Editor's note -- In this first of two parts, Ellen Anon (Aperture Exposed and Inside Aperture) takes you through the top half of the Adjustment palette brick by brick. In Part 2, she'll finish the work she's started here. This article is a terrific reference piece that I hope you use many times over.

Aperture 2.0 has expanded on the already impressive adjustment tools that were available in Aperture 1.x. I'll walk you step by step through each of the new tools and discuss how to use them most effectively with your images. Aperture groups the tools together in units called "bricks." Each brick contains tools controlled via sliders.

Raw Fine Tuning (RFT)

The raw conversion engine has been revamped in Aperture 2.0 to provide even better conversions. Although the conversion is customized for each camera model, it's quite conceivable that your individual camera body may differ slightly from the one Apple used as a prototype. If so, you may benefit from tweaking the RFT tools. I used to think that it was best to set these tools once for each camera and then leave them alone. And you can do that for many images. But you may also want to customize the settings for specific types of images, such as those that include extremely saturated colors, especially oranges and yellows, shots taken using long exposures, or high ISOs, etc. You can save various settings as Presets.

New raw files that you import will be decoded using Aperture 2.0 algorithms, however files from your older libraries will have the option to continue with the 1.0 or 1.1 decoding. If you've previously adjusted an image and are happy with it, leave it alone. However keep it in mind Apple feels the new decoding is more accurate, and the 2.0 conversion will give you access to different controls. To change to the 2.0 engine, choose 2.0 from the popup menu. In addition Apple is providing DNG support -- even for cameras that don't have full raw support. So you might opt for 2.0 DNG when you get a new camera that's not yet supported and then migrate to the 2.0 version when the camera is fully supported. You won't see the DNG option if the file is not a DNG format. (That means no more having to use a different program if you get a new camera before Apple releases full support for it!)

Within the 2.0 RFT brick, there are three groups of sliders. Boost will increase or decrease the contrast curve for the image. If you have an image that's quite contrasty, try decreasing the Boost. Hue Boost makes very subtle changes to colors, often nearly imperceptible, but it enables you to control the degree to which hues are preserved independently of the contrast boost. It seems most useful in images with highly saturated orange and yellow areas that are prone to banding, such as sunsets and sunrises that include the sun. Decreasing the Hue Boost can increase the detail and alter the color in those brightly saturated areas. Look at the following examples to see these effects.

Hue Boost Settings

Default settings for Boost and Hue Boost

Hue Boost

Hue Boost at 1.00

Hue Boost increased to 1.00. Note the change in the yellows at the bottom.

Hue Boost at 0

Hue Boost reduced to 0

Hue Boost at Default

Boost reduced to 0, Hue Boost at Default

The Sharpening slider controls the amount of sharpening applied during the decoding to compensate for the slight softening that happens in the digital process. Use the Sharpening slider to control the amount of sharpening, and use the Edges slider to control what areas are affected by the sharpening. Dragging the sliders to the right will intensify the effect and dragging to the left will minimize it. If you have an image with a lot of noise, you may want to decrease the sharpening.

The Moire and Radius sliders work in conjunction with one another. Labeling the slider Moire" is actually a bit misleading in my opinion, since it is designed to help with traditional chroma noise caused by digital sensors as well as moire patterns that sometimes appear in images with certain types of linear patterns. The Moire slider controls the amount of correction, and the Radius slider controls how wide an area will be affected.

Color Noise

Notice the color noise in the wing feathers

Moire tool

After applying the Moire tool

The White Balance Tools are essentially the same as in earlier versions although the brick has been moved up in the Adjustment HUD.

Using the Exposure Brick

Adjusting the tonal values is at the foundation of the workflow. Begin by adjusting the Exposure slider so that the bulk of the pixels are properly exposed, while keeping an eye on the histogram to check for clipping of the highlights and/or shadows. If you are using the 2.0 raw decoding, you will have the option to use the new Recovery and Black Point sliders. Use the Recovery slider to restore highlight detail that may be clipped. It works best with raw files although it can be of some help with other file formats. Obviously if an image is too far overexposed, the Recovery slider isn't going to save it. But if the information was captured on the camera sensor, this slider should enable you to reveal the highlight detail. It's similar to the Highlight Recovery slider in that you can darken the highlights with both. However you cannot restore highlights that are clipped using the Highlight slider - you must use the Recovery slider.

Recovery slider


After Recovery

After Recovery -- Notice how the Recovery slider restored detail to the overexposed tree bark.

The Black Point slider determines the black point for the image. If you have an image that doesn't use the full tonal range, and there's space on the left side of the histogram, move the slider to the right. This will increase the depth of the dark tones and add contrast to the image. If the image is contrasty and there's some clipping in the shadows - that is to say data is pushed up against the left side of the histogram -- then move this slider to the left. That will slightly lighten the dark tones. You can use the Shadow Recovery slider to further reveal detail in the darkest tones.

The Brightness slider hasn't changed. Adjusting it moves the bulk of the pixels to the right or the left on the histogram while not affecting the black or white points.

Aperture 2 has added a clipping overlay to use with the Exposure, Recovery, and Highlight sliders. Hold down the Command (apple) key while adjusting these sliders, and an overlay appears indicating any clipping. The overlay changes in real time as you tweak the slider. By default the clipping overlay is in color to reflect which channel(s) are clipped. You can change this to a monochrome overlay in Preferences and it will still indicate clipping when a single channel is clipped.

Clipping Overlay

Clipping Overlay

Next week Ellen picks up with the Enhance brick and continues down through the rest of the adjustments. See you then!

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