Last week, Ben Long penned a post, Aperture Alpha Channel Aberrations, in which he showed an organization trick for how he keeps different versions of the same Photoshop file stacked together in Aperture. His example underlines an important point that we should all keep in mind: Aperture isn’t just a tool for working with RAW photographs. It can handled JPG, TIFF, and PSD files as well and with ease. Aperture provides a pretty good RAW conversion engine, and one that saw substantial improvement in Aperture 1.1, but RAW processing is still only one part of Aperture’s story.
In the analog darkroom, we had lots of choices. Different kinds of film. Different papers. Different processes. Each of these affected the final image and we were free to choose how we wanted to work with a particular image. It’s not that different now. Different RAW processors give us choices with our images akin to different kinds of film. And even though Aperture provides one kind of RAW processing (well, two if you count the 1.0 RAW processor and the 1.1 RAW processor separately), it doesn’t limit you to it. It’s simple enough to take your RAW file, process it using another tool, and still use Aperture to organize the results.
This ability has recently become a useful strategy for me. I’ve found, and blogged about on my personal blog, a couple of my images that Aperture’s RAW processing engine doesn’t do so well with. However, these images look great when processed with Lightroom. After determining what was going on, I wrote up my findings, sent feedback to Apple, and then moved on with my real job: creating pleasing interpretations of my photographs. Once I had made the renderings I wanted in Lightroom, I exported them as TIFF files and pulled them back into Aperture to be stacked with their RAW original files.
Of course, this doesn’t just apply to making different interpretations of your RAW images. It can also apply to whatever kind of processing that you do to your images and which Aperture doesn’t provide. For example, if you are creating panoramic images, you can’t stitch together multiple frames in Aperture. You can, however, pop the frames over into Photoshop, stitch them together, smooth out the joins, and then keep the resulting final image in Aperture along with the original source frames.
It’s like having your cake and eating it too.