allows the album to have a pick that is different from the project. This is useful for when a particular stack may have multiples of the same image but each is processed differently. Unfortunately there's an inherent limitation in that you can't promote multiple pictures within the stack to be album picks. For that, you will have to break that picture out of stack.

I use stacks quite a bit. I tend to shoot on burst mode. Keeping photos in stacks helps me keep the pictures in my browser clear of clutter. It also lets me hide my uglier shots behind a nicer one.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

That's My Email!

I have a very popular name for my email address. So much so that in any given week, I see around 5-8 password reset requests. I also get lots of other people's emails. Today was one of those days. Today somebody used my email address to sign up for an Aperture 2 trial. While I've already got a copy of Aperture, I was reminded that Apple provides a pretty good collection of video tutorials on their website:

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Synchronize Your Watches

When shooting with multiple cameras I like to get all my pictures time synched. That lets me sort all of my images by their time stamps. There's a few of ways to get your shots to report the same time stamps. The most obvious way is to just program the clocks in the camera. But what if you are shooting with other people? That's when post-shoot time synching in Aperture really comes into use. First, get the shooters to shoot the same subject at exactly the same time. Just count to 3 and shoot on 3... or is that after 3? Anyhoo, the picture doesn't need to be any good. You just need to have the same point in time to reference against. You can really do this at any time during the shoot, but it'll be easiest to do it in the beginning. Alternatively, you can bring up the Time & Date System Preference pane (or any accurate clock). Then take pictures of the screen and use that as a reference for adjusting the time. This is a little easier if you're just shooting with a lot of cameras -- which I found myself recently doing with 2 SLRs and 1 waterproof P&S and another P&S. Figure out what the time difference should be. Then select the photos for which you want to adjust the time. Under the Metadata menu, select Adjust Date & Time. Easy!

If you are traveling and change the time zone to the local time zone, make sure to use Metadata > Batch Change to set your photos to your home time zone. Aperture's not that good about handling time zones. Even if you tell Aperture what time zone your photos are, it doesn't really retain it. When you use any plug-ins, Aperture forgets what time zone the original photo came from and then time stamps the new version with the original time but current time zone of the Mac. For example, if the picture was tagged at 5:55PM GMT -5 and the Mac is currently GMT -8, after the picture has been run through a plug-in, the new time stamp on the edited photo will be 5:55PM GMT -8. This is why it's important to make the Batch Change to set photos to the home time zone. Hopefully this will get fixed in some future version of Aperture. I can see how this would be an issue for those photographers on the move.

Since I'm talking about time and complaining about bugs, here's a related problem. When exporting photos with the subfolder set to "Current Date," sometimes Aperture forgets what the current day is. Sometimes it thinks that yesterday is today. Just a minor issue, but one to look out for.

Saturday, May 30, 2009


Watermarks in Aperture can be boiled down to the following steps:
  1. Go to Aperture > Presets > Image Export...
  2. In the Presets window, click "Show Watermark."
  3. Select an image to use
  4. Adjust position/opacity
  5. Select to scale watermark or not
  6. Repeat steps for each export type you want a watermark
Sounds pretty straight forward until you get into the subtleties of how this feature behaves. First, to create your watermark you have to have made the raster image in some external editor (Photoshop, Pixelmator, etc.). Save that file out as PSD, JPG, or (my personal preference) PNG. Now here's the thing about that watermark file you just made. The resolution of your watermark has a big impact on how it's finally rendered. For the sake of this argument, I made my watermark and just trimmed out all the excess. That left me with a 508x283 file. I'm going to export out two images. One is a healthy 3892x2586 image. The other is a relatively petite 1774x1183 image. Take a look at the results:
If you click through the two photos you'll see how the watermarks are rendered. Aperture will only scale DOWN your watermark not up (if you selected "Scale Watermark" in the preset). Depending on the resolution of your photo compared to your watermark, your watermark can be really big or really small. In order to get around that, I went back to edit my watermark file. I changed the canvas size of the watermark from 508x283 to 4000x283. I go back into the Aperture presets and reload my file (Aperture seems to make a copy of this image, so you can't just save over your previous file). I also make sure that I've checked "Scale watermark." I'll export the same two files again. Now you'll see that the watermark in the pictures are relatively the same size. Before Aperture wasn't scaling the watermark. Because I made my watermark file so wide, it forces Aperture to scale.
Using the super wide watermarks also ensures that your portrait photos are watermarked with a similarly sized watermark.

Once you have your watermarks all sorted out, there's two things that I really like about using watermarks as export presets. One, this works with the Flickr export plugin. Since the Flickr export plugin just uses the export presets, those watermarks will get uploaded with your photo. Two, you can make different watermarks for different export presets. Sounds dumb, but this allows you to make a watermark for your 800x800 export that looks different than your original size exports. You can also keep one export with watermark and another one without.

