Easy Aperture 3 Workflow For Photographers

Aperture 3 is an all-in-one work flow software which allows photographers to work without having to go into various programs during their work flow process. I’ve been using Aperture since it was released, I can more or less complete entire work flow all in one program.

From import to output, Aperture delivers a simple work flow solution for photographers, specially for someone like me who wants to work in a single program as much as possible. The quality of the output files is uncompromising.The best feature is the ‘non-destructive’ way the images are processed so the images always ‘as shot’ if I ever need to go back to my originals.

Here is a typical work flow for my wedding or portrait shoot:

Downloading / Importing / Renaming Images
Importing images is quick and easy. Images can be imported from a camera, card reader, DVDs, hard drives or from iPhoto. At the point of importing, you can add copyright, keywords and other meta data all in one go. From a wedding, I may need to import about 600-700 images and as soon as I start import, I press P which gives me the Quick Preview of the imported images and I can immediately start to cull images which are not good. I shoot with 2 camera bodies and the first thing I do is to sort the images by time order. So after the images have been imported, I sort by time order and then rename them.

I’ve created a ‘Custom Name with Counter’ for my images. All I do I select all the images and ‘Batch Change’ all the names which takes a few seconds or so to do. Stacks is a handy tool which automatically group images shot in a sequence, this helps browsing a wedding with lots of images to really speed through the whole shoot. So once all the images have been selected to show case to the couple or client, I then proceed to adjust / enhance the RAW files.

Adjusting / Enhancing Images
Once I’ve sorted and renamed my files, I’ll go through them and apply any adjustments if needed. Simple tasks like fixing white balance, enhance colors, straightening, cropping and improving exposure are all done non-destructively. I’ve made presets which I apply on the fly.

If there is a batch of images shot under the same lighting conditions, then only one image is adjusted and the settings applied to this image ‘lifted’ from it and ‘stamped’ on all the rest of the images in one go. Then I export them as ‘versions’ and saved as high quality JPEGs.

Presenting images to clients
This is where Aperture 3 (and Aperture 2) comes on to its own. When a client books an appointment to either come and see my work or to preview their wedding / portrait images, firstly the images are shown as a slide show with music, all available in Aperture 2 & 3. I have a dual-monitor set up as a 30″ & 23″ Apple Cinema Displays. To fully take advantage of Aperture, you’ve got to work with a dual-monitor set up. This really does speed up the work flow.

The selection process
This process takes around an hour or so for a wedding (400 images) and about 15-20 minutes for a portrait (60 images) session. Multiple images are selected and displayed at a time and the ones which the client love are rated as 1 star. Once we’ve gone through all the images, I do a quick search for all 1 star rated images, this brings up all these images. Now if we need to take some images out of this selection, then I just press ‘2’ and rate the images as 2 star which are definitely selected for the package. This way I can quickly go between the first & second selection if need be.

Event Photography: Need for Speed
Event photography is a big part of our business. When we need to print images on-site at an event, we really did struggle to find a decent program on the Mac. However, all that changed when Aperture 2 arrived. We download, sort, rename, print contact sheets and then print the images from our Mitsubishi dye-sub printer to whatever size we require up to 9×6″. No matter how big or small the event is, whether it is a corporate ball for 100 couples or an equestrian event for 600 riders, Aperture 3 (and 2) effortlessly & painlessly handles our work flow. Even tethered camera support is also available, allowing the images to go straight from camera into Aperture.

Case Study: Corporate Event
Images of guests are shot as they arrive. Using wi-fi, the images are sent to a ‘hot folder’ which Aperture keeps an eye on and import images directly into its library. This is real-time and as soon as the images are shot, the couple are requested to view their images on the monitor. The Mac Book Pro has an additional Apple display attached to it on which only the full screen image is shown to the client without any palettes or the Aperture interface. We can also display multiple images to the client at the same time so they can see which one they like.

There are preset sizes saved under the print window. So if we need to print a contact sheet of 9 images as thumbnails, we just select the images and select the 9-up Contact Sheet or when a customer’s 9×6″ print needs to be printed, only one image is selected and then the 9×6″ Print option is clicked. It is a straight forward way of printing on-site.

Case Study: Cross Country Equestrian Event
A very busy event where we really do need our work flow to be at 100 mph!! 600 riders, 4 photographers shooting 4 different jumps, 6000+ images, all in a day’s work!!!
This is where we make use of the ‘Smart Folders’ in Aperture 2. One Smart folder is created for each photographer, the criteria usually used is the photographer’s name as a keyword. Upon receiving the CF from say Photographer 1, this is entered as a keyword and all images from that CF card are imported. These images will automatically show in the Smart Folder named ‘Photographer 1’. Now to make contact sheets of all the images as small thumb nails so clients can see their images and select the ones they like.

All the images are selected and then to print preset of ‘9-up Contact Sheet’. This will print 9 images on a 9×6″ printer. Once the printing is done, press ‘1’ with all the images selected, this will rate all these selected images as ‘1’ star. Now the next CF card comes from the same photographer, the images are imported with the keyword ‘Photographer 1’ and they all go into the Smart folder of Photographer 1. Only the new images need to be printed as contact sheets, so a quick search of ‘unrated’ images is done, this shows up only those which are not rated ‘1’ and are unrated. All these images are selected, printed and then rated as ‘1’. The same is applied to all the other photographers. A very sophisticated work flow with a simple solution.

In my opinion, I don’t think there is any other professional work flow application which offers such ease for managing, editing, sorting, previewing and outputting in a very user-friendly interface. There are loads and loads of other powerful features which I have not even discussed but are there in Aperture 3 to make our workflow a lot more easier.

Xiongpor Sporting Events
With most indoor sporting arenas (not at international level), the lighting is not ideal and in many cases not sufficient. Tungsten lighting is usually used at these arenas which gives a very ‘orangey’ cast to the images. Once all the images are shot and imported into Aperture 2, we correct one of the image, lift the settings from it and can apply to either dozens or even hundreds of images at the same time with the ‘Lift’ and ‘Stamp’ tool saving invaluable time and no need to correct each and every image individually.

Aperture 3 only works on a Mac, so if your are on a PC, what other alternatives you may have. The first product which comes to mind is Lightroom by Adobe, but you don’t have the video editing feature on it currently. The other obvious comparision is to Photoshop, but Aperture is not meant to complete with something like Photoshop. Aperture can work alongside Photoshop’s PSD files but it will not work with individual layers. Photoshop is more of a creation tool and Aperture is ideal for workflow and is a digital darkroom on a Mac. Most professional photographers will use both Photoshop & Aperture 3.