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Apple’s Aperture 2.1: New & Improved!

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Apple Aperture’s new Dodge & Burn command

BY DOMINIQUE JAMES

Apple’s Aperture just keeps getting better and better, and it’s all happening right now. Based on the latest official announcement, and starting with the release of version 2.0 just a few weeks ago, the development of this professional software has been unusually, and overwhelmingly, fast. It is so fast that it would be fair to say that it actually caught almost everyone in the photography and digital imaging industry by surprise! The strategic sequence of Aperture’s recent product development, public release and announcement has been so swift that something like this have never before been seen in the handling of a major professional photography software. Playing by the numbers, Aperture has gone from version 2.0 to 2.0.1, and then to the current 2.1 version in no time at all. The series of events just seems amazing.

Aperture, which was introduced about 26 months ago as the first and the most sophisticated all-in-one post-production tool for professional photographers, now certainly reinforces its “all-in-one” claim. As a digital post-production tool that aims to streamline, speed up, and dramatically improve the quality of a professional photographer’s work, Aperture, now at version 2.1, provides almost all the essential tools for asset management and organization, RAW conversion and fine-tuning, editing and enhancement, archiving and digital/print output. After a shoot, it would now seem that Apple’s Aperture is the only one that a photographer could really ever need.

Not so long ago, photographers using Aperture were loudly and impatiently lamenting the tight-lipped policy of Apple which has been deemed as the seeming lack of support for the software. Some photographers were even verbally threatening to switch to a competing software. In the midst of what appears to be a mutiny-in-the-making, little did anyone suspect that a new major version was about to be unleashed. With the sudden launch of Aperture 2.0, things have been upturned overnight.

Loyal Aperture users have been rewarded for their patience, and the threat of potential switchers were effectively quelled. The introduction of a major version, loaded with more than a hundred new and amazing features that a lot of photographers have been relentlessly requesting, as well as a few new and unexpected surprises that was thrown in, all helped to reaffirm and re-establish the role of Aperture as a major tool of some of the greatest professional photographers on earth today.

When version 2.0 came, it became apparent that Apple will be springing more surprises. The new release hinted at the idea of creating an avenue for third-party image editing tools with the Edit API. The availability of 3rd-party image editing tools right inside Aperture was almost expected, but how it will be implemented remained to be seen until version 2.1 came along.

A lot of photographers love, and constantly use, what is known as third-party export plug-ins. And now, with Aperture 2.1, Apple has set the stage for the introduction and inclusion of an amazing new set of plug-ins: the third-party editing tools. For the longest time, Aperture’s built-in editing capabilities, which have been collectively referred to as “adjustment tools,” have amply provided photographers with more than adequate ways and means to easily and quickly refine digital images from within Aperture. However, it seems inescapable, and at the same time inevitable, that Aperture’s adjustment tools will face serious comparison from Lightroom. After all, Lightroom is made by Adobe. And as we all know, Adobe is the developer of the industry-standard image editing standard, Photoshop.

While Aperture, no doubt, have been viewed as having a vastly superior organizational and asset management capabilities when compared to Lightroom. Aperture is also regarded as having other far better tools as well as tools that are not available in Lightroom, However, Aperture have been also generally perceived as a software that needs to aggressively compete in the arena of image editing. This is not to say that Aperture’s RAW decoding capabilities or editing tools are less than adequate. As a matter of fact, in a lot of respects, Aperture provides elegant editing capabilities and output. However, it is clear that Aperture needed reinforcement.

In Aperture 2.1, with the addition of new built-in editing tools, and the availability of 3rd-party plug-ins, no one can say that it has not strengthened its editing capabilities. Apple’s almost singular focus on these aspects clearly show that they are keen on providing photographers with the latest and the greatest technologies they themselves can offer as well as all available cutting-edge third-party editing plug-ins.

In the next few weeks, photographers using the latest version of Aperture can expect plug-ins such as:

  • Nik Software’s Viveza plug-in, powered by U Point technology, which provides a powerful, precise, and easy way for photographers to selectively control and adjust color and light in their digital images;
  • PictureCode’s Noise Ninja plug-in that delivers advanced high ISO noise analysis and reduction;
  • Digital Film Tools’ Power Stroke plug-in which features a simple, stroke-based interface to quickly mask and intuitively perform targeted adjustments;
  • Tiffen’s Dfx plug-in that provides an expansive suite of creative filters and effects;
  • dvGarage’s dpMatte plug-in which is a high performance chroma key tool for creating seamless composites, and the HDRtoner plug-in that enables the selection of multiple photos to create a single high dynamic range (HDR) image; and
  • Image Trends’ plug-ins that include Fisheye-Hemi to quickly and effortlessly correct wide-angle lens distortion, ShineOff which automatically removes shine from faces, and PearlyWhites that automatically whitens and brightens teeth.

A complete list of 3rd-party plug-ins will be available for download here.

For now, Apple developed and demonstrated its own editing powerful plug-in called Dodge & Burn. This editing plug-in samples what third-party developers can do and will do, and what phtographers can expect. Dodge and Burn amply showcases the power, the promise, and the amazing possibilities of third-party editing plug-ins for Aperture. Apple gave us a peak into how photographers will be working with their images.

Who says that Apple is not listening to its customers? Everything that’s happening with Aperture right now is a clear demonstration that Apple’s management team and engineers are listening to what photographers have been saying. By now, and with the incredible support that Apple has thrown into Aperture, there should be no doubt that they are listening to photographers.

At the rate Apple is going with Aperture, it does not seem far-fetched that there might just come a time when photographers won’t need to round-trip to an external editing software when working on their images. Aperture may just one day end up really being the all-in-one professional photography software that is.

(Credit: Photo in screenshot by Dominique James/The Playground)

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