I get a bunch of emails that go something like "Hey RB, why no posts on image manipulation using Aperture?". Well… A couple of reasons come to mind. The first of which is that I don't do a lot of manipulation and adjustment on my personal images. More than half the time I use the OoC JPEG. This has more to do with what I like than anything else. Believe me, I have had more cumulative hours of wrenching and hammering images into completely different beings than what they started out as than I care to remember. Consider it aversion therapy via commercial fashion.
At this point I believe that I could probably take about half dozen so-so lit images and hammer those six images into everything from a Hawaiian Sunset to a fashion spread and anything in between. So I guess it doesn't really float my boat much. Having said that I am not at all opposed to optimizing images from RAW material - Heck I do it all the time for other photographers that rather spend their time doing what they are good at - shooting fantastic raw material.
The second reason I don't chit-chat about it much is that Aperture 3 adjustments are so intuitive from my perspective there is not much to talk about. I forget that a lot of folks haven't been screwing around in post for over a decade. On that note I will succumb to popular demand and post some more image adjustment material from an Aperture 3 perspective under the SuperSimpleStuff™ banner. For the most part it will be global adjustments rather than localized for the simple reason that Apple shouldn't have even bothered with the bag-on-the-side, crude, cumbersome, local adjustment brush implementation that jammed into Aperture 3. Bottom line - I don't use them. I use Photoshop CS4 and CS5 along with Nik Vivez 2 for all local adjustments again, mostly for others that I do print work for.
On with the SuperSimpleStuff™ show. For this installment I am going to start off with one of my patented StupidCrap™ images shot about 42 seconds after waking up on full auto with a Nikon D200. I am not a morning person nor am I an outdoorsy person but every once in a while I will point the camera outside from my current vantage point and snap a few. In this case while having my wake-up cigarette prior to my wake-up coffee I shot this horrible waste of space. Luckily I always shoot RAW+JPEG.
You are probably thinking "WTF" - well, if you look real hard there are some God-rays in the early morning clouds and some relatively attractive mist in the background. Everybody shoots God-rays and rainbows don't they?? In fact I am continually intrigued by my little bird buddy on the wire that you see in the foreground. It seems that whenever I notice some interesting scene out on the bay - be it clouds, weather, rain, god-rays, etc. That little bird is there apparently observing the same scene as I am. Honestly I have no idea if it's the same bird or not but it sure does seem like it is. I have dozens of images with him in the foreground observing rain-bows, etc.
I am a little wobbly when I first roll out of bed and we don't really care about all the foreground detritus so let's give it a bit of straiten and a large dose of crop like so…
Since shooting on auto-everythig gives you crappy images that you didn't intend in a lot of cases that is exactly what I got. In my imagination and how things looked to me at the time it was a bit darker and definitely more bluish. I would like to think I probably would have shot it bluer and put the dark clouds around middle gray if I were actually in manual mode and thinking clearly. No problem with RAW, I just cooled it off a bit and made it less green using the WB control block and reduced the exposure by a half stop or so. Here are my adjustments.
And voila, a bit more of what was in my minds eye. Just a note here on the exposure and enhance blocks in Aperture 3. They are very very powerful and most of the time you can get to where you want to be using just those control sliders. I happen to know that I am going to use a curves adjustment on this to bring out the god-rays and get the overall contrast where I want it so I am not going to mess with any of the other stuff in the exposure or enhancement blocks. There are a lot of ways to skin a cat - or get to the same place in any image manipulation software. In many cases there is not right way, just the most convenient for a particular user or a particular image. In reality I could have done what I just did to the exposure with Aperture curves but it was more convienient just to use the exposure slider as I will already be using more than one curve point based on my non-clinical evaluation of where I want this to go.
Moving on to the curves tool. The first thing I did was place a pint somewhere in the upper mid tones to highlights and moved it around until it was approximately at the point of the luminance of the god-rays. I did this to nail the god-rays and brighter values down to sort of keep them where they are. I then moved the left end arrow into the histogram to get black-blacks and simultaneously ramp up the contrast a bit. You can do the same type of thing with the black point slider which has much finer control and can actually go "negative" but has fixed ways in which it manipulates that bottom portion of the tones. If you want fine control of dark tones using curves you could set the "range" to shadows.Next I wanted even more contrast and darker lower-midtones so I placed another point in the shadows portion of the curve and drug it down a bit. The last thing I did was bring down that first point a bit as the upper mids and highlights were too bright and too flat. Here is what the curves looked like when I was done.
and the image at this point.
I still thought the highlights were a little over the top and wanted to avoid using Aperture 3's clunky local adjustment brushes so I brought the entire thing to into where I wanted it with Aperture 3's glorious Highligts and Shadows control block. In this case I brought down the highlights and adjusted "High Tonal Width" under the advanced section so that it only messed with the tones I wanted to bring down. I also added a bit of mid-tone contrast. Here is what the control looked like.
and the image now…
The last thing I did was add a very very slight vignette to darken the edges and done it is a big one….
I hope this provides some food for thought on using Aperture 3's RAW adjustments creatively and where you want to take some of your images or even some of your StupidCrap™