Colour processing Madam Tussauds photographs in Aperture

Yesterday I published several photos from Madam Tussauds, Sydney and mentioned the lighting at the museum was challenging. I briefly explained that I’d done the post-processing in Aperture by using a Portra preset and a lot of fiddling with white balance.

A few people contacted me asking if they could see the before and after photos. I think it’s a great idea, so here we go. Let me explain the process in a bit more detail.

Taking the photographs

As I mentioned yesterday, the photographs were shot in RAW with a Fuji X100S. I kept the aperture wide open at f2 for the most part and even with that the ISO was hovering between 1600 and 3200.

The lighting was extremely varied and obviously I couldn’t influence it much. Flash is not allowed in the museum, and it probably would’ve killed the atmosphere anyway. Obviously, I couldn’t change any lights either. All I could do was use my body to reflect a little bit of light off my light coloured shirt.

The overall ambient light was almost red and not bright enough. Some sculptures had blue and violet lights coming from the sides which made them look really cool in the museum, but a pain to photograph.

Post-processing the photographs

As soon as I got back home, I imported all 211 photographs into Aperture. I did a quick edit to pick my favourites and from there did a second pass to select the ones I published yesterday. Most of the photos are of my daughter playing with the props and interacting with the sculptures. The museum is very kid-friendly and they encourage people to touch and experiment with things.

Once I had narrowed it down to about 20 photos of sculptures, I went in to the Adjustments pane in Aperture and tried to colour correct the photos.

This is what they look like straight out of the camera:

Aperture Presets Before

The first thing I tried was the Skin Tone control in the White Balance brick. It often works really well. Just click on the eye dropper icon and then click somewhere on the skin. I find selecting the cheeks works best.

That instantly made it a lot better. It removed the redness and brought out other colours. But it still wasn’t right.

Right, of course, being subjective. What looks right for you might not be what looks right for me. And since I don’t know what Einstein’s skin looked like in real life, I’ll just have to pick what looks good to me.

After toying around with the Skin Tone slider a bit I decided to try the Neutral Grey control. I clicked on his shirt, which is supposedly white, but that didn’t work. Then I clicked on the grey line behind him on the left side of the photo and that got me really close. A little fiddling with the slider got me 95% there.

I then put the Black Point down to zero in the Exposure brick. The default was 3.

After that, I applied the beta version of the Portra preset for Aperture from Rob Boyer that I mentioned yesterday. It’s very subtle but does an amazing job. As a side note, I haven’t had time to experiment with the final version, but going by the beta I’m sure it’ll be awesome.

I honestly never used Portra in the film days, so I have no idea what it looked like. What I do know is that this preset makes the images come alive in a very natural way.

For most of the photos, that was it:

  • Fiddle with White Balance
  • Reduce Black Point
  • Apply Portra preset

Here’s what Einstein looks like after the tweaks above.

Aperture Presets After

Some photographs had mixed light and weren’t as straightforward. For example, Bruce Willis was under red-orange ambient light but had purple, pink, and blue lights around him.

For these, I followed the same process except I manipulated the colour a bit more with a Curves adjustment. I went into the RGB channels and adjusted them until it looked right. For some, I also reduced Saturation a tad.

Here’s hoping Aperture X is next!

Hoping Apple Aperture X is next

Yesterday, Apple released Logic Pro X featuring what looks like several new features specifically designed for pros. The feedback from people that use Logic Pro has been generally favourable. It seems Apple did a good job with this one. It’s certainly been much more positive than when Final Cut X came out.

Whilst I don’t use Logic, the fact that such an update to a pro app came out gives me hope that Apple hasn’t forgotten their pro applications, including Aperture. In fact, I think it’s pretty obvious that the next version of Aperture will be called Aperture X and not Aperture 4.

Apple’s pro apps include Final Cut, Logic, Aperture and Motion. The first 2 are out with an X version. Here’s hoping Aperture X is next!