I'll wrap up this post with some wishlist things for watermarks:
  • Text based watermarks from EXIF - Sometimes all I want is a simple watermark with my name or some other EXIF data. There's no way to do this without using an export plugin.
  • Scale watermarks relative to image - Instead of making me hack my image, I want to have a simple stamp and have that be consistently sized relative to the photo.
  • Borders - Not quite watermarks, but I would like to have some rudimentary borders support for Aperture. Just some desaturation or blurring would be nice.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Lift & Stamp

Lift & Stamp is the equivalent of copy & paste for all your image adjustments and metadata. To "copy" or Lift your adjustments, you can either select the button or use the keyboard short cut ⌘C. I'm kind of a keyboard shortcut nerd if you haven't noticed already. When you Lift the adjustments, the Lift & Stamp window pops up with all the adjustments. You can use the checkbox to selectively apply items or you can select the item and hit delete remove the item from the stamp. The problem with using the checkboxes is that it's not particularly granular. You're bound to these high level buckets of stuff. So if you didn't want to apply Crop but wanted to apply all the other Adjustments, you can't use the checkbox. Instead, you have to select the Crop item and hit delete. If you want to apply all the adjustments and the Crop, then you have to go back to the source image and re-Lift the adjustments. Once you've got the adjustments you want, now you Stamp the adjustments. The great thing about stamping is that it can be applied to multiple items at once. Select whatever pictures you want to stamp, and then hit ⌘V (note the similarity in keyboard shortcut to copy & paste). Voilá! All of your chosen adjustments are now applied to your pictures. This should save some time when you have a lot of similar pictures. Sometimes when I forget to add the Credit keyword on import, I'll make the change to just one image. Lift the IPTC keyword, select all the pictures in the album, and stamp! Easy.

I don't use the Lift/Stamp tool (O / ⇧O). It lets you Lift from or Stamp to an image that you currently don't have selected. It doesn't really jive with my personal work flow. I like going to the source image and using the keyboard shortcut to Lift. Then browsing to my target image(s) and Stamping.

Wishlist item for future Aperture: checkboxes next to each adjustment in the Lift & Stamp window. I want to selectively apply my adjustments to some images but not others.

Update: Looks like the Aperture team broke one of the most useful features with Lift/Stamp. You can no longer use the keyboard shortcut to stamp metadata and adjustments across multiple pictures. You have to use the button from the Lift & Stamp window. If anybody on the Aperture team out there is reading this, fix it or at least explain why.

I Love Vignettes

There. I've said. I don't care who knows. That (sometimes) subtle edge effect can take a boring photo to a slightly less boring photo. But at least the vignette helps to focus to viewer's eyes in the photo. ^+V will add the default vignette to your photo. You could use your mouse and do some clicking around, but that's rather inefficient for something that you'll probably end up using all the time.

When you use vignettes and cropping in Aperture, your vignette will be reapplied. The vignette's center will always be at the center of the image. It's best to vignette AFTER cropping.

As far as settings go, it's totally personal preference. I find that I use Gamma vignettes more often than Exposure. The Amount and Size are really dependent upon the individual picture. But for both values, I tend to go a little heavier than the default. The picture that I used for this post was from me testing to see what the max Amount of vignette I can apply to a photo. It looked cool, so I'm using it here.

Here's an extra tip about sliders in Aperture. Whatever is the max value the slider can go, you can usually enter in a higher value. For example, in the Vignette adjustment palette, the Amount slider can only go to 1.0. In the input box, you can enter in any number up to 5.0.

Adding to my wishlist for future Aperture:
  • Vignettes that lighten instead of darken
  • Square instead of round (or any permutations in between)
  • Redefine center of vignette

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Monochrome is boring

Simply taking a picture and making it monochrome (⌘+M) is really boring (see the middle picture). Seriously. There's a lot you can still do to a picture once you've desaturated it. First thing I do is I start going through all the color filters in the Monochrome Mixer. If I'm trying to highlight people, I prefer one of the warmer filters. Landscape for the cooler stuff. Once I've picked one that I like, then I start bumping up the contrast in the Enhance palette. For the picture on the right, I've got it set to a blue filter and the contrast at 0.25. Then to give my "black & whites" some variety, I'll sometimes then throw on some Color Monochrome action on top. For this picture, I just used the default color and lowered the Intensity to 0.4. I also added a Vignette, but I applied that to all three samples so that doesn't really count.

Here's the result. (Yes, I could have cleaned up the picture more, but you get the idea.):

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Organizing My Photos (Part III)

I'm a MacBook Pro kind of guy. That means I have limited hard drive space and I take my Aperture library with me wherever I go. The trick is, I don't take it all with me when I go. That's where Relocate Masters and Consolidate Masters come in. Whenever I'm done working on a project, I relocate my masters to an external drive. It moves my masters out of my library but leaves the previews and metadata on my MacBook Pro's hard disk drive. Now the downside of relocating is that whenever I want to go back and edit that project, I need to be connected to the external drive. That's where Consolidate Masters comes in. With that external drive connected, I can bring those masters back into my library and weigh down the HDD. Another problem with relocating is that since the masters are no longer in the library, they don't get backed up into the Vault. So I make it a point of regularly backing up that external masters drive. Besides backing it up to two separated RAID drives in two separate locations (I'm OCD. I know.) I also burn every image to an optical backup. When I relocated my masters, under Subfolder Format I choose: Image Year/Month/Day. Then when I back up, I just select as many months as can fit on a disc. This keeps my optical discs in relatively tidy order. Since I named all my files, then it's also easy to find for what I'm looking.