Apple Aperture adds compatibility with Fujifilm X100S

Apple Software Update to add RAW image compatibility for Fujifilm X100S to Aperture 3 and iPhoto'11

Apple Software Update to add RAW image compatibility for Fujifilm X100S to Aperture 3 and iPhoto’11

I checked for software updates this morning and was pleasantly surprised to see this one. This Apple Software Update adds RAW image compatibility for the Fujifilm X100S (and other Fuji cameras) to Aperture 3 and iPhoto’11. Having just recently purchased an X100S I’m happy to see this.

Pulled the trigger on VSCO FILM 02 for Aperture 3

Jessica - Shot with Panasonic GF1 and processed with VSCO Film 02 for Aperture 3

Jessica – Shot with Panasonic GF1 and processed with VSCO Film 02 for Aperture 3

I finally gave in and bought VSCO FILM 02 for Aperture 3. I’ve been experimenting with adding a layer of real film grain to presents in Aperture 3. It’s been a huge learning experience and I think I finally have something I like. I’m planning on making it available here soon.

However, I’ve always wondered about the VSCO presets. From looking at the samples on their website, they look really good, although overly expensive as far as presets go. But after asking Robert Boyer and Patrick La Roque on Twitter about them, I decided to pull the trigger and buy one.

I decided on VSCO FILM 02. I’ve only had it for a few days and still going through it, but so far I like it. I’ve mostly experimented with the black and white presets and the film grain. It’s obvious they spent a lot of time and attention on it. I’ll write my thoughts once I’ve had enough time to really get into it.

The two photographs here have the Ilford Delta 3200 and Fuji Superia 400 film grain presets added. Nothing else.

Jessica - Shot with Panasonic GF1 and processed with VSCO Film 02 for Aperture 3

Jessica – Shot with Panasonic GF1 and processed with VSCO Film 02 for Aperture 3

Rob Boyer’s Aperture 3 Greatest Hits

I first started using Aperture back in version 1.5 and immediately fell in love with it. The more I used it, the deeper I wanted to get into it, and naturally the more intricate questions about workflow, image processing and general tips and tricks I had.

A lot of what I’ve learned about Aperture I’ve learned from Rob Boyer. He shares his knowledge of Aperture at his site and has contributed significantly to relevant discussions in the Apple forums.

Recently, he compiled all his Aperture articles in a post titled Aperture 3 Greatest Hits. Think of it as a table of contents. It’s awesome.

I’ve already lined up several articles to read this afternoon.

Another photgrapher leaving Aperture

Patrick La Roque:

And so with a fair amount of sadness I’ve made a profound decision that will probably surprise most of you: I’m moving to Lightroom.

I have to admit I read Patrick’s post with a knot in my stomach. He’s a great photographer and has been an avid user of Aperture for a long time, so knowing that he’s decided to jump ship is kind of sad. Every time a serious photographer (either pro or just really passionate) stops using Aperture, I feel there’s less reason for Apple to continue development focusing on professional features. It’s another reason for Apple to turn it into just an iPhoto plus app.

In his post, Patrick explains why he made the decision. His reasons are valid and I agree with some of them. The new tools in Lightroom 4 are awesome. Things like noise reduction and lens correction should be in Aperture by now.

The fact that we don’t know what the hell is going on with Apple is another factor. All we know is rumours. Apple really needs to be more open when it comes to pro apps.

Aperture 3.4 quits on launch after updating & how to fix it

Something went wrong with the latest update to Apple’s Aperture. After updating to Aperture 3.4, every time I launch the app it crashes showing me the following message:

Apple Aperture 3.4 quits on launch

After a bit of searching, I found this support article from Apple that explains how to fix it.

The solution? Reinstall Aperture to resolve this issue.

Not as easy as it sounds on a MacBook Air unless you’ve purchased Aperture from the Mac App Store. I didn’t. I bought the DVD a long time ago. The Air doesn’t have a DVD player. This isn’t going to be fun.