Organizing My Photos (Part II)

When I import my files (or at least soon after using Batch Change), I rename my files so that I can find my files when I'm not using Aperture. It also makes the files a lot more meaningful than IMG_3728. Here's the format that I use: YYYYT_NAME_X.
  • YYYY = Year
  • T = Type of shoot (more on that below)
  • NAME = Something meaningful to me. If I shoot a wedding, it's usually the name of bride
  • X = Index #. It starts at one.
For the type of shoot, I use a bunch of single alpha codes to designate the shoot.
  • P = Portrait
  • W = Wedding
  • C = Commercial Job. Usually for stock photos or some other request that doesn't involve people.
  • D = Photowalk Days
  • E = Event. At parties or whenever I'm just out and about, it's usually an event of some sort.
  • Y = Yelp Event (yes, I shoot enough of these for it to warrant its own code)
  • V = Vacation photos. Look. Everybody has them. Might as well call them out.
  • S = Snapshots. Usually stuff on my P&S. Just random stuff. Generally stuff that's not particularly important to me.
  • T = Experimental/Test. Whenever I'm trying out some new technique or toy, I tag these photos with T. They're usually of pretty low value but entertaining nonetheless.
So in my screenshot, my example is 2008P_Snuggles_1. In 2008, I did a portrait session with Snuggles (the Yorkie) and that's the first photo in the series.

Unless you renamed your files on import, when you run the Batch Change ⌘B Aperture doesn't rename the files it only renames the Version. To get Aperture to rename the files, Relocate Masters and in the Name Format drop down, select Version Name. Then Consolidate Masters to get the files back into your Library.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Organizing My Photos (Part I)

How you organize photos is all a matter of personal preference, but here's the way I do it and it works for me (most of the time). I have folders for every year. For every shoot, it's its own project. I label each of those projects, "MM-DD Name." For example, 06-15 Farmer's Market or 10-12 Fleet Week. Since all those are in the annual folder, I can usually jump to a particular shoot pretty quickly. When I do a shoot or have an event that spans multiple days, I put each day or each major piece of the event (for example, each day of a vacation or each location) in its own project. Then all those projects sit inside of a folder with the first date of the shoot as its title. For example, 05-12 Hawaii. Then that folder sits inside the annual folder. If I was more prolific as a photographer, I would probably have both annual and month folders. But I'm not. So the annuals work fine for me. Another benefit to using projects and folders in this fashion is that clicking on the folders will give you a thumbnail view of all the pictures contained within the folder.

Why projects instead of folders and albums?
Well for one, you have to start with a project to get your files into Aperture. And that oh so convenient feature of clicking on a folder to see all the children photos doesn't work. So if you started out with one project then made folders of albums within that project, you won't be able to see the aggregated thumbnails. Sorry!

The thing about projects is that they are the basic units of import/export by Aperture. If you control click, you'll find a bunch of features tailored to projects. So if you kept everything in one giant project, some export/relocate/consolidate functionality will be really hampered. I'll get into how I manage my files later and I depend heavily on relocating and consolidating photos.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Activity Window

Aperture does a lot of stuff in the background: export, generate thumbnails, generate preview, import, etc. When I find that Aperture is sluggish or when I want to just see how my progress is coming along, I bring up the Activity Window. It's located conveniently under the Window menu. But for some reason it's not mapped to a keyboard shortcut by default. Fortunately every single menu item can be mapped to a keyboard short.

So in the Commands menu (Aperture > Commands), you can customize all shortcuts. But you can't edit the default set so the first thing you have to do is duplicate the defaults to your own set. I cleverly named mine "MyDefault." The command is listed under "Show / Hide Activity." I mapped it to ⌘+0. That's the same as the Activity Window in Mail.

Tags vs. Keywords

Basically keywords will get exported out and tags don't. Tags can be used for search in the same way that keywords do... except that Apple doesn't give tags functionality nearly as much love as the keyword functionality. I find that I use tags more often than keywords as a supplement to my cataloging since I often don't want those values to get exported out. I'll throw stuff like event name or if I'm shooting people I'll put tags with their names in it. It's not a big deal to some to export out the names with their files; I like to maintain a little privacy.

To create tags:

  1. bring up the Metadata inspector (^D).
  2. Edit the view (^I).
  3. Click on the Other tab at the bottom.
  4. Then enter your new Custom Metadata
  5. Click on the checkbox next to your new field to add it to the view.

Now you should be able to add custom tags to your heart's content.

Hold down ⌘ when cropping

When cropping photos in Aperture 2, holding down the ⌘ (Command) key brings up these crop grid lines for aligning to the rule of thirds. It makes for some easy cropping, but I would like more. I'd like to have some options for what kind of lines do display: golden rule, nautilus shell (golden curve), diagonal lines, etc. Also there should be a preference to always display the lines. Then holding down the command key either hides or displays the grid lines depending on your preference.